Science as Religion, Wishful Thinking?

My friend relayed some comedian’s joke to me about how a man meets his wife. The joke was, “I went to a dating site, put in ‘Jewish’ and my zip code.” So much for the mystery of romance! But it got me thinking about how complicated society has become, and whether or not love is so transparent. Durkheim, being concerned with religion’s roots in society, would probably think this to be a novel way for people to connect. After all, religion is the means by which people interpret what is sacred and profane. What else could you ask for in a partner but to have similar feelings about the world around us? http://www.sawyouatsinai.com/jewish-dating-articles-7.htm This unscientific yet thought-provoking article reinforces this point.

Perhaps if you are not religious, you believe that love is not so simple. But if you’re not religious, then aren’t you probably going to look for an atheist or agnostic partner? If you think that society doesn’t need religion, or at least, that YOU don’t need religion, I would think it’d make it hard to stay with somebody who believes that heaven and hell are real and that Jesus is the only path to Truth. When you think about personality traits and preferences, it’s hard to think of a feature more fundamental to the health of a relationship than faith.

As society advances, I believe that religion’s function of condoning or prohibiting certain behaviors will only become more influential. The most educated among us will tap into all the newest knowledge and technology that the 21st century has to offer, while the least educated will be less altered by the wonders of the modern day. Religion will likely continue to exist to help people decide how they should feel about a changing world that they don’t fully understand. I don’t think science will ever replace religion as long as society is growing in complexity.


Dr. Nigel Barber challenges this point by explaining how, historically, religion helped us cope with problems of scarcity and preventable disease. He believes that these sources of anxiety that used to drive humans to look for God are less present now, making religion’s recent decline in popularity a sign of its inevitable demise. But new problems will always be presenting themselves, and I doubt humanity will ever believe itself capable of handling these problems on its own. If a high standard of living eliminates a need for religion, as Nigel Barber claims, why are wealthy and famous still plagued with emotional problems that lead them to cults like Scientology? Even though the scientific data on improving one’s mental health EXISTS, the ability to understand and apply it may not rest in the minds of chronically unhappy people.

Those with religious convictions are sometimes viewed as naive. However, if two people can share faith, they may have an easier time sharing their lives together. The unanswerable questions that religion wrestles with cannot be fully understood by anyone, so to claim superiority over those with faith is much more naïve than having it. As we now understand in this class, even scientific inquiry requires one to make assumptions that we cannot be sure of. To wrap our heads around mysteries like love, death, or human purpose, our mind must abbreviate facts by forming assumptions until those assumptions are proven to be untrue or unhelpful. So, while Durkheim believed that science would one day replace religion, I do not. People don’t even trust themselves to locate a suitable mate on their own without the assistance of a supernatural power, and that is precisely what nature has equipped them to do! I think that is the point of this post: Our minds are not naturally wired to be 100% scientific. To perpetually juggle all the facts of life within the framework of scientific inquiry..perhaps certain minds can achieve this, but I do not believe society ever will.


Karl Marx believed that the product of human labor was separate from and hostile toward its maker. The same might be said of the product of our commercial activities on the Internet. You might not believe that your institutional doppelgänger works against you, but it does not seem like a stretch to argue that the sum of your activity as a consumer—your social-media posts, credit history, the freakishly accurate profile advertisers have of you—is its own creature, and can move about independently of you. You can also assign any number of automated tasks to your doppelgänger, which it will perform tirelessly.

Think about this – ways in which Marx’s theory of the alienation of labor can now be extended to consumption.

The Afterlife of Pia Farrenkopf,” The New Yorker, March 27, 2014


Karl Marx belie…


Social Theory in Battlestar Galactica

I will admit it, I am a huge fan of Battlestar Galactica, at least of the newer version with Edward James Olmos.  In addition to being wonderfully nerdy, the show also has a lot to do with some of the different theories that we have been discussing in class, especially social order and conflict theory. 

For anyone who hasn’t seen the show, the basic premise is that the majority of humanity has been wiped out by their former robot slaves and the survivors are now on the run (in space!) and trying to rebuild their lives.  Rebuilding a society is not easy and the simplest thing to do would be to just rebuild the new society in the former one’s image.  Of course there are many people that are all for this very social order theory vision of how things should be; politicians and key members of the military especially.  However, there are a handful of people that are against this idea, either because they were directly oppressed by the former system or they recognized that others were being oppressed.

Things finally come to a head over the same thing that causes so many conflicts in our society: fuel.  The entire group of survivors depends on the fuel that is refined by a relatively small sect of workers who are living under extremely brutal conditions.  Fuel refinement is dangerous and time consuming; many of these workers work eighteen hour days in life threatening conditions.  However, because of the necessity of the job, the “government” in place decides that the refinery workers must stay where they are and are no longer eligible to request job transfers.    Then finally, someone points out what should be obvious: if the entire society depends on the fuel the workers are refining, then that puts the workers in a pretty good place to negotiate for better treatment.  Fuel refinement stops and it seems that the social order theorists and the conflict theorists are at a stalemate.

But then, in a nod in the direction of Marxism, a solution is found; the refinery workers will continue doing their current jobs as long as their work days are shortened, their environment is made safer, and the option to transfer to different jobs is returned to them, with the provision that they train replacement staff.  In addition, there must be some equality in work; government workers must also start stepping in and doing some so called menial tasks, like taking out trash, etc.  It isn’t perfect, but it is a start. 

Although I am terrible at explaining stories and I’m sure this was quite rambling, the main point I am trying to get at is that there are many, many examples of the theories we are discussing in popular media.  Quite a few of these theories may seem very esoteric or even pointless, but they inform countless aspects of our everyday lives, including our favorite television shows.  Like Battlestar Galactica…



The Germans Play Monopoly



The Germans Play Monopoly