Monday, May 18, 2009

Atheist Quote of the Week 35

The scientist yearns to find and eventually know the truth; the religious man wants the truth to fit his preconceived mold. So, as a result, the scientist alters his perception to conform to the facts, while the religious man tries to change the facts to conform to his beliefs.

I do try to avoid quotes ascribed to "Anonymous" as much as possible, but this one is so accurate and succinct that I wanted to include it anyway. Scientific thought is not instinctive for humans (we prefer to see patterns that we want to see, instinctively, which is why scientists must always be self-aware about their own biases), but it is the best way to truly understand the universe. Again and again we have found that conclusions we like (for example, the Earth is the centre of the universe) are not necessarily the conclusions that are correct, and it requires someone to put aside preconceived "truths" to discover that the actual truth is something more interesting than we ever thought possible. It's never popular (Copernicus refused to publish until he was on his deathbed, Galileo got put under house arrest by the Vatican, and Darwin is vilified by religious leaders even 150 years after publication), but that's just because some people are resistant to change and too proud to admit that they are wrong. Ironic, isn't it, that the very same religion that places pride as a sin also has too much pride to admit that some of the details of how they think the world came to be are incorrect, while the scientists they vilify are constantly behaving with humility by admitting their errors and adjusting their worldview according to new insights?

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