Saturday, April 22, 2017

Why I won't be marching in Columbia, SC today in Support of Science

When I first heard about "The March for Science" coming today in DC and cities around the world, including local marches and events,  I was very interested in participating.

It is clear that the most radical politicians among us and the Republican Party in general, do not support the sciences or somehow believe that "taxpayer support" for the sciences is not necessary.

In many cases those same people "believe" that science and the scientific method are not the foundation of human endeavors, but rather some form of grace from some god are to account for our creation and successes. 

Worst of all, these people try to thwart the science of vaccines, climate change and other species preserving concepts either for their personal short term financial gain (the educated wealthy who know that science is real, but are too greedy to do the right thing) or out of ignorance and/or a lack of a proper education - turning instead to simplistic arguments that often include a religious component.

According to the list of speakers at today's "March for Science" in Columbia there is An Opening Benediction, and two speakers who will discuss the role of "The Qur'an and Science" and "Science and Hinduism". 

While I feel that it is possible for a person of faith to BE a scientist or to adopt and use the scientific method, I find that these beliefs add yet another layer of bias to their work.  We all bring biases to our work and the benefit of having a scientific method, that includes peer reviews of new ideas and discoveries is to attempt to nullify those biases, but why bring more of them in the first place?

Einstein was quoted (accurately or not, I can't say) as to have said that he "didn't like Quantum Theory, because god doesn't play dice with the Universe".  This was a reference to his faith and the concept that much of the results of Quantum Theory involve probabilistic outcomes, not certainties.  The key point wasn't that he refuted or disavowed Quantum Theory on this basis, but rather that he admitted his own biases and preferences that he "didn't like" what the science was telling him.

This is and will continue to be a problem for the scientific community going forward, but let me suggest why I feel that religion has no place in science in a simple comparative list:

Religion:  Deals in absolute truths, written down from "revealed" thoughts or unknown sources.  Scrutiny is not prized and in many religions is grounds for death or the threat of eternal punishment.
Science:  Deals with theories that are often reworked and evolving over time as new knowledge or insights are gained and tested and retested and refined.  Scrutiny is prized and rewarded.

Religion:  Is based on personal feelings that only the individual can integrate into themselves.
Science:  Is based on objective realities that can be demonstrated and shared by all humanity.

Religion:  At best can offer comfort, hope and the illusion of purpose.
Science:  At best can offer solid explanations, cure diseases and solve social problems.

Religion:  Uses science and technology tools to spread its message, fight its wars and maintain its ability to propagate.  Very ironic, possibly hypocritical as well as clearly demonstrating the intrinsic value of science and technology to any enterprise.  Religion requires technology to thrive.
Science:  Doesn't need religion to thrive.

Now, I personally don't feel the need to believe in god, but I would be lying if I said that I have never felt a "spiritual experience" or "metaphysical event".  There may even be some higher power or extra-universal actor that somehow for some reason started our Universe and/or seeded life within it.  I don't have these answers, nor do I care, because such an entity would be beyond our comprehension specifically because it would be outside of our Universe. 

So, I suppose that you could believe in a god or gods and not be religious. 

Religion is a man-made enterprise, to this point there is much scientific proof.  There is no legitimate, documented and accepted proof of any intervention by a mystical power in our lives.  There are massive amounts of proof that the religious texts, stories and concepts are made up to control populations, are full of inconsistencies, contradictions and promote social/tribal based injustices.

There is no place for religion in our world, if we are to avoid war, hatred and an unnecessarily early extinction.

Spirituality is in our minds and there is a whole science of the mind and how and why this is.

God or gods would be something separate and unknowable.

Prayer or Defenses of Religious Sects at a March for Science Rally?  Thanks, but no thanks.

FORTUNATELY - looking over the lists of speakers at the DC and NYC rallies, it appears that religion is playing little or no role in those marches today !!!