The dilemma of a scientist

I often hear the attitude: I don’t believe in God, I believe in science. It shouldn’t surprise me anymore, but I’m still astonished when I hear how scientists think. I like astronomy and have seen some of this type of programs on the Discovery, History and National Geographic Channel. The biggest surprise there is that some of the scientists they interview are not driven by curiosity and a burning desire for new information, but to kill religion. They suffer from the delusion that life on other planets is in conflict with religion, especially Christianity. They live by the doctrine: Find life on other planets and faith will have to be abandoned.

But what if all that we have learned is wrong? I noted in How to overthrow a culture peacefully – a manual that humanism has removed itself from the religious content it had in the beginning, and that atheistic humanists have largely corrupted the philosophy today. They do so with a sometimes very aggressive appearance. I saw a documentary a few months ago. It talked about the Ten Commandments’ impact on British society.

The evil commandments
Ann Widdecombe, a known former British politician and convert (from Anglican to Catholicism ) was the host for this episode of the documentary series The Bible : A History. As a part of the program she spoke with the two prominent atheists, Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens. The latter was a journalist and wrote the book God is Not Great : How Religion Poisons Everything (in England it got the subtitle, The Case against Religion ). This is what wikipedia says about the book :

“In the book, Hitchens contends that organised religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism,  tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children” and sectarian, and that accordingly it “ought to have a great deal on its conscience.” Hitchens supports his position with a mixture of personal stories, documented historical anecdotes and critical analysis of religious texts.”

That was a pretty strong statement, but still just an opinion. The book seems to be based on peoples experience with other people, and a fierce atheist’s analysis of texts which have been collected by a number of tribal communities over thousands of years, and written down about 2,500 years ago. What surprised me the most was the very aggressive attitude these two showed. They backed their opinions up with individual allegations and insinuations. There was no question of proving this.

Better results for secularism?
Both Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry seem to walk into the trap many people do. If a representative of a religion is evil, that religion has to be evil. An individuals’ personal belief system isn’t the same as the norm he is supposed to follow. Everything and everyone has the potential to be something negative if people don’t show moral restraint. An organized belief system, such as communism doesn’t contribute to freedom. Science doesn’t either, because that’s also a belief system.

Scientists don’t do what they think is good for people. It only considers whether or not something is possible. Consequences are something science doesn’t relate to. Religion is basically something positive, but people still manage over and over again to mess it up. Satanism is one of the few religions that are negative. The goal of this religion is humanity’s destruction. Other religions, such as Christianity, can also destroy people, but people do this, not religion.

Another thing I reacted to was that Christopher Hitchens said in the beginning of the video that the church has difficulty keeping up with what people are saying is common moral and ethical sense. I think the whole point of religion is that it should be something permanent, unlike the submissive man.

Stephen Fry thought that the church claimed to sit on the only truth, while it didn’t accept anything else as truth. That’s not how it feels to me. I started my education by studying theology for 3 semesters before I decided to switch to the education programme. It was very interesting 1.5 years where we studied the Bible and Christianity very critically. There were a few of the students I talked to that had difficulties with it. The way they experienced it, the professors were only concerned with criticism, and not with faith. That is of course true in a university, but most students were able to study without having to struggle with their own faith. That doesn’t mean they threw objectivity out the door, however.

Yes, the church has done many terrible, fatal mistakes. Religion has demonstrated the human capacity and talent of abuse, but also for the opposite. I came across a guy who writes a lot about the negative things religion has done, and undoubtedly he has some points.

Atrocities committed in the name of religion

This site has a list of atrocities done in the name of religion. Some of these have been carried out by representatives of the religion, but it isn’t always so. That would have been a hopeless simplification. These atrocities have often had just as much to do about territories, money and racial discrimination etc. The most famous witch trials in the United States took place in Salem, Massachusetts. In that case it was simply a question of property. It was a struggle between those who got there first, and those who moved to the colony later. Many were accused of being in league with the devil so that one could acquire the property. Incidentally, Arthur Miller wrote the splendid play Crucible based on these trials.

Sometimes it probably had to do with jealousy and lust. I guess this is behind many of the witch trials in Scandinavia too. This was at a time when the belief in hell was very strong, and that was used very deliberately. Sometimes there may have been a priest involved, but I think there were also many priests who reluctantly executed witches. When family members testified against each other, they may have felt pressured.

The church has also been controlled by kings, later governments. These have more or less done as they wished in the name of religion, and sometimes the church didn’t protest. Charlemagne was a Christian and took the initiative to evangelize Europe by force. In one case, he wanted to send a clear message to the Saxons who were known for their pagan religion. He created a kind of military court and sentenced nearly an entire division of the Saxon army to death. There were no less than 4,500 that were beheaded in one day, probably just as much for their rebellion against the Frankish rule as for their pagan customs.

Later the Vikings entered the field, and their form of spreading the gospel wasn’t much milder. Norwegians probably had the choice between accepting Christ and getting a sword through the abdomen. There are similar stories in the Old Testament, but I don’t think they are Gods decisions any more than the actions of the vikings. I’m not sure what significance religion had to Nazi Germany, but I think Hitler used the Christian religion for propaganda. The Catholic Church didn’t just remain silent during and after the war, but it may also have helped Nazis escape to South America. Does that mean that God is evil? Most people blame God for actions people do, but I think it is a wrong decision. It seems like they throw out all reason in their eagerness to throw out religion. I also believe many Christians quickly forget that they have an obligation to God, not people. It is religion and theology, not the organization, members must have loyalty to.

The baby and the bathwater
I think science has the same problem. Being critical of religion, or of what you research, doesn’t mean throwing all scientific methods overboard. It’s not good enough when Christopher Hitchens uses anecdotes and personal opinions to show that religion is evil. I would argue that Christianity is not evil, but people have the weakness to corrupt anything into something evil. That means that many organizations within the church, perhaps all, have weaknesses in varying degrees.

If you, as a comparison google secular countries, you will get a list consisting of secular countries,  some that there isn’t enough data on and a few that have a state religion. The secular countries USA, Russia and China reigns over 1.8 billion people alone. Some might argue that they have some way to go before they achieve perfection.

The biologist Rupert Sheldrake points out that there are a number of illogical doctrines in science that many are not willing to consider. He talked about this when he gave a TED talk in January 2013, but the video was removed from the TED home page. Quite a few people have uploaded it to you tube. I had a quick gaze at three of them, which between them had 635,000 views. So It was hardly a lack of interest that made TED remove this lecture. Science want to be critical to everybody else, but not themselves.

One of those guilty of it is Richard Dawkins. He calls the human being a ” lumbering robot.” I think he means that that we are mechanical, like programmed robots. There is nothing in us that is unconscious. I don’t know much about it, but plan on reading a couple of Dawkins ‘ books. If I understood him correctly it’s only our own DNA that drives us forward. There is for instance nothing called intuition, because that contradicts the theory that all life is mechanical. It is possible Richard Dawkins is right, but my point is that we don’t know anything about it yet. It is at best a theory that right now is impossible to test, but it is presented as indisputable science.

richard dawkins
Richard Dawkins photographed at the 35th American Atheists Convention in 2009. The problem about the atheistic beliefsystem he represents is that it expects a rigid loyalty to authority, which means that the place you put your loyalty could very well change, while religion expects loyalty to something higher than ourselves, and towards humanity.
Photo: Marty Stone via wikimedia commons

One of the greatest physical truths is that the velocity of light is constant. It does not change. The truth is that somewhat transparent material such as water, glass or air slows down light. This was discovered by Jean Foucault in 1850. Regarding speed in a vacuum, as in space, the speed of light is constant and that has not changed particularly since the big bang. A French research team published an article last year in which they describe that the speed of light in vacuum isn’t necessarily as constant as once thought. The speed of light and the vacuum has been such an established truth that few have bothered researching it. We’re probably  talking about incredibly small margins, which is totally irrelevant to the rest of us. It illustrates some of the challenges in science, however. One should not challenge established truths.

Another example would be if there is water on the moon or not. Scientists have always believed that the moon is bone dry, and when the Apollo missions brought back rocks containing water, NASA rapidly concluded that there had to be “pollution” from Earth. But a NASA instrument on board a vessel from the Indian space agency discovered magmatic water (formed far below the surface) on the moon last year.

Where is the curiosity? Where is the desire to find the truth? Shouldn’t there be a desire to learn, and test whether the truths of the past are still true? Shouldn’t scientists be truth-seekers? That sounds like a healthy attitude to me at least, but that’s not how reality is.

Another thing is that science often confirms what many have believed. According to the Bible a generation last about 20 years, which means that it takes 20 years from birth to the time you can support a family yourself. What we know today is that the brain, or rather the frontal lobe, is fully developed in the early 20’s. It seems that they understood this in Old Testament times.

Today, many scientists say that the universe has a designer. This reminds me quite a bit of what Greek philosophy and Christianity believed in, but couldn’t prove. Science can’t prove it either, but now they also believe that something had to start life.

With these words I want to wish everyone a happy Easter. Either you’re a Christian or atheist; there is no doubt that there is much faith in the forces that govern your choices. When it comes to the philosophy we want to live by, I guess we have the choice to place the norm in the submissive man, or in something constant. Personally I find pleasure in thinking that when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found between 1947 and 1956, they confirmed that the Christian teachings had remained unchanged.


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