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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Science vs Religion

For some reasons these two ideologies can't co-exist in a peaceful manner, which is funny considering they both work for peace and the betterment of mankind. I've been seeing more and more religion-bashing in the name of science. Frankly, it makes me sick.

What I see is a bunch of five-year-olds who aren't mature enough to see another person's point of view or respect differences squabbling over the Origin of the Cookie. One group claims the cookie came from store bought ingredients and was assembled over a period of time that involved mixing, baking, and cooling. The other group claims the cookie came from their lunch box and they brought it from home.

Both groups are correct. The cookie did come from ingredients, and the cookie was also in the lunch box. A mature person can look at this argument from a distance and see where each group is coming from. I suggest we take a similar approach to the Science vs Religion debate.

On one side we have a group of people who have a body of historical and physical evidence. They have eye witness accounts to support their views. The have hunches, or theories, that they are actively searching for evidence to support. They have established modes of research that can be replicated on a reliable schedule.

On the other side we have a group of people who have a body of historical and physical evidence. They have eye witness accounts to support their views. The have hunches, or theories, that they are actively searching for evidence to support. They have established modes of research that can be replicated on a reliable schedule.

Test time: Which group is which?

This is where each group will start spluttering in protest. Let's break down the arguments, shall we?

Point 1: Religions each have a text of some kind. Science argues these are of no value because they could be fiction, but not the historians who use the exact same thing for their research. INVALID

Point 2: Religion has people who claim they have seen miracles. Science argues that the eye witnesses are unreliable because they are claiming something that could not happen. Not only is this a circular argument but it invalidates most science. How many have you seen an abyssal plain? Anyone? Walked on the moon? No? INVALID

Point 3: Religion claims that if you follow a set pattern you will see the same results they record, allowing for free will or chaos theory. Science says that all true facts must be able to be recreated in an identical fashion every single time. Anyone who has taken a science class and missed a problem on a test knows this doesn't happen, especially in math. The scientist will argue that you did something wrong, which is exactly what the religious will say. INVALID

We can reverse all these arguments and insert things like evolution, big bang theory, and calculus for the religious terms.

What it comes down to is the reliability of witnesses, which is such a dicey place to be. A hundred years ago there were scientists giving opium to infants because it calmed them down and made them happy and was therefore a Good Thing. You can guess how much my eye twitches at that idea.

I know Science is screaming, "I'm not like that any more! I don't dig up bodies for kicks any more! That's ancient history!" And I give science full credit for evolving past the primitive form. On the other hand, a large part of the science group likes to judge religion based on the most primitive forms. I'm afraid neither group can fully divorce itself from the skeletons in the closet (even the ones that are correctly labeled).

From the outside there is no real difference between science and religion. For the average person the difference between differential equations and praying to the moon goddess for the right answer is nonexistent. Most people have a very limited understanding of the world in general.

Religious people probably understand what they, personally, believe. This is generally not a direct reflection of what their religion believes, or even what their religious text teaches, it is simply what they believe.

Scientists are usually pretty good with their own specialized field. Outside of that, well, biologists will have trouble explaining physics and good luck getting an engineer to explain biochem. Neither group is well grounded in history, and the historians don't understand nearly as much psychology as they need to explain human nature.

Neither group has all the details. There is a tendency to discount the unfamiliar as ridiculous lies. Or, far worse, dismiss something based on one experiment.

"I went to church once and ever since I've known religion was a pack of lies."

"I flew a kite once and it got stuck in a tree, that proves gravity doesn't exist."

That is Bad Science, a crime that should be punishable by death, it really should.

Then people go an top Bad Science with bullying. Every time I see a protestor with some sign about how their religion proves you are a horrible person I have to resist this crazy urge to beat them to death with their own poster. Then I turn around and seeing a scientist ripping apart religion with their supposedly superior intellect and the most circular arguments ever invented. It's enough to drive a girl to overdose on Godiva.

Bullying gets you no where, although I wish it would land you in jail. It doesn't. It just means you are so unsure of your own standing that you can't state your beliefs in a non-confrontational way. Check my Albert's quote up top, that's it really. If you can't state your views in a simple, peaceful manner you don't understand them well enough to be stating anything.

Personally, I have no trouble reconciling science with religion. In my years of study I have never found anything that conflicted with my religious beliefs (Well, the opium thing, but that's ancient history right?). I've invested time studying both science and religion. I enjoy learning about new religions even if I don't agree with them, and I think that may be the key.

You do not need to agree with an idea to study that idea. You can study religion, science, literature, or music and not agree with the concept, or that the piece is art, or that there is any merit to the existence of this thing, but that doesn't mean you can't understand why other people might hold different views. When you resort to "only an idiot would like this" you have put yourself on an island of ignorance.

You say, "I refuse to learn. I refuse to respect you. I refuse to allow differences." Well Hiel, Hitler. You might as well start the bonfire and burn some witches. Different point of views are what allow culture to grow. Those differences fuel creativity and invention. Forcing people to goose-step to your ideology is intellectual death.

Here's a better idea. Say, "We're different. We don't agree. That's cool. Tell me what you believe, and I'll share what we believe. We can find a common ground. We can share our truths. And we can both walk away a little better for this discussion."

Even if the only common ground is "oxygen is good" the hate stops.

Questions and comments welcomed. You are entitled to your own view, even if you don't agree with me, but please don't bash each other.


  1. Loved the cookie analogy :-)
    I also think too many people refuse to even CONSIDER the other person's viewpoint, as though it's beneath them.

  2. LOVED THIS! So true too! I'm with you on this, 100%. I once had a conversation with a Muslim woman, neither of us knew anything about the other's faith. There were plenty of differences, but also some similarities I never knew existed. After our several hour conversation, we both walked away as friends with a mutual respect and greater knowledge and appreciation for the other.

    Any two people with difference of option can have a meaningful and rich conversation if only the two will respect and listen to the other. There is so much to learn and each will walk away a better person. I love the opportunity! ;)

  3. When I started reading this I wondered if it was going to get me steamed up, but you've set things out very clearly.

    There is no need for religion v. science because they simply aren't in competition with each other. They are two different ways of looking at the same universe. It's a bit like two people having an argument over describing an orange: one says, "it's round," the other says, "no it's not, it's orange."

    Two things that do get me mad, though are:

    (1) Religious factions trying to force religion into science class. Intelligent Design / Creationism is a matter of faith, which places itself outside of scientific inquiry. Not that it isn't a good discussion, but it's not science.

    (2) Scientists who act as if a scientific theory is unquestionable fact. That is pure arrogance, and goes against the foundation of scientific inquiry, which should always treat current theories as "provisional" and seek ways to disprove them and replace them with better ones.

  4. Botanist: I had to study Creationism, Alien Pyramid Theory, and Evolution in high school biology. It was interesting. And 2)... I like to think it's just the noisy minority grabbing headlines and that the people making progress are keeping an open mind. I'm not sure that's true, but it helps me sleep at night.

    Natalia: And that's my major issue with the debate. You have to allow other people to have different opinions and beliefs, especially if you want them to keep an open-mind about your view point.

    Wendy: I love having friends with different religious views, it makes for very insightful conversations and it helps me ground my faith. It's good to have people question your beliefs, and listen to what you say. If I can't explain something I believe, I don't really believe and it's something I need to research more to understand.

  5. I remember hearing somewhere that science can't prove anything, it can only disprove it (or rather find evidence that doesn't support the hypothesis). The closest thing it can do to prove something is find that, thus far, the hypothesis has yet to be disproved and thus is likely to be fact. If this is true, then those who claim that theories are unquestionable facts are ... interesting.

  6. Laraqua: That's correct, and that's why things are called Theories even when science treats them like facts. The body of evidence supports the Theory of Evolution, we treat it as a fact, but... we might find something tomorrow that makes us change our minds and science needs to be open to that change. Some people get very stuck on the idea that their favorite theory will never be disproved, but if you read the journals you can see that there's constant change. Even with evolution species are classed, reclassed, and moved on a regular basis. We use Evolution as a broad umbrella term but it isn't unchanging, we just shuffle things under the same name.

    On the same vein there is no way to disprove god(s) or religion. You can't take a lack of certain evidence as proof that something doesn't exist. There are enough different people saying that, yes, religion is true that you have to account for this somehow. Religion being true is one theory that supports this idea.

    There is evidence for miracles (unexplained recoveries that sort of thing) and it shouldn't be dismissed because it doesn't fit a world view.

  7. I also loved the cookie analogy.

    The fact that white moths turned black during the Industrial Revolution to blend in with their smoky environment better doesn't mean there isn't a God. In fact, I'd argue that it only adds to the evidence that there IS a God. He allows us to change in such a way that benefits us.

    The biggest argument for "Evolution disproves Religion" is that man descended from apes. (Which I personally think is silly.)

    But some archaeologists now theorize that the Neanderthal was not a predecessor to Modern Man, but evolved parallel to Man. A separate line. (Which makes sense, if you believe Cain was changed.)

    Maybe science can help us better understand religion.

  8. Apes are still alive. At best we share a common ancestor and I have no problem with that. If you want to go that way I don't see how God making man out of dirt is a different statement than God made man out of manipulated genetic material.

    A lot of Hebrew is poetic, the Garden of Eden could be allegorical or real or any number of things depending on what you believe. That's why you discuss religion and study science, in my opinion. You have a basic theory and try to figure it out from there.

  9. Shared this with some friends who retorted that your post was a poor argument because it fails to recognize that there are only two stances on faith: belief and non-belief (because uncertainty by definition means you do not believe in a thing).

    This is a form of logical bullying that I am a bit tired of seeing on the internet-

    It comes down to fuzzy use of the word "believe"

    For example if I wasn't certain that changing a fuse would fix the problem with my car that would by definition mean I didn't "believe" changing the fuse would fix my car. In that case why would I bother to change the fuse? After all I don't believe dancing the waltz will fix my car either. Why bother dancing a waltz?

    Also if you're certain with no basis of proof are you really certain? I could say I am certain that all stones are gray (a perception). But could I say with certainty that all stones are gray (an argument)?

    Sometimes "unknown" means just that.

    Usually people widdling it down to "either or" are trying to re-frame the argument in their favor. There will always be people, on both sides, who want to make it either or.

    But then... that is the entire origin of the argument which this post addresses so...

    Anyway- Thanks for posting it. Was a great read.

  10. Ninetwelve - I wish your friends had stopped by. I was addressing the debate between science and religion specifically because I've seen a lot of hate on both sides. Neutral hasn't had a voice in the argument. There are people who don't care or can't be bothered to get involved in any way, and there are people (like me) who are puzzled by why the argument exists at all because I don't need one or the other to be wrong to fit my world view.

    I agree with you 100%, sometimes unknown really is just "unknown." Most the time, I suspect. Religion and science just come at the question from different directions.

    I'm sorry you felt left out of the debate. Thank you for commenting. :o)