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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Non-Creationist

A deity doing something important with light rays
April 8, 2014

Faith Versus Science

by Richard Reynolds

Throughout history there has been a war, or at least an unending series of minor skirmishes, between those of devout faith in spiritual beliefs and those of devout adherence to the principles of scientific inquiry.

Faith is not incompatible with science, nor vice versa.  One can separate political beliefs from scientific beliefs as well as one can separate religious beliefs from science or politics.  It rarely happens, but it can be accomplished.

I have no spiritual faith.  I am an atheist ... and I believe in provable reality.  I have political beliefs, and I try to keep them separate from scientific beliefs ... but usually I fail miserably at this.  However, I try to keep rational when my scientific beliefs come up against those whose religious beliefs deny the validity of science.  Denying the validity of the scientific method, which has been proved throughout the documented history of science as something beyond doubt, is something with which I strongly disagree.

But I recognize the value, both historical and cultural, of spiritualism.  Native American culture, the culture of the Ancient Greeks, the culture of Islam, the culture of Judaism, and almost innumerable other spiritual beliefs, have influenced such varied subjects as art, architecture, sociology, literature, and even science.  Science would no doubt have flourished without any spiritual input -- and, indeed, science often suffered at the adversarial hands of established religions.  Yet there is no doubt that when the Greeks looked up at the night sky and saw gods and other characters from their mythology, they helped plot the constellations so that upcoming scientists could work more easily in cataloguing the endless wonders of the night sky.  The Arabs and Persians contributed greatly to science and mathematics, the myth-loving Greeks contributed to the field of logic and philosophy.

Religion began in early humans as a way of making sense of a world, of a universe, which had no apparent reason before early man began creating mythologies to explain the world and the universe.  Science ... or, more properly, modern science ... came about to answer the ambiguous dogma of the various religions and mythologies of early humans.  Science needed facts to support beliefs; religion needed only faith to support beliefs.

But there is a tendency still present in religion to deny science because science does not form from mythological or religious tenants.  Science forms out of verifiable truth that can be experimented upon, challenged, and re-evaluated.  Dogmatic religions ask for no creative input; they merely want strict adherence and continued proselytizing to gain converts.  Scientists in the same field of inquiry are a disputatious lot; religionists within a sect are harmonious in their refusal to question their perception of faith in relation to the nature of the universe.

But science does not deny spirituality or religion, despite what religious zealots say.  Science -- particularly the scientific study of the anthropological development of the mind -- even states that there is probably a biological cause for the sensation of spirituality in the belief of a magical presence of "the other" or "the creator."  Scientists who have theorized on this suggest that it was early man's way of adapting to a survival mechanism.  When in tall grasses or wherever their view was obstructed, early man had to depend on a sort of sixth sense to tell whether there was "the other" or "danger" just outside of his ability to perceive it with his common senses of sight, sound, smell, and hearing.  This doesn't scientifically justify a belief in an almighty, but it shows that science does not dismiss the sense of spirituality as some kind of stupid relic of early man; rather, it was a sense developed that was imperative to man's survival ... to keep vigilant in case a tiger was nearby and ready to devour him.

Without that sense of hypervigilance (or spiritualistic thought), man might not have continued to adapt, and science might not have come into existence because Galileo's prehistoric ancestors might have been killed off by some now-extinct beast.

However, science does not owe religions or mythologies for this evolutionary salvation.  Science owes mankind only provable truths.

It is a provable truth that the Earth could not have been created 6,000 or so years ago.  The Earth is billions of years old.  There are trees that have been confirmed to be thousands of years old.  Fossils of animals existing millions of years ago exist.  Science does not need to prove the existence of God or gods or devils or Satan or anything supernatural.  Faith is fine, but truth cannot be held in the shackles of faith.

If you see an angel coming for you, go with it if that is your wish.  Or, to my preference, seek an explanation for the hallucination you've just had.  Perhaps you've eaten too many strange plants while foraging in the tall grasses of spirituality.

Good night, and don't let the tigers or angels bite.

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