Assault on scientific truth benefits none

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 6, 2005

Happy New Year! We’ll see.

My hope for 2005 is that more folks will come to understand a bit more about science even if they don’t completely fathom it. Why the interest, you ask? Several things in the news over the past few weeks have me despairing that we’re trying to backtrack on our enlightenment since the Renaissance.

Faith and religion are important to individuals because they help make sense creation by giving meaning to life and to death. Science does not claim to impart meaning onto creation, but it does try to discover how the universe works.

It does so through observation and experimentation. At its best, science explains why a thing happened or happens, thus offering solutions about how to change it, plan for it, or otherwise manipulate it.

It’s no secret that earthquakes in the ocean can cause catastrophic tsunamis. Scientists know how this works and they know why they happen, from a physical standpoint. Tsunamis, like any other natural disaster, are not evil or good. They are simply physical phenomena of an active Earth and universe in constant motion.

No doubt, more than 150,000 people dying in the Indian Ocean because a massive earthquake generated tidal waves is a human tragedy that most of us simply cannot comprehend, but attributing &uot;the wrath of God&uot; as the cause is simply ignorant.

First and foremost, nobody knows God’s Will. It says in the Bible that God does not think as men think. Such power and knowledge are incomprehensible to we mortals. If every time something bad happens to someone is the because of God’s righteous indignation, we’re all on God’s bad side because we are all going to suffer at some point in this life and we’re all going to die.

That’s a fact of life. It doesn’t matter what your religion is. Christians, Jews, Muslims, agnostics and atheists are going to live and die the same. Some more than others, of course, but that’s got more to do with the luck of the draw than anything else. What happens after we die…well, that’s beyond our knowledge and beyond our ability to know.

We can only observe what we know as physical reality. On matters of the soul, we can only rely on faith in this world.

We don’t know when &uot;the end of times&uot; will be. If God wanted us to know that He would have written it clearly and concisely in the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, etc. so that everyone would know. The Indian Ocean tragedy is just a more spectacular tragedy than the individual tragedies that occur every day in every part of the world to members of every faith.

For those who say the people of Indonesia, Thailand, India, etc. deserve to be swept into the sea because they’re &uot;not like us&uot; is the height of prideful arrogance – that chief sin that resulted in Satan’s demotion to devil.

But enough about that. If you really think you know God’s Will on this matter, then your arrogance is akin to the fallen angels and your ignorance even greater.

It really makes me wonder if, in the midst of our incredible scientific and technological advancements over the past 500 years, we aren’t beginning to regress to a time when &uot;witches&uot; were burned at the stake and people were afraid of dragons and trolls.

Take, for example, a recent report by Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman that says many of the Abstinence-Only sex education programs provide high school students with &uot;false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health.&uot; I do think abstinence should be taught, by the way, but if you couple that with distortions of the truth, the kids are likely, to borrow a clich\u00E9, &uot;throw the baby out with the bath water.&uot;

Another glaring example of faith attempting to deny scientific findings because adherents wish it to be so is the constant attempts to deny the legitimacy of evolution with creationism or its latest incarnation, &uot;intelligent design.&uot; These &uot;theories&uot; state that God created the universe whole and complete – as it was then, so it is now.

The problem with this notion is that it has no basis in science. Teach it in Sunday School or let the preacher explain it to you, but keep it out of science class. It’s not science. It’s belief. People who wish it to be so without any scientific evidence that it is true are trying to force it upon others as truth. That’s religion. You believe a thing because the Bible says it’s so or because your denomination interprets something in the Bible as saying that it is so.

But it doesn’t stop there. Although not yet as clear-cut as the proofs that evolution is how life developed on Earth, most scientists now believe that global warming is a real physical phenomenon and that it has been, at least in part, caused by the technologies humans employee to maintain a higher standard of living.

The Republicans reject it because they fear it would hurt business interests if the government acknowledged it as real. But for some reason, I guess because of the close ties the evangelical Christians have formed with Republicans, some religious denominations take it as an affront to their religious beliefs.

It is either real or not real. It is neither good nor bad. If the Earth is warming because of manmade changes to the environment, some parts of the planet will suffer, but some others will prosper. It should be up to us to decide what to do about it, but putting your head in the sand and refusing to acknowledge even the possibility that it is happening does nobody any good. And may, in fact, prove to be a terrible mistake.

Before you can work on a solution to a problem, you must first determine if there is a problem. Most scientists now agree that the Earth is rapidly (from a geological perspective) warming. But the scientists are simply ignored by people because they don’t want it to be true. Businesses might have to change the way they operate and, for some, faith would be undermined if global warming were real.

None of this makes sense to me. Do we lead better lives because of science? You bet. Science cannot supplant faith for explaining creation, but as far as determining how things work and what we should do to make things better, we need to trust in science. Just as we did to win wars, feed the hungry and make life better for everyone. Political will and religious institutions played parts in these noble endeavors, but without unadulterated science they would not have been possible.