Theoreticians say that, if you were to put a man and a woman two metres apart, then constantly bring them closer together, halving the distance all the time, they would never touch. Physicists, on the other hand, would say they would get close enough for all practical purposes. And practicality is the purpose of this little essay.
Many people on this site, myself included, are educated laymen, who read copiously and are well-versed in various sciences. A few are practical scientists. Mostly, though, we’re people who read what other people write, and post on this site, and that includes the scientists who post here, for they often speak of subjects outside their own discipline.
So we may speak very knowledgeably on quantum physics, palaeontology, geology, archaeology, physics, biology and so on, but very few of us is actually an expert in the subject he or she is addressing.
My field of expertise can best be found in the fields bordering a dairy farm.
This, though, is what fascinates me: Excluding religion, especially Christianity, the debates are tame and even civil. Bring in a mention of the dreaded C word, and all decorum goes out the window, gloves are off, fists flying and spurious accusations abounding.
I’m one of the trolls, I suppose, for posting the skits I do, but they are purely for fun. When I post serious essays, they are sometimes appreciated, sometimes trashed, depending on the subject matter. They are normally trashed when the subject matter is the defence of my faith. Of course, I know better than to expect any more than this.
So this forum is really our way of getting our fifteen minutes. Marshall McLuhan said, in the sixties, that the world was in the process of becoming a ‘global village’. He was way ahead of his time, but I don’t think even he could have guessed by how much.
So we constantly quote the experts we choose and like, and of whom we approve, as their thinking is in line with ours (or rather, ours is in line with theirs). This is human nature, and very little can be done to change it. I do not believe there is anyone free of preconceptions, no matter how lofty their status. They may change their minds once they’re confronted by the unexpected, but largely, they approach any issue with preconceptions.
David Block, one of the most gifted astronomers and cosmologists in the world, is a born again, Bible believing evangelical Christian. This happened as a result of his findings.
Carl Sagan, one of the most important cosmologists of the twentieth century, said, ‘The universe is all there ever was and all there ever will be.’ Not only did he not believe in God, he saw no necessity for one.
CS Lewis, Professor of Humanities, first at Oxford, then at Cambridge, one of the leading thinkers of his time and a committed Christian and apologist. Perhaps the most famous apologist of the twentieth century.
Bertrand Russell, an equally brilliant man, philosopher, mathematician and prolific author. Amongst his many works, probably the most famous was, ‘Why I am not a Christian.’ He explains, in great detail, the fallacies of the Christian faith, in his view.
Max Planck, the German Theoretical Physicist, who received the Nobel Prize in 1918, for his work in developing Quantum Physics. A devout Christian, who said that, the more he studied the world of the very small, the more he became convinced of the truth of Christ.
David Deutsch, who laid the foundations of the quantum theory of computation, and has subsequently made or participated in many of the most important advances in the field, including the discovery of the first quantum algorithms, the theory of quantum logic gates and quantum computational networks, the first quantum error-correction scheme, and several fundamental quantum universality results. He has set the agenda for worldwide research efforts in this new, interdisciplinary field, made progress in understanding its philosophical implications (via a variant of the many-universes interpretation) and made it comprehensible to the general public, notably in his book The Fabric of Reality. He is an atheist.
This list could go on and on, the examples are inexhaustible. There is a reason for my putting this list together: inconsistency.
Many of the people on this site will happily quote one or the other, choosing to ignore their worldview, which is an important part of who they were or are, without necessarily in any way impacting upon their work. This is what I mean about preconceptions.
These people were not contributors to a blog, they were and are pioneers in their fields, blazing a trail for others to follow.
So, what we do is this: if we find evidence to support our theories and worldview, we embrace it, and reject anything that might compromise what we believe. We reject evidence, no matter how strong it is, no matter how objective, because it runs counter to what we believe and accept as the truth.
Blogs have the same level of anonymity people feel in their cars. If you were in a shopping centre and somebody bumped you, you wouldn’t swear at them and give them the finger. You do when in your car.
If the people on this site, from polar opposite sides of the ideological divide, were to meet, without knowing who that person was, they would most likely have a stimulating and sometimes vigorous conversation. I do with my atheist and agnostic friends.
Give them the anonymity of the internet, and they forget who they are: it really is as if gloves are off and opponents are there for the slaughter. Decorum flies out the window, manners are forgotten and simple courtesy is as foreign as any extra-terrestrial alien might be.
Consistency in judging objective evidence; consistency in considering the other person’s views, no matter how ridiculous it might seem, and consistency in applying the Golden Rule.
It’s that simple.
But it’s not easy.
And God bless you all.
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