TED Conversations

L.A. Hall

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

Would religion exist if the first humans had our scientific knowledge?

I am steadfast in my opposition of religion.

I believe there is a beauty to mystery and living well. I believe religion unknowingly does its followers wrong. It tells them that all beauty you see is God's doing.

I believe God is the ultimate manifestation of not knowing the answers. He is the life-filled alternative to an "I don't know."

I believe religion functions as ethics, as philosophy, for those too weak to act good on their own fruition, and need some sort of motivation to be good: a ticket to heaven will do.

So, my question is this: do you believe that, if the first humans knew everything we know today -- about biology, chemistry, physics, economics, and so on -- would religion exist? If so, why? If not, would this be a good or bad thing?

+2
Share:
progress indicator
  • thumb
    Jan 4 2013: If we define religion as a human construct having no necessary spiritual connection to the one True God, then yes, there would still be thousands of different, quarreling religions today. The essence of religion is Man seeking to flesh-out and codify his imaginings of the god he wishes existed (aka Idolatry).Such activity would be affected, but not eliminated by adding to early Man's body of knowledge
    QUOTE: "For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens."-- Psalm 96:5 The Holy Bible (KJV)
    Thank you for your provocative question!
  • Jan 5 2013: Your question implies that science and religion have emerged and evolved separately and in sequence, but it is not the case; it's never the case with anything else ! Everything , and i do mean everything grows together , it's concrecence.
    As Einstein put it: all arts, science and religions are branches of the same tree.
    • Jan 5 2013: Hi again nn

      First I will have to comply with TED rules and post something that relates to the tread above. A subject that appears as often on TED as the subject "What is Happiness or Why am I not Happy" does....gee maybe the two questions are related!!! :-)

      All Religions are man-mind-made ....all discoveries made by man-mind are a reflection of that same mind that invents Religions therefore the two Science/Religion cannot b separate in anyway other then that individual minds-egos want to do so.

      Hi again nn

      And yes I did and a big smile to “thank us” …..and yes any subject worth the context within “thank us” does not suit a “debate” of any kind. All true “Truths” are subjective after all.

      Before a go further I would highly suggest your return to your last post to me and remove your e-mail now. (There are plenty of nut cases on the TED forums) I have it now and tag you with the refs you have requested, by that rout, after I sign off here.

      Here is a quick quote to end here

      "Daskalos: This is very precious work, most vital to our effort to understand and experience the relative truths and advance in our development. It is not enough that we sit and talk and talk, for as I often repeat in the lessons we must not accept anything unless we ourselves have experienced it. Truths unexperienced quickly degenerate into dogmatism."
      • thumb
        Jan 5 2013: The difference between science and religion is consistency and proof.
    • thumb
      Jan 6 2013: I quote the great Christopher hitchens
      " where religion ends philosophy begins. Where astrology ends astronomy begins. Where alchemy ends chemistry begins,"
      Science evolved as the replacement to religious or supernatural ideas such as earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, meteors, the northern lights, the tides, rivers, mountains, weather patterns, the sun itself, the formation of the earth etc etc once all had supernatural explanations but are now replaced by scientific explanations
      • Jan 6 2013: Let's fallow this logic : when Newtonian physics ends QM begins. But classical physical laws were laws of nature and absolute/objective/scientific truth.

        It makes science a record of dead religions.


        And if you think astrology and alchemy is not science you terribly diminish this enterprise, which i respect.
        I do
        • thumb
          Jan 7 2013: No you're Newtonian example doesn't work, it would be closer to say relativity rather than qm but Newtownian physics is largely included in relativity and is merely improved upon. They explain two different aspects the macro and the micro and there is a search currently going on to link the two
          Science is the history of evidence, what is currently believed is what current evidence suggests, something's we have reason to think will change in the near future, others we don't such as gravity like it would take a lot of new evidence to disprove gravity as opposed to one version of the multiverse theory which the Lisa telescope will prove or disprove
          And astrology and alchemy aren't sciences, you can't get degrees or doctorates in either of them. Alchemy is sheer ignorance of the atomic model, no chemical reaction on earth will turn one element into another ( gold is usually the one alchemists used to try to attain) but through evidence and experiments we discovered that nuclear fusion turns two elements into one larger one and that's called physics
      • Jan 7 2013: The very division 'macro/micro' reveals the cartesian
        mindset :)
        ' As above so below ' , the laws that governs the universe are simple and truly uni-versal.
        Watch this video, if you haven't yet, it's simply brilliant, no words are necessary , no ambiguity here, you can see with your own eyes how it works.

        http://www.ted.com/talks/benoit_mandelbrot_fractals_the_art_of_roughness.html

        You think that QM is an 'improvement' , inevitable development of N. Ph., let me try to explain shortly why i think it is not.
        Btw. classical physics is defined as a ' limiting case ' in QM, not the basis on which it grows.
        The subject of QM is the Whole and Parts are the result of the analysis, while in classical physics , parts are fundamental, the Whole is just a convenient notion to assemble the parts.
        Don't you see the difference ?

        "... astrology and alchemy aren't sciences, you can't get degrees or doctorates in either of them "
        Please...., tell me you are kidding :)
        • thumb
          Jan 7 2013: You're making no sense, I said relativity was an improvement on Newtown, qm is a whole different thing. Qm deals with quarks, gluons, bosons, photons etc and they come with the uncertainty principle
          Relativity deals with larger things such as galaxies and there is no uncertainty principle in the macro because we can know a trucks position and momentum whereas we can't know both for a quark or photon.
          And yes I'm being serious Oxford, Cambridge, trinity college Dublin, queens Belfast. St. Andrews, imperial college London, Harvard, MIT all do not offer alchemy or astrology as subjects you can learn
      • Jan 7 2013: Where do you think Newton came from ?
        He was an alchemist, and practiced this art with passion.

        If you don't see any sense in what i am saying, then i'd better not to waste your/my time any longer, but it doesn't mean that there is no sense in what i am saying :)

        Best to you !
        • thumb
          Jan 7 2013: Yes yes Newtown was an alchemist and he had no success with it at all, sure Charles Darwin was a creationist until he discovered evolution, also you base your assumption on the idea that with a modern education Newtown would still embrace alchemy
          With new evidence comes new ideas
      • Jan 7 2013: No success ? ! After rediscovering in the middle of the twentieth century N's papers, most scholars now concede that Newton was first an foremost an alchemist. It is also becoming obvious that the inspiration for Newton's laws of light and theory of gravity came from his alchemical work.
        And talking about Charles Darwin, don't forget about Russel Wallace, the theory of evolution was called initially Darwin-Wallace theory of evolution. And Wallace appeared to be far more advanced scientist then his time could afford. he had the idea of ' engine' that corrects the mistakes before they occur ; It's the idea of field , conscious field. His idea was suppressed and forgotten alongside with the name. It's very interesting stuff, google it, maybe you'll get new, OK, slightly altered idea of how the scientific doctrine of objectivity was shaped, ' objectivity' is relative to the mindset you bring to it..
        And now we are in topic again. No need to go far, let me quote from the comment above :
        "All Religions are man-mind-made ....all discoveries made by man-mind are a reflection of that same mind that invents Religions therefore the two Science/Religion cannot be separate "
        I am on boad with this vision .
        • thumb
          Jan 7 2013: How, just how? You link me an article or paper that claims that newtons belief in two chemicals mixing to form one caused him to form the theory of gravity. That is the biggest gap in logic I've ever heard.
          Please define for me what you think alchemy is?
          And I'm not arguing that he wasn't an alchemist I know he was but there is no way it influenced him.
          And it wasn't that he necessarily discovered gravity, it's just the maths was too complex to understand gravity, so he invents calculus and this aids him in working out the properties of gravity and how it held the solar system together.
          And I'm still willing to bet my whole foe on it that if Newton had of been taught about the atom, electrons, and some basic chemistry which 12 year olds learn he'd realise alchemy was wrong, like imagine living in his time when you don't even know what things are made of, of course you'll think alchemy could work. But evidence changes and so do views with evidence and its here I give Newton the benefit of the doubt that if he had modern evidence he would fully embrace it and feel foolish for once thinking that he could make gold by mixing chemicals
      • Jan 7 2013: Actually, somehow i understand ' how' , but i need to write a book to explain and most likely i won't succeed.
        I'll try to find links.
  • thumb
    Jan 4 2013: I arrived at Christianity after studying the way the world works; so folks like me would still believe, as the information is the same. There seem to be folks that are open to God, & folks who aren't. One set read the data one way, the others read it the other way. The content of the data seems, to me, to be irrelevant, we will skew it to suit ourselves.

    :-)
    • thumb
      Jan 4 2013: this is in fact a better answer than it seems at a glance. indeed, we live in an era of science, yet many people are untouched by it. we can fly to the moon, but some people doubt evolution. only one seventh of the world's population are christians, and nobody was christian 2000 years ago, yet some people claim that moral can only originate from god. being exposed to science does not mean it penetrates under the skin. most people can benefit from science, yet do not understand of believe in it.
      • thumb
        Jan 5 2013: Do you think an 'I don't know but want to' is better than investing your faith in uncertainty? “Anyone who expresses a definitive response to the question, "does the universe have a purpose." or, "is there a god?" is claiming access to knowledge not based in empirical foundations. This remarkably persistent way of thinking -- common to most religions and some branches of philosophy -- has failed badly to understand, and thereby predict, the operations of the universe.” -- Neil DeGrasse Tyson
  • Jan 6 2013: Yes. And this is not a debate, this is a fact. Scientology, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Advents - They all answer your question. Their beliefs are no more or less credible than ancient religions, and just as far removed from reality. The difference is these are modern belief systems created regardless of what science told them.
  • Jan 4 2013: Einstein told us that religion is not for nothing. Maybe you are not being completely fair as religions vary. Some may not be exactly what you consider religious.
  • thumb
    Jan 4 2013: Yes, because it is organic to us. Hmm lets see where have they banned religion? Not completely but definitely to some degree China, Germany, the USSR, Cambodia, etc
    • thumb
      Jan 5 2013: The question is about whether our ancestors would have the need for religion, if they had the knowledge we have today.

      You are talking about dictatorships that have banned religion.

      Please explain your logic?
      • thumb
        Jan 5 2013: Which I answered with the an in depth yes.

        He then asked would that be good or bad, I indicated that imo in the places where they put restrictions on religion it appeared to be a bad thing?
        • thumb
          Jan 5 2013: This isn't about the restriction of beliefs. This is about how you think our society would have progressed -- with or without religion? -- given our ancestors knew everything we know about science and the physical world.
      • thumb
        Jan 5 2013: Those were places where religion was restricted, I point out that they might be indicative of whether this would be good or bad.
        • thumb
          Jan 5 2013: So you would accept the crusades, the Spanish inquisition and suicide bombers as an indication of the opposite point of view?
      • thumb
        Jan 5 2013: and that would be the other perspective. Definitely not a scientific correlation.

        Either way my point is that religion and spirituality are organic to humans.

        The fact that it get perverted is not surprising. The good news is that when it does the religion goes extinct like the Shakers.
        • thumb
          Jan 5 2013: I believe you are mistaking scientific correlation with personal opinion.

          Again, what we are discussing is human beings free choice, and whether they would choose religion. Derailing the debate into the extremes does not help anyone.

          Asking questions and a desire to understand our place in the world is inherent to humans. We are capable of fulfilling this without religion.

          I'm not trying to attack your religion, but you must respect that some people find religions contradictory, archaic and man made.

          Before we discovered gravity it was a common belief that in order to explain the world, one must have a deity in order to keep the everything in motion. Would this be the case if they new what we know today?
      • thumb
        Jan 5 2013: I will agree to disagree

        Happy New Year
        • thumb
          Jan 5 2013: Hi Pat

          I thought that was what debates were for. Not to agree, but at least distill the essence of the disagreement.

          As it is, I do not know what you disagree with or why.

          Either way, happy new year to you too.
      • thumb
        Jan 5 2013: It appears to me to boil down to is religion organic to man or not. I side with the prior.
  • thumb
    Feb 2 2013: Science is the search for truth.Truth is based on facts.All facts will never be known. Even today, there remain many concepts unexplained. Religions, I suppose were brought in to fill that void. Religions even provide explanations for things for which there are no scientific explanations. I think, Religion and Science are at the two ends of a bipolar continuum. Religion will continue to exist as long as subjectivity exists. Human beings will always remain subjective no matter what progress they make in Science. With more experiments they will move closer to Science on the continuum and become more objective, but it will never be 100%.
  • Jan 19 2013: It would have to exist; how else would the first humans get that knowledge without thousands of years of experiment, trial and error and learning? It would have to come to them through some superior being (god?) tapping them on the head with a magic wand.
  • Jan 6 2013: "Would religion exist if the first humans had our scientific knowledge?"

    Yes, religion is not just an explanation for natural phenomena, it's also an emotional comfort (life after death, supreme justice).
  • thumb
    Jan 6 2013: Yes, because scientific (objective) knowledge would not have prevented any subjectivity from ever arising. From a perspective of spirituality, no scientific evidence disproves the existence of God or a soul - simply because this evidence is purely objective.

    Curiosity about the subjective would of course still have been around, as it is today. Science and religion do not conflict for me personally.
  • Jan 6 2013: Well, by your definition of religion and god as ethics, philosophy and the manifestation of the unknown, yes it would still exist. And part of the reason that it would still exist are the reasons you listed. For example, the whole god(s)/science debate. They are both ways of explaining the things that aren't known. Religion as ethics and philosophy? Legal and political systems, even though religions try to be judged as separate from legal and political systems while acting as both. Even if we wouldn't have organized religions as we do now, we'd still have religion, just a different conception of religion.
  • Jan 5 2013: Given your caveat yes. Humans long for the transcendent. For me, the Cassini Mission was such an experience, but then I believe that religion trivializes the miracle of life. The problem with religion is that if you assume knowledge of ultimate truth then you have a justification for imposing your belief on others and human history is full of examples of what happens when large groups of people buy into tthis kind of fairy tale. But it does have benefits. It deepens our intelligence, and makes us think beyond the immediate. But, in order to buy into the theistic program you must believe in things that are not verifiable.and accept things that are obviously impossible and counter to the best interests of humankind. Religion was our first attempt at defining ourselves and the world we live in. But as we grew as a race of primates we began to question reality and we discovered that revelatory religious philosophies do not explain the world,, the universe, we live in. But religious institutions whose main interest is in maintaining their power base, manipulate their doctrine, dogma and commands to attain their goals regardless of the cost. Religion has played an important part in the moral, ethical, and intellectual growth of mankind. But we have changed. We are not children and we no longer check under the bed at night to make sure there are no monsters there. God is one of the two gods of christianity. The other is satan. Candy from god, a bribe, fear of damnation from the devil a threat. If we were talking politics you would reject out of hand such hypocritical manipulation. The Allies won the battles in WW2,but facism won the war. It's still here..
  • Jan 5 2013: We are pattern seeking animals. Thats the good part
    We will take any pattern even if it is hogwash over no pattern at all. That is the bad part.
    Even with our knowledge today, we don't know everthing, there would still be a drive to explain unexplainable events.
    I think religion would probably spontaneously occur and then be corrupted into the power/control function it plays today.
    While I would not go as far as to call this "ignorance", in a sense it is ignorance of the forces driving the human condition.
  • Jan 4 2013: So many men and women of science (past and present) are devoted to God despite their depth of knowledge.
    It would not be right to assume that people only seek to know God or about Him due to ignorance or uncertainties.
    • thumb
      Jan 6 2013: So do people hold to religious beliefs out of stubbornness?
  • Jan 4 2013: I like Edward Long's comment. If you assume that religion is man-made and based on mythology, then absolutely, it wouldn't exist. Well, maybe it would just because humans are like that, but it still wouldn't do us any good. There's no point to man-made religion. I don't deny that many religions in the world are man-made, and you're absolutely right in saying they're unnecessary. You don't need religion to be moral. There have been all kinds of atrocities committed in the name of religion. I think religion is there to show truth that we couldn't know unless God tells us. Like what happens after death, the purpose of life, etc. If a religion doesn't claim to tell you what's really out there, then what good is it? The purpose of religion should not be just to get people to be better, it's to enable them to get to heaven. Heaven isn't just a carrot, it's a reality. If it's not a reality there's no point to the religion.
  • thumb
    Jan 4 2013: Yes
    Because even with our current level of scintific understanding till now there are lot science educated people who are religious .......why it is so you think?

    Moreover I feel first human neither had religious belief nor scientific knowledge both evolved much later....(the title question of the main post sounds , that first human came with religious belief ...which I disagree)
  • Jan 4 2013: Yes.

    There is a second aspect to religion. Religion also provides a power structure.

    Knowledge is power. Just the perception of knowledge provides power to the one who is perceived as knowing. We can be confident that someone would take advantage of this aspect of human behavior. There are many questions that science cannot address, and the power hungry would take advantage of these questions, providing whatever answers would best suit their purpose.

    If you can convince the masses that you know WHY we are here, many will follow you.
  • thumb
    Jan 4 2013: If the earliest knew ALL truthful knowledge that is known today, there would have been no need for religion.

    today, we know that volcanoes are not hungry gods and the rumblings are not the god's hunger pains.

    Today we know that hurricanes and droughts are caused by specific occurrences - in Africa or the west coast of south america, respectively.

    We know that the universe is big and the earth is not its absolute center.

    We know that time is very different from that which we thought about it only 50 years ago.

    We know that earthquakes are caused by stress on tectonic plates, and that mega tsunamis that kill so many are caused by earthquakes.

    We know that lightening, not angry gods, creates forest/brush fires.

    We know that planets are not gods and that we can make artificial planets that can give us enormous amounts of information.

    We know that earth's resources are finite and that we CAN destroy our own nest, thus ourselves.

    Some of us know that we are powerful creatures in our own right, as powerful as the gods that some invent, and that we cannot be victimized by others without our consent.

    If you take ALL truthful knowledge that we know today, not only would there be no religion, but there would be few if any social problems. This would inspire evolution in all areas.
    • thumb
      Jan 4 2013: What I'm saying is that all that stuff that turned out to be bogus was -- and so, still is -- the foundation for the foundation for the foundation of today's most common doctrines: Christianity, Islam, Judaism. Knowledge changes one day at a time; and so, by the time it was possible to prove all of these things that were, and still are, explanatory FACTUAL CLAIMS, they had evolved into more than just assertions; they were myths, legends, dogmas. They were the basis for living, and people couldn't just throw them away, so they stuck around, for just one more day, just one more day... Just one more day (just one more day.)
  • thumb
    Jan 4 2013: Well, the fact is that with all that we have today, most of the world today is religious. Which I don't understand. Can anyone who is religious explain it to me?
  • Jan 4 2013: I am steadfast as well, but I come down as an atheist because I have no need for religion. There may very well be a God but in every case of belief I've seen, in every person, they need God. It's a very one-sided relationship! The debate around the existence of God is a fascinating one, only because it attracts some of the dumbest people on the planet.

    I actually can't understand people who cannot admit that they don't know. What the hell is so wrong with that? I have no idea what it would be like to not exist, it doesn't scare me because I cannot imagine how that would feel or anything. I don't know what happens. I don't know how we came to be. It doesn't bother me from day to day because it seems quite clear what I'm supposed to do in life.

    So no, religion as we know it would not exist if we were just popped up one day like this. The world's larger religions are all traditionally stubborn and close-minded, they've changed such a tiny amount over the course of their lifetimes. Some even dying out because they couldn't change or adapt to new evidence. In our hypothetical situation, no it wouldn't be a bad thing because we don't get morality from religion, or anything else for that matter. It's all inherit to human nature, it was demonstrated that Rhesus monkeys (I think, cannot remember for sure) show morality towards each other when imbalances are observed with food.

    I listen to a podcast that had mentioned that there was a panel of experts whom discussed all the history of religion and whether or not it's been wholly good or bad for people. They said they decided upon bad, I'd have to agree with that.
  • thumb
    Jan 3 2013: If you threw* back in time: a computer/hard drive with everything we know about modern science, everything.

    I think they would just make a religion out of all the material; cryptic language, fancy symbols, weird ideas...

    Could be turned into a religion much like ancient Islam - religion, politics and science all into one idea of God...

    Tough break.
    • Jan 4 2013: Yeah, they'd probably come up with Scientology.
  • Jan 3 2013: Religion waas our first real attempt at explaining and controlling the world around us. Without those primitive beginnings we would have no knowledge.
    • thumb
      Jan 3 2013: For the sake of the hypothetical, forget that.