I seem to have struck a nerve. I’m getting lots of irate email over this post I made yesterday…not the usual cranky, ungrammatical rants I get from creationists, but literate notes with a hint of desperation. They’re still wrong.
Everyone is mangling the question. It’s not, “What should a scientist think about morals?”, or “Should all scientists be atheists?”, it’s “What should a scientist think about religion?” I’m also not trying to argue that science or atheism is a better way of living your life (not here, at any rate).
If a scientist looks at an idea, like religion, how does he evaluate it? Apply the scientific method to the god hypothesis, if you can: what comes out? Does religion hold up on any logical or evidentiary grounds?
And the answer right now is no. If a scientist applies the same kind of critical thinking she uses in her work to religion, she gets the same answer an atheist does, that religion is a weak, useless hypothesis with no support, or worse, that it is an internally contradictory mish-mash that contradicts existing evidence. I bent over backward to say that she doesn’t have to apply that kind of thinking to every aspect of her life, of course, and none of us do. If she wants to claim she’s happy to be a Presbyterian and accepts it as a matter of simple faith, there is no argument, the case is closed, and she can go about her business unhassled by science.
It reminds me of the lack of faith exhibited by so many creationists. They invent elaborate scenarios to explain Noah’s Ark, for instance, and get all gushy about computer simulations and vapor canopies and models of median animal volumes, all bunk and nonsense, and they get ripped to shreds by people who can easily show that their bogus pseudoscience is badly done. All they need to say, though, is “it was a miracle,” and the argument is over. When you’ve got an omnipotent being running the show, you can always just cut to the chase and say that God said abracadabra. That, though, would show that their ideas are unscientific, and “scientific” is a magic adjective they desperately want to attach to their beliefs.
I’m also not claiming that atheists are right because they think more scientifically. I know lots of atheist idiots, and if the world abandoned religion overnight, we’d still have the same stupid people running things, they’d just be looking for a new set of rationalizations. I am definitely not arguing that atheism makes you smart; I’m going the other way, and saying that if you’re smart and apply the critical thinking tools of science to religion, you will not be likely to accept the dogma.
Most remarkably, I’ve received several heartfelt pleas, telling me that saying these things about religion hurts the cause. After thinking hard about that for several seconds, I have an answer to that.
If it’s true, it’s true. I am not swayed by arguments that “if it’s true, it will make some people unhappy.” When you are willing to cede the facts and evidence that support your case simply because they go against some people’s emotional biases, then you’ve hurt your cause. Evidence and logic are what we’ve got, people, and they are powerful enough to send people to the moon and build world-wide information networks and feed billions…and we should abandon that because some people are deeply wedded to failed superstitions?
The question is far simpler and the answer far plainer than many people are making it. If you apply the processes of the scientific method to the claims of religion, treating them as hypotheses, what do you discover? They don’t hold up. The evidence for Jesus, Son of God, is less convincing than the evidence for Sasquatch, Hairy Ape-Man of the Northwest, and the logic is even more insane. Believe if you want, just realize that your belief doesn’t deserve to be called scientific.