Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stupid Science, Stupid Religion

Lest anyone imagine that all religious beliefs are equal or that everything called Science is awesome, I'd like to get a few things off my chest and open things up a little.

It's sort of like comparing smart girls to particularly dumb boys, or smart boys to really dumb girls, and then trying to conclude that either boys or girls are generally the dumbest.  There is such a thing as stupid religion, and also stupid science.  Neither has a monopoly on being completely lame once in a while.

It is this flawed method of biased comparison that is largely responsible for the falsely perceived incompatibility that people often pretend exists between Science and Religion.

The real incompatibility is between smart and stupid, and my life has been entirely committed to becoming gradually less stupid in both areas and striving to be slightly smarter, bit by little, as a scientist/engineer as well as a spiritual being whenever an opportunity to do so comes along.

Stupid Religion happens when people use Religion when they should be using something else instead.  Like Science,  The Emergency Room, or Birth Control.  Or something called a Brain.  Religion is particularly stupid when it makes testable statements.  These are claims that can actually be checked or verified through a bit of investigation, experimentation, or mathematical analysis.  This is very dangerous for Religion, because once testable claims are made and they happen to prove false, that Religion's credibility takes a major hit.

It gets worse, though.  Because many people can't tell the difference between these testable "beliefs" and real beliefs, they may feel social pressure to continue believing in statements that have already been disproved.  Basically, they are believing in lies and will sooner or later suffer because of it.

This credibility hit and the attending suffering is something to which the Catholic Church can testify.  It is a lesson that all other religions should carefully consider.  Catholics once persecuted Galileo for examining some of their stupid testable beliefs and proving them wrong.  Eventually, though, they had to eat humble pie and admit they were wrong and he was right.  This is actually much to their credit, because some Religions would rather cease to exist than to ever admit being wrong.  It pleases me immensely to observe the Christian teaching of Humility over Pride being put into practice in this way.  Even though it took a few hundred years.

But too often I find religious people adamantly and pridefully clinging to some false testable statement that has already been disproved.  They are certain that there is no possible way they could ever have been mistaken in the way they interpret ancient texts written in some long-dead language by people they know nothing about.  If there's anything more arrogant or prideful than that, I surely don't want to know about it.  The earth is only 6,000 years old?  That has not only been proven completely false, but the bible doesn't even say this.  Readers of the bible made up this statement out of pure ignorance.

Beliefs that can be tested are Stupid.  Nobody ever needs to believe them, because they can be tested and either proved or disproved.  "Do you believe in evolution?"  No!  It's not a matter of belief, it's a proven fact. You don't need to believe in it any more than you need to believe that your cell phone really can make phone calls or that airplanes really can fly.  And really believing as hard as you can that 2 and 2 make 7 will never make it so, and will eventually lead to your spiritual downfall.

Believing in something that is false has only one spiritual or practical benefit.  If this is happening to you, it is probably what should be happening.  The reason you're here is not to have a perfect existence and to be right all the time.  This world is a classroom, and we are here to learn and grow.  Everything is an opportunity to fulfill this Divine purpose, including getting yourself into and then out of some stupid, testable beliefs.

Powerful, spiritual beliefs are those that cannot be tested in any way except within your own character.  If they improve you, end your suffering and make you stronger, keep them.  They are proved for you.  But everyone else on the planet needs to do their own work.

Tell us, John, what religion are you anyway?

Why?  So you can label me?  So you can judge me according to your perception of that religion, as totally clear and perfect as that perception surely is?  Forget it.  I, like every person on the planet, am far more complex than even a whole dictionary of labels could contain.  I might be Catholic, Bhuddist, Hindu, Methodist, Muslim, Jewish, Evangelical, Coptic, Greek Orthodox, Baptist, Adventist, Jehovah's Witness, Mormon, Quaker, Mennonite, Anabaptist, Baha'i, Eckankar, Jainist, Zoroastrian or Pastafarian, and it wouldn't make any difference to the validity of ideas that have an independent existence.

My Religion isn't the church I go to in order to participate in community life.  My Religion is my personal spirituality, untestable beliefs, and the growth that hopefully occurs once in a while as a result.


Stupid Science happens when scientists do the opposite, and make statements that are not testable.  They make proclamations that their data do not support.  Sometimes this happens when they perceive only what their personal bias and preconceptions allow them to see, or they filter every new experience according to  their past experience. In other words, when they are acting perfectly human.

But scientists are supposed to have more discipline than that, especially before opening their mouths in public.

The worst example of Stupid Science is when scientists publicly announce that There Is No God.  Now, how the hell were they able to work that out?  What data do they have to show this conclusively?  What peer-review process did they follow?  None:  they are just being Stupid.  They are messing with untestable hypotheses which are not within the domain of Science at all.  They are overstepping their bounds.

"I'm WATCHING you!"
Other examples of Stupid Science are found everywhere on the internet:  free energy scams; dubious anti-aging cosmetics, drugs and devices; "alternative" medicine; Climate Change Denial; Ass-trology, Numb-erology, bible codes, or anything else that uses scientific-sounding bullshit but with no methodology for eliminating bias from the evidence, or which claim proof of untestable or poorly-formed hypotheses.

Science is really very simple.  You draw conclusions based on real evidence, and only based on the evidence.  

Anything and everything that is objectively testable is the property of Science.  Anything that is subjective to the mind belongs to Religion.  They have nothing whatsoever to do with each other, nor does either one pose any kind of threat to the other.  There is no conflict between them.

Unless, of course, they are being Stupid.

Next:  Science V. Religion, Round 2

See also: Certainty or Self-Deception

and:  So it's Religion you want?


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