Can Science Trump Religion?

| March 3, 2009 | 3 Replies

Science Vs ReligionThis is not a question of whether science can or should prove or disprove the existence or non-existence of God or gods. Some of us believe that we are living in an era of rationalism, or enlightenment. Some, like Dawkins, even hope to see rational thinking purge religious clap trappings from society.

The question is, can rational thinking ever purge society of silly ideas?

I was reading the Dale McGowan “Meming of Life” post Best Practices 4: Teach engaged coexistence and he obliquely gives the answer in his introduction.

Consider:

  • Coperincus (ca. 1500) decisively proved that foundation of Astrology was false.
  • Avagadro (ca. 1800) proved that underlying principles of Homeopathy are bunk.
  • John Philips (ca. 1840) proved that the Earth was at least 90 million years old (before Darwin published, and long before accurate isotopic dating techniques were even imagined)
  • Hubble (ca. 1920) proved that not only was our solar system tiny compared to the galaxy, but that our galaxy is infinitesimal compared to the visible universe.

Surely we would no longer find anyone to believe that the stars predict our future, that water has memory, that the Earth is young, or that the Earth is the sole point of all creation.

No amount of education of thinking individuals will ever remove the comforting effects of belief in paranormal salvation for the majority of mankind.

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Category: Evolution, History, ignorance, nature, Religion, Science, scientific method

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A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (3)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Dan: I agree that there will always be some people who believe some things that are plainly contradicted by observations (the young earth belief is an unwarranted belief that probably has been around longer than the purported age of the young earth!).

    Nonetheless, individuals often rethink their positions and come around to acknowledging the evidence. Fundamentalist Michael Shermer is now one of the most prominent skeptics around. Bart Ehrman, trained at Moody Bible College, is a prominent agnostic who has spoken out against Bible inerrancy.

    I would simply draw that distinction–just because there might always be a group of people who maintain beliefs contrary to clear evidence doesn't mean that we should ever give up on individuals, even if their interest in self-critical thinking appears slight. It's often seeds gently planted that sprout worthy thoughts, sometimes years later.

    I'm not giving up on the group either. Ever since video cameras became cheap, I don't hear of many people discussing ghost sightings anymore. We just don't know how close we might be to a critical mass where huge numbers of current believers find the 6,000 year old earth to be unwarranted. If and when they drop that belief, I don't expect it to be a big to-do; rather, I think they they will quietly walk away, much as it has happened in Europe. It might not be rejection at all; it might simply be nonchalance, as we saw in Scandinavia.

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    Yet, there are still those who don't believe in the round Earth as measured by Eratosthenes (ca. 200 BCE). See TheFlatEarthSociety.org

  3. Education is helpful, but no salve against the deeply personal. People will cling to irrational beliefs when those beliefs function for them in some personal way that has nothing to do with external reality. Generally, these "irrational" beliefs make no functional difference in community life because they relate to matters that normally touch us not at all.

    We are, however, getting to a time when some of those issues do touch our lives. Evolutionary biology, for instance. But I suppose the patient doesn't have to understand the science in order to benefit from the treatment.

    But they do have to understand it to vote for research funding.

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