Religion's Good Stuff

Agnostic/atheists pick on religion a lot, and frankly, it deserves it. But religions do have positive qualities. My mom dragged me to Christmas mass and it was as rote and soulless as always. Yet I did see a bunch of well-meaning people gathering together in celebration and fellowship, singing songs, listening to stories, shaking hands and smiling. It got me thinking about the tangible good things that religion is capable of:

1. They sing songs and shake hands and smile.
2. They do charitable works.
3. They create community.
4. They teach.
5. It brings people together in a common purpose.

It made me wonder whether there are secular versions of the same thing. Organizations with the sole purpose of fostering togetherness, charity, community, art and education. Imagine a bunch of atheists meeting once per week and playing music, telling stories, reading aloud from books and having discussions, coffee and donuts. It might be kind of fun. Now what if they pitched money in together to help improve people’s lives and spread a message of tolerance and peacefulness. It could be very effective. (I’m sure many such groups exist.)

So besides the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, religion may fill a need in people’s lives in other ways. As we continue, from what I know, to become less and less of a church going population, is there a gap there? Do we need to congregate to have healthy societies?

Of course we are all very social creatures and participate in all sorts of cliches and clubs and social circles. It’s not that we don’t have fellowship with people around us. There is a difference, I wonder, when the entire point of gathering is focus on the big picture and the big questions: death and god.

I don’t know. I’m just wondering.

I’m basically an atheist/agnostic now because all these religions seem like simplistic mythology to me. Wishful thinking of fatherly deities who hug you when you feel sad and promise eternal happiness when you die. From a universe that has quantum mechanics, general relativity and the 2nd law of thermodynamics, I can’t believe that I am a little actor on a little stage that God made. The answer certainly has to be more complex. I believe a lot of things are possible. I believe that there can exist beings greater than I. But heaven, hell, Moses, Jesus, Allah, sin — it’s all fiction.

Even so, much of it is good or at least interesting philosophy. I do believe we should treat others as we would be treated. The teachings of Christ, Mohammed or Lao Tzu are worthy of our study.

I’m rambling…

Religion's Good Stuff

God or Darwin?

PZ pointed out this article entitled It’s God or Darwin. It’s a mind-bendingly idiotic article and a real insult to religious people, IMHO. Apparently one can’t believe in a rigorous scientific method and God according to the author. This is just so fucked up it’s hard for me to understand. I know the author, and other proponets of intelligent design (ID) are not stupid, yet it is hard to determine this by writings like this. I just don’t understand this communication chasm. Science studies natural explanations!. What is so fucking hard to understand about this? Science does not study supernatural explanations. Yes, indeed, sir, science is blind to the influences of deities. That does not mean that people cannot include the divine in their own world views, it just means that science will not include the divine in generally accepted scientific theories. I don’t know how seemingly intelligent people such as David Klinghoffer can miss this.

I know I am a broken record on this but articles like this really hurt the debate.

God or Darwin?

If intelligent design is true, the design is called evolution.

I’ve had a few interesting comments on my Scott Adams bit from micadelic and I thought I’d bring the discussion to the main stage here…

Evolution is a scientific fact, no question. I’m with you there. My religious friends even agree. What I hear from them is that they believe that humans are not 100% directly a result of evolution. They say; “where’s the missing link?” Why aren’t there species that are somewhere in-between humans and animals? Humans are so much more intelligent than animals, so much more capable of manipulating their environment, contemplating the infinite, understanding the mechanisms of life itself, shit, creating life for that matter. What they say is evolution absolutely explains 99.9% of nature but there is something different about a human that is the result of a divine intervention. We were made in the image of our creator. The rest of creation is there for us, the animals of the land and the sea, etc., etc. I would also have to say that while they accept evolution, they believe that it was evolution that was designed, implemented and shepherded by a higher power.

It’s a valid thought, and discussion is warranted, but not in science class. That is an opinion. There is a leap of faith there. It is not a scientific theory.

If I were religious, I would reconcile it like this:

Science studies natural explanations. As such, science cannot “prove” my belief in divine intervention. Therefore science will uncover or discover the natural explanations and I, myself, in my own spiritual quest, will uncover or discover the influence of the divine. I will not expect science to prove or disprove that which it cannot study. Indeed, part of the answers of the biggest questions in life cannot be answered by science. Hence philosophy, art, culture, religion, etc. Science just addresses the science-y parts.

So, if humans are, as some believe, a result of some degree of divine intervention, or if there is even a possibility that this may be the case, should it not be mentioned in a science class instead of simply stating “Humans are a result of Darwinian evolution, that’s it, no argument, end of class, better get it right on the test.” In other words, forget what your parents and your priests have taught you Johnny, they’re wrong, you evolved from a monkey.

Science class should teach the generally accepted theory. It should also mention competing scientific theories. Intelligent design isn’t a scientific theory. This is not an opinion. There is a rigorous scientific community that studies the subject in question and there are no comparable competing theories, certainly not ID. Science class is the wrong place to contemplate supernatural explanations. Mom and Dad can still teach their kids what they think is right.

Now, I’m not saying I’m with the IDs here, just saying that it’s an interesting debate and I’d like to hear your take on it.

I appreciate your thoughtful comments and I like *any* debate, but this shouldn’t be a debate. Have you ever heard of, for example, a mathematical theorem on late 19th century British literature? Mathematics does not address matters of literature. Biology and physics do not address matters concerning all-powerful dieties. This is as it should be. If intelligent design is true, the design is called evolution.

If intelligent design is true, the design is called evolution.

Scott Adams vs. PZ

Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, keeps poking his nose in the Intelligent Design (ID) debate. I welcome such poking but he keeps getting soundly beaten by our dear friend PZ. Rightly so. I’ll take my own crack at Mr. Dilbert. He says:

But I have to wonder if that’s the real reason most scientists oppose including it in schools. I would expect scientists to welcome such a clear model of something that is NOT science, as an example of exactly that.

“Kids, astronomy is science and astrology isn’t. Here are some more examples of things that aren’t science…”

Sure, it might confuse the dumb kids, but they aren’t the ones building the spaceships of tomorrow anyway. I learned about not using “ain’t” in English class and that didn’t hurt me too much. So it just seems fishy to me that scientists are so worked up about Intelligent Design.

I don’t think any scientists or educators are opposed to stating very clearly in class that Intelligent Design is complete and utter nonsense. I think they would happily teach that ID is not science. That is not at all what the debate is about. The debate is about whether we should teach ID as an alternative explanation of human origins. Mr. Dilbert does us all a disservice when he acts surprised that this offends us. Of course it offends us and of course we should keep that mystical crap out of science class. Nothing too confusing about this at all, except perhaps to Mr. Dilbert.

Scott Adams vs. PZ