Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

Science Versus Faith

Most of us want to understand the world we live it.  We seek to make sense out of our lives; why we are here; what the purpose of our existence is.  Not knowing is unsettling, even scary.  

For thousands of years, likely since humans could actually think as we understand that wold, we have tried to find ways to understand how things work.  We tried to explain the forces of nature that we can’t control.  Weather, seasons, earthquakes, volcanos.  These things frightened us.  To try to reduce the fear and uncertainty, we tried to explain these things as best we could.  We created spirits, demons, monsters, and gods.  

These creations varied from culture to culture. The Greeks had their Zeus, the Romans Jupiter, Bushmen had Cagn, Babylonians worshiped Marduk , Jews had Yahweh, Christians,  Jesus.  All of these deities had mostly similar traits, but also differences that varied according to the particular culture.

Some people, however, tried to find a different way to explain the world around them.  Ancient Greeks had Plato, Aristotle, and others who tried to use reason and observation to explain things.  The were often wrong, but it was a departure from just explaining things away as acts by a deity or deities.  

In the 15th century, Galileo used his telescope to discover truths about the universe: that the planets were worlds like our own and not just points of light on the backdrop of the celestial sphere.  Kepler, Copernicus, and later Newton, added to our understanding of the cosmos.  The defining idea of these endeavors was that they used careful observations and reason to explain how things worked and, for the first time in history, accurately made predictions about the world that we could rely on.  By the 18th century, the discipline of science was born.  Engineering, medicine, communication, and other practical areas of study emerged that were different from the old ways of explaining the world.  This way of learning about and explaining the world had two major differences from the mythologies that tried to explain things before: it was able to accurately make predictions, and it worked.

This leads to the most important difference between the mindset of religious and magical thinking, and reason and scientific thinking: People who rely on faith, hunches, and the like are afraid not to know.  They seek solace in their faith in their god or gods.  Their gods love them, watch over them, and will even save them from death by allowing an afterlife of rewards for being faithful.  

Those who believe in the scientific way of thinking are not afraid of the unknown, in fact, they embrace it.  The unknown is where we lean, where we can grow in understanding.  It allows us to beat back the fear and uncertainly.  It lets us make predictions about how the world works that can be tested and proved or disproved.  This is how we can understand how our bodies work, which has lead to a doubling of our life spans in just over a hundred years.  It is how we have provided ways to communicate across the globe, to share our thoughts and ideas, our emotions, our hopes and dreams.

It has been said by some that science is just another religion.  This is false.  The reason it is false is that science, unlike faith, can cause us to modify our ideas about the world as new information is discovered, giving us ever more accurate explanations for how the universe works.  This allows the technological advances that save millions of lives and make our lives more comfortable.  Unlike faith, it allows us to make predictions about the world that are accurate and reproducible, bringing certainty to the previously unknown, and pushing back the fear that the unknown brings.  And unlike faith, science just works.  

April 22, 2012 Posted by | Religion, Science, Skepticism | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your Religion Is Your Religion, Not Everyone Elses

I’ve been pretty harsh in my views toward superstitious beliefs in general and religion in particular.  You find what I have to say offensive.  Thats fine, because I find things you have to say offensive as well.  There is nothing wrong with being offended. It happens to everyone about something or other at some point.

What I find annoying and sad is when you feel that I am somehow persecuting you by my stance on these issues.  This is just plain wrong.  That you feel persecuted reflects your sense of privilege and superiority because you feel that  you are right because your god tells you so.  It is exactly this self righteous attitude that I despise and rail against.  It isn’t your beliefs I find offensive, but the effects of those beliefs upon everyone else.

I believe that everyone has a right to believe whatever they want to believe; to worship (or not) as they wish.  The one caveat is that your beliefs and your worshiping are yours, not everyone else’s.   Talk about them to others if you (and they) wish,  but don’t preach.   Express your views on morality, but don’t seek to impose your morality upon others.

This also goes for your actions.  If you believe that prayer alone can cure you, great.  Just don’t insist on only using prayer when your child or someone else you love is ill.  If they are receiving medical treatment and you think prayer will help, fine.  But don’t insist that god will save your loved one by prayer alone because plenty of people have died needlessly because prayer was substituted for sound medical treatment.

Also, don’t try to legislate your morality so that it is imposed upon all of us.  The current GOP/Religious Right’s war against women and LGTB’s is a perfect example.  It is religion that causes the party of small government that does not intrude into our private lives to perpatrate the hypocrisy of passing laws that intrude into the most private parts of our lives: reproductive rights and the right to chose who to love and who to commit your life to.

It has often been said that religion cause good people to do terrible things.  History certainly seems to bear this out.   The imposition of Islam upon those that they conquered; the crusades where the Christian did the same to the Muslims and Jews; the hundreds of years of wars and the burning of thousands at the stake over differing versions of Christianity; the thousands of Muslim and Hindus killed in the partitioning of India.

So, feel free to hold your beliefs dear to you.  Worship as you wish.  But, keep these things out of the public sphere where they can do no harm, or infringe upon the rights of the rest of us.

April 7, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, GLBT, Humanism, Religion, Science, Social Justice | , , , , | 3 Comments

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know Because My Wallet Tells Me So

James Inahoff is a U.S. Senator.  He is also a climate change denier.   He has claimed in the past that he is against the theory of anthropogenic global warming because the Bible says that it can’t happen.  He explained this by quoting Genesis 8:22:

“…as long as the earth remains there will be springtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.”

His reasoning was that God has promised to keep the climate stable.  There would be spring, winter and summer.  If you read this verse carefully and accept his argument, you will quickly find that this “promise” was void as soon as it was given.  Why?  The area around the earth’s equator essentially has no seasons.  The temperatures there are stable year round.  Springtime, winter and summer are all the same.  So much for seasons.  This isn’t a small area either.  The Torrid Zone, which is the area of earth around the equator and which has the same basic climate is over 126,000,000 sq. km.  It also contains a large percentage of the world’s population.

As stupid as Senator Inahoff’s biblical based beliefs about why there can’t be anthropogenic global warming is, it is also a lie meant to justify the real reason the senator and others like him are against the theory of climate change.  The climate deniers use the Bible to support their case in a cynical attempt to sway the majority of American’s who believe in the Bible.

The reason this explanation is a lie can be found in a statement by James Inahoff to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last month.  When discussing global warming, the senator said,

“I was actually on your side of this issue when I was chairing that committee and I first heard about this. I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.”

This is par for the course for the GOP and the religious right.  They use the Bible to support the real reason they are against global warming; Money.  Specifically, profits for corporations in which they have an a professional or financial interest.  They apply the same tactic to other issued like , clean air initiatives, environmental conversation, or oil drilling, as well as social issues such as universal health care, welfare, school lunches, and student loans.

They use religion to support and pass legislation that is anti-science, anti-poor, anti-woman, and racist when the real reason they support these views is greed.

Jesus is quoted in their Bible as saying that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle that for a rich man to enter into heaven. I don’t hear them throwing that particular quote, or other’s like it, around very much.  Their cynical use of the Bible to support their greed is nothing new, but it is having a dangerous and frightening effect upon society, and the very earth we live on.

April 1, 2012 Posted by | Humanism, Religion, Science, Social Justice | , , | 4 Comments

   

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