The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Quick Comment: Science vs. Faith

I just ordered my copy of Christopher Hitchens' new book, God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and am quite looking forward to it. After the enjoyment I got out of his last religiously themed book (The Missionary Position) I think this one should be fantastic as well.

It got me thinking through the week about faith-based versus nature-based mindsets. The problems we have today with the extra-religious people trying to convince us of their veracity with respect to the origins of the Universe or humanity are quite deep and require something more than mocking and ridicule to understand or move beyond. I'm certainly more heavily guilty than most of those faults.

The thing is, when a friend does or says something stupid, what do we do? We mock and ridicule. It's in a friendly way, or course, but we don't let it slide. When a friend of ours came to our guys-afternoon/night to join our poker game (with the obligatory porno playing in the background), he was casually watching the girl/girl action for about five minutes and then questioned to the room of fellas, "Hey, are we gonna see any dick in this movie or what?"

If you could imagine for a second the comical "screeching-to-a-halt car tires" noise, then dead silence while all of us stared at him, it would be fairly accurate. Then a buddy of ours said, stone-faced, "Did you want to see some dick?" Well our friend turned seven shades of red and hastily made an excuse to leave the party. We still tease him about it now and it's been damn near six years.

We tease because it's how we deal; it's the nicer way to go about handling touchy issues that otherwise might escalate into unwanted territory. The thing about faith and reason is that there seem to me to be two main differences that makes them incompatible:
1. Faithful folks will believe anything as long as the story is good enough. No evidence is required. This is dangerous because smooth-talking replaces working to figure a problem out. "Experts" aren't learned, they just know how to market an idea. Issues arise when reason-people recognise the sales pitch and call the person out with a well-placed barb or comment. People don't like being called out and when faith-people make statements like "The Bible is the inerrant word of God!", and are then asked, "Well then, is it ok to covet? Because 1 Corinthians 12:31 says, 'Covet earnestly the best gifts', but Exodus 20:17 says, 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.' So which is it?", they get a little testy. By the way, does that last bible verse also mean that a man's wife is his property, equal to his oxen? That's just not cricket....

2. Faith-based mindsets value head-in-the-sand, blind adherence over questions. The worst thing a person of faith can do is to start asking questions. Science and nature-based individuals realize that there is nothing more precious and important than the faculty of inquiry and that brings me to one of the most egregious misuses of logic that faith-people repeatedly foist on their flocks. Preachers and the faithful will often be heard to say, "See, science doesn't have all the answers!" in response to some problem that the scientific method has yet to unravel. The thing is, as most people reading this will be well aquainted with, science never claims to have all the answers. That plus the leaders of the religious movements or organizations often have such a bad grasp on the science that they present it incorrectly (or they knowingly misrepresent the scientific argument, like the creationists I recently saw).

Science is by its very nature tentative. Faith is absolute and unchangeable. Yet the faithful put out this very humble and head-bowed appearance, all the while having no tolerance for forward movement whatsoever. They say that science is hard and unfeeling, yet at the same time say it's uncertain and full of doubt. Say what you like, but I enjoy the constant message of the science world - We don't know everything, probably won't ever know everything, but everything we say can be backed up by at least a little bit of concrete, easy to see evidence.

Me likey the evidence.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who commented and wished well on the tiny Heathen. She's doing fantastic. Who says atheists can't find meaning in life? ;)

5 Barbaric Yawps:

At 8/5/07 3:39 pm, Anonymous Wes said...

That is because most of the die hard religious types see the world as black and white. Most of us rational people see all of the shades of gray. The question is whether or not they were B & W before and desired the strictness of religion or if the religion created that mentality. However, I agree with much of your speculations. Teasing and ridicule can be really fun through. I'm a smart ass born and bred.
Congrats on the little heathen may she always have health and happiness.

At 8/5/07 4:14 pm, Blogger Larry Moran said...


Listen to this [What a Coincidence]. It's about birthdays and April 29th.

Congrats, again. How's it going so far?

At 8/5/07 4:29 pm, Blogger King Aardvark said...

Not only do most religious people see the world in black and white, but I've heard that God sees the world like that too. Again, the question is whether religion caused people to see God that way, or if they were that way and projected that mentality on God. We should do some research on that.

For you, Mike, the question is: are you trying to converse with theists to get them to see the world in a more realistic way, or are you trying to entertain the heathen masses with profanity-laced rants about stupid fundies. I suspect that your emphasis is on the latter, and you're doing a damn fine job, so no need to feel guilty about it.

At 9/5/07 3:46 pm, Blogger Socialist Libertarian said...

Congrats on the little heathen!

At 14/5/07 5:58 pm, Anonymous Chayanov said...

What's really bizarre is how the religious see the science position of "no belief without evidence" to be something negative. They like it that they believe in any random nonsense, so long as there's no evidence for it, as if being purposefully ignorant is something good. And then they call us "children" because we refuse to play along with their make-believe.


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