Class Warfare Blog

June 4, 2020

Why Science Hasn’t Stamped Out Religion

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:42 am
Tags: , , , ,

I was reading a piece on the Vridar blog site and Neil Godfrey wrote this (in 2013): “Religion has not gone away since the end of the Europe’s religious wars and the ensuing Age of Enlightenment. Indeed, scientific advances and the rise of secularism may even be largely responsible for religious revivals.”

One part of the reasoning behind this statement jumped out at me. As opposed to science, religion puts no intellectual demands on its proponents. Scientists are asked to explain themselves, and argue, and think . . . really, really hard. Religionists, to the contrary, are given warm “There, theres” and are not asked to think. They are not expected to answer or ask questions. They do not have a final arbiter of what is right and wrong as natural scientists have in nature.

As a college professor, I saw a great many students over the years, almost all of whom had selected a major course of study. Since the science courses I taught were not something that other students took to meet a breadth requirement or “for fun,” I tended to see the same types of students. And didn’t encounter students who were majoring in far flung intellectual pursuits. But I did meet and work with colleagues from all over the college. And one could see clear divides in those folk according to their chosen fields of study.

For one, there is a simple dichotomy between scientists and non-scientists that breaks along the lines of, what should I call it . . . social skills (?). Science types, often referred to as “geeks,” often lacked social skills one could observe elsewhere and it is my opinion that science attracts people with poorer social skills because the topic addresses and studies things and not people. (Things can be pinned down, people are inconsistent, variable, and often cantankerous.) Study science and you have fewer people to deal with and more things/facts/etc. (Yes, I know these are broad characterizations. There are many, many exceptions. I myself am a scientist who is suave as hell and comfortable in the company of a wide strata of society. And I need a tongue-in-cheek emoji here.)

Another fault line between scientists and non-scientists is math. To learn math, you must master, to some extent, abstract thinking. This makes a clear line between those who faired well in math (I wasn’t that good, just persistent.) and those who did not.

So, to make an argument or address a problem scientifically, you have to pull non-science types into a realm in which complex arguments, math, and foundational knowledge all are involved in complicated fashions. (Look at how complex environmental issues are often described with simplistic and, at root, misleading explanations. Global atmospheric warming was attributed to the Greenhouse Effect and greenhouses work primarily by not allowing warm gases to escape the house. This is not the mechanism of climate change as we are experiencing it now.)

On the other side of this divide, the religionists are told “There, there . . . all will be well” and other nonsense like “The blood of Christ will protect you in the pandemic.” (The latter led me to wonder where I can get me some of that shit.) It may be nonsense, but it is simple nonsense, making no intellectual demands and offering many reassurances, albeit vacuous ones.

I do not claim that all of this plays out consciously through free will. In general I think most of us drift in the currents of our lives (me, especially). But those unable to accept the complexity of real problems set in a real nature are subject to those more than willing to provide fantasy solutions set in a fantastic nature which are less demanding. All you need is faith and there are no real tests of that any more.

December 15, 2012

Who’s Your Daddy?

It was only about 2-300 years ago that you wouldn’t even have had the right to think for yourself. In most European countries and in most of the 13 original states (9 of 13 to be exact), there were state sponsored religions. The religions backed up the state via doctrines like “the Divine Rights of Kings” and other such nonsense and the state supported the church with laws and, well, soldiers.

People were taught what to believe, what to think, and if they disagreed, well, they could die. Churches regularly took such matters in their own hands by having their own enforcers take care of business, the prime example being the Inquisition, but their were others. I wish I knew what the body count was for “heretics” burned at the stake, but I am sure it is not a small number. The Church often dictated to the state, or bribed it, to do its work for it, the major example being the Crusades.

But then along came some influential, and brave, thinkers in Europe and we had what most people refer to as the Enlightenment. To be enlightened was to have a light cast upon what you couldn’t see before and a great many folks began to see that what happened naturally was not caused by witches, demons, ghosts, and angels, but as a matter of nature. Our own Benjamin Franklin showed that lightning was just an electrical display and not the wrath of God as was the common belief of the time.

Not only did the invention of the scientific method, one of the greatest intellectual creations of all time along with writing, cast new lights on natural sciences but it had an insidious affect on people’s thinking. Many of the things (most?) that people were told they had to believe turned out to be untrue. And the scientific method refers not to authority, it only refers to observation and logic. Everyone can look at the evidence and decide for themselves.

The scientific method, in essence, required independent thought, independent thought that was anathema to the Church-State which wanted to dictate thought.

Modern Republicans want us to reverse this road we have been on for more than two centuries and go back to an age in which thought was dictated by authorities. I am sure you have seen the graphic on scientific papers regarding climate change, but if you haven’t I have included it (below). Of the almost 14,000 scientific papers on climate change over the last 20 years, less than 0.2% denied climate change. But the Republicans, from their position of authority, hClimate Change Papersave said these folks in the majority are wrong. They are just scientific peons, after all.

The Republicans also deny that Evolution has shaped all of the living organisms on the planet including us, they deny that the Earth is 4.3 billion years old, instead insisting that it is only a few thousands of years old and humans mingled with dinosaurs. (They learned this by reading Alley Oop in the comics, I guess.)

Republicans want to roll back the Enlightenment. The Republicans want to do your thinking for you. The Republicans want to be your Daddy.

What do you think?

Blog at