Often a cartoon speaks more truth than thousands of words. Thanks to Pharyngula, here's a great example:
The complete comic says even more. Yes indeed, "the truth will set you free."
Which leaves religion out of the picture, because it puts barriers between us and reality – substituting wishful thinking for clear-eyed understanding of the universe.
A recent comment conversation over on last year's "Atheists crush Christians at 'Does God Exist?' debate" post is a good example.
I appreciate that "C," a Christian, was willing to enter into a dialogue with us churchless heathens (see his July 7, 2008 comment and subsequent responses).
C said that scientific conceptions about the big bang and evolution are theories. That's true.
But I pointed out that there's a big difference between: (1) a theory with lots of evidence to back up, and (2) a theory backed up by little or evidence.
A belief that Jesus died for our sins falls into the second category. A belief that the universe began with a stupendous "explosion" some 14 billion years ago that eventually led to life on Earth evolving into creatures capable of pondering where we came from falls into the first category.
I heartily disagreed with C's statement to Adam:
One thing I'd like to hear you admit is that evolution and the big bang are theories, they are not facts, and that it takes just as much faith to believe in that as it takes for me to believe in Christ.
This betrays a serious lack of understanding of the scientific method. And of theology.
In Christianity, faith is a virtue. In science, it's a defect that has to be minimized as rapidly as possible if a theory is to be considered anything more than blind belief.
I've read some big thick books about evolution, such as Richard Dawkins' "An Ancestor's Tale." It was a subject of my "Evolution is sacred, religion is profane" post.
Yesterday C wrote this to me in a comment:
Just to close, could you please just show me the tons of evidence evolution has? I'm not asking this sarcastically, I'd just like to see the evidence that you speak of and that I've never heard. Thanks.
P.S. Please don't send me links, not that I'm being ignorant. I just like hearing it better from learned people like yourself.
Well, C, you didn't want links, but I suggest you click on the two a few lines above. There's no reason for me to repeat what I've already said, and what Dawkins' book is all about.
There's just as much evidence, albeit of different kinds, for the big bang. With both the big bang and evolution theories, many truths remain to be revealed in detail, but the foundations of understanding are well fleshed out.
What these theories answer, and Christianity (nor any other religion) can't, is a simple question: How did things come to be as they are?
If an all-powerful God exists, he or she could have created everything all at once. In fact, that's what Genesis erroneously says. "All at once" being over the course of a few days, which is close enough for religious work.
Yet, everything we know about the universe and Earth points to a different conclusion. Living and non-living things have been changing continuously. In short, stuff happens.
And there's no evidence that all this happening is under any sort of conscious guidance. Unless you want to call the laws of nature "conscious," which I feel there's good reason to do. But Nature is a far cry from the notion of a personal God who sets into motion and subsequently guides both cosmic and human affairs.
So I'll continue to kneel at the altar of science. I'm devoted to reality. I also admit that I'm devoted to having reality turn out to be the way I want it.
I do my best to resist having the first devotion undermined by the second. That resistance is a big part of what science is all about: honoring the way things really are above how we'd like them to be.
Which is why I like that comic so much. "The truth will set you free." Yes, Amen to that.
As I have said multiple times (and like you don't feel like repeating it all), religion and god are not the same thing. It's easy to find fault with religion but to try to disprove god is just as hard as proving. Evolution is as very viable theory for how life began here as there is evidence, but it does not explain from where life came. There is a lot it does not explain but that's no reason to dismiss what can be proven. Existence is frankly unknowable (scientifically or spiritually). We know we are here-- or do we? The fact that we exist at all seems pretty illogical. So if we leave it unknowable and tend to what we can know, we can have a good life.
What I find humorous (in the wry sense) is how people, who believe in dust to dust, put down anyone who has had an experience with the other side (ghosts, angels, demons, whatever word you want to use for the spirit realm). So only one kind of evidence can be entered into the equation (whichever side you are on). There are so many people who have had supernatural experiences and that are similar to others experiencing the same thing but those who have faith we are only biological beings dismiss all of that as it does not suit their preconceived conclusions. For me, it's leave it mystery, live as best you know, and we'll all find out someday... or we won't and we won't care.
Posted by: Rain | July 11, 2008 at 07:52 AM
Isn't there a big difference between what is real and what is true? I mean, a text can give us truth without providing the reality behind the truth - a movie can be "about" reality, but when we see that movie, the reality is just that, a movie.
So in science, the principle of verifiability hangs on the presentation of the truth, but not necessarily on the real. I think that this applies to what Rain expresses, "There are so many people who have had supernatural experiences...". The real is not always verifiable, but that does not mean it is not true.
Not to get too bogged in mumbo-jumbo, it seems to me that science requires at minimum the belief that verifiable truth tracks to what is objectively real. The realities reported by literally thousands of years of anecdote are vastly different from how scientific truth is presented.
One example: where is color?
Posted by: Edward | July 11, 2008 at 09:44 AM
When is the "real" not "true"?
Robert Paul Howard
Posted by: Robert Paul Howard | July 11, 2008 at 03:28 PM
I am really wearing a wig. Do you know this to be true?
Posted by: Edward | July 12, 2008 at 06:50 AM
Or wait, that question is dismissable as unverifiable by you.
For that very reason, the real is always true.
Just because I do not have the experience of the reality that is Robert Paul Howard "in situ" does not mean that the rumor of your existence is not true.
That is the essential dilemma of the proseletyzer. No one can convince me that what is real to me is false, they can only hope to convince me that it is unreal.
The same with Brian's poking at the god v science issue. There is no gainsaying the truth of a belief. The hope is that a cogent argument of the structure of reality will show such belief to be more than idle: perhaps dangerous, perhaps inhuman.
Posted by: Edward | July 12, 2008 at 07:15 AM
I truely believe that you are wearing a wig. I have much faith in its reality. I am still confused, "What role does wig wearing play in the Big Bang and Evolutionary theory?" Please respect my feelings on this matter, I have a true desire to learn.
Posted by: Roger | July 12, 2008 at 07:39 AM
Roger, I wrote:
"I am really wearing a wig. Do you know this to be true?"
in reponse to the question posed by RPH
"When is the "real" not "true"?"
My intent was to show that when I use the words "real" and "true" they refer to different assumptions of validity.
The bearing this has on the overall discussion is that we can all live in a world where the implications of science are true, including the underlying principles of the theory of evolution, and yet the entire method of thought can be considered unreal.
That I am wearing a wig is equally true and not true. The wig itself is unreal.
Posted by: Edward | July 12, 2008 at 02:40 PM
You are correct. I understood the point that you were making. I was in a Saturday morning silly mood. I just wrote a little sarcastic smirk, nothing directed at you. Hopefully, you took it that way. I am not sure if you are a new Edward, or the Edward that has been writing comments here for over a year. Best wishes....Roger
Posted by: Roger | July 14, 2008 at 07:30 AM