Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Faith and Science

The entire contents of this page say essentially one thing: science is anything but logical, and anybody who thinks otherwise is a fool.

The scientific method, perfected in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by enlightened thinkers such as Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, John Locke, etc., were really in search of God, or at least looking to get as close to the mind of God as possible. And in the four-hundred years since then, that hasn't really changed. Albert Einstein's more famous quotes reflect this Holy-Grail-like quest to understand what God is all about.

I would argue that faith is science, in that both hinge on the belief--because, let's face it, if there were such things as proof science wouldn't need to exist for us to know things--that there is something out there that will explain what we see here. Where they differ is merely in the tenants of belief: science has textbooks, faith has religious tomes. People have died for both, and just because we're in the 21st century doesn't make us any more immune to the prejudices of ignorance.

Not asking questions simply means that you're not thinking. That's true in religion and it's true in science and it's true in politics (which is partly why I'm leery of Obama--nobody's questioning him) and it's true in life. Evolution has holes in it, which creationists are all too happy to point out, but as far as I can tell, creationism also has holes in it. The big one being, "Why does there have to be a watchmaker?"

And there really is no good reason why there must be a higher power, only a purely internal belief that there is one, and that whatever it is, be it God or Allah or ancestral spirits or little gods of rocks and trees, has some stake in keeping you alive. That's the thing: we can't know anything at all for sure. If gravitational theory could be overturned (or at least, heavily modified), there's nothing to keep evolutionary theory from following the same fate.

But that doesn't mean evolution isn't real. It happens. We live with the consequences of it every day: our pets, our livestock, the MRSA strains of bacteria. We've reshaped the breeding habits of salmon and body lice. Environmental doomsday-ists like to say that so many species are going extinct every year, but I've yet to hear of a single study that purports to find out if there have been any new species arising lately. Part of the problem is that we have no baseline number for the number of species on the planet--a bigger problem, as Richard Dawkins explains, is that we have no real definition for "species", either.

Which, if you ask me, makes the whole creation-evolution debate moot. Whether you believe in God or not has no bearing on the fact that Nature is red in tooth and claw, even if the Sierra Club would rather have you believe it is pretty and fuzzy. Natural selection doesn't give a hoot about your belief in a higher power. Just ask the Darwin contenders.

I would like to end on this note: ironically, the more you study a science, the easier faith becomes. When you don't know much, it's easy to say that everything you don't understand is an act of God and leave it at that. But the more you know, the easier it becomes to believe that there is a God and He is indeed acting on the forces, because the perfection of life is so incredibly miraculous. However, as with all things, such faith must be earned. The difference between learning that God created the world, versus understanding why you believe God created the world, is that if you understand why you believe that, there is no danger that you'll change your mind.

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