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The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

A Crisis of Faith: An Ex-Creationist Speaks

Post of the Month: October 2003


Subject:    I am an ex YEC - A crisis in faith. Warning: VERY LONG
Date:       13 October 2003

I was born into a Christian family in the early 1960s. My mother was raised in a Dutch Christian Reformed church and my father, an Irish Catholic, converted to reformed theology for my mother. It was easy for him because his experiences with the Catholic Church made him lose all respect for them, although he still believed in the Judeo-Christian God. Both of my parents remained believers and both prayed on their death beds.

I was raised in Paterson, New Jersey, and to avoid the fate of the evil indoctrination of evolution my parents sent me to the Eastern Christian School Association, a private Christian school that claimed to accept all Protestant denominations but in reality was a Dutch Christian Reformed school system. My parents' motives were somewhat twisted because the Dutch CRC accepts and teaches evolution as fact, albeit not until you reach college ( Now as an adult I realize that their motives were based more on the old class system that Calvinists would love to resurrect, and do in their own little private worlds.

This class system thinking reared its ugly head when in second or third grade almost none of the children showed up to my house for my birthday party. The entire house was decorated, grab bag prizes that I helped my mother put together sat in a basket by the pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game that was hung on the wall. The smell of freshly baked cake filled the air making my mouth water. My mother wouldn't let me go outside because I might get dirty before the other children arrived. As I waited for my classmates to arrive my mother appeared anxious. Then the phone started to ring about half an hour after the party was supposed to start. One by one my classmates' mothers called to cancel. Only two showed up for my party. That was my last birthday party growing up.

That was shortly after the race riots and the start of the great white flight to the suburbs. 99% of the people in our church and school moved out to more affluent white neighborhoods. Unfortunately for my situation my parents couldn't afford to move, and here lay the problem. The mindset of Calvinists is based in the class system, so if you don't have earthly blessings, i.e. wealth, then you can't be right with God. If you were right with God, then he would give you earthly blessings. Since you obviously are not true Christians, part of the elect chosen before God created the universe, it is within their right to shun you, and shun us they did. (If you read between the lines you can see the racial prejudices that are so prevalent in these Godly people.) So I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I no longer had friends in school, and because I was "wealthy" to the neighborhood kids (because I attended a private school) I had no friends at home. I didn't fit in anywhere.

I became fodder for the cruel Christian children, and the high school kids took great pleasure in torturing me on the school bus. Their antics went from tripping me, flying drop kicks to my back when I was getting up to exit the bus, to setting my hair on fire. After that I no longer took the bus, and my father drove me to school for several years. In seventh grade I started walking back and forth which introduced me to the gangs in the neighborhood. By this point most of the white families had left Paterson, so a white kid walking through gang territory was quite the treat for the gang members, and became quite the adventure in survival for me.

I never had any trouble with teachers or the administration in school, and my grades remained As and Bs until 8th grade. Near the end of seventh grade the teacher in gym class had us run, jump over a hurdle, and land on a mat head first while doing a roll. I landed wrong slamming my head into my chest. I felt as though I ripped my spinal cord out. The teacher's face was one of horror after seeing how I was hurt. I didn't complain of the pain because I was already used to being pummeled on my walk to school and brushing the pain off and acting like nothing was wrong so I could complete the day. That summer due to my spinal injury I developed a sleeping disorder, restless leg syndrome. My parents were poor and we had no health insurance so we never went to the doctor, we had to "suck it up" and move on. (You can't sue anything Christian, that would be the same as suing God!)

During the next year I had great difficulty staying awake in class, and learning became impossible. I missed too many days that year and was left back. The following year I became fodder for the principal, and was left back again. My mother took me out of the school and placed me in the public school system. After taking several placement exams they put me forward into high school. When the principle of the Christian School heard about this he called and wrote letters to everyone he could in the Paterson school system, including the mayor, demanding that I be put back into the eighth grade. They ignored him. (What a sweet Christian man to be so concerned about me.)

That year was even a bigger adventure. I was so out of my element, and was one of less than 12 white kids in a school of 5000. That was Eastside High School, and if you watch the 1989 movie Lean On Me about that school you will see what it was like, before Joe Clark became the principal.

Of course several gangs recognized that I was the white kid that brought them so much pleasure as I trespassed "their" turf everyday, so they couldn't let this opportunity pass them by. They took full advantage of it, and following the advice of the Paterson Police I dropped out of school in ninth grade at 15 years old.

I took the G.E.D. test and passed with only two questions wrong; I received a letter of honors from the governor, and started out in the world taking several college courses along the way. I married a woman in our church, and we had two children.

In 1988 I was in a car accident on the George Washington Bridge that resulted in knee surgery. This was the beginning of the end. My restless leg syndrome became severe after the surgery, and everyday became a fight to stay awake. I must point out that I didn't know that I had restless leg syndrome, and I wouldn't know until the year 2000. All I knew is that when I woke up I felt like I hadn't slept in a month and like I was just run over by a Mack truck.

I began going to church sporadically because it was quite embarrassing to constantly fall asleep during the sermon. I could no longer sit through a movie or TV show without falling asleep. I was first diagnosed with lead poisoning, then vitamin B12 deficiency, then hypothyroid, and went through the treatments for all of them with negative results. Several doctors suggested that I see a psychiatrist because there was nothing wrong with me physically. In 1998 I gave in and went to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with depression even though I wasn't suicidal and I never felt sad or down. She said that it was biological depression, and it just makes you tired. So for several years I went through the drug treatments with negative results. During this time my wife with the support of her Calvinist family and our church divorced me. Since I was "mentally ill" I wasn't right with God, therefore they were in their full rights to shun me. She kept hitting me with complaints until finally she got a judge to rule in her favor. I haven't seen my children in three years because of it. It costs a minimum of $1500 for each court date with an attorney, and she has the full backing of her millionaire parents, while I only have Social Security Insurance. They knew this, and counted on it, so it was only a matter of how many complaints until I could no longer afford to fight. (Before the complaint she was already taking my children for "Christian" therapy to help them understand why they would never be able to see their father again. It would only take about $5000 for me to start seeing them again within a week. How would they handle that since they already went through therapy as to why they can never see me again?)

I couldn't give up on my health, and have gone to many more doctors since then (constantly hearing the psychiatric phrases). As it turns out through testing I have restless leg syndrome, and all those years I was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome which has now brought on full blown fibromyalgia. Both of my hands are going numb, and an EMG has shown nerve damage in my neck, although nothing shows up on MRIs and CT scans. After all these years I am finally being treated properly and I am starting to get relief from many of the symptoms, although now I am completely disabled, and I have been since 1996.

I realize that this is a long story for Usenet but I wanted to give enough details so you could understand where I am coming from. If I explained everything in detail it would end up being a large book. I also wanted to give enough information so the Christians and YECs reading this would understand that I was really one of them.

Imagine the faith I had to have in order to experience all of this and still continue to believe and pray through all that pain, suffering, and adversity for all those years. Job has nothing on me. (It wasn't until I stopped depending on prayer and trusting "God" with my health that I was able to take control of my own healthcare and seek out the right doctors. The Holy Spirit must own stock in HMOs.)

When I became completely disabled I had just finished helping my wife run a large Sunday School program for 5 years, sometimes putting over 30 hours a week into it, besides working full time and helping my children with homework several hours a night, and all of life's other demands on our time. It was quite a sacrifice that I was willing to make for my God.

Becoming completely disabled was a hard thing to accept, so I started to study my religion. I started by reading the NIV Bible cover to cover. Although shocked by what I read I started to read the King James Version. During this time I found myself squirming in the pew during the sermons, because most of them clearly went against the implied meanings I got when I read the Bible. Talking with many of the people in the church I came to realize that each and every one of them believe something different! No two people believed the same thing. By the time I was done reading the KJV Bible I had also read several concordances and several books on Reformed Theology. My faith was in crisis to say the least. No one could answer any of my questions, and the Bible concordances skipped over the hard parts. Bible studies at church were all fluff and made matters worse. The minister avoided me like the plague, and for the next two years I didn't go to church, and he never visited me once.

(On a side note, just before my divorce my 73 year old mother fell and broke her hip. Once I separated from my wife the church abandoned my mother, the minister never visited her, and the elders called her and said "oh I guess that you are too sick for company". Her brother had to have his minister come and pray with her. So her last couple of weeks on this earth was spent in the hospital with a strange minister. She attended our church for almost 50 years and volunteered a lot of her time to the church. She slipped into a coma, and while we went home for the night the minister (from our church) had the nerve to leave his card on her night table as though he visited her. She died the next day.)

I was ready to dismiss the church and its teachings as a false church, after all, the people in that church had treated me as an outcast since 3rd grade. I started to read the faith statements of other denominations, and I ran across a couple of YEC churches. The YECs really caught my attention, and I started to read everything I could about it. The local Christian book store had a whole section devoted to it! It was wonderful because it diverted my attention from the real questions that I needed answered and gave me a new outlook to my faith and reinforced my feelings that my church was a false church and that I just needed to find a new one. It also took the hard questions I had about the Bible and turned them into hard questions that I wanted the "scientific community" to answer. Talk about a case of cognitive dissonance.

I became fully versed in YEC teachings, and found myself laughing and cursing at the Discovery channel. What idiots! Billions of years, monkeys to man, what a joke. Satan was in full control of our country and most of our churches.

I then found the Talk Origins newsgroup. I read every single post, and I couldn't believe how evil the people were. There was a new guy, Ed Conrad, and he had PROOF that evolution was wrong. And another guy that lived near Ed Conrad, Karl Crawford; he more than proved that a woodpecker's tongue and brain casing couldn't have evolved. And he had theories about Noah's Ark, and how it was 100% possible. And there were several more people that more than proved YEC to be true, they echoed the very things I had read. I began to feel a superior arrogance towards the people that went against them.

I then started to notice posts by Andrew MacRae. Even though he felt that Ed Conrad was wrong, he went out of his way to help him. I watched those threads for months and I don't remember what it was that Andrew said but I realized that I really knew nothing about science other than what I read in the YEC books that I bought, and the websites I found (I gave a couple of YEC presentations too!!). So I started to read again. First I read almost the entire Talk Origins FAQ. I took the advice of several people in T.O. and I opened real books in the library. Ed Conrad found coal fossils and there were threads about the Grand Canyon so I started to read everything I could about geology. There were construction crews blasting away parts of the mountain here to finish route 287, so I went there after they left for the day and examined the rocks and studied the layers in the sides of the mountain that they cut away. I came across a small pond that was drained and I was able to see and count the varves. All the things that I was reading about came to life in my hands. I talked to a couple of well known scientists in my area that took the time to show me fossils and explain many things to me. After several months of reading everything I could get my hands on I broadened my reading to include different aspects of science including human biology. It didn't take long at all to realize that the YECs were wrong, and I was wrong. What's even worse is that the idea of a young earth was proven wrong many years before I was born.

I once again found myself in a crisis over my faith. I hid behind the YEC teachings to cover my newfound doubt about my beliefs. So back to the Bible I went. Taking a lesson from the mistakes I made I broadened my reading to include history, philosophy, dead languages, and anything else I could read about that time period. I made charts, graphs, and time lines. I filled several notebooks, writing down notes from books I had borrowed. I read 4 different versions of the Bible cover to cover. I would read a passage, check the time frame, and learn everything I could about that time; the neighboring religions, the history, the customs. I would compare the different versions and cross reference the verses and check key words with Strong's dictionaries.

It took about two more years until I felt that I had a pretty good grasp on the Bible, its history, and the philosophical meanings in it. I didn't rely on my interpretation of it; I read everything I could from as many different viewpoints as I could find. A few months later I finally admitted to myself that I was an agnostic. I felt a strange inner peace. This is the path I have now chosen, and you don't have to come to the same conclusions I did. I don't feel that being an agnostic is a superior position to take; I view it more as a default position. If the evidence leads me to believe that my religion is wrong it would be hypocritical of me if I just jumped into a different one.

I am nowhere near the end of my journey, I continue to read and study. The past two years I helped a friend get As in his science and chemistry courses at the local college. I still study the Bible and the intricate details of history surrounding it. I learned the art of learning, and every year I realize just how ignorant I really am. I still laugh at the Discovery and Science channels, but I laugh now because sometimes they are just plain wrong from a scientific viewpoint. I laugh more at myself because I realize that the narrator is quite ignorant of the facts like I was, and still am. If I can learn while suffering from this terrible illness and the amount of morphine I have to take just to make it through the day then anyone can learn. There is no excuse for not learning.

The past few weeks I started to read the posts in T.O. again. It has been several years but I remember a few names, and I see the arrogance in the YEC posts. It makes me sick to think that I felt like that, even if it was only for about a year or so. But it also makes me wonder if these people are going through the same thing that I did, and are hiding their true thoughts and feelings in a last ditch effort to hang on to their religion.

I didn't become an agnostic because I was taught about evolution; in fact it is quite the opposite. I became a YEC because my faith was in crisis and I didn't have a good scientific background from the years I missed in school. It wasn't until I realized that I had made a complete fool of myself that I returned to face my original problem. There is no conflict between religion and science, and the church in theory accepts evolution as fact. The problem is that the church knows that each and every person believes something different, and they don't want to cause any conflict which would in turn affect the collection plate so science is basically ignored. But they are creating a huge problem for the future because it takes a lot more effort to correct a wrong teaching than it does to teach the facts to begin with.

Young Earth Creationism is an uneducated belief held by less than 0.1% of the world's population. That's ONE TENTH OF ONE PERCENT. [Editor's Note: This is probably not accurate.]

Think about what you are saying when you try to take the Bible literally. You are claiming that books written in several ancient languages can be translated into a modern language and retain all of its poetry, localized time dependent sayings, slang, and individual writing styles. Think about how absurd that statement is. The absolute best description of the Bible from a Christian viewpoint I have ever come across is here:

You must also realize that for every creationist bumper sticker saying you learn and accept as fact, it will take you at least a month of learning to overcome. I'm not talking about becoming a scholar on the subject, but just to learn enough of the basics about those different fields that you will understand why it is wrong. I have been studying many different subjects for 7 years now and I am just reaching a point that I can admit that I wish I knew more about them. Maybe I am becoming an amateur polymath? Actually I am just an average person trying to learn enough so that I will be able to answer my own questions.

Hopefully this short version of my struggle and experiences within the church will help or provide some insight to other YECs. If you hinge your faith on this position you are going to go through some very difficult times. If you are honest with yourself you will realize at some point that the earth is very old, and evolution is a fact, and the current theories that explain the process are true as far as we can humanly understand them. You should strive to learn and understand this. Once you do you will be able to work on other more important aspects of your faith and maybe help to turn your church into something more than a money collection center and a house of confusion as I am sure it is right now.

Science is a human tool used to understand the natural world, and it can't function if it is forced to include the supernatural. By using the phrase "Creation Scientist" you are implying that a sledge hammer can be used for brain surgery. It's the wrong tool for the wrong job. (Although I bet many people will want to perform brain surgery on me with a sledge hammer after reading this.)

I would like to thank Andrew MacRae for holding to his morals while posting in T.O. It would be so easy to be harsh and dismissive to those that appear to be so narrow minded and ignorant, but he didn't. He took the time to explain things in detail and to point people in the right direction. Because of this man that has to be 20 years my younger I have embarked on a life long journey of learning. You never know how your posts will affect the lurkers.

Thank you.


[Return to the 2003 Posts of the Month]

Why Behe's Black Box Is Empty

Post of the Month Runner-Up: October 2003


Subject:    Re: Evolution Question
Date:       5 October 2003

"banky bruce" wrote in message news:<>...
> "Baxter" wrote in message
> > I have a friend who claims that '85%' of Darwin's theories have been proven
> > wrong. Can someone advise?
> >
> > -Baxter
> >
> Darwin's Black Box, Defeating Darwinism, and the Science of God are three
> books that get mentioned quite a bit. but do they actually disprove
> Darwinism?

I can't speak for the other two, but having read Darwin's Black Box, I can answer unequivocally "nope, not at all".

First of all, "Darwinism" is a creationist bogeyman; there is no such thing as "Darwinism," except in the minds of professional creationists. The science of evolutionary biology is based on Darwin's insight that natural selection is one of the major motive forces for change in the gene pools and morphology of organisms over the course of generations, but there is no "-ism" in the "advocacy for" sense of the suffix. Rather, there is a long history of increasingly accurate observation and increasingly detailed controlled laboratory experiment that supports the conclusion that natural selection really does what Darwin claimed it does. Creationists seem fond of using the term "Darwinism" because it sounds like a belief, rather than an observation. No scientist "believes in" Darwin as such, because Darwin did not propose a prescriptive set of behaviours, only descriptive observations.

Second, Darwin's Black Box by Michael Behe fails to "disprove" evolution on numerous grounds.

1) Behe himself acknowledges that natural selection and common descent are both accurate descriptions. Whenever anyone cites this book in support of creationism, ask them what Behe says about the age of the universe and the hypothesis that all life descends from one common ancestor. (The answer is in the last paragraph on page 5.) In my experience, the majority of creationists who cite Behe as support have not actually read his book. Rather, they have heard other creationists tout it and parroted the claim.

2) Behe's hypothesis has several major faults. First, like Dawkins, he claims that the molecular level has explanatory superiority to the organism level. There is no question that the operation and interaction of cells and even of single genes is significant in evolution, but not to the exclusion of the significance of organs, organisms, populations, species, or other even more inclusive sets of objects. Behe's reductionist approach misses the importance of these more inclusive levels, and thus can not account for as much as mainstream evolutionary biology.

3) Behe falsely equates [evolution as a whole] with [evolution by natural selection]. Darwin correctly surmised that natural selection was a major factor in evolution, and he personally felt that it was the most important mechanism, but he did not believe it was the only mechanism. In the intervening 142 years, we have discovered that mutation, migration, and drift are also fundamental forces, and the relative significance of mutation to migration (in increasing the variation present in a given gene pool) and of selection to drift (in decreasing that range of variation) are topics of considerable interest to biologists. Behe, while emphasising his efforts to " the scientific literature on evolution...", somehow missed this aspect. Given the significance of these additional mechanisms, one must wonder how thorough his search actually was.

4) Behe over-extends the metaphor of molecular "machines". There are ways in which our cells are analogous to human-made machines, and the metaphor is useful in explaining some aspects of cell functioning at an introductory level. However, the metaphor rapidly breaks down on closer examination. First off, our machines do not make copies of themselves, while most of our cells do. Second, our cells operate mainly through a series of chemical reactions, rather than mechanical interactions, so our intuitive ideas about what "machines" are is quite different from the way that cells actually function, and the metaphor is misleading.

5) Behe's main point is that he claims to have found certain molecular systems that could not have evolved by natural selection; ignoring the fact (as mentioned above) that evolution operates by other mechanisms as well. It is this main point that is fatally flawed, because Behe falsely characterises the process of natural selection as both goal-oriented and (more importantly) a drive toward increasing complexity. In other words, Behe asumes that complex systems can arise from simple systems, but that simple systems can not arise from more complex ones. This assumption is trivially false, even in our own "macroscopic" experience. We can remove parts from a complex system and it will continue to function. My car would work just fine if I took out the radio, removed the rear spoiler, pulled off the hubcaps, removed the quarter panels, took off the doors, pulled out the seats, cut off the roof, etc. etc. etc. The same is true of organisms. Obligate internal parasites can lose their motive power (e.g. limbs, "swimming" tails, etc.) without suffering, and in fact many have. Cave fish can lose the ability to see without any decrease in fitness, and so forth. The same is true at the molecular level.

6) The loss of parts and increasing simplicity examples above are significant, because Behe's critique relies on his observation that some molecular systems are "irreducibly complex". In other words, some systems are so simple that removing any piece from them will cause them to cease functioning. If evolution only worked by a process of adding pieces to functioning systems, Behe would have a point, but evolution can also operate by removing redundant pieces from a more complex system. Thus his idea of irreducible complexity is simply irrelevant as a critique of evolution, because it is only in conflict with something that evolutionary theory doesn't actually state. Behe has constructed a straw man caricature of evolution and has successfully argued against that, but this has no bearing on actual evolution.

7) Behe emphasises his " of the scientific literature on evolution..." but he also seems to have failed to come across the articles that explain the evolutionary pathways to most of the systems that he cites as examples of irreducible complexity. I just did a search of PubMed for "flagella", sorted by date, and found over 50 articles on the chemistry, evolution, and genetic pathway to the bacterial flagellum (which is one of Behe's most famous examples) that were already in print or in press and publically available at the time Behe published DBB. In other words, one of the "irreducibly complex" systems that he claimed could not be explained by evolution already had been by the time he made the claim. I didn't bother checking for blood clotting or any of his other examples, but you can search PubMed on your own at if you wish.

8) Behe's most influential claim is that no pathways exist to these irreducibly complex systems, but this claim is misleading. What Behe is really saying is that he, personally, is unaware of any such pathways (as mentioned, other researchers had already found some of them). Behe neglects to inform his readers that nature is not bound by the limits of Behe's imagination. I can't imagine how anyone with such a shoddy grasp of elementary logic that they base an entire book on an argument from incredulity, and yet is still able to get tenure at a university, but nevertheless, there Behe is. That just goes to show that the limits of our ability to imagine something are not limits on reality.

In short, Behe's "black box" is empty. I suspect the same is true of the other creationist tracts that you mentioned, but I'm not willing to shell out my own money to check. I have no desire to tithe to my wife's church, and I'm sure as heck not going to send money to Rev. Moon or any of the other aspiring theocrats behind the creationist jihad. If you have read these books, or know someone who has, and want to present their major arguments and supporting evidence, I'll be happy to listen, but I'm not interested in paying for that dubious "privilege", thanks.

[Return to the 2003 Posts of the Month]

The Good Old Days

Post of the Month Honorable Mention: October 2003


Subject:    Re: Evoltion destroys morals!!
Date:       10 October 2003

Steffen Whorli wrote in message news:<lVlhb.32960$>...
> Mark VandeWettering wrote:
> > In article <r92hb.36833$>, Steffen Whorli wrote:
> >
> >>For years, many people have scoffed at any suggestion that the evils in
> >>society could be linked with the teaching of the theory of evolution.
> >
> > Yeah, because society had no ills prior to Darwin.
> >
> > Get real.
> >
> Well, duh! Ever since the Fall mankind have been sinners. It's obvious
> to anybody though that since Darwin wrote his lies the rate of social
> and moral decay has shot up expotentially.
> >
> >>But new research has confirmed what Bible-believers have known all along
> >>? that the rising acceptance of Darwin's theory is related to declining
> >>morality in the community.
> >
> > I doubt that you can even illustrate a decline in morality.
> >
> Crime rates unheard of before? Skyrocketing rates of teen suicide &
> pregnancy, homosexuality, paganism, and abortion? What world do you live in?

Actually - before the 20th Century Europe and United States had higher rates for all of the above except paganism. If you really want to see what life was like in the "good old days" see the movies "Gangs of New York", or read the books "Moll Flanders", "Tom Jones", "Les Miserables" or just about anything by Dickens.

Or simply imagine yourself in a world where most people are poor, desperate and uneducated, where epidemic disease and famine are regular occurrences. There is no or next to no police protection, and as a consequence every man is armed and carries a chip on his shoulder called "honor". Criminal organizations will provide protection - at a price. States and cities are run by men who rely more on terror than votes.

Imagine alchohol and narcotics are freely available to anyone of any age, where dosing your child with laudanum is laudable. Imagine that prostitution is the only way for many young single women to support themselves and their chidren. Imagine children who devote 16 hours a day, 6 days a week to earning a few pennies at jobs we would not now give to any man.

Imagine abortion being completely legal with little, if any, gov't regulation, and what laws there are being largely unenforced due to lack of an aforementioned police force. Imagine unwanted children regularly abandoned - some mercifully to poor houses and orphanages, others left exposed to die - and few caring. Infant abandonment is rare enough these days to make the front page - back then an everyday occurence.

Imagine even if the child was wanted, infant mortality was such that it was a less than even bet that it would reach its 5th birthday. Even if the child was wanted, there would be a good chance that it would not have a mother as she may have died in childbirth or from subsequent complications. Imagine, due to lack of birth control that a woman would go through this on an almost yearly basis, and due to her "place in society" would have no say on getting pregnant in the first place.

Imagine dying from septicemia because of the infection of a tiny wound, being crippled by strep throat or polio. Imagine living in a world where smallpox, malaria and yellow fever are not eradicated or the ills of third world countries, but a yearly visitation. Imagine there are no treatments outside of superstition and barbaric procedures such as bleeding.

Imagine disease or accident maiming you, or having the (common) ill luck to be born defective. Imagine the only way to survive is to beg or sell oneself off as a freak; being spit upon or kicked is as likely as being pitied.

Imagine freezing in the winter because there is no really good way of heating a home even if you can afford and obtain the fuel or even have a roof over your head to heat. For such little heat, the air is choked with the fumes of coal and wood.

Imagine dreading the summer even more because of the stench of garbage, human waste and animal (even human) corpses decomposing in the street.

Imagine that most of the food that you will eat is half rotten, the water you drink totally polluted and a vector of typhoid, cholera and dysentery. Imagine lice in your clothing and bed-bugs in your bed - if you are lucky enough to have a bed.

Imagine that if you were born poor, poor is all you would probably ever manage to be due to class barriers. Imagine a world of 9 year old admirals and infant cardinals (of the church), simply because of whom their parents were.

Imagine the elite are so distanced from the starving masses that "let them eat cake" is indicative of the world view of their entire class. Where the poor rise through bloody bread riots to bloodier revolution; revolutions that are even more sanguine in their repression.

Imagine a world where prejudice was a good thing that you taught to your children. And that it just wasn't just black, white, asian, but rather anyone who looked talked or acted, even looked different from you. Where pagans were burned, homosexuals boiled in oil, theft punished by mutilation and aboriginal people simply exterminated; Imagine "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" as official US gov't policy.

Imagine this former world. Imagine the fear, despondency, hatred.

Those were the good old days. I'll take this age with all its warts anytime.

[Return to the 2003 Posts of the Month]

Non-Overlapping Magisteria

Post of the Month Honorable Mention: October 2003


Subject:    Re: Scientists and religious belief
Date:       18 October 2003

Steve Norley wrote in message news:<>...

> God does not contradict science, but a belief is God is not consistent
> with the scientific viewpoint (i.e. it is not a falsifiable
> hypothesis, there is no evidence etc.).

The same is true of the belief that blondes are cuter than brunettes, or that Shakespeare is a better writer than Chaucer, or that vanilla ice cream tastes better than chocolate. These beliefs are also not consistent with the scientific viewpoint, since there is is no falsifiable hypothesis (how would you demonstrate that vanilla ice cream objectively tastes better than chocolate), no evidence, etc. Indeed, most of the things that human beings think are simply not consistent with science or the scientific method -- they are subjective opinions that simply can not be tested or scientifically justified in any way. And I see nothing wrong with that.

Science has a constrained area within which it can operate. It also has a huge area in which it can NOT operate. Science is not a philosophy, not a worldview, not a system of morals, and not a plan for life. Science can tell us about the biological process of conception, but can't tell us anything about the moral or ethical question of abortion. Science can tell us how to terraform Mars, but can't answer the moral or ethical question of whether it should be done. Science can tell us how global warming is occurring, but can't give us any answers to the political/economic questions of what to do about it.

Religion/ethics, on the other hand, also has a constrained area within which it can operate. Religion/ethics can tell us whether I should or shouldn't drive my car on the wrong side of the road, but can't tell us how to fix the transmission on a '95 Chevy. Religion/ethics can tell us whether or not we should push the whooping crane into extinction, but can't tell us how long ago the American lion became extinct. Religion/ethics can tell us whether or not to produce genetically altered food plants, but can't tell us which nucleotide substitution produced this new genetic allele. Much of what humans want to know is not a matter of religion/ethics -- they are straightforward objective observations, which are best found using the scientific method. And again, I see nothing wrong with that.

Science and religion/ethics simply have nothing to do with each other. They are two completely different ways of looking at two completely different types of questions. Science simply can't deal with any questions of subjective judgement or ethical decision -- which means that science simply can't deal with a huge area of human activity. Religion/ethics, on the other hand, simply can't deal with any questions of objective measurement or observation -- which places large areas of human activity out of its sphere of competence.

Problems arise when, for whatever reason, one of these spheres of competence attempts to force itself into the other. Creationists attempt to force their religious/ethical view onto science, where it simply doesn't belong. Others attempt to force a scientific view into religion/ethics, where it simply doesn't work. Both are equally invalid.

At this point, perhaps I should point out that I do not think a belief in a supernatural god is necessary for a religious/ethical viewpoint -- I have long been a practictioner of Taoism, which does not posit the existence of any supernatural god or gods. I am simply attempting to point out that your chief criticism of belief in god -- that it cannot be tested using the scientific method--is equally true for ANY ethical or morality-based statement. "Murder is wrong" also cannot be tested or justified using the scientific method. Neither can "I deserve a raise at work". Neither can "that politician is an idiot". Neither can "blondes are cuter than brunettes". Indeed, NEARLY ALL of human beliefs and activity are inconsistent with the scientific method, not just a belief in God.

So to your question "why do people believe in god rather than atheism", you might as well be asking "why do people like chocolate ice cream better than vanilla". It all comes down to individual subjective judgement, and science simply has nothing to say about it. Some people choose to believe in a god, some don't. Some people choose to eat vanilla ice cream, some don't. Attempting to determine "why" just leads to a morass of subjective opinions, individual judgements, and lots of cultural and social factors whose effects may even be unconscious and unnoticed. The question itself simply cannot be answered using the scientific method.

And again, I see nothing wrong with that.

Lenny Flank
"There are no loose threads in the web of life"

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