Watch the following two summaries of human history. Which one is more likely to be true? Which one do you want to be true? Which one is more inspirational?
There are a handful of people on this planet that will be missed forever. Carl Sagan is one of them, and here’s why:
His ability to captivate millions of people, to imbue in his audience a love of science, reason, and philosophy, and to explain the universe in simple, understandable terms is just magnificent. He is also the best person I know to have attended the University of Chicago.
If there’s fifteen minutes of conversation that captures the common religious desperation to reconcile man-made fairy tales with objective scientific truths, it is the conversation PZ Myers had last week with Muslims in Dublin.
These are people who approached PZ at first with a vomiting of philosophical bullshit, using fuzzy First Cause arguments and nonsense like “occam’s razor must be uncaused, therefore it must be eternal.” And then, after being pressed for any kind of evidence for their theistic god, the Muslims turned to pseudoscientific embryology and a very odd understanding of why mountains exist, as detailed in the video above. After the event, the same group also talked to Richard Dawkins, and explained to him that evolution can’t be true because it is a “noncomplementary paradigm” with physics.
It is quite sad to see people so hopelessly devoted to their beliefs that they’ll twist and turn meaningless garble in religious books and claim that these words are in fact scientific truths that could have only come from revelation (like from some illiterate dude in a desert, for example). PZ is right that these same tricks are used by Christian and Jewish scholars. And PZ is even more right when he notes that comparing the Qur’an or other holy books to actual science is equating crude understandings of the universe with detailed and verifiable scientific evidence.
For example, how many times have Christians come up to you and said that the Genesis account is amazing because it predicted that the Universe had a beginning? It’s quite insulting to science, really. They purposely leave out one inconvenient truth: pretty much everything else in Genesis is completely wrong. Not just troubling or hard-to-read. Just dead wrong. It’s quite sad, therefore, that there’s another manufactured scientific controversy on Christianity Today. Apparently in Christian fairy-land, they still aren’t sure whether Adam or Eve actually existed, and that’s why there’s a scientific “search” for the historical Adam and Eve.
Give us a break, Christians. Just like there is no controversy about the fact that living things evolved or that the earth revolves around the sun, there is no controversy about this question of human origins either. It’s just another religious attempt to confuse people and to make it appear like their beliefs have a possibility of being true. UChicago’s Jerry Coyne delivers the point.
Genetic data show no evidence of any human bottleneck as small as two people: there are simply too many different kinds of genes around for that to be true. There may have been a couple of “bottlenecks” (reduced population sizes) in the history of our species, but the smallest one not involving recent colonization is a bottleneck of roughly 10,000-15,000 individuals that occurred between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago. That’s as small a population as our ancestors had, and—note—it’s not two individuals.
There’s a real parallel between these manufactured Christian controversies and the “embryological” Muslims. All are so convinced that their beliefs must be true and must be rooted in reality that they’ll go to any length, however intellectually dishonest, to gain temporary credibility. And when science actually does reach its limits and says, “there’s more to be discovered,” religion steps in and tries to fill in the gaps.
But notice the pattern. Religion, after initially attacking science by flinging false controversies and pseudoscience all over the place, then hijacks the later discoveries of science and claim them as its own. They’ll never win, of course, because they’ll always be followers and pirates and copycats, not leaders. As Isaac Asimov brilliantly said, science stands alone.
Don’t tell me, then, that those clever Eastern (Celtic, African, Greek, or even Biblical) sages have spoken of something that sounds like the big bang or like endless expansion. That’s idle speculation.
Show me where those sages worked out the isotropic radio wave background, or the red-shifts in galactic spectra, which alone support those conclusions on anything more than mere assertion.
You can’t. Science stands alone!
And so this post ends with the inspirational quote above, as well as the following advice: If I were a person of faith, I would just call it “faith” and not bother with science or evidence.
Thank you PZ Myers for telling it as it is. Science is, on a fundamental level, as incompatible with religion as truth is with bullshit.
He destroys the common belief that science and religion can support each other. Myers has no respect for people who merely compartmentalize their conflicting beliefs.
He agrees with me when I say that you either believe that evolution occurred as it is empirically observed–a natural process with no apparent direction and purpose–or you don’t. You don’t get to say that “Yahweh supervised it” or “Allah guided it,” or make any pseudoscientific and unfalsifiable assertion that somehow this process was directed to create homo sapiens in particular. Theistic evolution is a vulgar perversion of science.
There is to be no compromise on the part of science to accommodate the religious. Christians can pervert their religious beliefs, can change their interpretations of the Bible, can twist and change their positions in astronomy, geology, biology, medicine, etc. all they want. They can make Adam and Eve not literal people but metaphors for homo sapiens. They can say the flood was a myth. They can pervert their religion all they want to fit in with modern, secular science.
Scientists should never return the favor.