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The Blue & Gray Press | May 22, 2018

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Bill Nye Wrong in Discrediting Belief in Creationism

By KAITLIN GATES

“Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill Nye the Science Guy!” My days in elementary and middle school science were often filled with episodes of Bill Nye teaching the class, through songs and terrible puns, about gravity, matter and atoms. I had not thought about Bill Nye recently, since high school meant no more fun ways to learn information.

I was surfing YouTube not looking for anything in particular, when I came across an older version of the Bill Nye I was used to seeing. Instead of doing the reading for my Political Science class, I invested two and a half minutes of my life seeing what good ol’ Bill had to say.

In a video put out by the website, BigThink, Nye spoke about the implausibility of creationism and the certainty of evolution. In his opinion, any adult who subjects their child to the belief of creationism is basically ruining our nation’s chances at being competent enough to compete with other nations. Nye stated in the video, “we need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future” and when we “have a portion of the population that doesn’t believe in [evolution], it holds everybody back.”

From what, exactly? During the time Nye had to make his point, he said only that our country is being held back by faith in an idea. Instead of stating what the country could be and reinforcing his argument, he skirts the issue and makes blanket comments.

In my opinion, the issue with believing solely in science is that it only explains the how, where, and when. We know that the Big Bang theory is based on actual evidence that has been collected, so I’m not here to debate the validity of such findings, but rather to point out that science cannot explain why these things happened.

Creationism serves as a possible reason for why the world as we know it came into existence. Depending on your religious denomination, the version of how the world came to be may differ, but most end in the same way: a higher power put the necessary components into action.

While Nye is justified in believing that parents shouldn’t just be teaching their children about creationism, he is wrong in thinking that, by informing them of it, parents will hold our nation back.

Faith in things beyond our understanding, things that are bigger than ourselves, are often what drives humans to their full potential in order to make meaning of the life they have been given. To settle with the idea of evolution would be to settle with the idea that, no matter what, someone will look at your life and the way you lived and adjust theirs to ensure they don’t end up like you. It will no longer be about what you have accomplished, but what you didn’t accomplish.

Science and religion go hand in hand. Albert Einstein stated that “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” With that in mind, for Nye to believe so firmly in the need to have evidence to prove everything seems to be a one dimensional way to look at life and all of its wonders. If we don’t believe that there is a reason for our existence, what reason do we have to continue investigating the rest of the world around us?

It is at this point Nye loses me completely because he has been trapped by his own belief. If, as humans, we feel we have no purpose, nothing will be accomplished. This is exactly what Nye believes will happen if the idea of creationism, and others like it, are fostered in the minds of children.

There is nothing wrong with believing in a higher power that gave our universe a push in the right direction toward existence. It means each person has something to strive for because they have meaning. It is that idea that will create new and sleek technology, write the next great novel and find cures for diseases never thought to be within reach. All of these things are certain to come to fruition and can be proven with the evidence Nye so clearly desires even if there is a “portion of the population that doesn’t believe” evolution is the correct mode of thinking.

Comments

  1. Too often, people our age are determined to bash faith in a public format. Your piece was very refreshing.

    I don’t want to get into semantics, but I wouldn’t call the idea that God “gave our universe a push in the right direction” creationism.

    Creationism is usually associated with the belief that “all things were created substantially as they now exist by an omnipotent Creator.” That’s the definition from dictionary.com, not really scientific but better than Wikipedia.

    What you’re describing is “theistic evolution,” the idea that living organisms evolved but with a little push from God.

  2. Stephanie Hein

    The nice thing about science is that it doesn’t require belief — it has testable facts.

    “To settle with the idea of evolution would be to settle with the idea that, no matter what, someone will look at your life and the way you lived and adjust theirs to ensure they don’t end up like you. It will no longer be about what you have accomplished, but what you didn’t accomplish.”

    Evolution doesn’t work this way. It is not a conscious decision by a person, but a process that happens over time to a population. Genes that allow for offspring (and specifically offspring who survive long enough to also reproduce) are not changed in a generation of humans.

  3. Does there have to be a reason that such things happened? I don’t personally think so. As a side note before I continue, I am not bashing any sort of religious institution or people’s opinions. I am merely expressing my own which may or may not be shared by my peers.

    I believe that the difference between informing children about religion and raising children in religion is greatly underwhelmed in this article. Informing a child allows them to take in information, analyze it, and then come to a conclusion based on the evidence they are given (scientific method). Raising a child in a religion brings the child to believe that what they are being told is the absolute truth and is giving them absolute knowledge. There are no questions; only Zuul. That is what is wrong in having parents “inform,” as you put it, their children about religion.

    While you have brought up a famous quote, I will do twice the same. These are from the more current Neil deGrasse Tyson.

    “As they are currently practiced, there is no common ground between science and religion….Although just as in hostage negotiations, it’s probably best to keep both sides talking to each other.”

    “We should not be ashamed of not having answers to all questions yet…I’m perfectly happy staring somebody in the face saying, I don’t know yet, and we’ve got top people working on it. The moment you feel compelled to provide an answer, then you’re doing the same thing that the religious community does: providing answers to every possible question.”

    I don’t believe that I need to experience a want of a higher being in order to push myself to become the best person that I could morally be. I would deem something like that as a crutch, or as an excuse to do the right thing. We, as humans, should do the right thing because it is exactly that; the right thing. However, I have thoroughly digressed from the scientific speakings this comment should have contained.

    If people do come up with the next great technology, or the greatest novel, or even the smallest of ideas that could have no possible meaning to anyone but themselves, it is not due to the musings of a higher deity that have been passed down. It is because of the effort that the person or persons put into said thing.

  4. Wiley C

    You quoted Albert Einstein saying that science and religion go hand in hand, “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

    Unfortunately you make the mistake of equating religion with the Bible, when religion is a generic word that encompasses a variety of religious beliefs.

    Another Einstein quote:

    “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

  5. nicole

    Max — technically, I think the idea that God “gave our universe a push in the right direction” falls into some other category of non-evolution/non-scientific origin beliefs. However, I’d say that in spirit if not in letter it falls exactly in line with creationism.

    Evolution as a theory is based on random mutations — “a push in the right direction” in no way fits in with evolution or the big bang.

  6. eh

    I’d like to see some comments on Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and all those “exotic” religions that UMW students on the whole seem so ignorant of and therefore usually exempt from ridicule. If you’re going to bash religion, please do so uniformly, or don’t at all.

  7. I never said theistic evolution is a scientific theory. I said it is an abstract idea.

  8. Kathryn Erwin

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. This article made my blood boil.

  9. Robert

    You mistake belief in God with Creationism. Creationism states that the world was created spontaneously by God in a manner at least roughly consistent with the account in the Bible. That is what Mr. Nye wishes to discredit, and rightfully so. Bluntly speaking, Creationism, especially Young Earth Creationism (which states the Earth is 6,000 years old, going exclusively by dates in the Bible), is bunk. It is supported by nothing but the account of the Bible, which was written by men and not intended as a history, nor as a scientific treatise.

  10. eb

    While truth should be the end goal of all research, and thus I agree all religions have much to be criticized for, not all religions do equal harm. Some have more harmful doctrines (Islam), some more outrageous (Mormonism), and some overly dogmatic and stagnant (Christianity). Whereas some have contributed unique information to modern knowledge of consciousness and contain fewer harmful moral recommendations (Buddhism). Criticisms should be skewered towards the more harmful.

  11. eb

    To clarify scientific views about asking ‘why’ the world came into existence, I would point to the semantic trickery of the question. When asking, for instance, why does Mt. Everest exist, the question actually asks ‘what are the causal reasons for the formation of Mt. Everest’ (and the answer is plate tectonic shifts etc.) So science can in fact answer ‘why’ the universe exists- the big bang. (See Richard Dawkins)

    Ultimately, science has overtaken religion as the paragon of human knowledge, and so inundating our children with mythical stories in place of facts seems a destructive tradition to uphold and rightfully bashed by Bill Nye.

  12. Robert

    Why bother creating a conflict where none should exist?

  13. eb

    Conflict exists in increasingly evident ways. Atheists are the least trusted minority in America. Religious teachings openly defy human advancement on scientific fronts, causing distrust of evolution, the big bang, and other truths vital to the development of civilization, not to mention the moral shortcomings perpetuated by religious dogma preventing, for instance, gay marriage from being legalized.

    Too long it has been taboo to openly challenge religious beliefs and ask for evidence. A fair public discourse or ‘conflict’ is precisely what is needed to lessen religious influence in the world.

  14. eh

    Perhaps you mean that more harmful religions should be skewered, or that criticisms be skewed? I’m confused.

    Also, I’m interested to learn where you got those assumptions about certain religions being harmful, outrageous, or overly dogmatic.

  15. eh

    I love all the hubris! It’s amazing how knowledgeable college students are about “truth” and what the paragon of human knowledge is. I need to take whatever classes Eb is taking so I can get me some o’ that learning.

    I think Slate had an interesting article recently about the different between atheists and secularists–it bears some looking into. Also, the kind of vitriol I’m reading here, mostly on the side of those opposing religion, is precisely the kind of arrogance, disdain and mockery that drives otherwise moderate voters away from the middle and increasingly to the right.

    Bashing religion because you think science holds the ultimate truth is no different from Christian dogmatism or Muslim radicalism or Buddhist morality. The schisms in scientific communities around various theories are just as entrenched and, at the end of the day, just as trivial, as those among the various religious communities, especially since both claim that they are working for the betterment of mankind, spiritual or otherwise.

  16. eb

    I am a college graduate, not a student, and the assertion that science is the paragon of human knowledge comes from Richard Dawkins one of the foremost evolutionary biologists of our time. The majority of respected scientists would certainly agree as they are primarily atheists.

    As Slate quoted Sam Harris, ‘being a member of the godless club is “basically the worst thing you can be in terms of having a political life, incurring the judgment of strangers’. The right to oppose religion with vitriol (or not) is vital to upholding the important values of America.

    Science cannot be dogmatic nor compared to Religious paths of knowledge. The claims science makes undergo constant scrutiny and experimentation aimed at proving them false. Religion rarely, if ever, demands evidence for their claims, tests their claims, or changes thousand year old pre-scientific texts which they base their morality on. Such blind adherence is the reason religion now has nothing to tell us about how the earth formed, etc. Hardly any conflict exists in the acceptance of major theories, ie the big bang, evolution, age of Earth, within the scientific community.

    Purposeful distruth in light of contradictory evidence deserves every attack it receives, especially when it’s taught to innocent children and in schools.

  17. eh

    Sorry, thought you were still in college, mixing up skew and skwered. My mistake.

    The right to cultivate religious faith is just as vital as the right to oppose religion to upholding American values.

    Your vaunted Richard Dawkins needs to stay in his field–evolutionary biology. What does a biologist know about theology, or history, or ethics for that matter? Dawkins is as misinformed when speaking about theology and politics as most non-scientists are when they venture into scientific discussions.

    For example, your statement about American values would be, if Dawkins was consistent in his philosophy, is a bunch of trash. To Dawkins, and if you believe in his worldview, we’re nothing but robots and the world is indifferent to our passions, our politics, and our pains. There’s a reason why atheists are the most mistrusted minority in America, and it’s not without reason that Dawkins has been compared to Goebbels and Hitler.

    I am, to clarify, in no way defending religion, nor am I bashing science. I object to the assumption of so many so-called atheists that truth can only be obtained through science, through measureable results and trial and error. I also object to the kind of arrogance I see in atheists that they are the sole inheritors of the truth, and that anyone who rejects science is a fool or worse. That kind of arrogance rested historically with organized religion. The truth is out there. Whether it can be measured and quantified by scientists, or meditated upon by monks or revealed by divine revelation, the truth, by definition, just is. How people reach the truth or interpret it once they see it, and whether they use that knowledge for good or bad, or choose to walk away from it altogether, is a personal choice. History has seen the truth turned into a weapon by the religious. I hope the scientific are more peaceably inclined, but from what if atheists are the vanguard of a tomorrow ruled by science, it doesn’t look promising.

  18. eb

    A spelling mistake is silent on my education, I must say.
    I agree, freedom to practice religion should be upheld, but I argue its practice is deleterious.

    Dawkins made no statement about theology or history, but simply stated the scientific method’s superior ability to discover the true nature of the world. You did not respond to religion’s failure to update/correct itself, and I consider that a vital point.

    You misrepresent Dawkins’s worldview horrifically. Simply because we came into existence through natural selection does not mean we cannot find a purpose for life. No, there is no evidence for a man in the sky urging us to vote for Romney or Obama, but the consequences of our choices have tangible effects. We have a responsibility to reject assertions about our world based in falsehoods and replace them with those based in evidence.

    The so-called arrogant atheist pales in comparison to the arrogance of the religious who believe a select few believers on a tiny planet orbiting an unimpressive star in a unimportant galaxy off to the side of the universe are the sole reason god created everything. To be atheist is to recognize one’s place in a universe vastly greater than all of mankind.

    Lastly, to combat the Nazi comment you made which deserves a far less intelligent spout, remember the Nazi belt buckle read ‘Gott mit uns’ (god with us), and Hitler used much religious rhetoric to enable his atrocities. All I ask is for all claims of truth/knowledge to be backed by verifiable evidence such as they are in the scientific community. A world built on this principle would witness far less suffering.

  19. eh

    1. Dawkins has made plenty of statements regarding theology and history, and his own logic is woeful at times. Dawkins makes very convincing arguments in his published works, that have been edited, revised, and polished. His comments during interviews and to the press reveal a less polished mind, very much out of place when making historical comparisons or attacking theology. His “eloquence” in attacking the concept of a higher power fall apart when he tries to confront specifics.
    2/3. The religious may be arrogant but I chalk that up to their dogma. If an atheist truly recognizes their place, and their own and others’ insignificance in the universe, why try and rip away faith from those who cling to it like a security blanket? Take away their faith and open their eyes to…to what? The infinite smallness of man in the universe? One of the reasons religion cropped up is because man realized how small and insignificant he was. If atheists truly believe that mankind is so small in the grand scheme of things, why bother stealing away something so trivial as faith? Because it’s detrimental? I’m not saying that science won’t and has not improved humankind, but if we are so insignificant, then to what end is it for? To realize that ah, I know the truth, and be smug in it? Why not leave religion for those that need it?

    4. To combat your accusation of Reductio ad Hitlerum, I give you a few Richard Dawkins quotes:

    “Well, you’ve certainly very effective at what you do I mean you seem to have all the airs of, well, it almost reminded me, you must forgive me, of Nuremburg. Really, Dr. Goebbels would have been proud.”

    “…you shriek like Hitler…You shriek and yell and rant like Hitler…you periodically rise to climaxes of shrieking rant, and that is just like Hitler.”

    Before you dismiss comments as deserving of “far less intelligent” responses, be sure that you’re not accusing your own intellectual heroes.

  20. eb

    You compared Dawkins to Hitler. Then you quoted Dawkins noting how religious logic and rhetoric resembles Hitler’s. It supports my point directly which is that Hitler’s regime mirrors dogmatic religiosity not scientific skepticism.

    1. This fallacy is called an ad hominem argument in which you attack Dawkins personally for being uninformed but provide no critique of his actual points.

    2/3. You may chalk up arrogance to religious dogma, but it is then inescapable arrogance. At least an arrogant atheist is arrogant by choice. To say people need religion to avoid facing the truth is similar to saying we should never tell those with cancer they have cancer. The truth hurts, but I value it above any delusion which makes me feel better, especially when they come wrapped in paper that demands oppression of women, violence against non-believers, or homophobia. This short life should be used to advance human knowledge and improve the lives of the next generation. Religion severely impedes that goal.

    “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” -Richard Dawkins

  21. eh

    You accused me of comparing Dawkins to Hitler. If you actually read what I had wrote, I said “…and it’s not without reason that Dawkins has been compared to Goebbels and Hitler.” It may be a small distinction but nowhere did I say Dawkins is like Hitler, only that there are those who have done so in his cold analysis of evolution. You accused me of making a Nazi comment that was undeserving of an intelligent response. My response was to provide you with an example where Dawkins does the same. That he was comparing religious rhetoric with Nazism is not the point I was making.

    You yourself resorted to a not-so-subtle ad hominem yourself when you said comparing Dawkins to Nazis was undeserving of an intellgient response.

    Your distinction between arrogance by choice is one of the many reasons why atheists are tearing down the middle ground between religious moderates and secularists. I’m unaware of any scientific evidence that disproves the existence of a higher power. The absence of a thing does not prove its nonexistence. Or, since you seem fond of logic, you can’t prove a negative.

    Advance human knowledge in what? Improve the lives in what measure? There are some areas of human knowledge that do not benefit from science. And science is not a guarantee that quality of life will improve. To argue that is to look upon science as a substitute for religion. And yes, religion can impede progress, but science is no guaranteed path forward. Science gave us such wonderful things as eugenics. Atheism gave us…Nazis. People forget that although Nazis may have adopted many of the trappings of religion and mythology, they were explicitly anti-Christian, among other religions. They perpetrated genocide under the guise of evolutionary science.

    There are those who say that religion has destroyed countless lives throughout history, and has oftentimes retarded progress. So has science. Science, wrongly applied, just like religion, can wreak terrible things on mankind. Both science and religion can bring positive change to this world, why not let each have it’s place instead of trying to stamp one another out? There is a place for religion and a place for science. I think it’s pretty clear what science’s place is–in policymaking, in making decisions on practical, tangible matters. Why not let religion have its place in people’s private lives?

  22. eb

    About the Nazi comment, I meant someone less intelligent than yourself deserved to make it. Dawkins’s own Nazi comparison quotes hold up, because dogmatic religious teachings relate closely to dogmatic Nazi teachings in that both encourage blind acceptance of assertions despite evidence to the contrary. NB: He was joking.

    I cannot disprove a higher power. but the burden of proof is on those claiming one exists in the same way you would ask me to provide evidence there is an invisible, weightless cheeseburger sitting atop your head. I ask for scientific evidence a higher power exists, until then I rest comfortably in my state of believing only statements made with evidence.

    It saddens me you still think Nazis were atheist when their belt buckles read ‘God with us’. Atheism is by definition, non-dogmatic, in the same way non-baseball players or non-stamp collectors do not uphold specific doctrine. Non-theism is the antithesis of Nazism. If more Nazis practiced skeptical inquiry of the claims their party made, many lives could have been saved. Instead a religious devotion to the party, a lack of atheistic values, resulted in millions of deaths.

    Here’s Hitler in 1933 during the Nazi-Vatican concordant (yes that Vatican), “Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith.”

    The key difference here is science’s ability to improve and update over time. That’s why 30 years ago this conversation would not have been online. The improvements in our lives via science are innumerable. Religion prevents, for instance, stem cell research and cloning, capable of reducing lost lives, and advancing our understanding of the world.

    When someone you or I know gets cancer and dies because those privately religious people voted against stem cell research based on dogmatic interpretation of ancient books, I see possible progress flushed down the toilet in the name of zeus, poseidon, or god.

  23. Mmmmm, mm, mm. I’m glad I got my popcorn before rechecking the comments section for today.

    Zeus 2012.

  24. eh

    You’re pulling a Romney with that belt buckle you keep focusing on. The “God with us” belt buckles predated the rise of the Nazis and were on the belt buckles of German soldiers from WW1. To clarify even further, the “God with us” belt buckle remained in use only with the Wehrmacht, or regular German army, with the motto being replaced with “Meine Ehre Heisst Treue,” or “My honor through loyalty,” and the SS death’s head. Variations existed. UMW had a strong history program which included WW2.

    An aside on non-baseball players and non-philatelists. I’ve met and spoken with plenty of people who do neither who are about as vehemently opposed to them as possible. Various arguments are that baseball and sports as a whole are wasteful diversions from more meaningful pursuits, and a kind of profligacy that this country can ill afford. I’ve had discussions with quite a few people who see stamps in general as a waste of resources and symbolic of an antiquated system that should be purged. They all seemed to have some pretty dogmatic to me.

    I think you’re forgetting your history again. You know who else Hitler had a concordance with? Stalin and the Soviet Union. I think most people know how that ended up. His pact with Stalin was done not out of friendship, shared worldview or really any other reason other than he didn’t want to deal with the Soviet Union until later.

    Hitler was a lot of things, genocidal megalomaniac among other things, but he understood how to use symbolism and how to capitalize on pre-existing prejudices and inclinations and maximize those for his own ends—up to and including religion. Non-theism was most certainly not the antithesis of Nazism. Here’s a quote from Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary and one of the most powerful, but lesser known, Nazi officials: “National Socialism and Christianity are irreconcilable.” Also, “When we National Socialists speak of belief in God, we do not mean, like the naïve Christians and their spiritual exploiters, a man-like being sitting around somewhere in the universe. The force governed by natural law by which all these countless planets move in the universe, we call omnipotence or God. The assertion that this universal force can trouble itself about the destiny of each individual being, every smallest earthly bacillus, can be influenced by so-called prayers or other surprising things, depends upon a requisite dose of naivety or else upon shameless professional self-interest.”

    History has seen a lot of horrible things happen in the name of this God or that one(s), but unfortunately, modern history has seen much more death brought about by those people who run up the banner of atheism. Stalin. Mao. Pol Pot. The Kims in North Korea. In no way am I saying that atheists are like Stalin or Pol Pot, or that atheism encourages such genocidal behavior. I do want to point out that terrible things have been done under the guise of atheism and scientific progress.

    You might think that people are either ignorant, crazy or some combination of the two to reject science. But you forget history again. There have been countless examples of horrible things being done to people and this planet in the name of scientific progress. Thalidomide has been in the news recently. DDT is another example of science failing. Government-run or sponsored projects of eugenics, forced sterilization of the mentally ill or retarded—all in the name of creating a better society through science. Nazi scientific experiments on people in their death camps. Or the U.S. exposing citizens to radiation, pollution, STDs, and countless other horrors in the name of scientific progress. Science as a field has made progress and those kinds of things don’t happen with the same frequency as they once did, but scientists don’t have clean hands here.

    Religion may be impeding progress in stem cell research and cloning, but there are plenty of ethicists out there who oppose that kind of research (certainly cloning, less so with stem cells) on moral grounds void of religious language. Religion itself does not oppose such research—only our own interpretation of religious texts.

    I think Athena is the right choice for 2012. We need both the wisdom and the warrior spirit she embodies. Zeus is much too aloof to fix the mess we’re in right now. Dropping bombs on people didn’t make our situation any better—I don’t think casting lightning bolts (although a huge step up in terms of theatricality), is going to improve our standing in the world.

  25. eb

    I’ll rebut this succinctly (ha). You write “In no way am I saying that atheists are like Stalin or Pol Pot, or that atheism encourages such genocidal behavior.” I’d like to emphasize the last clause. Atheism cannot encourage any behavior because it is definitionally a lack of behavior, namely belief in god. This puts it immediately above all religions which possess holy books that encourage any immoral activity such as oppression of women (Qur’an, Bible), child abuse (Bible). That covers all the major religions’ holy books which claim divine authorship.

    So to redirect this conversation (which by all accounts I am enjoying) away from reddish herrings, no regime exists which perpetrated evil via atheist doctrine because no atheist doctrine exists. Instead, to use your North Korean example (and all others apply as well) they used political religiosity,e.g. Kim Jong Il was/is considered a god.

    Atheistic values call for skeptical inquiry for all claims made. Were Nazis truly enabled by a society practicing too much skeptical inquiry? Did the Soviets perpetrate evil by asking too often for evidence to back their regime’s claims? No. The opposite, a religious adherence to doctrine, a lack of skepticism, no demands for evidence; these were the reasons great modern evils occurred.

    Lastly, science has done some bad, but your examples fall under the purview of government (as you state). When science truly makes mistakes, it challenges and updates its findings. Every five years science doubles its knowledge about the world. Religion still calls for adherence to unchanged thousand year old books. Which, might you guess, is closer to the world’s true nature? We visit the doctor instead of praying when we fall ill for a reason. It works.

  26. eh

    Semantics. Divine authorship is not the same as divinely inspired authorship.

    Incorrect. No one in the Kim line has been deified. And if they were going to deify anyone, they’d pick Kim Il Sung first over Kim Jong Il. A personality cult is not the same as religion. It shares similar trappings but is not the same.

    That brings into issue your use of “religious adherence.” Neither Nazism nor communism as practiced in the Soviet Union were religions. They had similarities with organized religion but that does not make them one and the same. Not so much religious adherence but perhaps adhering religiously. And both regimes used an excess of force and violence to ensure that skepticism was rooted out.

    You say that what this world needs more of is skepticism. And where does skepticism about the value of science come in? Religion may be flawed, but there are some gems in there that science backs up. Just one example. Greed/money is the root of evil, or variations of that aphorism. Various scientific studies confirm the truth of that, but are we really better off now that scientists have stamped their approval on it? It’s been known for ages and people have either listened to that moral or ignored it, and will continue to do so. There are some truths about the human condition and character contained in religion that shouldn’t be discarded simply because it’s in a book.

    Science is not conducted in a vacuum. It is performed by human beings who have their own political agendas, their own biases, and operate within the borders of established nation-states so the government is not divorced, anywhere, from the execution or results of scientific research.

    Back to the issue of faith holding back this country. Faith is what props this country up. Faith that the money we use is actually worth what we think it does. Faith that police and firefighters will come when there is an emergency. Faith that for all its flaws, the democratic system works. Faith that the doctor can cure what ails you. Take that faith away and what do you have? I can give you studies upon studies that show that doctors oftentimes don’t know what ails you, nor how to fix it.

  27. eb

    We’re beginning to reach common ground, the sign of a worthwhile discussion. But first, some disagreements. No, Kim Jong Il was never officially deified, but here’s 2012 PRNK gold medalist Om Yun Choi, “I am very happy and give thanks to our Great Leader for giving me the strength to lift this weight. I believe Kim Jong Il gave me the record and all my achievements. It is all because of him.” Is that closer to atheism or theism?

    I completely agree neither Nazism nor any previously contended regime is a religion. I agree also they were enabled by adhering religiously. By having faith that their dear leaders spoke the truth.

    You play a dangerous semantic game with ‘faith’. No faith need exist for propositions with evidence. I do not have faith that Earth is 14.6 billion years old, because there is testable, verifiable evidence. Faith is belief despite evidence to the contrary. It enables nonsensical theories to run rampant. People have faith Earth is 6,000 years old, that humans and dinosaurs coexisted, etc. Faith diametrically opposes reason and thus drags this country backwards through the mud.

    Science/experimentation/evidence can verify all religious truths worth knowing.

    Skepticism is the root of scientific practice. If you do not believe a claim science makes, by all means, go and test it and publish your results. Yet I can prove prayer does not heal the sick beyond a reasonable doubt and still we pray.

    Science stays mostly free from bias because a biased experimenter must have their results reproduced by a non-biased experimenter, and generally a skeptical one.

  28. eh

    I don’t know exactly what was going through his mind, but it seems to me like a state-sponsored athlete publicly acknowledging a recently deceased ruler, which would be prudent on the part of someone who depends wholly the good graces of the state for not only his livlihood, but his life. Failing to attribute his success publicly would likely have resulted in him being shipped off to a work camp, or at the very least stripped of the privilege of representing his country in international competitions. It sounds like a pragmatic move on the part of someone suddenly thrust into the limelight.

    There have been plenty of scientific studies that have tried to discover the correleation or absence of such between prayer and healing. Although the results skew towards the absence of any benefit through prayer, they remain inconclusive: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2802370/

    I’ve given you examples of how much wrong can come about when governments adopt the banner of science. Now whether or not those governments adhered to a rigorous, modern definition of the scientific method is as irrelevant to this discussion as saying that not all Catholics abuse children and not all Muslims are fanatics. Terrible things happen when governments adopt either science or religion as their justification for political ends. Faith, arguably, may hinder progress in some instances and may oppose reason in others, but no good can come of forcing it upon people. To do so would to be as intolerant and dogmatic as some of the religions you criticize.

    Neither religion nor science exists within a vacuum. The current administration went to great lengths to announce that its decisions would be made based on scientific evidence, yet there are plenty of instances where it has ignored science when politically expedient or favorable to them.