From time to time there is a lot of yapping by theists who charge atheism with “being a religion”. It is always done with a sneer, a sleight that carries insinuation that being a religion is the height of idiocy. Much as we agree with that implied sentiment, the howling irony of religious people denigrating the worth of religion seems to elude these commentators; but I don’t want to be distracted too far down that path.
Today I want to borrow from a TED talk I recently watched in which Professor Richard Dawkins addresses the intelligence of the US at a prestigious US university.
In it he lampoons religion and it’s methods by assuming religious tones and assertions, superimposing them on a scientific theory. For those of you that know the good Professor’s voice, no doubt you’ll hear it ring through in this transcript:
At outset, the Prof shows a familiar map of the world, colour coded to indicate which areas are predominantly of one ilk or another: Muslim, Catholic, Baptist, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, etc. This is something we all accept as perfectly ‘natural’ – it illustrates that religion is somewhat a hereditary disease; though of course it is not a genetically cursed malady, but rather a memetically infectious one.
This is brought home to us when he replaces that religion map with a fictitious map of the world showing how people in the different regions might ‘believe’ the dinosaurs met their end. It is of course, hilarious – broad swathes of continents that reckon it was disease, other regions claiming comets, still others that place the blame on dino-egg eating predators. It is absurd and hilarious all at once.
Of course, in science there are sometimes temporary disputes on interpretation – and these may even have some tendency to be regionalized – but there is no implication in that that the egg-eaten theorists must show special ‘respect’ for the comet-theorists. To imagine they may become militant or move toward regionalized warfare and murder over these differences is beyond the pale of possibility.
And then with wry humour, Dawkins delivers the coup de grasse – He shows a (fictitious) “Quarterly Review of Biology” in which several dogmas are published – see if you can spot the odd one out:
(1) “Iridium layer at K/T boundary and potassium argon dated crater in Yucatan indicate that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs.”
(2) “The President of the Royal Society has been vouchsafed a strong inner conviction that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs.”
(3) “It has been privately revealed to Prof. Huxdane that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs.”
(4) “Professor Holdley was brought up to have total and unquestioning faith that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs.”
(5) “Professor Hawkins has promulgated an official dogma binding on all loyal Hawkinsians that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs.”
Could the clouded thinking of belief and assertion be more starkly highlighted?
The comments section below will now fill up with endless claims that science “keeps changing”; of course, scientists understand that this is precisely what makes it valid. Indeed, the world should not be ‘changing’, but ‘refining’.
I don’t want to get involved in that absurd argument – I already covered it here: How-Do-We-Know-That-Science-Is-True
Maybe let me simplify it for you by illustrating a point; Imagine you are in need of urgent surgery that requires a blood transfusion, without which you will surely die.
However, though on hand is a ready supply of blood, some of these blood-bags are known to contain HIV and some other deadly blood-borne agents.
You are given a choice and must choose one of them:
1) A sample can be drawn from certain packs and sent for scientific analysis,
2) A priest of your religious or denominational choosing is on hand to bless un-tested blood packs
3) The bible will be interrogated and some relevant (??!!!) verse chosen by which a choice will be made.
The needle is waiting to deliver you your blood – which do you choose…
Honestly – when you make comment below – tell us your choice: 1 / 2 / or / 3…
> This article, then, is really a test of your hypocrisy quotient ;-)