Friday, December 5, 2008

This Is Your Brain; This Is Your Brain On Science

Image thanks to the Proch. Interactions. Blog

SCIENCE! leads to this; Creationism leads to this. Any questions?

At least two news stories involving Texas made the headlines today. The following is written as a way to process the fact that the Texas State Board of Education is still, as of yesterday, deliberating what form of creationism, if any, should be required in Texas public schools. Nee, how much would elected officials like to weaken SCIENCE! education in the second largest state in the Union?

Certainly, the initial comparison in this post is hyperbolic and unnecessary, but the point is the following non-hyperbolic assessment. SCIENCE! makes amazing things possible. Things that are novel, new, original, non-existent-previously-and-possible-now-type things. What is it that creationism makes possible that wasn't here yesterday, or last year, or last century, or last millennium? Nothing. Creationism adds nothing to the system of human knowledge. Nothing. Meanwhile in the land of faithless reason, a team of surgeons and scientists just put an electrode in a mute person's brain and connected it to a synthesizer so that he may communicate verbally again. Get that?

In fact, creationism does the opposite of adding net-knowledge to the ongoing human condition. SCIENCE! is cumulative. The findings of Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, and Darwin influence the body of human knowledge when they were written, today, and in a century from now. SCIENCE! builds upon itself. What is built on creationism? Nothing. Nothing other than obfuscation and ignorance is built on creationism.

Flame Alert!

SCIENCE!: Brought to you by reason; Creationism: Brought to you by faith.


  1. I think it's safe to assume that most people in the world do not understand how and where an electrode can be implanted in the brain, and only a handful are actually able to perform a procedure. For the last several centuries endless efforts have been made to make the Bible more accessible, to translate it into the vernacular, to bring it to the people. The Catholic Church abandoned Latin for crying out loud. So while science is a privilege of the few (even though allegedly 99% of US population is literate, and I was going to make an argument that even fewer know what g is), the Bible and its content is a) readable, 2)comprehensible. So if the choice is between believing in science which you do not understand, and accepting simple non-science, the lazy choice is clear.

    I think the point I am trying to make is that for some people evolution, brain implants, parting of Red Sea and making Earth in seven days are equally magical concepts. And they choose to believe one magic over another.

  2. @Katya

    1) It is not possible to 'believe in science.' Science is not a belief structure, it is a method and a body of knowledge.

    2) Science is extraordinarily accessible; it is with you where ever you go, whenever you go.

    3) I do not accept that holding creationism as valid nor keeping faith in anything at all is easy to do or the 'lazy choice.' Both of these positions require a tremendous amount of work.

    4) You appear to miss the point of the post, which is that science produces results, and real advancements making peoples lives better. Creationism doesn't provide anything other than obfuscation to science education.

  3. @jumco
    2) If you mean that everything that surrounds us is based in or created by a scientific/technological process, then you are right. But the same can be said about God's work. :) When I say "science" I imply the underlying concepts, the rules and axioms, the theories and hypotheses. Most of them (especially these days) are extremely complex, and for someone who has a weak background in biology and chemistry and physics and geology and genetics and botany and astronomy and mechanics and mathematics and ecology and need-i-go-on these concepts are out of reach. Please do not tell me that what you spent four years studying at RU is extraordinarily accessible.

    1) The point is education: those with a solid exposure to some or all of these disciplines are able to differentiate between fact and theory, scientific certainty and religious myth. Those that do not have this education/exposure will look at evolution and intelligent design as two options offered by two different denominations. And they will believe one and not the other. I referred to "believing in science" intentionally. It is not possible for you to believe in science. But most of us have seen your resume and read your cover letter. For someone who possesses one thousandth of the body of knowledge that you possess believing in a scientific concept, instead of understanding it, is quite possible. Unless they make the effort to gain this knowledge, to learn and understand instead of simply accepting.

    3) When choosing between a) studying something complex in order to understand it, and b) the option to "just have faith" it seems easier to believe than to understand. And I am not talking about you, Justin, I am talking about an average person, which you by no means are. You probably have a difficult time imagining yourself accepting creationism or old-bearded-man-on-a-cloud. I have no stats to back this up, but I imagine most people who deeply believe in these two concepts are very little like you in education, intellect, cultural exposure and general life experience. Religion is the opium of and for the people, "people" as in "masses". You are not masses*. For someone of limited education, intellect, cultural exposure and life experience, believing in something unfathomable to you is easy, because because to them what you know is just as unfathomable.** Solution? Strip churches opposing evolution in schools of their 501(c)(3) status, tax them to no end, and pour that money directly into elementary and secondary school.

    4) I understand the point of the post. Indeed, in this case, science-good, religion-bad. No need to dwell on it. I see no reason to preach to the choir and discuss to no end how much we agree. Instead of talking about how evil/stupid religion and its followers are, it seems more productive to understand why people are so eager to defend the Genesis.

    *nor are you a meat
    **I am having a difficult time formulating effectively and without sounding like I mean that only uneducated small town hicks believe in "God made Earth in 6 days".

  4. There are, of course, many intelligent people, and more than a few scientists, who are also religious; the two spheres do not necessarily intersect. It is possible to believe in the existence of a unique, immortal, transcendent being without accepting, as a consequence of that belief, this or that explanation, contradicted by science, for some physical phenomenon.

    Science, of course, does not "produce results," although its application can do so, and not always for the better --arguing for the superiority of science because of all the wonderful gizmos we have (admittedly a semi-hyperbolic characterization of Jumco's enthusiasm) is a weak position to take: Science has made possible the despoilation of the earth, and may make possible its early demise as a life-supporting system.

    And I do not think it takes much work to accept the validity of either a scientific fact or a non-scientific assertion (e.g., creationism*). Raise your hand if you accept the results that your pocket calculator shows you. Now raise it if you extracted with paper and pencil a few square roots of, say, 7-digit numbers before you were willing to accept your calculator's proficiency in doing this. Using science requires only the faith that what you have been told about a specific thing is true, and will work. The great thing about religious belief (and what makes it different in kind from scientific knowledge) is that it has no application; it doesn't have to "work:" you just take it or leave it.

    *Before Jumco launches a heated reply, listing all the contradictory facts that one has to overcome in order to accept creationism: No, one has to do nothing of the kind --just ignore these facts, and any other evidence to the contrary. Or, be ignorant generally, and so unaware of the contradictions. Works all the time.


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