Monday, November 17, 2008

Atheist Quote of the Week 9

I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.
~Richard Dawkins

This is why science is not a religion. Religious people like to claim science is a religion, and I'm sure they think they are very clever when they say so, but in reality it is much closer to being the opposite of religion. As Dawkins said, religion teaches stagnant, unchanging beliefs, and/or "god(s) work in mysterious ways", with no ability to question anything. Science teaches critical thinking, searching for answers about the universe, and constant change as the evidence builds and technology allows us to observe new things.

In short, religion:
  • demands faith in things that cannot be proven to exist,
  • is resistant (to say the least) to shifts in thinking and new paradigms,
  • characterizes people who believe differently from them as "deviants", "evil", and "pitiable",
  • requires that your beliefs be 100% (or nearly 100%) consistent with the official doctrine of the organization,
  • and has definite, absolute, and unquestionable answers for everything.
Science, on the other hand:
  • demands evidence to back up hypotheses and scrutinizes every bit of data presented,
  • relies on new ideas, new ways of thinking, and new technology to advance itself,
  • tries to amalgamate different people's theories until a synthesis that explains things best is achieved,
  • contains a wide variety of opinions, hypotheses, theories, and ideas, all of which are debated constantly with new evidence all the time to support or disprove existing beliefs,
  • and is content with some answers currently being unknown, and searches for answers to provide the truth of how the universe works by building evidence rather than relying on easy cop-outs.
Science is presented in such a way that information is available to be evaluated. No scientist believes any other scientist blindly and on faith, as religious people believe their holy books on faith alone. Scientific studies provide methodology, statistical analysis, and are peer-reviewed by other experts in the field to allow others to critically evaluate the data presented. Are the conclusions logical? Are the results statistically significant? Was the methodology sound? Were biases controlled and appropriate sample sizes used? Have the results been repeated by independent groups? Science merely presents information, and then critical thinking is required to make decisions about what is true.

No scientist will ever hear a person say something like "the Earth is 6000 years old" and say, "That is not true! You must believe what I say!" Rather, they will say, "That is not true and here is my evidence to support that statement." Scientists who provide neither proof nor logic to support their postulates are ridiculed in the scientific community. Science is about collecting data and then drawing conclusions from it, not believing something is true and then trying to convince everyone else that you're right.

Science is flexible, science is variable, and science is always changing. Religion is dogmatic, absolute, and unalterable. Those are hardly the same thing. Scientists do not worship theories or merely repeat the things they are told; they challenge existing knowledge, develop new ideas, and attempt to explain the world around us. Religion tells us what to believe and how to think, and worships "tradition", as if the world was a better place when women were the property of men, children died of childhood diseases, nearly everyone was illiterate, and monarchs ruled by divine right. Science creates progress while religion wants to revert back to a more oppressive and dangerous way of life.

Which would you choose? The security blanket of easy answers and a ticket to an afterlife paradise that doesn't even exist, or the intellectual challenge of reviewing evidence, thinking critically, and making up your own mind?

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