I have observed the sometimes spastic and night epileptic attempts of people on both sides of this religion VS science argument who want to state what science is and what science is not. Science can only adequately and accurately be explained in its founding tenet: the scientific method. It is not a one-liner, as so many people seem to think it is. It actually is a complex set of logical rules that must be followed if one is to discover anything of worth about reality or be taken seriously as a scientist! So, being that I am somewhat more scientifically literate than the average atheist / theist, I’ll explain the scientific method PROPERLY and ACCURATELY and then relate it to how faith operates.
You won’t get this sort of insight on www.evolutionsucks-jesusforever.com, or Wikipedia, for that matter! So, please pay attention!
How the Scientific Method Got Started
The scientific method started with a fair amount of skepticism towards authority. If all of the world’s religions, each of which claims to be the infallible, true word of ‘the one true god’, are perhaps incorrect or incomplete, then surely we need to establish a new way for discerning the truth, and either build on what religion provided us in the form of ‘truth,’ or start from scratch. If we don’t strive for truth and advancement, then we will forever wallow in half-truths and whole lies and each generation of humanity will be as intellectually limited as the previous. We will also know nothing more about the universe or our own purpose (if we even have an ultimate purpose).
We would also not today have had a civilization above that of bronze-age humans, and we would still be stricken with panic over the unpredictable forces of nature that used to drive primitive man insane with fear and inaccurate speculation (the core ingredients of religion, by the way). We would still have been held captive by deceitful priests who wish to milk us of our hard-earned money and subject us to unfavourable treatment to appease the angry gods (well some are still treated in this way, willingly).
I trust that no rational person here would fancy having their skull smashed in to bring forth the seasonal changes, nor would anyone want their still beating heart vivisected from their chest to appease imaginary gods and make the sun shine again when a solar eclipse occurs.
The Modus Operandi of the Scientific Method
How would we discover truth if those who claim to have given it to us prove to be incorrect? Well, an honest man would first observe all things around him, look for any reliable patterns, and establish some general rules to evaluate phenomena with both a cause and a reaction. This is intellectually, and morally honest. If we do not know how something works, we best keep quiet, observe its behaviour, record our observations, analyze them for predictable patterns, and then test our deductions to see if they are accurate.
But how? Well, theoretical physicist Richard Feynman (I trust he needs no further introduction) said that scientists look at nature the same way an observer would look at a game of chess being played. The scientists sees nature like the observer sees the chess game: he has no idea about what each piece on the board represents, what the rules of the game are, or the multitude of ways each piece on the board can be moved. He also doesn’t know the end objective of the game or the special conditions that permit seemingly irrational behaviour to occur in the game (things like casting, queening, stalemate, etc.)
All that the scientists can do is to observe the game; they quickly establish some rules and laws to make sense of their observations and predict heretofore-unseen behaviour, moves, or objectives of the game. I’d like to expand on his analogy. From our uninformed observations, it seems that a fundamental law in the game of chess is that white moves first when a new game is started. But we need to see many more games started to be sure of this rule.
Another fundamental rule we soon observe is that each side gets one move. Naturally, if you have watched a few thousand games of chess and noted that with each game, white always moves first, and each side only gets one move, you may feel more confident in saying that white always moves first, and all moves thereafter are always tit for tat. This sort of statement, however, is unscientific. We don’t know the rules of the game as the players do; we can only assume that the conditions we observe as constants are indeed constants.
As we keep analyzing the game we may deduce that pawns can only move forward. We may see hundreds of games where this is so and then *WHAM!* pawn en passant! We observe a pawn capturing another pawn by moving diagonally. Does that mean we should now stop and say, fuck this man, after hundreds of games analyzed we were sure that pawns can only move forward in a straight line, but now this pawn en passant thing complicates matters. The fact is that this is where the believers leave the table and call chess a mystery of god. The scientists, however, persevere, note the new rule, and continue observing.
Maybe years later, they know all the major ‘exceptional’ rules, such as, castling, queening, pawn en passant, etc. They may still not know the game 100% as well as the players, but they will definitely be able to make educated predictions based on what they know.
Perhaps one scientists focuses on calculating all possible manners in which a king can be placed in check mate, and then discovers that in rare cases, the king cannot be placed in check mate because of a condition called stale mate. The scientist then informs all his peers who are studying chess and he predicts that at some stage, they will observe a stale mate. His peers are naturally skeptical and want the glory of discovery for themselves, so they analyze his deductions for any flaws.
After they all see that he is indeed mathematically and logically correct in his statement, they now set out to try to capture a glimpse of this ‘stale mate’ phenomenon. And just like the recent Higgs Boson discovery, they observe a game where a stale mate occurs and then our intrepid scientist wins a Nobel prize and we teach future generations about the stale mate rule.
But then how do we know when we know all there is to know about the game of chess? Truthfully, we don’t know if we have something 100% right. We can only know things to a certain level of accuracy and we must always be ready to alter our expectations of reality if something happens which enhances or nullifies our established rules. The observers, after a hundred years of watching chess games played, have never seen a player move two times, back to back, they thus feel very confident in saying that this is a fundamental, unchangeable rule of the game of chess.
But because the observers has not got access to the rulebook of chess, they could never say that there is NO exception to this rule. They could only ever say that they have never seen exception to this rule, and thus assume it to be constant. You know, like say EEE-VOO-LUU-SHUN!
To my kin on the atheist side of the great divide, you may feel a bit shaken about how uncertain we are of things in science, but that is the difference between Discovery Channel science, and real science! In real science, we don’t know anything for certain, but we are (with every experiment that repeats known behaviour) evermore certain that they will hold true for the next observation or experiment, and thus we can safely make predictions and invent technologies based on our current understanding of physics.
What we gleam from this is that there exists for every scientific theory certain conditions that will allow someone to say that the theory is NOT a fundamental or permanent rule of nature! (Try getting such conditions for religious faith)
I will now give believers a condition to disprove the validity of Evolutionary theory. Just find us one rabbit fossil (or other ‘modern’ mammal) embedded within Precambrian rock, and you will singlehandedly have disproven Evolutionary theory. You will be world renowned and rich beyond your wildest dreams; you may even bring religion back to its former, oppressive glory and smite all atheists and scientists out of existence.
Now You Know
What I have just explained in this first half of my article is science at its core, and no scientist will argue against what I have said (I challenge any skeptic here to go to their nearest university with a copy of my article to have it verified by a science professor). So the next time someone, be they atheist or theist, gives you a one-liner explanation of the scientific method—oh I don’t know; say something like this: science is the pursuit of reason over faith; science is the search for evidence; science is for intelligent people—then you can tell them they are flat out lying!
The religious will most likely (I’m willing to bet on it) now go and plaster the comments box below with grand statements, such as, god is the one moving the pieces on the board; god is the one that carved or molded the pieces and the board; god is the one that invented the game of chess, etc. The religious may even be right on all accounts, but this is how they hope to convince you of their ‘absolute correctness’ on this matter:
The Faith Method Explained
According to believers, there is an all-knowing, INFALLIBLE, PERFECT being who somehow, despite his most fervent attempts, created a being called Lucifer. This being, god’s most laborious and well-planned creation, then succumbed to the most imperfect thing imaginable (if one keeps in mind that lucifer was created perfect, by a perfect creator, in the most perfect place in all existence, heaven): he became rebellious against his creator. god then cast this perfect creation of his into the ingredients pile for his next major project, and then—none the wiser from his previous mistakes—devotes himself to his celestial workbench to create an even bigger fuckup… humankind!
But I’m going too fast. First god created us a home outside of heaven (maybe to limit the damage from our imminent rebellion). It seems inevitable that all god’s creations will rise up and rebel against him. Thus, the world and all things within/on it were created by Mr. Infallible, within in six days. A naked man and woman were then placed in a garden on this newly created world, where a talking snake (the Lucifer project cast into the gearing of the human project) seduced the stupid naked woman (Eve) into eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (strictly prohibited by the creator, god. He wanted this creation dumb as a lamb and just as gullible).
This led to rebellion, which was the fist sin of humankind, which later got fixed by a jew being nailed to a wooden jig so that everyone who believes in this nonsense could be ascended to an eternal church in the clouds where nobody but god and his son, the jew from the jig incident, soak up the glory.
One could easily attribute the self-serving, violent, thoughtless personality of god to the fantasies of a primitive, desert-dwelling intellect… but of this we can be certain as all of this nonsense was written by desert-dwelling morons. They got the natural order wrong on so many accounts that one can easily realise this book could not contain absolute truth of any natural phenomena, in any form (interpreted, revealed, or hidden in code).
But, somehow, this all just makes sense to believers… possibly because they have never evaluated their own beliefs / religion or don’t have a proper rational model of reality to measure it by. I’m actually complementing those of faith right now. Ordinarily, my kind will call your kind deluded. I don’t think every christian is deluded, but I do think that in their attempts to explain the unexplainable, to rationalize the irrational, they need to commit some warping effect similar to how space-time warps in general relativity to ensure that all observe see light travelling at the same 186K miles per second.
The delusion of faith is the warping effect needed to justify their particular interpretation of the bible. It is an endless spiral of absurdity, which, no matter what part of it you analyze, the irrationality just keeps going on endlessly.
Then there are the innumerable denominations, each having their own pattern of verses and interpretations that they adhere to and use to justify their particular interpretation of scripture. I believe it… so it is REAL! The evangelicals think the pope and the catholic church are the devil and his hovel; the catholics think the evangelists are secretly worshipping the devil because money for salvation is the true mark of catholicism! Each denomination can be made to hate and objectify the other, yet they all read the same book.
This is the byproduct of lethargy coupled with a nearly inexhaustible amount of scripture. The bible’s covers are too far apart and thus few christians will read it cover to cover, they just superimpose their pattern of preferred verses onto the bible and go about as if they, and they alone know the REAL truth. Even if you are a christian, you can be no more certain of the validity of your beliefs than the heretic next to you that reads the same book as you, albeit a little more selectively.
I’m sorry; I find ALL your explanations lacking, infantile, not in accordance with observed reality, and most certainly not something I would want to be true… even if I could choose the very nature of reality.
I’d much rather marvel at the chimpanzee in the zoo and reflect on the fact that 5-million years ago, humans were not much dissimilar from the creature before me. Humans have come a long, long way in terms of evolution. We can now look up at the stars in deep contemplation (well, some of use at least). And yes, I’d much rather look up at the night sky and contemplate the enormity of space; the gigantic balls of lit gas that make up the stars; the boggling complexity of black holes, neutron stars, pulsars, magnetars, etc.; the possibility of other complex, conscious life being out there looking at the stars and thinking the same thoughts, than simply say as christians do, “Oh it is the unknowable proof of the glory of god.”
To me, marveling at the intricacies of a flower and the processes of evolution that made it so are disastrously destroyed by the stupid, vapid, thoughtless explanation from a believer that comprises of but three words: god did it! This is the fundamental theory of faith, and it is used to explain EVERYTHING in INFINITE detail and purpose.
I find reality and my own existence are much more enriched when one strives for the development of one’s intellect, and the accruement of knowledge based on contemplation and evidence. It is much better than giving a tenth of my salary to a church and singing praises to an undetectable god, all in the hopes of going to a heaven that is equally as depressing and torturous as the christian hell with which priests have tried to scare peasants into submission.
So, take your six-day creation story, the physics defying ark full of animals, the lost Israelites in the desert, the clay tablets, the cosmic jew on the jig, and your churchlike heaven (which, as Christopher Hitchens put it, “sounds an awful lot like a fucking celestial North Korea”) and be gone! I’ll stick to scientific theory and experimentation. I am ok with not knowing all there is to know about reality, and the endeavour of finding out more makes it so much more real and pursuable than any religion I’ve come across in my lifetime!
Both of these though processes claim to pursue absolute truth, but only one has made progress and can explain and demonstrate to you why it has a good measure of truth and will continue to add to that collection of truth. The other claims to be 100% true without the need for any additions or amendments. The people who authored the scripture said they were inspired by an undetectable entity who told them to write. The proof given for the accuracy of this claim is of course this infamous circular argument: it is true because it claims to be true, therefore it is true.
Which though process would you rather follow? Which though process do you think will solve the problems in the world and uplift humanity to new heights?
One though process has already made great strides in improving humankind and human life; the other has given us nothing but conflict and bloodshed… reduces human life to a state of endless subservience to the invisible and the incomprehensible.