The Road to Rationalism part 4

So what's so good about Science anyway?

As we saw in earlier 'Road to Rationalism' posts, we can quite logically reject the metaphysical claims and creation stories of all of the World's religions, by the simple expedient of realising that, since all of them have them, they can't all be right, and that since dedicated followers of all the myriad sects of each religion claim that their interpretation is the only true account, basing this claim on absolutely no evidence but their own blind faith (and of course the fact that they were told, again and again, that it was true, before they even found out that the tooth fairy wasn't real) it should be quite obvious to all that the likelihood of any of these interpretations actually being correct is vanishingly small.

Obvious to all, that is, but the individual members of each of these sects, who of course just 'know' that they are right. Were it not for the sheer number of these people, the deeply worrying amount of power, money and influence (particularly over their own poor children) that many of these people hold, in some cases individually as well as collectively, we could dismiss them as being simply anachronistic and irrelevant. Tragically, we atheists and humanists are a very small, but growing, minority, able to exist (almost exclusively to the best of my - admittedly partial - knowledge) only in wealthy democracies.

"What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence" is one of my favourite quotes from Christopher Hitchens' fantastic book, 'God is not Great'. I could fill a very large post with excellent quotes from this book but I'd probabaly get in trouble for it, so, read it yourselves.

What then, are we to do with evidence?

If you adhere to a religious sect, chances are you will either ignore it, supress it (if you can) or (eventually) incorporate it into your teachings.
If you don't subscribe to any religious ideas, you will either change your world view to include this evidence or, if you have a cherished idea based upon earlier evidence or a different interpretation, you will attempt to challenge it or wait until more evidence arrives before accepting it.

This, to my mind, is what is so good about science.

Our view of the universe, the world, life, in fact everything is constantly being updated and refined as new evidence comes in.

We have amazing theories that tell us more about who we are and our place in the world than any religiously inspired story can ever hope to do.

It really breaks my heart to know that so many people around the world are missing out on all this discovery, all this knowledge, all these ideas, hypotheses and theories, by believing in ancient rubbish.

They cling on to their comfort blankets, wishing, willing, praying that they are right, most dangerously, 'knowing' that they are right, as reality briskly passes them by.

The best I can say, with my layman's knowledge of current scientific theories, is that we have a very good idea of how old the universe is, but this is subject to review; we know how old the solar system, and therefore the world is, to within a few million years; we know how long ago life began here and have a very good idea of the chemistry that made this possible; we know how life developed and evolved to produce the diversity we see today; we know that we are an intrinsic part of this life and the only thing that sets us apart from the rest of life is our relative intelligence and our level of consciousness. There are many, many things we do not know, but the one certainty about the gaps in our knowledge is that the scientific procedures of evidence gathering and empirical testing are the only ways in which we can hope to fill them.

Some things we may never know, but to say 'hey, don't worry about these gaps in our knowledge, God did it!' is nothing more nor less than intellectual suicide, and those who would reject evidence simply because it contradicts the teachings derived from some ancient text or other, deserve to be ridiculed as the simpletons that they are.

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