Monday, April 19, 2010

The Arrogance of Science Pisses Me Off

The other evening I watched a PBS program about the deep-space Hubble and the mysteries of the universe it has helped expose and solve.  In this program a noted astrophysicist proclaimed that with the Hubble telescope, and other highly sensitive radio telescopes, we have now been able to “see the beginnings of the universe.” Then he stated that, “We now know the universe is 13 billion years old.”


The program went on to describe how the “Big Bang” theory came to be and how, with the Hubble’s deep-space images, it is now a proved theory, a "fact."


Then, the program contradicted itself by explaining that many of the worlds astrophysicists now believe that the universe’s expansion appears to be slowing and they postulate that it has begun to contract and that the reverse of the big bang will see the universe shrinking back into itself, contracting to what, they don’t know.

Bingo. They don’t know.

When it gets right down to it, they don’t know diddly, much less Bo Diddly. Nearly every scientific “fact” that I was taught in high-school has since been disproven. And not just astronomy, but every other area of human scientific endeavor as well. To wit:

From the journal Physical Review Letters: A team of Russian and American scientists has discovered a new element that has long stood as a missing link among the heaviest bits of atomic matter ever produced. The element, still nameless, appears to point the way toward a brew of still more massive elements with chemical properties no one can predict.

And, of course: CRADLE OF HUMANKIND, South Africa — Nine-year-old Matthew Berger dashed after his dog, Tau, into the high grass here one sunny morning, tripped over a log and stumbled onto a major archaeological discovery. Scientists announced Thursday that he had found the bones of a new hominid species that lived almost two million years ago during the fateful, still mysterious period spanning the emergence of the human family.

Here’s the rub. It isn’t the continuing and evolving discoveries and scientific theories that troubles me. In fact, I love it and regularly scan the Science sections of the great newspapers to check out the latest and greatest. A visit to the Hubble website is a regular entertainment for me. Absolutely astounding.

It isn’t even so much that each new theory is treated as “fact” when, in fact, they are just “theories”, mostly based on other theories. The accumulated knowledge of mankind is nothing more than a house of cards that can come tumbling down any time a new bedrock “fact” is discovered, re: Galileo, the radio telescope, the Hubble, the neutron telescope, etc., etc. The list and examples go on and on.

No, what troubles me is the arrogance with which scientific “facts” are presented and are elevated to nearly unassailable, religious status by their followers.

A recent bru-ha-ha here in Baja Georgia pitting Evolutionists against Creationists brought the matter to a head for me and galvanized my position on the side of the Creationists.

I’m not on the side of the Creationists because I believe in Creationism over Evolution, I don’t. It’s the arrogance with which the Evolutionists present their case that pisses me off. Not only do they deride Creationism as “mystical superstition” while presenting their foundation of mud as “fact”, but they won’t even allow the other school of thought into the classroom to be studied and discussed.

Not allowing the study of religion and the hypothesis of Creationism into the classroom is not only narrow-minded and wrong, it’s just plain stupid.

What on earth has shaped our cultures, our values, our humanism, more than religion?

Whether you are a believer or not doesn’t matter. It exists. It’s real. And, understanding and accepting each other’s beliefs is far more important to the harmony and growth of mankind than any so-called scientific “fact”, including Evolution.


  1. I'm with you on this matter - even more after you used 'balderdash' in a posting. Hell, I'm British - say 'balderdash' enough and I'll follow you into machine gun fire.... it's in our genes.

  2. I'm with you on this too. Drives me mad when the mere idea of discussing creationism in the classroom is derided.

  3. Religion and science should be major subjects in all public schools. As long as all religions are covered, at least all the major belief systems. Perhaps then people would begin to realize on how connected we all are, especially the three Abrahamic religions, which account for most of the world's population.

  4. Mr Charleston, my Bachelor's degree is in Physics. I studied all the natural sciences as part of my schooling over a decade ago.
    What has always been paramount to me is that so much of it is based on the blind faith that x will happen if I do y.
    We put our faith in ideas, concepts and people all the time, daily, hourly even.
    That the red light is red is a fact; it's faith that the person will stop when it is.
    I guess what I'm saying is that having faith in something makes us happier, more contented and less afraid.
    And that's okay with me.

  5. Holte... I totally agree.

    JenJen... Very well said.

  6. Amazing that so much of science is based on questioning the beliefs our elders or of previous teachings and yet we can't question the almighty Science.
    Amen, brother!

  7. I realise you’re writing this in a deliberately provocative way, but there’s nothing arrogant about science – it’s just that some scientists are arrogant. Some scientists (and inevitably the media, and some badly-written textbooks) will describe theories as facts. But I could just as easily say that the arrogance of religion pisses me off: the arrogance of those who practice religion certainly does.

    Why? Because, as a matter of definition, religious faith requires belief without proof. Indeed it’s regarded as a virtue. This can be seen in the Bible itself with Thomas the Doubter, who wanted some sort of evidence that Jesus had been resurrected, and was reproved for his doubt.

    This is why I disagree with you when you say: Not allowing the study of religion and the hypothesis of Creationism into the classroom is not only narrow-minded and wrong, it’s just plain stupid.

    I have no problem with the study of religions, superstitions, mythology and folk-beliefs in schools; it’s your use of the term ‘the hypothesis of Creationism’. It isn’t a hypothesis: it’s part of a religious belief. Someone attempting to find a mechanism for the origin of the universe hasn’t come forward with the idea ‘Hey, I know! It was created by a god, whose nature and origins I am utterly unable to explain or demonstrate the existence of!’ If you accept that as being a valid subject for teaching in schools, you should also require the teaching of the hypothesis of the Earth being flat, or a hollow sphere. They’re on a similar footing.

    Christians (and presumably members of other religions) have the foundations of their beliefs being challenged by current scientific theories in the fields of palaeontology, evolution and so on. So they challenge those hypotheses with evidence of flaws. These are counter-claims to existing theories, not new hypotheses. This is part of a scientific dispute, and any gaps or inconsistencies in these fields of science should be part of the teaching of those subjects in school.

    I was not of course educated at a US school, so I can’t comment on your remarks about ‘Nearly every scientific “fact” that I was taught in high-school has since been disproven.’ All I can say is that when I was doing the sciences at school, I can remember all the qualifications and ‘it is thought that’ statements that seemed to accompany many things we were taught about, whether it was plate tectonics or the structure of the benzene molecule. I can’t offhand think of any scientific fact that I was taught at school having been disproven.

    If your only objection is that you were told certain things were facts when they were theories, fair enough. I agree. But that only requires teachers to modify their wording (or the wording of the schoolbooks they use). But the idea of ‘the hypothesis’ of Creationism being taught as a school subject seems ludicrous to me.

    Apologies for the length of that.

  8. No apology necessary Simon. Great arguments.

    The scientific "facts" I reffered to in school were things like, the solar system is comprised of x number of planets, is so far across, etc., or the deepest parts of the ocean are, or mankind first appeard on the earth x number of years ago, etc. All of these things have changed in my lifetime as new discoveries were made. In my school system the words "so far as we know" were rairly used.

    As to the hyposthisis of Creation, I would argue that the concept of Intelligent Design was deduced from centuries of philosophic thought and a close examination of all available evidence. I totally agree that it requires "belief" in a higher being, a prime mover of some sort, but to my mind, the theories that science has to offer require the same leap of faith. They are primarily based on logic models comprised of suppositions. Just because it's logical to us, doesn't mean it is true.

    To quote Albert Einstein, "The human mind has first to construct forms, independently, before we can find them in things." I have heard it said that evolution is God's greatest creation.

    The gist of this post is to illustrate that science is a moving target with no real "proof" of anything. I have read that even the law of gravity has exceptions and that's about as basic as it can get. (But don't ask me to explain it as I am not a physicist.)

    I believe religion, creationism, philosophy, should be subjects in schools just as is science. The subject should be clearly preceded by the "belief" statement as science is preceded by "as far as we know." But we should be open to all thought and free to make up our own minds.

    Sorry for the length of this reply. This is obviously a subject that could, and has, filled pages over the centuries.

  9. much packed into this post. Husband & I were having this very conversation lately. Like man, how the hell do they KNOW that? It will be overturned in a few years with something more. And the arrogance with which some scientists present their "facts" is rather disturbing. Still, I wait with much anticipation to see what the hard working researchers will discover next. Never a loss of excitement. I too find it astounding, fascinating and I have the highest level of amazement at what we're capable of uncovering.

    Also, I'm a big believer in science and in God--I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. But both scientists and religious fanatics can get out of control on their own egos.

  10. You arrogant rant is very limited.
    Why stop, where you did?
    I offer a brief list of religions and spiritual traditions, just Google it, no big whoop.

    You sound like the Glenn Beck of the blogosphear.
    Is that a solid or hollow sphear?
    Flat or round.
    Adam or Eve
    Fruit of Knowledge or
    just a fucking apple.
    I give up.

    Abrahamic religions
    1.1 Bábism
    1.2 Bahá'í Faith
    1.3 Christianity

    1.3.1 Catholicism
    Roman Catholic Church
    Eastern Orthodox Church
    Oriental Orthodox Church
    Assyrian Church of the East

    1.3.2 Protestantism
    Pre-Lutheran Protestant

    Reformed Churches
    Congregational Church
    Pietism and Holiness movement
    Catholic Apostolic Church (Irvingites)
    Charismatic movement
    African Initiated Church
    United and uniting churches
    Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
    Restoration Movement
    Christian Israelite Church (Southcottites)
    British Israelism

    1.3.3 Other groups

    1.4 Gnosticism

    1.5 Islam
    1.6 Judaism

    1.7 Rastafari movement
    1.8 Mandaeans and Sabians
    1.9 Samaritanism
    1.10 Unitarian Universalism

    2 Indian religions
    2.1 Hinduism
    2.2 Buddhism
    2.3 Jainism
    2.4 Sikhism
    2.5 Ayyavazhi
    2.6 Din-i-Ilahi

    3 Persian religions

    4 East Asian religions
    4.1 Confucianism
    4.2 Shinto
    4.3 Taoism
    4.4 Other

    5 African diasporic religions

    6 Indigenous traditional religions

    6.1 African
    West Africa
    Akan mythology
    Ashanti mythology (Ghana)
    Dahomey (Fon) mythology
    Efik mythology (Nigeria, Cameroon)
    Igbo mythology (Nigeria, Cameroon)
    Isoko mythology (Nigeria)
    Yoruba mythology (Nigeria, Benin)
    Central Africa
    Bushongo mythology (Congo)
    Bambuti (Pygmy) mythology (Congo)
    Lugbara mythology (Congo)
    East Africa
    Akamba mythology (East Kenya)
    Dinka mythology (Sudan)
    Lotuko mythology (Sudan)
    Masai mythology (Kenya, Tanzania)
    Southern Africa
    Khoikhoi mythology
    Lozi mythology (Zambia)
    Tumbuka mythology (Malawi)
    Zulu mythology (South Africa)

    6.2 American
    Abenaki mythology
    Aztec mythology
    Blackfoot mythology
    Cherokee mythology
    Chickasaw mythology
    Choctaw mythology
    Creek mythology
    Crow mythology
    Ghost Dance
    Guarani mythology
    Haida mythology
    Ho-Chunk mythology (aka: Winnebago)
    Hopi mythology
    Huron mythology (aka: Wyandot)
    Inca mythology
    Inuit mythology
    Iroquois mythology
    Kwakiutl mythology
    Lakota mythology
    Leni Lenape mythology
    Longhouse religion
    Mapuche mythology
    Maya mythology
    Native American Church
    Navajo mythology
    Nootka mythology
    Ohlone mythology
    Olmec mythology
    Pomo mythology
    Pawnee mythology
    Salish mythology
    Selk'nam religion
    Seneca mythology
    Tsimshian mythology
    Ute mythology
    Zuni mythology

    6.3 Eurasian
    6.4 Oceania/Pacific

    6.4.1 Cargo cults
    John Frum
    Johnson cult
    Prince Philip Movement
    Vailala Madness

    7 Historical polytheism
    7.1 Ancient Near Eastern
    7.2 Indo-European
    7.3 Hellenistic

    8 Neopaganism

    9 New Age, Esotericism, Mysticism
    9.1 Left-Hand Path
    9.2 Magic
    9.3 Magick (Aleister Crowley)

    10 New religious movements
    10.1 Jediism
    10.2 Shinshukyo

    Nuff Said.

  11. BTW...Simon you are a prince. I gained a lot from reading your thoughtful reply to this post.

  12. Ain't wid ya on this one, C. I am in concurrence with Simon, and Punch, both of whom have pretty much summed up my feelings regards this post. Where I part company with your thought is the complete lack of condemnation of religious whackery and it's adherents unbending arrogance. Do you not feel that stating I/we/you/us need to believe a certain creed, and that any one human being actually knows what God wants, or that God created the heavens and the earth in seven days, no questions asked, is not more arrogant than the scientists which you state are so?

    If you want to see arrogance in motion, visit the Creationist Museum web site... There is no room for debate with these people...their beliefs are stated as absolute fact, because it is the "word of God", period. Tell me how that is not arrogant. I challenge you to try and present any idea other than "God's so-called word" with the true religious believer...a brick wall is what you are going to encounter.

    To suggest that teaching "Creationism" is somehow in the same league with science subjects in school is, as Simons says (pun intended), ludicrous. This father strongly objects to that idea. My children can decide that shit on their own when they are of an age to do so.

  13. If you have to ask that question.
    You will not understand the answer.
    Get a grip.

  14. JJ... What you are espousing is perjudicial censorship. I fail to see the difference between radicals of either camp. The same rightist rant you hear from the likes of Glen Beck you can also hear from the left on Air America. Neither one of them has any more legitimacy than the other.

    How is your position of not allowing any religious philosophy to be taught in the classroom (not prayer, philosophy) any different, any less intractable, than the religious whackos you condem? At least the creationists are willing to let their ideas go head to head with science. If science is all you claim, why are you afraid to let it stand on it's own merits? It's easy to hide behind words like "ludicrous." It's another thing to be open to debate. At least I'm open minded enough to admit doubt and give each idea an equal forum.

  15. Gropius... Sorry I skipped you. I'm with you, I don't see why they need to be mutually exclusive. To most of the people I know, they aren't.

  16. When I read this the first time, my initial reaction was to think that science reporting is no more immune to sensationalism than any other "news." But that's not where you were goin' with it, so . . .

    Anyway, science and religion both require a bit of faith, it seems. But neither one likes to have its tenets questioned.

    And both are overwhelmingly male-dominated.

    To borrow a phrase from Brother Punch, 'nuf said.

  17. No tenent questioning here Intelli, just reporting, or the absence of same. Good observation re: male dominated fields. Maybe that's why there's so much fighting over each.

  18. I think I will just continue to know that God created the big bang and everything we have come to see since then (including humans) came after that.

  19. I never could see why the two points of view had to be opposing. The creationist should take evolution as the greatest compliment to God. To me it's like this. God didn't just create life, end of story. No, he not only created life, he set it up to automatically get better. Natural selection, in nature, is a perfect system. Only if you are good enough will your DNA be passed on to another generation. The two sides should both grow up and admit that there is room for both points of view.

  20. Can anyone clarify what happened to the Bushongo people of the Belgian Congo?

  21. Of course scientific views change and evolve over time as new evidence is discovered or better theorys proposed, it's called progress.
    Science does not claim to have all the answers, but each day/week/year that passes it discovers a little more and has a little greater understanding of the natural world.
    How much more do the major religions know then they did 1000 - 2000 years ago?
    And do you think thats a good thing?

    I awlays find it amusing that people deride scince using the very tools it created.


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