This is a cloud of stuff swirling around in my head that I’m trying to pin down on paper, so sorry if it comes out wonky.
The thing that prompted me to blog was a thought-provoking article in Salon on What’s Wrong With Science As Religion?. I can reconcile science and a religious faith – not always easily, but for me it’s the best explanation of life. Given that have a foot in the science / reason / logic camp, I get extremely frustrated at the arrogance and bigotry of the New Atheists (see the article), just like I get frustrated at similar arrogance and bigotry in the name of religion.
Here’s an little thought experiment – take a militant rationalist and apply a 5 year old child using standard rhetorical techniques i.e. asking “But why?” repeatedly (I’ve embroidered it slightly to make it more interesting).
There is no need for religion. Science is all you need.
But why do you say that?
Science can explain everything.
But why do you say that?
Because we can explain stars, computers, volcanoes, birds – lots of things.
Yes, but science hasn’t explained everything yet, has it?
No, but it will eventually.
Why do you say that?
We’re confident that it will.
But confidence isn’t the same as proof, is it?
No, but it will get there.
Why do you say that?
There is nothing in science that proves that science is true. A chain of logic reasoning always starts with axioms i.e. things you assume to be true or take on faith. You just have to accept on faith that science is a good way of explaining the world – this is an axiom of science. Militant rationalists seem to ignore the element of faith required in their world view. I’m happy to take science and Christianity on faith, because they seem to make sense.
Another thing that militant rationalists seem to ignore is that the core engine of rationalism – logic – misfires in some circumstances and no amount of going back to basics will fix it. Kurt Gödel showed via his Incompleteness Theorem (which I have no hope of understanding, but take on err… faith) that paradoxes such as “Am I telling the truth when I say I am lying?” aren’t just the result of sloppy thinking but are inevitable in logic.
So, you need to accept it on faith and paradox is unavoidable – sounds a bit like religion? The article speculates what the world would be like if militant rationalism held sway, and suggests that bad things would happen. This new religion would be a new excuse for atrocities and other bad things – the fault seems to be an underlying problem with human nature, rather than whether people believe X rather than Y.
This then led me to wander elsewhere. I flicked through The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook last night and it has a whole chapter on what the author calls fifth columnists. Something like home education, that could be great, can be diverted to be a tool for other things such as making money, religious dogma and anarchy.
Similarly Esperanto. As far as I understand, the idea is to have a single language so that we can all understand each other. If you look at a widespread language such as English, French or German, there are regional dialects and variations. I can’t see how if it were used around the world, there wouldn’t be local dialects and variations in Esperanto too. That is, it would be a victim of its own success.
It’s all messy, and I think that the fact that life is imperfect is a key lesson you learn when growing up.
UPDATED: I’ve thought a bit about this since posting it (maybe I should have thought more before I posted) and wanted to make a few things clearer than they might be. If you have a religious faith and don’t believe science explains important things like creation, that’s fine by me. If you have atheist or agnostic and think that science explains everything then that’s also fine by me. (If you think science and religion both explain things, that’s also fine by me and is my general position.) What I’m ranting about is people of whatever persuasion thinking they are completely right and those of different persuasions are completely wrong, evil, superstitious, weak-minded etc.
I’m sorry if I have got in the way of you believing in whatever you hold dear as that is not my intention. If you think I’m un-Christian to hold the position I do, then I would point to Isaiah 55:9 and 1 Corinthians 12:13. I know that you could use the Bible to justify almost anything; I’m just saying that my position is no exception ;-).