Thursday, December 03, 2009

Reject Science? At Your Peril....

A religionist made the following insane comment online about my article on biblical falsehood:
If we are going to reject any body of literature because it contains impossible things then we are going to have to reject science.
What a silly statement! I am pleased, however, that the commenter apparently concedes that the Bible contains impossible things.

Nevertheless, science is not - or not only - a body of literature. Science makes observations and hypotheses that can be reviewed, criticized, tested, confirmed, falsified, and modified.

The commenter brings out the old saw that science tells us the universe came from nothing. This line of argument is supposed to show that the claims of science are as strange as anything religion says. I agree with this, at least. From multiverses to apprent fine-tuning to dark matter and black holes, science presents a much weirder view of the universe than religion ever has been able to imagine. But science has something that religion does not: evidence. We don't take stock in the weird claims of science because they are weird or because some cool scientists has said it. We take such claims seriously because we have multiple lines of positive evidence behind them. For example, it is perfectly consistent with known laws of physics for the universe to have come from nothing. To illustrate, here is a video lecture from a researcher whose area of study is this very question of "something from nothing."

Of course with this view of science making wierd claims, the religious show once again that they are unwilling to accept scientific hypotheses for what they are, hypotheses. Rather, they want to transform science into another religion, which means they can either believe in it or not. They are unwilling to discuss the mathematical, physical, logical and philosophical bases of the apparently strange ideas that scientists will sometimes propose.

Yet they so arrogantly declare themselves and their narrow beliefs correct. They reject science (which they clearly avoid studying in an unbiased fashion) even though they rely on it every day. They reject the claims of other religions (do they believe Jesus appeared on the iron? what about the recent report of the Koran being written on a little child's skin?) even though they have no less reason to believe these other claims than they do to believe the claims they actually accept.

They uncritically accept a six-day complete creation, men living for 1000 years, the sun and moon 'stopping,' the sea suddenly parting and then returning to normal, earthquakes on demand, the ability of the dead to return to live, the existence of a realm in another dimension where immortal souls go to spend eternity, the ability of people to heal the sick with magic, the ability of people to levitate, a man-made boat containing all gazillions of kinds of life-forms on earth floating alone in a global flood that mercilessly killed everyone else, and so on.

All of this Bible stuff, they are fine with. That stuff is no problem at all.

Heck, they don't mind that most of humanity and land-based life would have died in the flood. They consider it a virtue that Abraham raised not a peep to have his son saved. They say nothing about Jacob's treachery against his own brother or about God's injustice against Adam and Eve. I suspect it's because deep down they know these are but fairy tales.

Yet, they utterly reject out of hand any observation from history, archaeology, textual analysis or anthropology that points toward the idea that the Bible was written by men, collected by men, interpreted and re-interpreted by men, and codified into a religion by men who quite naturally would have theorized that a god "out there, somewhere" was the author of everything, including their personal and national destines.

So, they reject everything except their own parochial vision of the world. The rest of us reject the Bible because it lies. The rest of us accept that the scientific method is the best tool we have to determine a true picture of our origins and our past. Science is the best way we know to generate explanations of the universe and how it works. Science offers the best methods we have ever devised to predict consequences of natural events and of human actions.

Religion offers nothing but institutionalized and socially funded fantasy. It lies about our past and our origins, it explains nothing about how the universe works, and it allows for no predictions of any useful sort.

If they really want to reject science, I wonder why they don't then go live in a cave with Osama bin Laden and stay there. Otherwise, I suspect they do accept science despite their explicit protests and tactily reject religion, which they adopt only as an egocentric tool for propping up a vain vision of themselves as righteous and special individuals.

In the end, my point is that we have a much stronger case for approaching the Bible as literature than for considering it a reliable source of information on the physical world, on human origins, and on human history. If your strongest counter-argument to my point is "You don't believe in miracles, you jerk," then reason is surely against you.


  1. howdy8:12 AM

    The bible is more of a guide for life, a blueprint, if you will, for how to live a moral and fulfilling life. It gives us purpose.

    That alone is worth a heckuva lot - what else is the point of it all?

  2. The bible is literature. So are many things.

    The bible has worth. No question about it. I don't think it has greater value than, say, a book of Walt Whitman's poetry.


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