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Old Mar 28, 2012, 11:56 AM
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Discrimination against individuals professing strong belief in the supernatural?

QUESTION: To what extent is it morally and ethically permissible for society and/or individuals to discriminate against other individuals who profess or even promote belief in the supernatural?

This thread arose out of a recent tangential kerfuffle over here:
http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1622304

The original context was scientific debate, so we might as well start with a hypothetical scenario along those lines:

1) Officials in charge of the Large Hadron Collider discover that a key scientific decision maker belongs to a religious faith which disawovs the existence of sub-atomic particles. His or her professional work has been exemplary to date, but this individual has now taken to participating in off-premises Study Groups in their spare time, with a view to worshipping the Holy Indivisible Atom. Is management justified in demoting the individual to a position of lesser responsibility, or in placing them "officially under observation"?

Less contrived examples:

2) In addition to the usual mix of relevant and esoteric interview questions, an "Angry Atheist" business owner decides to question job applicants about their religious beliefs. She declares that all those who claim to believe in the supernatural are in fact exhibiting something of a problem with their cognitive reasoning abilities, and that their interview tallies should therefore be docked by 10%. Is the owner justified in enforcing her personal bias, given that she is focused on hiring the best people she can for her business?

3) The Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military on the planet claims to believe that all biological life on Earth will eventually be terminated by the Second Coming of the son of its omnipotent and omniscient creator, who will lead righteous armies against his sworn enemies in a final battle that is to take place on a small non-descript Middle Eastern outcrop called Har Miggedo. Is there reason to be nervous about the fact his finger is poised over the metaphorical red button?


In responding, please feel free to mercilessly attack my own personal belief system as much as you like, while of course remaining wholly within RCG rules
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Old Mar 28, 2012, 12:03 PM
LcJ
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At the extreme limits of what exists might only be pure energy. Remember in the ancient days, the total sum of matter was fixed and could neither be created nor destroyed only changed in form. Now I believe that includes matter and energy and perhaps they are in essence the same.

Wouldn't it be a blast of the particle being pushed by energy is actually just more energy?
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Old Mar 28, 2012, 12:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by H2SO4 View Post
QUESTION: To what extent is it morally and ethically permissible for society and/or individuals to discriminate against other individuals who profess or even promote belief in the supernatural?
A couple of thoughts come to mind on this;

1. It is not permissible for society to discrimanate against those you describe. What an individual chooses to discriminate against is up to them.

2. From a scientific standpoint, not being open to the possibility of a "supreme being?/God, seems to show that one is not willing to explore all possibilities which = bad science. It also seems to show that one has already decided on the outcome prior to completing the investigation, or tailoring the investigation to produce the desired outcome which again = bad science.

3. Where would one draw the line anyway? After all the "scientific" explantions are yet to be proven and as such are simply theories, or beliefs if you will. Since they are themselves unsubstantiated beliefs, they could also be defined as a religion, no?

It looks like you are opening a can-worms thread to me.


Oh wait, I was supposed to attack your belief system in some way. So consider it attacked!
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Last edited by P-51C; Mar 28, 2012 at 12:22 PM. Reason: Needed to attack his belief system.
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Old Mar 28, 2012, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by LcJ View Post
...Now I believe that includes matter and energy and perhaps they are in essence the same.

Wouldn't it be a blast of the particle being pushed by energy is actually just more energy?
Isn't that the nexus of Uncle Albert's famous expression of matter-energy equivalence (or nuclear energy density of matter), E=mc^2?
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Old Mar 28, 2012, 01:27 PM
Out of Time
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The more in-precise and indefensable the argument, the more important it is to purge any and all opposing views in order to maintain total control over the argument.

See "Global Warming" in the Encyclopedia for further explanation.
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Old Mar 28, 2012, 01:36 PM
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If your belief system is relativism then the sole difference is that it's arbitrary and subjective for other reasons than supernatural beliefs. I see no reason to discriminate against one arbitrary system over another in that case.
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Old Mar 28, 2012, 02:02 PM
turn, turn, turn.
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Wasn't the original premise whether or not it was relevant to have a discussion with them?
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Old Mar 28, 2012, 02:08 PM
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Yes, but that's now irrelevant
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Old Mar 28, 2012, 02:55 PM
Out of Time
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenny Sharp View Post
Wasn't the original premise whether or not it was relevant to have a discussion with them?
Quote:
Originally Posted by madsci_guy View Post
Yes, but that's now irrelevant
Let me be the first:

shocked face.m4v (0 min 4 sec)
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Old Mar 28, 2012, 05:51 PM
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P51-C, do you really think scientists should be open to all possibilities? If so, how much effort should we put into considering that flat earth theory is an accurate description of the earth's shape? To quote a flat earther, shown a photo of the earth from space. "If I did not know the truth, this would convince me the earth is a sphere."

Scientific explanations are proven, in the sense of being tested, all the time. That is the essence of science. We accept as facts those things so successful in passing tests that we cannot, at this time, picture a test which will falsify them. Even so, theories which fail on a cosmic, or general explanation, criterion, like flat earth, can be used where they provide satisfactory predictions. My house was built on a flat earth, for example.
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Old Mar 28, 2012, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by MtnGoat View Post
If your belief system is relativism then the sole difference is that it's arbitrary and subjective for other reasons than supernatural beliefs. I see no reason to discriminate against one arbitrary system over another in that case.
Society is not always into relativism. Institutionalised discrimination against particular beliefs is in fact very common. Membership of many political fringe groups will rule one out of contention for shadowy jobs like "Spy" (the manual on criteria must be a fascinating read!). Assisted suicide is illegal in most western nations, which clearly disadvantages one belief system in favour of another. Rather ironically, in a series of high-profile court challenges, religious institutions have secured the right to openly discriminate on the basis of belief - it is entirely legal for a church to refuse employment to a jew, or for a mosque to knock back an applicant for the position of "gardener" based on their buddhist beliefs.

Clearly, relativism is not everywhere.

Should it also be legally permissible for non-religious employers to publicly state their preference for atheists or agnostics?

Should universities be allowed or even expected to deny tenure to academics who would seek grants to explore the (scientific) origins of the Earth while expressing belief in a Creator?

Are passengers on a commercial flight right to mentally pick a different airline for their next trip upon overhearing the plane's captain announce his strong belief in reincarnation and an afterlife?
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Old Mar 28, 2012, 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Kenny Sharp View Post
Wasn't the original premise whether or not it was relevant to have a discussion with them?
Yes, that is one particular form of discrimination, but I thought it would be a good idea to broaden the question for this new thread.

The scientific scenario is one that interests me in particular. Scientists are by definition expected to be good at evidence-based fact finding and conclusions. During mankind's many millenia of seeking to understand the world around us, nobody has ever turned up even a single faint smidgeon of evidence for the supernatural.

Could it not be argued, therefore, that scientists who claim to base their personal lives on adherence to principles supposedly derived from supernatural sources are in effect failing the most telling test of their scientific ability? Failure to demonstrate a strong preference for other types of rationality would certainly see many scientists denied positions and funding. Why should unequivocal belief in fairies or goblins remain immune to scrutiny?

It is not my intention to offend anyone by starting this thread. The topic is one of those messy no-go areas that I find fascinating.
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Old Mar 28, 2012, 07:02 PM
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Originally Posted by P-51C View Post
1. It is not permissible for society to discrimanate against those you describe. What an individual chooses to discriminate against is up to them.
In most cases those tasked with investing public monies are expected to aim for maximised ROI, and profiling employees has always been part of that process. Taxpayers have a right to expect that some forms of selection/discrimination will be applied.

How did belief in the supernatural come to earn this extraordinary and seemingly inviolate indulgence?

Quote:
Originally Posted by P-51C View Post
2. From a scientific standpoint, not being open to the possibility of a "supreme being?/God, seems to show that one is not willing to explore all possibilities which = bad science. It also seems to show that one has already decided on the outcome prior to completing the investigation, or tailoring the investigation to produce the desired outcome which again = bad science.
I agree with that up to a point. All people should contemplate all possibilities, and it is wrong for atheist parents to teach their children what to think about The Big Issues - they should be instructing them in how to think instead.

At a certain point though, being "open to all possibilities" must cease in favour of investing effort down the most promising paths, as Jim said.
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Old Mar 29, 2012, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Jim Thomerson View Post
P51-C, do you really think scientists should be open to all possibilities? If so, how much effort should we put into considering that flat earth theory is an accurate description of the earth's shape? To quote a flat earther, shown a photo of the earth from space. "If I did not know the truth, this would convince me the earth is a sphere."

Scientific explanations are proven, in the sense of being tested, all the time. That is the essence of science. We accept as facts those things so successful in passing tests that we cannot, at this time, picture a test which will falsify them. Even so, theories which fail on a cosmic, or general explanation, criterion, like flat earth, can be used where they provide satisfactory predictions. My house was built on a flat earth, for example.
Your flat earth example is interesting here. You see, long ago someone put forth a theory that the earth was round, not flat. Later this theory was proven.

For its relevence to this discussion I refer you back to my 3rd observation on this threads topic:

3. Where would one draw the line anyway? After all the "scientific" explantions are yet to be proven and as such are simply theories, or beliefs if you will. Since they are themselves unsubstantiated beliefs, they could also be defined as a religion, no?
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Old Mar 29, 2012, 10:51 AM
turn, turn, turn.
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Given the numbers of religious people worldwide, it seems normal for mankind to have religious tendencies.

Believing in God is different than believing in the supernatural.
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