The absurdity of religion (contd.)

AJ's picture

After viewing some of Sam Harris's videos/articles, I realized that he makes the same observations about religious beliefs -- while I am not too impressed by his oratory, his writing is very lucid, and he is able to state his arguments very clearly. Particularly, I liked his "10 Myths & 10 Truths about atheism" that was published in the LA Times (Link here). This article was also quoted on, eliciting the same old responses from some Christians -- which basically rehash stuff about design vs. "chance", the basis for morality, the relationship between science and atheism, and ultimately the "meaning of life" itself.

One aspect that particular interests me is the role of science, and why something like evolutionary theory provokes such strong reactions from people in the religious crowd. I think it is evident that scientific progress (when I say scientific progress, I do not wish to place a value judgement on it -- that it is either 'good' or 'bad'. Scientific progress is not panacea, either) has decreased (and continues to do so) the role for omnipotent being/s in the physical world. The "god of the gaps" arguments that we very often see (the bacterial flagellum being the classic case) strikes to me as clutching at straws. Is'nt this evident when these people are so easily able to make the causal relationship - irreducible complexity => "intelligent designer" without pausing to even think for a moment whether there could be other natural mechanisms (than evolution) taking place? For me, this clearly demonstrates a lack of intellectual honesty on their part. Evidence does not lead these people to the conclusion, in fact they start with the assumption that there is a "designer" (which is just another fancy term for "creator") and then they seek evidence, which they see as supporting their assumptions. They would argue that this is a valid scientific method -- after all surely it is not unreasonable to seek evidence to fit your theory? The major problem is when you ignore overwhelming facts to the contrary, in this quest. The prime example for this are the "Answers in Genesis" folks, who start with the Bible as their solution to everything, and then conveniently "fit" the evidence to these solutions.

These people in turn accuse atheists of being intellectually dishonest, or more commonly, arrogant, for being blinded by the scientific method, and by refusing to "see" the presence of the designer which they see as being obvious. While I think arrogance is a quality that is not restricted to either side, science does not claim to have the perfect solutions about everything in this universe. Scientific understanding changes over time, theories are built up, tested, and if found lacking, get broken down, and eventually disappear. That said, something like the evolutionary theory has withstood the test of time and scientific scrutiny, and there is overwhelming consensus among researchers in this area. The paucity of scientific knowledge is evident, however, at scales which are too small or too large -- and it is here that the opposition has been quick to pounce upon (whether it is the argument that the earth is "fine-tuned" for life, or that quantum physics disproves evolution). I suspect that these attempts will be short-lived too. I have seen from most of the so-called "scientists" who claim to rationally explore the presence of the "designer", that the mask of seperation that they maintain between religious belief and scientific method quickly breaks down -- which is a good thing, because then we can be clear as to where their motivations lie at.