Class Warfare Blog

April 17, 2013

Scorecard—Science 1000, Religion 0

Filed under: History,Philosophy,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:20 am
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Religion has been around for at least 10,000 years but since in this country when you mention “religion” everyone automatically thinks Christianity, so (if we take their scripture at face value and exclude clearly mythological events) we are talking about roughly 4000 years. Science, on the other hand, has been around for about 400 years, if we stretch it a little. So religion has had about a 3600 year head start, and a ten to one advantage in time on task, so this is hardly fair, but how are the two doing to enhance the human condition?

Health and Welfare
Has religion had anything good to do about our health and welfare? Well, at one point medicine was frowned upon as interfering with God’s Will, but by and large I can’t find much of anything let alone something positive. Oh, yeah, supposedly Jesus cured a couple of lepers but other Christians generally wouldn’t get within 100 yards of one. (Yes, I am aware of leper colonies cared for by the religious. They did warehouse them, but their only help was to isolate them from the scorn and insults of other Christians. All of those prayers and not a single cure, hmmm.)

On the other hand science has vastly improved our lives. Snow’s study of cholera in the mid-1800’s led London to construct the first effective sewer system in a major western city (London) and we were off and running. Good sanitation has lead to a greater increase in human life expectancy than any other factor. (Have you noticed that the only people currently opposing sanitation infrastructure projects are Republicans (“We can’t afford it.”) who are also often the most rabid Christians.) We can’t afford freedom from common diseases and longer lives through better sanitation? WTF?

While disease was considered either God’s Will or being due to demons by Christians, science discovered microorganisms and viruses and antibiotics and, well, modern medicine. Need I go on?

Health and Welfare Score: Science 250, Religion 0

Social Life and Community
While many religions, to this day, do not want their adherents mixing with heathen, the unclean, heretics, etc. they do form communities consisting of their like kind and then do many things social together. But the good things that most churches do socially are indistinguishable from those things done by secular service clubs, so little credit is warranted, I think. And much of their time is spent discussing why those other religionists are wrong or bad and why they should split off from those other people so as to not be contaminated by their thinking. If you don’t believe this, go into any protestant church in this country and proclaim that they need to recruit more LGBT members and see what happens. (There is a reason there are over 20,000 sects of Christianity.)

Science, on the other hand, has given us the ability to see images (even moving ones) across great distances and to record them so we can go back and re-examine the past. We can also share words anonymously or under our own names around the entire globe as I am doing now. We can also converse and interact with people vocally and visually from all over the world. What we do with this is up to us but families separated by great distance appreciate being able to communicate by other than written letters. And all kinds of communities are springing up involving people not located closely together. Collective decision making can be (but for strange reasons often is not) more effective because of the greater ability to communicate.

Social Life and Community Score: Science 100, Religion +/– 0

Getting Enough to Eat
Religion encourages us to work, at least on certain days, and to reap what we have sowed. The use of slave labor to grow food was endorsed. Other than that, not much help has been offered.

Science, on the other hand, has been using animal husbandry studies and genetics to cross breed and improve food production for centuries. The invention of fertilizers and crop rotation techniques and currently chemical analysis, satellite weather forecasts, and mechanical harvesters, etc. have made it possible to feed a vastly greater number of people than ever before. Using techniques associated with scriptures would limit the population of the earth to a fraction of what it is today. If human life is sacred, science is making more human life possible, thus making science more sacred than religion.

And, while people suffered from drought and pestilence in the Bible, now we don’t just tsk, tsk and wag our fingers about God’s retribution, we fly and train in food and truck in water until the land recovers. Granted these efforts tend to be spotty but this is because of politics, not science.

Getting Enough to Eat Score: Science 150, Religion 0

Quality of Life
While Christian’s Bibles forbid Jews and Christians from mixing fibers in cloth, Christians are buying clothes made of blended fabrics by the ton. Synthetic fibers make reasonable substitutes for silk and other natural fibers. Most cotton undergarments have some polyester fibers in them. Athletes are wearing uniforms containing materials that enhance their performances and not a one of them has ever seen a plant or animal as its source.

Modern plastics allow the creation of lightweight structural elements and myriad other things: furniture, DVDs, computer cases, unbreakable dishes, lightweight packaging (water bottles, blister packs, etc.), the list is huge.

Modern household appliances allow for higher standards of cleanliness with less effort than ever before. Automobiles allow easy access to wide areas of the country as well as emergency transport, sight seeing opportunities, etc. Automated factory equipment makes things more efficiently and more safely than ever before.

Religion doesn’t have much to say about the physical quality of our lives, other than keeping house is “women’s work” and they should shut up otherwise.

Quality of Life Score: Science 150, Religion 0

Need I go on?

Can you find an aspect of modern life in which religion makes our lives better than science?

In most of the endeavors listed above one can easily say that religion did not help and in quite a few cases it actively hindered achieving progress. People were burned at the stake for mentioning that the Earth orbited the sun, contrary to the claims of scripture. The fact that they were right didn’t save them. Christians claimed the right to kill anyone not professing their faith and hired soldiers to do just that. This is no longer done, but try to run for political office or get a job while clearly stating that you are not a Christian. The bias is still there.

I freely admit that I made up the scores, but I will bet that if anyone comes up with a fair rating system, the score will be higher than 1000 to none.

We need more science and less religion, especially in our public lives. What you do in private is up to you. Smoking went from being a sophisticated behavior endorsed by doctors to a “filthy habit” in less than fifty years. I can only hope for the same the public practice of religion.

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8 Comments »

  1. Charity. The golden rule. The ten commandments. When adhered to, these are great religious contributions to society.

    What I find interesting is that you seem to be saying that science is completely separate from religion. Can it not be that scientific advances have come out of people’s religious duties as they understand them?

    Religious people believe it’s their duty to help people. Can’t I invent a better mousetrap to fulfill that duty? And if I do invent a better mousetrap, is it only science, or is it only religion that’s responsible? Even if my belief in a god that requires me to help is wrong, isn’t it that same belief that started the whole thing (if indeed that is why I wanted to invent something that helps people)?

    Another thing… Have you forgotten the evil that science has helped? Murderers use guns and bombs (scientific advances). How do things like that score?

    Like

    Comment by conservative2cents — April 17, 2013 @ 2:59 pm | Reply

    • You seem to be confused. The Golden Rule predates Christianity by many centuries and has its roots in philosophy, not religion. The ten commandments also don’t even address slavery and myraid other behavioral issues. Most of the behaviors covered are done because of general scoietal mores not because of the Ten Commandments.

      What a scientist’s motivation is has little to do with the science being done. In fact, who is doing the science and why is basically irrelevant. One questions nature and if correct answers are gotten, progress is made. It has nothing to do with one’s beliefs.

      Relgion itself, at least outside of Islam and a few others, offers consolution for negative events (family deaths, etc.) and supposed moral teachings. But I do not see churches offering classes on morality or even clearly stating what their morals are. And these “services” are rarely compared with their alternatives. I heard a minister at my Uncle’s funeral offer that he believed my Uncle was in Heaven playing golf. This is the kind of misguided consolation offered by many. It has nothing to do with the religion and everything to do with trying the make the bereived feel better.

      Can’t go along with you on this one.

      Like

      Comment by stephenpruis — April 17, 2013 @ 3:12 pm | Reply

      • Religion espouses the golden rule. So, those who have heard it and taken it to heart probably attribute it to religion. It came to them through religion. So, as far as they know, it came from religion. That matters.

        It also matters that there are religious motivations behind acts. If a Muslim terrorist (for example) makes a bomb, are you going to ignore his motivations and only refer to it as an act of chemistry?

        Like

        Comment by conservative2cents — April 17, 2013 @ 8:20 pm | Reply

        • I agree with your first point. How much of a role it plays in actual behavior is debateable. Currently the least religious societies happen to be in Europe. They also happen to be the least violent. Apparently people can agree to standards of appropriate behavior without religion, which is what the comparison should be and not just a nod to the Golden Rule as a guide for behavior.

          Regarding your second point, if you want to make a list of all of the positive events motivated by religion and another of the negative events motivated by religion, I expect that the two list would by and large cancel each other out.

          Like

          Comment by stephenpruis — April 17, 2013 @ 9:33 pm | Reply

  2. The more I think about it, the more clear it becomes that you’re judging religion on something that it can’t do. It’s like keeping score between man and fish based on bike riding ability. “Score one for man!”

    Religion, philosophy, meditation, humming a tune… None of these things are supposed to be able to create cures for disease. So what?

    What might I say of science’s lack of compassion? Would you have preferred to have heard a scientist explain decomposition at a funeral? What does science offer to the grieving mind?

    Like

    Comment by conservative2cents — April 17, 2013 @ 9:58 pm | Reply

    • It was a comparison of two aspects of human endeavor that impact the quality of our lives. Religionists claim that prayer can help people heal when injured. They claim that your life would be miserable without God’s love and guidance, etc., etc. It was not a comparison of what they actually could do but what they claim to do, make people’s lives better.

      Like

      Comment by stephenpruis — April 18, 2013 @ 8:54 am | Reply

      • Consider this. Science is amoral. That’s not to say that science is bad or good. It’s simply a tool. Hammers have allowed great things to be done. But hammers are amoral. A hammer can be used for evil purposes.

        Science was used to bomb the Boston marathon. Science was also used to drill wells for people in developing countries. What’s the difference? How and by whom the science is used.

        Science makes food and refrigeration. My church organizes people to deliver refrigerated food to poor people. I’ve done that through my church. Does it require church involvement? Of course not. But it’s still good that churches do it, isn’t it?

        It’s just a really strange way of comparing things. It would be like saying plumbers are inferior because they don’t build rockets like rocket scientists do. “Rocket scientists: 1. Plumbers: 0”.

        Like

        Comment by conservative2cents — April 18, 2013 @ 11:23 am | Reply

        • It doesn’t take a religion to organize a food bank or food drive. That people do it as a social activity associated with their church is fine. I really don’t care. But look at all of the scientific advances that make your efforts far easier and more effective: refrigeration, canning, autos and trucks and forklifts to move stuff around and deliver it. You are right that motives do matter. Explosives can be used to build dams or fight wars. I don’t think sewers have been put on a war footing just yet. One human activity makes human lives potentially easier and more fulfilling, the other has been a mixed bag for centuries.

          Consider the fact that violence around the world on a per capita basis has been declining for centuries. Is that the influence of religion? I very much doubt it as the rates of violence tend to be correlated with howe religious a state is. The more religious, the more violent. That correlation holds up with the states in this country. It is a hard case to make that religion is making people’s lives better. It is not a hard case to make that science is. That was the point of my post.

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          Comment by stephenpruis — April 18, 2013 @ 3:14 pm | Reply


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