Religion and Science by Bertrand Russell – Ongoing Review


Start 1/29/19

This is a short read, but as I am reading via audiobooks, I may end up rewinding it quite a bit. I have very strong beliefs about religion and the nature of science and skepticism. My favorite book on the subject being The Demon Haunted World, by Carl Sagan. I’m excited to start Religion and Science.

Update 3/9/2019

I have been thinking about ways of discussing this book. It is short, so it should be easy to read. Realistically, it is short because the information is so consolidated. I am enjoying the book immensely, but I also want to discuss the content. As I listen, I will try and record my thoughts and/or notes on the topics at hand.

Allow me to begin with a preface. Many of this ideas do not feel new to me, but I think that speaks to the nature of science. We stand on the shoulders of Giants. As we move forward as a society, I like to think we improve ourselves socially, scientifically, and intellectually. The ideas expressed in this book have been reiterated by many others, the Demon Haunted World being a good example. I think it is advantageous to expose yourself to this type of material through multiple avenues because it helps you retain it. I may be projecting. You could also study a single material very closely, but I still think there is something to be said about hearing the same material from multiple perspectives.

Notes on Mysticism and Science

Mysticism is a feeling. Russell describes it as a type of wisdom that comes from feelings, and on its own, science cannot touch it. When they ask an external viewer to accept their experience as fact, they extend mysticism out of their minds and into the real world of science. This is important for anything to do with the spiritual. It is one thing to make a spiritual claim and quite another to make a claim of the spiritual influencing nature (which include ourselves). I have for a long time held the view that it is at this point that the spiritual becomes testable. However, that is not exactly the point of this section, so let us get back to what Russell was saying.

Science does not ask an individual to accept something on face value. Mystics would argue that what they experience can be experienced by others under the right conditions. The key difference that Russell makes is that scientists ask others to use their own senses to interpret the world by providing by providing an external way of interpreting the world. The way Russell describes it is a little confusing. Scientists alter the world (e.g. make a microscope) then ask others to view it through this new approach. Alternatively, mystics ask the observer to change themselves. Some say drugs can elevate your conditions, but if a drunk man sees a snake we don’t put any credence into that. Altering your senses necessarily impairs them. Science relies on altering mechanisms independent of the observer.

More to come eventually.

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