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WARNING: Open mind required.
Hard work is prayer. I find this kind of debate very frustrating as is presumes so many things that causes it to become a false dilemma. What is your definition of prayer? And how do you know what hard work is?
I understand that many people do not believe in God, prayer or anything remotely religious, and that is fine, but to those of us who do - we can often see the results of prayer where hard work will simply not change anything. So from the perspective of a person who does believe in prayer and hard work I think that these two are not mutually exclusive.
When I work hard and I know that the work I do is in line with God's will (which I establish through prayer) then prayer and hard work are two elements of the success I have in life.
You can't have good science without faith either. Science, just like religion, starts with an irrefutable assumption. For science to have any use at all, it needs this assumption to be true. If we posit that an assumption is true (especially an irrefutable one) then we believe in that assumption.
The irrefutable assumption, or strong assumption, that underlies both science and religion has a very unique character namely that these assumptions cannot be tested.
Religion starts with "there is a higher being that influences our lives". How do we test that? If the being is higher than ourselves, how can we possibly have the ability to test whether it actually exists or not? Without this assumption religion would have no use.
Science starts with the assumption "it is humanly possibly to objectively explain nature through analysis and deduction". It is? How can we test that? We have been trying for as long as science existed as a separate discipline after all, and so far we have only been able to subjectively interpret our findings into (sometimes) useful tools for our survival. But without this assumption science will have difficulty surviving.
Strong assumptions like these elicit interlinked webs of value-saturated concepts that builds towards a belief system, or faith. Thus, everything we know is built on faith.
Religion is a belief system, its expressed knowledge (books and stuff) as well a ritual expression thereof. Beliefs systems is the group of concepts of which religion would be a part element.
Philosophy on the other hand is the collection and process of discourse concerning how, what and why we believe. It is a meta-science of belief systems if you may.
Also, the west isn't really becoming less religious. The non-religious people are just more vocal due to the ability to freely express the opinions without too much social risk (teh interwebs is cool).
Hmm, seems like you made up a couple of contestable claims as well.
I never said science wants to determine what things such as beauty and love are. It is quite simply not a tool that can do so. So in that sense we agree. And yes, science does not impose beliefs, but scientists do because the moment they observe something, they interpret what they find within their mind's framework, which is always subjective to their value base.
I also did not say that religion is the only thing that determines value. What I did say was that the moment you start systematizing values, you get religion. Religion is by definition as system of values and its implied activities. So if one asks the question whether the world would be a better place without it, then I answer that our world will never be without it.
As for point 3): any statement can be contested, whether you use pure logic or the scientific method. Science is key to good governance, but it makes for a very poor government basis. If the scientific method is consistently applied then things like genocide could actually be proven effective is managing economies. You said it yourself: what about philosophy and culture?
On the last point, religion is a man made system. If we blame religion, we blame ourselves. More importantly, science created the atomic bomb (if you want I can point you to horrid human experiments during the Nazi regime as well, and even more in the good old US of A), so be balanced when you want to villanize a system.
People (not systems) have power because we give them power. It is very simple to say "it is their fault" and not take responsibility for our own willingness to submit to whatever we are being fed. Science and scientists have their place, and they have their demons. Science is by no means a stable, pure or precise thing (you just need to read scientific journals to see how much influence politics have on what e regard as "fact").
As for your idea on philosophical schools of thought - science won't stand for that, because philosophy can not be empirically tested. This is so because empirical tests themselves are based on philosophical reasoning that is fallible.
More importantly, and this may come as a shock to a thinker like yourself, people don't want to think much. They want to be told what to do because that way if anything goes wrong they can point a finger to the government, or scientists, or religion.
What we need is a practical way to abolish the concept of liberal freedom sans personal responsibility and social accountability.
I often write articles, and as I reread them I fix my mistakes, edit some paragraphs and then, before publishing it, I have an editor look it through. He changes it again until the article reflects it true purpose.
As such the article evolved, yet it was created.
The point is that evolution is not necessarily evidence against the possibility of a creator. It may in fact be proof of one.
Evolution has indeed been scientifically proven. The trick here is to ask ourselves what the constraints of the scientific method is and how that affects our understanding of evolution.
I trust the science that proves evolution, what I don't trust is the derivative opinions on why and how it happens. The how is still a very uncertain subject (due to its complexities) and the why (being a philosophical question, requiring value judgments rather than scientific deduction) is outside of the realm of the scientific method.
That being said, science has a fundamental assumption that influences its outcomes. It is the assumption that it is humanly possible to fully explain nature through analytical study. Whether it can or cannot be done is an entire debate in its own right, but that core assumption is reflected in the conviction that evolution entirely explains the process of life. Which of course it doesn't.
So, the fact that evolution has been scientifically defined, tested and found to be so has very little effect on what we believe the reason and purpose of evolution is. It may be a proven theory, but it is still a very incomplete theory.
I agree, there is no place for religion in the world today. But would you say that there is place for faith?
I find that atheists often (not always) lack the ability to trust, making it difficult to have faith, even if it is just to have faith in the human capacity to redeem itself once is a while.