Monday, November 30, 2009

Strange Phenomenon

I wanted to discuss what I consider to be a rather strange phenomenon today. This isn't a controversial post at all but rather just a curiosity with the mindset of some people.

Every person on this planet (the civilised part) trusts science. I'll take that statement further and say that every person trusts science with their life in fact. Why then do some people after trusting science with their life and using modern luxuries that would not exist without science, turn around and bash science when it comes to matters that concern their faith? Some religious people have no qualms with science at all, but there is a very broad spectrum of people that fall under the label 'religious' and they range from liberal intelligent people all the way to the other side of ignorant creationists. Creationists in particular suffer from this strange phenomenon more than all others, especially the young-earthers. They trust science with their life and with their technology, but when it comes to: astronomy, biology, quantum physics, geology, palaeontology, chemistry, physics... and the list goes on, they obviously do not trust science because every single field of science refutes their position on the age of the earth or some other aspect of their creation myth.
I myself was in this mindset when I was a creationist, but the cognitive dissonance of holding such a position eventually allowed me to change my mind about some things.


  1. The reason is probably because its very easy to take modern convieniences for granted - people forget that cars, electronics, etc all were invented by someone using scientific principles at some point. (Somehow i dont think Karl Benz came up with the idea of the petrol engine by praying..) As a car guy, this brings me to another question - As god did not want humans to be fully sentient (apple tree of knowledge, blahblahetc) then he obviously did not intend us to be able to invent machines such as the car... why then, would he give carbon and biological deposits the convienient ability to transform over time into oil, (which takes MORE than 6000 years btw) which we can use for fuel? If god created everything this means he must have also created principles for physics, chemistry etc. I dont see the point there, unless he DID intend us to become intelligent, and the whole adam and eve tree of knowledge thing was just a sick joke on his part.
    When you think about it, theres evidence against creation theory everywhere you look. how my dad can be a geologist and also be a supporter of creationist theory, i really dont know :/
    "The denial is strong in you, young padawan"

  2. You commence in the manner of a Socratic dialogue, assuming a universal 'truth'. NOT all people in the civilised world trust science. Just because we use things which have been the product of scientific and technological discovery does not mean we trust it. I use this computer, but I don't trust it. I have no idea how it works. No one has ever successfully explained to me how cyberspace exists. I know that a TV works, but I don't know how. I know that a magnetic tape can record and play back sound, but I don't know how or why.
    To turn your point on its head, all sciences developed as an off-shoot of religion; the first scientists were trying to figure out how the gods made things happen. Therefore by your rationale all scientists should believe in God.

  3. Understanding is not a prerequisite for trusting something. I may not understand exactly how anti-biotics interact with my body to kill off infections, but I trust that it is going to help me, and I trust the science behind it and I trust the doctor prescribing it, and I trust the pharmaceutical company that produces it.
    People may not consciously acknowledge that they trust science, but based on the way people live their lives, and the fact that they have life at all for some people is testament to the success of science.
    Some people take science for granted and then turn around and dismiss science as some insignificant thing that you can 'choose' to believe in to make yourself feel better. This is what I was getting at, the hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance involved with accepting science only when it benefits you, and then when science gives evidence for something you don't like the sound of, they choose to ignore it or disbelieve it, or discredit it.

  4. It's not hypocrisy at all. Sometimes we have little choice but to use Science. If I want to go home for Christmas, I can't walk there - even if I left in November, I'd still have to swim across Cook Strait and I'm not too good at swimming. So I have to choose between various forms of technology to facilitate my journey. Luckily, we have some well established technological alternatives which are usually pretty safe, and have proven to be so. But just because I trust that the science involved in creating the aeroplane I am flying in is sound, that does not automatically mean I should trust every single aspect of every single Science. That's ridiculous. It's like saying "well, that guy over there is pretty honest and he normally means what he says, so I'm going to go ahead and trust his entire extended family based on the fact that I trust him".
    Believing that aspects of aerodynamics and physics and geometry and construction and meteorology and whatever else goes into a successful aircraft should work most of the time is no reason to blindly accept everything that any scientist ever says.
    Meteorology is a good case in point. How can you actually trust the weather report? There's a lot of Science involved there, and yet it's little better than random guessing at times.
    Trusting pharmaceutical companies is another interesting point, and one which hardly ever seems to stand up in court when said companies are sued for pushing products which may only work as a side effect while causing more damage elsewhere in the body. They are essentially corporate giants, their aim is to make money, and trusting them can be fatal.
    Certainly I can see your point. It amuses me when people will ignore a doctor with 30 years experience because they read about a cure on the internet. Yet modern Science can still not explain the placebo effect, where people have actually effectively cured themselves simply because they believe that whatever alternative therapy they are taking will work. Again, this will not work for everyone, as some peoples' strength of belief is stronger than others.
    Yes, Science is generally helpful, in the main, and yes, the application of Science has, generally, assisted in easing the lives of human beings (although I'm not sure the residents of Hiroshima or Nagasaki in August 1945, or even Dresden in March 1945, or the Kurds in Saddam's Iraq in 1988, or countless other victims of scientific 'improvement' would agree with that!). Some people might argue that the cost of this progress has been too high (eg those who believe in anthropological climate change) while others will argue that we are not using Science enough (why are we still allowing mothers to bear children with genetic diseases?). This does not make Science omniperfect, which is essentially what you are demanding. Scientists themselves know better than just to blindly accept everything that Science tells them - if we did, we'd never make any more breakthroughs. Science is about challenging, and testing, and not accepting things.
    As for "Evidence", well that is in the eye of the beholder. You show someone evidence of random mutations causing evolutionary progress, they may see evidence of God's intelligent design playing out.
    The sooner you get out of the mindset that Science has proved EVERYTHING, the better. There will always be mysterious events and random paranormal activities which cannot be explained. Spontaneous human combustion cannot be replicated by Science. The construction of the pyramids given the limitations of the workforce and agrarian society in which it was based has not been conclusively explained by Science. A world dominated by Science has no room for competitors, which is why many critics point to Science as a quasi-religion (and why I have capitalised it in this comment). Science is the Truth, and the Way, and non-believers must be ridiculed and persecuted until they recant because they are Wrong. Sounds a lot like the Inquistion to me ...

  5. I certainly am not advocating complete blind subservient trust to everything science postulates.

    The kind of trust I was talking about and the double-standards involved with it, was more of a trust in the intentions of scientists themselves. I have heard many creationists talk as if the theory of evolution was one giant conspiracy within the scientific community. It's people like this who actually do the scaremongering for example Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort and Wendy Wright that this blog post was primarily aimed at, with followers of creationism second to them.

    Yes, one could theoretically look at evidence for evolution (which there is an abundance of) and come to the conclusion that the moon is made of cookie dough, but that doesn't make it correct, nor does it make their conclusion valid, nor does it make them credible. If someone takes evidence for one thing and uses it to conclude that it proves something completely unrelated, that is called a non sequitur. Saying that "things evolved, therefore GOD" is just as dishonest as saying "climate change, therefore SATAN". Sure, people may see god in everything, but that is not a conclusion that one would arrive at purely by examining the evidence, it is a conclusion that is being forced into the picture by people who can't handle the truth.

  6. karl you should just pray to god and he might take you home for Xmas LAWLAWLAWLAWLALWAWLLWALWALAWL... it'll be like dragon ball Z or something!?!

  7. Wow that comment is so out of place and makes no sense... Congratulations..