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The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Science and the American Public

I'd like to talk about science. A fellow blogger notified me of a C-SPAN Book TV show of interest. He does this on a regular basis. We don't agree on many things but we seem to share a lot of interests.

Anyway, he sent me this link and the time of the show (last evening at 10 PM EDT)...

http://www.booktv.org/Program/10690/Unscientific+America+How+Scientific+Illiteracy+Threatens+Our+Future.aspx

While I was watching, the author spoke of a disparity he found (though he kept saying "we", it wasn't clear who "we" were) in the American public's understanding, and acceptance, of science. One of the things he mentioned was the influence of religion in that disparity.

He brought up the debate between creationism and evolution as an example. Now, you must realize that most scientists and virtually all those involved in the science of biology and anthropology accept evolution as an absolute. And probably the majority of us accept it without any deep consideration about what it means to those who have strong religious beliefs.

Personally, I cannot understand why it is such a contentious issue. Not because I believe it is a reasonable explanation of how modern man came about but because I do not see how it impacts anything of importance in daily life.

It seems to me that, if you are strongly religious and your religion rejects the theory of evolution, you aren't likely to end up in any scientific field which depends on it as a foundation.

If you are an average person, the debate has no real impact on your life. Whatever you believe to be the origin of man, you can still be a mechanic, a salesman, a secretary, a nurse, even a doctor or nuclear physicist.

So why was that important to the author (and the collective "we" of which he claimed to be spokesman) in explaining the disparity he was concerned with?

I have known many strongly religious people who totally rejected evolution but had no problem with understanding science and who even used the scientific method in their work. Just because they rejected evolution it didn't mean they rejected all the advances that science has made.

Why would it?

11 comments:

Steven said...

It can mess a person up when they're forced to believe "everything you hear from this pulpit is true and if you doubt anything you're evil" and they hear "if you doubt Genesis 1 you reject the power of God!$@#@!!"

i mean, hypothetically.

minus the hypothetically part.

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

I'm not sure if people who completely reject evolution and any scientific understanding would be able to accept anything of a scientific nature. Isn't that the way Christian 'scientists' feel?

Douglas said...

Steven, you may disagree with me on this but no one is forced to believe. They may be forced to say they believe something but they cannot be forced to actually believe it. It is a matter of will. Let's assume, for the moment, that the person accepts creationism. Would that have any impact on his ability to be a competent (or even great) computer scientist?

Roshni, certainly if they reject "any scientific understanding" they would be incapable of being a scientist. Why would they then want to be one? But I limited it to a rejection of evolution. I do know people who reject evolution but also understand and respect science in general. Christian Scientists are a tiny minority and are not representative of religious people.

Michael said...

About what you said to Steven, maybe you've heard of Pascal's Wager? I think it's a pretty stupid idea, and it can be refuted because it's practically impossible to just use the chance of ascending to Heaven as justification for believing in God. As Wiki. also thought, it assumes you can change your beliefs, which isn't true at all. People believe what they believe, and to most of the world, until someone experiences something deity-like, they will remain atheists.

I also wonder why it's such a big deal. Nobody's lives get better over believing in God, or believing in science, or feeling confused between the two. Arguments, conflict, is all that can arise. Perhaps it is great if everybody has total faith in either science or relation, but no matter what degree of agnosticism exists within all of us (and surely, it does exist to some extent), our cluelessness will never be satisfied 'til undeniable truth comes to light, before we can all gain a piece of mind.

What is the point of even us pondering these notions anyway? World doesn't change, people still want to debate.

Michael.

Douglas said...

Michael, I have heard of that though I did not know the name. There are lots of religions and religious sects which assume one can choose to believe. All religions that permit (and encourage) conversion make that assumption. In a sense, I think they are right. I chose not to believe when I was quite young. I could have easily chosen to believe. And I do think that believing, or not, can improve your life. Doubting, agnosticism, can impede your enjoyment of life. At least, that's how I see it. It would take a rather long discussion to explain why. But I think you are right about that agnosticism being a part of human nature. And, if you consider that, you might save me that long discussion. Consider the story of the apostle Thomas. The result of an epiphany is acceptance of whatever is to be believed.

Steven said...

By "forced" I meant brainwashed and manipulated with copious amounts of guilt and fear. Watch the documentary Jesus Camp, if you haven't already.

It's not impossible to recover, and the victim isn't necessarily messed up forever, it's just hard.

Douglas said...

Steven, I understood completely. Trust me. I hope I did not imply that resistance was easy, or simple, or always successful (as in not leaving "scars").

Steven said...

By "forced" I meant brainwashed and manipulated with copious amounts of guilt and fear. Watch the documentary Jesus Camp, if you haven't already.

It's not impossible to recover, and the victim isn't necessarily messed up forever, it's just hard.

Douglas said...

Steven, I understood completely. Trust me. I hope I did not imply that resistance was easy, or simple, or always successful (as in not leaving "scars").

Douglas said...

Michael, I have heard of that though I did not know the name. There are lots of religions and religious sects which assume one can choose to believe. All religions that permit (and encourage) conversion make that assumption. In a sense, I think they are right. I chose not to believe when I was quite young. I could have easily chosen to believe. And I do think that believing, or not, can improve your life. Doubting, agnosticism, can impede your enjoyment of life. At least, that's how I see it. It would take a rather long discussion to explain why. But I think you are right about that agnosticism being a part of human nature. And, if you consider that, you might save me that long discussion. Consider the story of the apostle Thomas. The result of an epiphany is acceptance of whatever is to be believed.

Michael said...

About what you said to Steven, maybe you've heard of Pascal's Wager? I think it's a pretty stupid idea, and it can be refuted because it's practically impossible to just use the chance of ascending to Heaven as justification for believing in God. As Wiki. also thought, it assumes you can change your beliefs, which isn't true at all. People believe what they believe, and to most of the world, until someone experiences something deity-like, they will remain atheists.

I also wonder why it's such a big deal. Nobody's lives get better over believing in God, or believing in science, or feeling confused between the two. Arguments, conflict, is all that can arise. Perhaps it is great if everybody has total faith in either science or relation, but no matter what degree of agnosticism exists within all of us (and surely, it does exist to some extent), our cluelessness will never be satisfied 'til undeniable truth comes to light, before we can all gain a piece of mind.

What is the point of even us pondering these notions anyway? World doesn't change, people still want to debate.

Michael.