Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
How religion affects acceptance of theories
Published on August 13, 2005 By Draginol In Biology

It never ceases to amaze me how blinded some people are by their religion.  They seem to be completely unaware of how their religion has biased them taking a more open-minded approach to scientific research.

Let me give you a tale of two theories.

Evolution is a theory that stipulates a set of principles on how life on earth changes (evolves) over time.  It has a great deal of documented evidence to support it.  However, because evolution contradicts the bible, many religious people try to find ways to discount it. They close their minds to it.  In the bible, life as we know it did not evolve but was rather created directly by the hand of God. This is especially true of humans.  Most religious people either take the stories in Genesis to not be true in the literal sense but try to argue that it is true symbolically (though even that's a stretch).  But the point being, because evolution contradicts an existing deep held religious belief, some people have trouble accepting it.

But compared to the theory of gravity, evolution is rock hard fact.  We actually do not know how gravity works.  We have observed that gravity is related to mass. And we have made some formulas that describe how gravity is related to mass (F=MA for example).  But we still do not have a clue as to what causes gravity.  Why does mass create gravity? No idea (and things get sketchier about strong and weak forces too but we'll hold off that for another time).  But religious people don't challenge the theory of gravity even though it's on weaker ground.  But imagine if the bible had stated something vaguely that God's arms push down on all things to keep them in place on the world. That his infinite arms pushed objects towards bigger objects.

One can imagine the debates we'd be having if the bible spoke on gravity.  Instead of the accepted belief that gravity PULLS objects towards each other, we would instead have people arguing that no, God PUSHES people towards things based on their size or something. We'd have "Intelligent Gravitation" or something like that.  And because of that, we could potentially have real damage done to genuine scientific research because some people would insist on looking for data that supported that some mystical, super natural force was pushing people against objects rather than focusing on mass creating a pull effect (gravity) and trying to figure out why that is.

That's why things like intelligent design are so problematic. Because they're not based on any scientific evidence (no more than the belief that some unknown force is pushing all things towards other things based on their size) it can slow down scientific advancement and cloud education.

I much prefer to have my beliefs be based on the evidence rather than looking for evidence to support my pre-existing beliefs. But religion tends to be pretty dogmatic and blind people to looking at other possibilities.  It's not as if religion doesn't get its shot for explaining the universe.  Most Americans who believe in evolution (statistically) were raised in a Christian household.  That means most of them changed their views because the data supporting evolution was more compelling than the data supporting Creationism. 

Evolution wasn't taught in my high school.  I, like most people, started out believing in the bible's explanation on how humans got here.  It was only over time that I found that the bible's explanation was not plausible.  The earth was simply too old. There were too many extinct creatures. There was too much rather obvious local adaptation by animals to believe that some super natural being (or alien) was sitting around tweaking some caterpillar to look like the local vegetation in South America that had only been growing there for the past 8 million years. 

As time went on, evolution and natural selection became more and more compelling as causes of where the bio-diversity we have came from. And even once I was convinced that the theory of evolution was fact, more evidence still came my way. Just a few years ago when DNA came to be better understood there would be occasional reports on how scientists tweaked some gene in some animal to produce a radically different animal.  Then came Mitochondrial DNA tracking in which we can tell when one species was another and when.

But such evidence doesn't exist in the same form for the theory of gravity.  Luckily, the bible doesn't speak about it (which is odd since gravity is a pretty crucial thing that you would think a super being would want to talk about unless of course the writings were not by a higher being but rather by pre-industrial humans with a limited understanding of their environments but I digress).

Comments (Page 1)
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on Aug 13, 2005
What I find frustrating is the apparent need to CHOOSE one explanation over another. I find myself quite comfortable believing in BOTH explanations. When quantum mechanics developed, it did not require us to throw out our understanding of an atom as a bunch of tiny little electrons orbiting around a nucleus in nice little rings. The older concept of the atom explained much about how chemical reactions occur and was very useful as a tool to understand the basic science of atoms. I don't see any great movement to force people to forego the simple model for one that may be closer to the truth.

In the same way, the creation story told in the Bible, describes the beginning of the world we know - to a point. It does not require higher level math or a degree in astrophysics to understand. It serves a purpose. I see the theory of evolution as refining upon the creation story. providing the detail that is missing. Let's face it, the creation story in the Bible is what, a couple of hundred words? There's not a lot of room for details. It's more of an "Executive Summary."
on Aug 13, 2005
Notice the drift from well-targeted complaint to generalized bloviating around here? The overall tone has shifted from one of pursuasion to an emotion saturated "Myrrander vs. Preacherman" style snidefest. In my opinion, anyway. What happens after such a change is the bombs stop hitting extremists, and start lumping in moderate folks who haven't done anything to deserve it.

No offense, Brad, and I understand your beef. I think, however, that part of the problem is each side panning what the other believes. If people were left to believe what they wanted, and the area between them stayed respectful and nicely swept, we wouldn't have all these problems.

on Aug 13, 2005

I'm not interested in the specific case that you mention about intelligent design.  My issue has to do with the general discussion about whether intelligent design should be given time in public schools.

Moreover, I'm not demonizing anyone here.  I think I make my case plainly:  People have a hard time letting go of their religious beliefs despite contrary evidence.

The people who complain about evolution are complaining about it IMO not because the theory is "flawed" or "full of holes" but because it contradicts their religious faith.  Because you certainly don't hear people piping up about the theory of gravity being taught in schools.

on Aug 13, 2005
"People have a hard time letting go of their religious beliefs despite contrary evidence."

If I wanted to get into it, I could troll for hours on totally secular, "scientific" beliefs that were held to for far too long in the face of contrary evidence. I could also point out scientific beliefs that were contrary to "common sense", and which in the end succumbed to it (and which did considerable damage to the human race as a whole in the meantime).

Belief is no one's business, frankly, until those beliefs are imposed. You've been around higher education as much or more than me, and I'm sure you've seen first-hand how not only is it next to impossible to get anyone to accept unpopular ideas, it can be self-destructive to even propose them. You can't, for an instant, call modern science "open minded" on the whole, because it is most often based on a ton of a priori ideas about the universe.

That's not to say that beliefs need equal time, or even need to be taught at all. It is, though GOOD science to tell kids that they should come to their own conclusions and not swallow anything from either side based upon the authority of a teacher or researcher.

I'm not trying to divert the subject. To me the subject here is that science is open-minded and religion isn't. Science has shown itself to be just as political, intellectually entrenched, and biased as any collective human endeavor.

on Aug 13, 2005

If I wanted to get into it, I could troll for hours on totally secular, "scientific" beliefs that were held to for far too long in the face of contrary evidence

I am not arguing that secular beliefs are better either.  Communism, Eugenics, etc. are all secular belief structures too. But they're not THEORIES.

It's pretty rare for a theory to be overturned (though it happens).  I agree that beliefs should not be imposed, which is why I don't agree with those who feel that intelligent design should be taught in the class room.

on Aug 13, 2005

I agree that beliefs should not be imposed, which is why I don't agree with those who feel that intelligent design should be taught in the class room.

But what about in Philosophy?  I agree that it does not have, the legs of Evolution, but why are you so against it from any persepective?

on Aug 13, 2005

I am all for Intelligent design being taught in a philosophy class.  I don't have a problem with intelligent design per se, I have a problem with intelligent design being taught in a science class.

Or more to the point:

I have a problem with HYPOTHESIS's being taught in a science class. Intelligent design is a hypothesis. Therefore I do not want intelligent design taught in a science class.

I don't appreciate some people saying I'm anti-religious just because their pet hypothesis don't pass muster as science.


on Aug 13, 2005
You just want to deal with fact. Great. Can you say that scientists don't CONSTANTLY refer to God and religious beliefs? Why does science ever bother to refer to God? I've read Hawking, and Sagan. I recently watched a really good documentary on Watson and Crick, and damned if they didn't bring God up.

Why is this? Isn't it irrational to pull belief into a scientific treatise? Should I dig out Cosmos, a book that is suggested to kids as reading material and found about every school library. Sagan addresses people's beliefs about God there while contrasting it to what doesn't necessarily even beg contrast.

People don't fight a theory of gravity because it isn't being used to ridicule and demean them. I *dare* you to go and read the ongoing discussions here and pretend that people aren't using evolution to make values judgements about people's religous beliefs.

So, go and propose that Gravity invalidates people's spiritual beliefs, and I bet you'll find that the premise of your article is wrong. What I find disheartening is the fact that you and others can't see the call and response here. Unless you understand the provocation, you'll never understand the reaction.

on Aug 13, 2005

I have a problem with HYPOTHESIS's being taught in a science class. Intelligent design is a hypothesis. Therefore I do not want intelligent design taught in a science class.

Is it a hypothesis, or an Hypothesis?

No matter, you read my article I see.  Good then we actually do agree on basics, just not in the grander scheme (i.e. Mankind is not alone).

And that is fine.  One of us will be proven wrong one day.  I am not going to lay a wager on either of us being alive to collect the bet when it happens.

on Aug 13, 2005
I think it is hypotheses, (-ees) but I haven't looked it up. Best guess, given what I assume to be a Latin derivation.
on Aug 13, 2005
P.S. I'm not telling you what you can and can't say, I just think that

a) most of this isn't even about school and such, as this article kind of hints at, and

that it will go nowhere unless people address the fact that scientists address God and Religion constantly, and without addressing the call you'll never get the response.

on Aug 13, 2005

Reply By: BakerStreet

Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2005
I think it is hypotheses, (-ees) but I haven't looked it up. Best guess, given what I assume to be a Latin derivation

Go talk to Chakgogka!  He is the english language expert!  I am just ignorant in that regard.

on Aug 13, 2005
I just think the crux of the comparison made here displays the lack of understanding of this issues cause and effect. Gravity isn't used by secularists and pop scientists to jab religion. Evolution is used for such.

I think if science were as neutral as it is made out to be, we wouldn't hear so much this kind of thing. They seem to have free reign to speculate about God, but when religious people speculate about science... OUTRAGE!!! I'm not saying ID needs to be in school, but in order to understand the situation you have to see it accurately.

on Aug 13, 2005
I'm glad to be able to post here, I haven't been able to in the past. I think you've made a very good argument here -- no, an outstanding one, as I'm quite green with how you've managed to write it.

People that feel this way don't want to kill or destroy religion -- I'm a firm believer in the right to believe any which way the collective "you" believes. The idea is to keep science pure, which means that astrology, alchemy, and any pseudosciences must be purged from the body of scientific work.

If proof for any of these, astrology or ID, comes about, then the nature of science is such that scientists will be forced to admit their error, and then soldier on. I think there are probably a lot of scientists who would like to prove a creator, but can't. If one should, and it should be a repeatable experiment, then science must, therefore, change.
on Aug 13, 2005
"Intelligent Gravitation" that is frigging priceless... I would give you an Insightful but what would be the point? Ah what the hell... *edit - Oddly it says that I have already given this article a rating and I hadn't.. I fear more JU wierdness in the offing mayhaps...
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