Same Score: Science 1 – God 0

Time and time again, God is given ample opportunity to show just how great, how powerful, how loving, and how knowledgeable he is. And he fails, time and time again. When something is resolved, something is discovered, something that appears miraculous occurs, theists always give to god credit he doesn’t seem to merit. If you look closely, most times you’ll find that it was an extraordinary human being who deserved the credit.

What I’m going to write about doesn’t rise to the level of miracles, but it is quite an accomplishment nonetheless. You’ll surely remember, right after 9/11, the great anthrax scare of 2001, when envelopes containing purely refined anthrax were mailed to Tom Brokaw, Senator Patrick Leahy and a few other prominent individuals, resulting eventually in 5 deaths, primarily among postal workers who were contaminated by the envelopes as they passed through the postal system. The result was a complete change in the way mail is handled, costing the country hundreds of millions of dollars.

This past week the FBI was about to announce that they’d solved this seven year old case, and were going to charge a research scientist working for the government for manufacturing and disseminating the anthrax. However, the process was halted when Bruce Ivins, the scientist who worked at an army lab, committed suicide. Apparently, it was other scientists who made a breakthrough that helped the FBI trace the strain of anthrax to Ivins’ lab.

The FBI recruited top genome researchers from across the country and encouraged them to do groundbreaking work to identify and isolate the type of anthrax in the attacks. At least $10 million was spent on the research in what the scientist called the FBI’s most expensive and scientifically compelling case to date.

Existing technology didn’t have the capability for tracing strains of anthrax to a point of origin, so genome scientists buckled down and created it specifically to assist the authorities in determining who was responsible. As usual, it was the hard work of investigators with the assistance of this breakthrough scientific technology that solved the puzzle (assuming it’s actually solved – the FBI does have a history of blundering and misidentifying suspects, even in this case, which seems to be based on circumstantial evidence anyway, though none of that detracts from the science). God had nothing to do with it.

Let’s step back a few steps. I’ll stay away from the obvious problem of a god who creates a substance deadly to his chosen creation, the species he created the entire universe for. I also won’t mention the clear problem of a god who allows an evil person with malicious intentions to use this substance to harm and kill other humans, despite that god being omnipotent and omniscient. What I’ll focus on is the fact that it was science, the scientific process created and harnessed by the human mind, and as used by human beings for the betterment of fellow human beings, that seems to deserve all the credit for solving this case, but you don’t hear too many people saying so.

We live our day to day lives relying on science, from preserving our food through refrigeration, to traveling to work in our automobiles and airplanes, to communicating with the world through the Internet, to extending our life spans through modern medicine and nutrition. Day in and day out it’s science that we implicitly thank for our standard of living. Not god. This case is just another example in a long, unbroken string of examples of humans solving human problems without the aid of the supernatural. Why?  Because there is no such thing as the supernatural.

There used to be a series of TV ads when I was growing up espousing education for African Americans. The slogan I remember was “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” This is an excellent slogan for atheists too. While we have many great minds at work solving the problems of life, all within a scientific context, rarely do the people of this country stop praising their gods, and praise the men and women who really deserve credit – our scientists. Science is considered “nerdy”, and scientists are looked down upon as “geeks”. Anti-intellectualism runs rampant, to the point than many adolescents purposely avoid learning, despite having the ability to be successful in school. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

And yet we have churches filled to the brim with people who actively believe that the world was created in 6 days, 6000 years ago. They believe that this same god has nothing better to do than manipulate the outcomes of football games, cause his face and name to appear in extremely odd places, and is preoccupied, not with the mere fact that we humans reproduce, but how and where. These are the same people who believe that heaven, and even hell, actually exists, that ghosts are real, that Jesus was born to a virgin, etc., all ideas that have no place in reality.

The science of god has been an utter and complete failure. He has historically done nothing to advance human well-being, or to alleviate human suffering. Mankind, through its intellectual elite, is responsible for what we call Civilization. If anything, the concept of god, and religion in general, has impeded all advances to human betterment, choosing to keep people in a state of need, so that they are forced to look for the easy fixes that religion promises them, or else resign themselves to a sense of complacency, hoping that they will be better off in the next life –  another empty and unproven promise of religion.

From the alternative point of view, if the FBI had relied on faith to solve this crime, we’d still be cleaning anthrax out of our postal system.

[And in other news, this is my 200th post. How many blog posts has god written?] 8)

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53 thoughts on “Same Score: Science 1 – God 0

  1. Good comment. Maybe he is still working on his handwriting. After all, can he even ride a bicycle? Play golf? It all takes time. Both are noble and harmless pursuits. Well,somewhat less harmful than calling for genocide, rape, plagues and pillage. And other nasty displays of a flawed personality. Any of us can stoop to such levels without need of the example set by a loving god.

  2. Congratulations on your 200th post. I can honestly say that I’ve read every single one.

    You neglected to mention in this one that Bruce Ivins was active in his Roman Catholic church, and that, after he killed himself, his son wrote a message on his Facebook page:

    I will miss you Dad. I love you and I can’t wait to see you in Heaven.

    Sorry, but I can’t think of something sufficiently sarcastic to say.

  3. rarely do the people of this country stop praising their gods, and praise the men and women who really deserve credit – our scientists.

    Here, here. The scientists are the unsung heroes of our world saving countless lives directly through medicine and indirectly through research. Perhaps it is time the atheist community should actively praise the true miracle workers of our existence and give credit where credit is due. How often do we hear a Christian ignore the fact that medical science saved their friend, and they always give credit to “god watching over them”. Screw that.

  4. Great post! I’d add that plenty of these religious folk use all sorts of technology and accept modern medicine when in an emergency despite the fact that science, including – omigod – evolutionary theory, were instrumental in the development of those technologies and medical interventions!

  5. Congo Rats on the 200th!! Excellent post, I am not surprised that Ivins was active in his church. Call me crazy, but I always supect the competence and integrity of any self-proclaimed scientist or philosopher that is also a self-proclaimed believer.

    I guess it may just be my bias, but doesn’t anyone else think that free thought and true scientific/philosophical questioning is incompatible with religion?

    -Q

    P.S. I need some visitors to my blog! waaahhhh!

  6. Congrats on 200 posts.

    I would go you one further and argue that the current, mainstream version of the Judeo-Christian god(s), as preached in many, many churches, actively and agressively works against technological and scientific advancement.

    If heaven is achieved through faith alone, if good works have nothing to do with it (thank you Luther, et al.), then why work for a higher standard of living? If death is the goal of Christianity (since through death you achieve your goal of life (?)), why work to cure parasitic, bacteriological, or viral diseases? Or cancer?

    During some parts of the late middle ages and early modern period, bathing was frowned upon. A clean body meant you might be a Jew or a Muslim. And inquisitors tortured you until you confessed.

    The ideas of advancement (technological and/or scientific) are anathema to some teachings of the various Christian religions.

    Note: This does not mean that there are great minds who are Christian, or that there have been great minds who are Christian: Copernicus, Newton, Darwin come to mind of the top of my pointy little head. However, real advancement is resisted by the dominant paradigm which, for the last 1500 years of Western civilization, has been the different forms of Christianity.

    Sorry for the long post. Occupational hazard, y’know.

  7. Congratulations on your 200th post!

    When you mentioned the tremendous waste it is for people to let their brains go to waste I expected Ex and Philly to show up pointing to your angry atheism again. :)

    Great post and I agree completely. There’s nothing worse than wasting your nature-given capabilities.

  8. Congratulations on your 200th post, SI.

    I remember Carl Sagan writing something in the Demon Haunted World about how we need to portray scientists differently in our culture if we want things to change. He lamented that scientists are alternately depicted as “nerds” or the prototypical “evil scientist” people should fear– linking science with amorality.

    I like the fact that shows like House and CSI seem to buck that trend in a lot of ways by showing good guys essentially using the scientific method to solve problems. House has the added bonus that he’s an unabashed atheist, but he’s also portrayed as a self centered maniac with little concern for others.

    In any event, congratulations again…

  9. We are such a weird species. Why do we feel to congratulate you on an artificial accomplishment based on a number that our minds use as some sort of arbitrary marker? Why would it be of any greater significance than your next, 201st, post? So what I’m saying is – fuck your 200th post, SI. 1000 is an artificially imposed marker that means a lot to me. I’m going to go NUTS when you hit that one!

    Anyway, I think religion makes a point of giving praise to god, as yet another way of keeping their worshipers (suckers) from seeing the big picture. It’s a built-in mechanism. Even when leaders speak of scientific achievement, they do so by claiming god inspired the work. Pretty interesting position to take when science, as a profession, has about the highest percentage of godlessness of any demographic.

  10. Numbers with lots of zeros are magical. 100. 200. 500. 2,000. They are magical because they are divisible by ten, five, two, and lots of other numbers.

    Maybe that’s why most NASCAR races are things like the Daytona 500, the Coca Cola 600, the Aarons 400. Seriously, would anyone take a Daytona 505 seriously?

  11. And look at 501 jeans! Terrible. How are you supposed to binge drink with pants like that? Bad number.

    Q, I question whether you really peed. Were you wearing 501s and couldn’t get the buttons undone fast enough?

  12. Hi, I’m agnostic, so I think we’re on the same page regarding religion and some of its weaknesses. That said, I think you’re conclusions are funny.

    No one asked “god” to solve this case. That’s first.

    Second, “god” did not refine the anthrax or put it into envelopes or into the mail system…a scientist did. Let me repeat that. It was a scientist, not a priest (or a god), who mailed the anthrax to Brokaw et al.

    Third, you yourself concede that the evidence is circumstantial–not only does that go contrary to the ideals of legal practice in the US, it is completely at odds with scientific method.

    I like it when people who know what they’re talking about discuss atheism. When people like you do, it’s an embarrassment for the rest of us doubters.

  13. First of all, why do you have a picture of a naked woman up there? Women need to have a sense of modesty. I really wish you would not promote this type of behavior, a woman posing nude like that. When women do this, it sets us back 100 years.

    Secondly, you can’t blame God for all the bad things. Humans do bad things. We have to have good with the bad. God allows things to happen, because this is how we learn and grow. That is the purpose of life, to develop our faith in God so that we can return to Him someday.

    I personally do not agree with the Christians or churches who claim that the world was created in 6 days, 6,000 years ago, etc. There is much in the Bible that we should not take literally. Science can go hand-in-hand with religion.

    I never used to really have religious beliefs. I was raised Episcopalian but didn’t care about it. Shortly after I was married, in 1981, I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). I found that this church worked for me, that I believed in its doctrines. What’s also great about this church is that we have modern revelation, and additional scripture (The Book of Mormon) to go along with and compliment the teachings of the Bible.

    I know there is much bad in the world, but God DOES do much to alleviate human suffering. We need to pray and ask Him for help. He does answer prayers. That’s what prayer is for.

  14. I wonder time and time again what God has caused to these people to hate him so much. Thanks to him, you are alive. Thanks to him, your mother gave birth to you. Thanks to him, you are able to write this blog. If it weren’t for him, you could be in somalia or rwanda starving to death. If you don’t want to believe in him, don’t believe in him. You are not required to believe in him. Stay with your smart evolutionist, monkeys praiser.

  15. Cindybin: Can you give one example, just one, in which god(s) have alleviated suffering? Or a verifiable example in which a prayer has been answered? Please back up your example with evidence. Seriously. If you make an assertion such as the one in your last paragraph, I have to assume you have evidence which can be verified through modern scientific means.

  16. I will not, based on my religion, deny there is a God, but we have to face the facts here, people do not recognize the humans. This is partly their fault because of their lack of understanding of the Bible (if they worship Jesus/God). They should recognize people doing these things, because God states he does things through people. Through people. Hip-hip hooray for those people, I suppose. Those who believe in Christ should thank their God but also congratulate or recognize those who God did this through.

  17. Cindybin: I think having the opinion that women need to have a sense of modesty sets them back 100 years, but that’s nothing compared to believing in magic underwear and revelation from golden plates loaned to a convicted con man by an angel named Moroni who conveniently took those things back to Heaven never to be seen again.

    If it weren’t for him, you could be in somalia or rwanda starving to death.

    So you’re saying your god isn’t responsible for the people in Somalia or Rwanda, he is but he’s ignoring them, or that he’s actually responsible for their plight. Which is it?

  18. Ormond,

    Circumstantial evidence does not “go contrary to the ideals of legal practice in the US”. Evidence is evidence, as long as it is not hearsay and complies with the Federal Rules of Evudence, it comes in. I have friends who put meth heads in prison daily, based on circumstantial evidence like the equipment and chemicals needed to make meth sitting in their homes.

    Nor is it “completely at odds with scientific method” to use circumstantial evidence. Much of quantum physics is based on secondary, tertiary, or even farther removed effects to show particle interactions, since we cannot measure any of these particles directly. Black holes cannot be studied directly, as they emit…nothing. even basic chemistry relies on “circumstantial evidence” and not direct evidence, to show the presence of certain chemicals.

    I like it when people who know what they are talking about discuss Law or Science, when people like you do, its laughable.

    -Q

    P.S. and just so you know, I have a degree in statistics with a minor in philosophy, and am currently in my third year of law school, so I’m not blowing smoke out of my but.

  19. I think you meant your butt (double t, my friend).

    the fact remains — science caused this incident. Ivins was a scientist, not a priest. To take this event as a case in favor of atheism is quite ridiculous.

    It’s inconsistent to thank the “lab” for solving the mystery when said mystery was caused in the very same place using the very same equipment.

  20. Atheists and theists both like to practice the same thing – in the end it’s all just sophistry. And in the US it has very clear political implications. You’re not directly discussing religion and atheism. You’re not *really* interested in issues of theosophy, theology, theodicy etc.; religion is merely the medium through which you discuss the current political impasse in your country. No matter how many blogs arise on this subject, I predict that not a single author is contributing any new or interesting ideas about atheism.

  21. jorgiporgi-

    people who believe in evolution are not monkey praisers. Do you know why?

    Because nowhere in Origin of Species does it say we evolved from monkeys!

    Darwin hypothesizes that the great apes (not monkeys!!) and humans shared a common ancestor.

    If you are going to criticize the most widely accepted scientific theory on how humans came to be, at least try to know what your talking about.

    -Q

  22. You deflect attention from my point by calling me a troll (an accusation I can just as easily level at you Q). Before that, you attack my subsidiary points but avoid the main one.

    It’s all a smokescreen.

    My main point remains unchallenged…

  23. ormond…

    umm..no.

    your main point was refuted in my earlier response..see the whole “circumstantial evidence is like…totally useful in court and stuff” bit.

    the Troll comment was just a bit of irreverent fun, with a slight homage to World of Warcraft(tm).

    but that’s okay, I did not really expect you to understand.

    -Q

  24. the learned author had taken the critical view of the religion viz-viz existence of GOD purely upon the logical deductive theory of thinking or science.to refute the existence of GOD is somewhat so easy as to accept the existence of GOD. those who believe in the existence of GOD do sustain the theory of “design and designer”which simply means that once you see the design you immediately pick up the idea that it is made by some designer.the universe being so omplex has not taken place without some one who created it. the religions have preached it throughout the ages and with the help of miracles which the learned author challenged being the fiction created out of fiction. assuming the scientific age the alone correct age of the reason what about the age and period of our precedecessors including the respected predecessors of the learned author? could it be said that all those who lived in unscientic age were stupid and less relevant to know their considerations ; pertaining to any branch of their knowledge.it is some what exhuastive topic and existence of GOD can;t have the sole creteerion whether FBI could detect the crminal anectedote of antrhax or not; more ironically;,the existence/non existence of GOD could frustrate only one logic yes or “no” but; the science upon which the learned author seems to believe in prefferable to other things changes its logic from time to time; thus frustrating the chain of logics developed from time to time; I may add that i found the knowledge content of the learned author was highly impressive{ my disagreements mentioned} thanks

  25. There is a God. As much as there is not a God. As much as the Earth created itself, something helped it along. We all struggle with what is or what isn’t, causing strife, conflict and the like. Religion, or lack thereof ironically, has been the source of much of the World’s suffering…

    If we could all get past who has to be right, and just BE together, enjoy what we have instead of arguing about its origin, I think we’d have a much finer place to call home.

    Peace

  26. No, q. If you’re going to become a lawyer (esp. if you’re going to become a litigator) you need to do a better job of recognizing the thrust of an argument.

    My main point, the main reason why I responded to this stupid blog in the first place, is (this and I quote from above to show that it was there all along):

    ““god” did not refine the anthrax or put it into envelopes or into the mail system…a scientist did. Let me repeat that. It was a scientist, not a priest (or a god), who mailed the anthrax to Brokaw et al.”

    And later I reiterated:

    “It’s inconsistent to thank the “lab” for solving the mystery when said mystery was caused in the very same place using the very same equipment.”

    Basically my whole contention is that the inquisitor is wrong to use the Ivin’s story as an example of the superiority of science over “God”. This story is actually a better example of the dangers of science or the potential dangers of its application. I kindly ask the inquisitor to remove the tags “critical thinking” and “reason”. I see none of those things here. The fact that no one else sees this flaw in the inquisitor’s argument (or that you have remained silent on it) reveals to me that none of you has anything serious to say about God, or atheism or science. It’s all just part of your political agenda sublimated through sophistry.

    Once again, my main point remains unchallenged. The fact you couldn’t see it, q, is very revealing. (hopefully you see it now)

    btw Yunshui’s link was really quite funny.

  27. My, My. New meat! Welcome everyone. Too much to respond to so I’m going to ignore the ones who agree with me, other than to say, thanks. Let’s see, where to start…

    Ormond

    You need to re-read what I wrote, because you missed the main point, which is that science, despite being the right process for ferreting out truth, and despite the reliance humanity places on it every minute of every day, when it comes down to most things, Christians refuse to even acknowledge science and give it its proper due, instead thanking their god for everything. The anthrax matter was the vehicle I used to make that point. I know he was a scientist (and a rogue one apparently)and I know not many people asked for god’s help in solving the case, at least not out loud, but so what? As an agnostic (and in my opinion, if you are an agnostic, you’re an atheist)surely you’d agree that humans are not perfect, and that occasionally, a scientist might also be an evil person. However, despite this, it was the science that triumphed, with no god anywhere to be seen. Then there’s this…

    Third, you yourself concede that the evidence is circumstantial–not only does that go contrary to the ideals of legal practice in the US, it is completely at odds with scientific method.

    …which is utter bullshit. As others have noted, circumstantial evidence is often the bedrock of most matters brought before the judicial system, because inherently, most legal matters deal with something that happened in the past, and most time there are no eyewitnesses or documentary evidence. The legal Socratic method of getting to the truth mirrors the scientific method. And the scientific method uses circumstantial evidence all the time. Evolution relies on it heavily.

    So I’ll just agree with the following and throw it back at you.

    I like it when people who know what they’re talking about discuss atheism. When people like you do, it’s an embarrassment for the rest of us doubters.

    cindybin

    Thanks for commenting. Nice work on the weight loss program. Seriously, I may look into it that myself.

    First of all, why do you have a picture of a naked woman up there? Women need to have a sense of modesty. I really wish you would not promote this type of behavior, a woman posing nude like that. When women do this, it sets us back 100 years.

    And men don’t? The free expression of the human body actually has liberated women. As Philly noted, it’s your attitude towards modesty that sets women back. Taken to it’s logical conclusion, all women should wear burkas and submit to their husband’s every whim. Ever hear of female genital mutilation? Little girls in burkas are forced to undergo that procedure every day. I’d say that your modesty comes through as just a tad bit false.

    As for the rest, you’re free to have silly beliefs, and even express them here. I’m happy that you’re happy with them. But don’t expect me to share them with you without some evidence that they are true. Since there are things in the Bible that you don’t accept as true (e.g. 6000 year old earth) please explain to me the criteria you use to pick out those things that you believe ARE literally true. How do you pick and choose, and how do you know that what you pick is true, and what you discard is not? I’ve never been able to figure that out, myself.

    jorgipogi

    Are you related to Georgy Porgy?

    I wonder time and time again what God has caused to these people to hate him so much.

    I can’t possibly hate something that I don’t believe exists, now can I?

    If it weren’t for him, you could be in somalia or rwanda starving to death.

    C’mon, even you don’t believe that. Are you saying that your god did me a favor by allowing me to be born here and not there? So he must really hate all the Somalians and Rwandans who he allowed to be born there, eh? That makes sense. Not.

    Snowdrifter

    They should recognize people doing these things, because God states he does things through people. Through people. Hip-hip hooray for those people, I suppose. Those who believe in Christ should thank their God but also congratulate or recognize those who God did this through.

    Well, yes, this is sort of what I’m saying, except take out god from the equation. You still have exemplary humans doing exemplary things, with no evidence whatsoever of supernatural intervention. So why add god to the mix? He’s superfluous.

    back to Ormond

    I think you meant your butt (double t, my friend).

    Only a butthead would point that out.

    mohmood

    Thanks for the “learned author” moniker, but it’s unnecessary. I’m anything but learned. Maybe “learning” would be better.

    could it be said that all those who lived in unscientic age were stupid and less relevant to know their considerations

    Stupid? No. Ignorant? Yes.

    Barry Lauterwasser

    If we could all get past who has to be right, and just BE together, enjoy what we have instead of arguing about its origin, I think we’d have a much finer place to call home.

    Nice sentiment which I accept to a point. However, argument is actually a good thing, in the intellectual context. Argument doesn’t mean beating someone else, so that you win and he loses, it means seeking truth, so that everyone wins once truth is ascertained by consensus. There is no acrimony in intellectual disagreement, if properly done. That’s why I like science better than faith. People of faith just “know” they are right, and are willing to do anything to force you to agree, including lying. Scientists know they could be wrong and are willing to accept better evidence to prove they are wrong.

    One doesn’t get to truth by assuming it, but by searching for it.

  28. Let me sum up your argument as I see it.

    Let’s thank science for saving us from the very same science that harmed us. And let’s use this event as an example of god’s powerlessness even though there’s no reason to bring up god here in the first place.

    lol.

    That’s reasonable, critical thought.

    ’nuff said

  29. Explain to me again how it was science that harmed us? Science didn’t create anthrax, and science didn’t mail it to people. Allegedly this Ivins mailed it.

    I’ll grant you that there is no need to bring up a god since there’s no reason to believe a god made anthrax, made Ivins mail it to people, made people figure out how to trace it back to Ivins or made Ivins kill himself, just like there’s no reason to believe any gods or supernatural creatures even exist.

  30. Ormond stated:

    “No, q. If you’re going to become a lawyer (esp. if you’re going to become a litigator) you need to do a better job of recognizing the thrust of an argument.”

    Thanks for the lesson. The fact that people like you exist, and make stupid statements like this which only displays your complete ignorance of the subject matter, is proof enough to me that no magic god does exist.

    Litigation has very little to do with the “thrust of an argument”, that’s appellate level work. Litigation is roughly parallel to car sales. No litigator is going to try and outline a logical refutation to a complex fact pattern for 12 jurors who may or may not have graduated from grade school. Litigators engineer statements and images to endear their client to a jury and try to make the opposing client or counsel look “bad” to the jury. Emotion, bias, and prejudice are the tools of the litigator, and if used subtly, are exceptionally effective.

    Logic is for other lawyers and judges.

    I can tell you are not really agnostic from the trait you share with most “biblical scholars”, you love to speak as if you know, about thing which you do not know.

    -Q

  31. PhillyChief,

    What I mean by “science harmed us” is this – Ivins was a scientist and used his specialized knowledge to (allegedly) commit this act. He didn’t create anthrax, true. But he nurtured those specific spores. His knowledge and status as a scientist gained him access to the anthrax and gave him the tools to put it together so that it could go through the mail. Not everyone can do this, this is not common knowledge; it is science. A lab technician can engineer anthrax and a lab technician/researcher/mad scientist is a practitioner of science. To a greater or lesser extent Ivins is (or was) one of its representatives. That is how science harmed us in this instance.

    The “victory” of using science to solve this case is Pyhrric at best.

    It’s surprising to hear inquisitor speak so about science so idealistically. This is not the late 19th century. We know better. Hopefully we will resolve problems like global warming and the proliferation of nukes. If we do, science will undoubtedly “save” us. We should not lose sight of the fact, however, that it was science that created those problems in the first place.

    Q- once again, your post is not germane to the discussion. Ergo, no comment

  32. Interesting Ormond. So is science also responsible for the genocide of Incas, Aztecs, Mayans, and North American indigenous tribes due to astronomy, the astrolabe, gunpowder, metallurgy and shipbuilding?

  33. Lordymuhammadjesus, SI…

    What you got going here? Atheism 101? I guess “hits” are good, but…

    Better you than me, my brother!

  34. thanks for the comment. you have every right to identify your intellectuall acitivisim rationale and logic based; which; in my humble anylisis would mean that you or some one else flouting the ideas like you have to qualify your thessis/arguments “as temporarily valid” being the basic notion of science. as admitted by you that our predecessors were ignorant due to lesser quatum of knowledge’ you conversely’ agree that the degree of knowledge which may hereafter improve could prove you wrong; as science itself admiited the theorom after theorom rejecting the previous one and accepting the latest.however; once debate centres within the principles of metaphysics even involving science as basis of argument; then; certain defined positions are to be taken into considration which i hope are well within your knowledge.was it otherwise; for whole humanity to wait for development of science to prove/disprove the existence of GOD?thanks

  35. Inquisitor and Philly,

    Science did facilitate the colonization of the Americas. Absolutely. Likewise, science did bring an unfortunate efficiency to the Germans in the 1930s and 1940s, not just in the holocaust but also in military affairs — blitzkrieg vs. maginot line is a case in point.

    Did the Spaniards colonize Latin America in the name of science? Did Hitler act in the name of science? Of course not. Ivins didn’t act in the name of science. The FBI investigation that smoked him out was not done in the name of science either. Nevertheless, science is the tool that people use.

    If I understand Inquisitor correctly, he views science idealistically as something that is necessarily good. He almost seems to think that it is God (which questions his atheism — can you be atheist if you effectively replace one god with another?) I’m trying to suggest to you fellows that science is neither good nor bad. It’s use determines the ethical outcome. As such it cannot stand up as a true alternative to god. I agree that we must find an alternative to god and especially to religion; I disagree that science is that alternative. Of course, I’m not suggesting that we do away with science or we call it evil. Science is a very wonderful thing and we need it now more than ever.

    But science is only a means and, I feel, should never be an end in itself (except in very abstract and academic circumstances — never in universal or social ones).

    Anyways, guys, it’s been fun. I thought I might be able to suggest new ways of looking at the problem. I suppose I was wrong. We’re all set in our ways. I’m on your side with regards to the religion question. I just don’t like where you’re going with science.

    It’s important for you to know that not all doubters see this problem in the same way. It appears you’ve grown accustomed to arguing with religious people and never contemplated the possibility of differing views within your own camp.

  36. …science is neither good nor bad. It’s use determines the ethical outcome.

    Yet you can look at Ivins’ actions and say, “That is how science harmed us in this instance” and look at global warming and nuclear weapons and say, “it was science that created those problems in the first place.”

    Make up your mind, is science a tool or an entity to be praised or cursed? Also, if SI is making science out to be a god, then you have for the most part been making it out to be a devil, so what’s the difference?

    Anyone ever see Conan the Barbarian? Major theme is “the riddle of steel”. Conan’s father tells him nothing in life you can trust, not man, not woman, not beast, but steel you can trust. His enemy however explains to him the riddle of steel – “what is steel compared to the hand that wields it?” When all we had were sticks and stones, we both made homes and tools with them and slew each other with them. As technology advanced, human motivations stayed constant. So I ask you, what is science compared to the hand that wields it?

  37. “Make up your mind, is science a tool or an entity to be praised or cursed?”

    I think I’ve been very clear: science is a tool. When I say that science harmed us, I mean in its application. The application of science *can* be harmful. Wouldn’t you agree?

    “Do I praise or blame science?”

    Neither. I praise or blame the craftsman, not his tools.

    “What is science compared to the hand that wields it?”

    This is, I feel, a bit of a loaded question.

  38. “Science” is every good material thing we have, compared to 100 years ago, or 500 or 1000. The way we live, eat, work, sleep, travel, play… our very longevity (and quality of it) compared to any time in history, is all science – and how it was applied.

    Whether Ivens was a scientist, in no way refutes SI’s point.

    How silly that this comment thread went on for nearly 50 comments with many in opposition to such an obvious fact.

  39. Evo said:

    “Whether Ivens was a scientist, in no way refutes SI’s point.”

    However, the fact that he was a devout christian, active in his church….

    well, you see where I am going.

    -Q

    P.S. c’mon everyone, lets get 200 comments for SI’s 200th post, even if we’re making up the signifigance!!

    fuck anyone else’s *ahem evo’s ahem* trivialization of your 200th! yay for magic numbers!!

    One! One wicked bat..ah…ah..ah ah!

  40. Ormond

    Did the Spaniards colonize Latin America in the name of science? Did Hitler act in the name of science? Of course not. Ivins didn’t act in the name of science. The FBI investigation that smoked him out was not done in the name of science either. Nevertheless, science is the tool that people use.

    I don’t think we disagree here. Of course, this is so far from the point I was making in the OP, as to be almost entirely irrelevant. If you think that I don’t already fully understand that science can be used for both good and evil, then you misunderstand me. The fact that I used the Ivin/anthrax situation, which shows science being used both ways, should put that to rest.

    If I understand Inquisitor correctly, he views science idealistically as something that is necessarily good.

    No. Science is neither good nor evil. It just is. Actually, I find that it is theists (and maybe you) who seem to believe that science is evil. Science has no purpose, one way or the other.

    Fundies are very skeptical of science. They say it’s because it can be used for evil, but really it’s because it has this uncanny capacity for discovering things that embarrass religion, so they make up excuses to not give science its due when it discovers that the stars weren’t stuck in the sky by god as a source of nighttime light for humans, or the earth revolves around the sun, or plants and animals came after the sun, or that lightning is not just a manifestation of an angry god.

    That was the original point of my post. Not that science is always good, but that when it is used for good, or when it explains some aspect of reality previously attributed to god, theists dismiss it, rationalize around it, or ignore it. When a child’s life is saved by an experienced and competent team of doctors, using the latest scientific and medical technology, the religious parents run off and claim that it’s a miracle. WTF?

    I’m trying to suggest to you fellows that science is neither good nor bad.

    I think we got that part.

    It’s use determines the ethical outcome.

    That one too.

    As such it cannot stand up as a true alternative to god.

    Why makes you think atheism tries to posit an alternative to god? Why does it have to be either/or? If there is no god, there just isn’t a god. Period. I don’t know about you, but I feel no need to fill the so-called vacuum left by god, with something else to worship. If there’s no god, there’s no vacuum to fill.

    Anyways, guys, it’s been fun. I thought I might be able to suggest new ways of looking at the problem.

    Good try, nonetheless. Feel free to come back.

  41. @ Q.E. OK, I’ll back off with my kill-joy comments. :)
    Go for it! 200 is still within reach. SI, respond to one point per comment. You’ll get more bang for your buck. Whatever THAT means.

  42. I was cleaning the living room with the so-called vacuum left by god, and you know what? it sucks!

    ………..yah, watching “god’s warriors” tonight on CNN (first the islam one, waiting for the christian one at 10:00 local), gonna hafta comment on it at my blog tonight.

    Oh, speaking of the vacuum left behind, it’s elvis week!

    he’s dead…but man, could he put togethor a song!

    (Evo, no offence meant, just messing about.)

    -Q

  43. Scientists know they could be wrong and are willing to accept better evidence to prove they are wrong.

    SI, that made me think of a story from Dawkins’ book ‘The God Delusion’ on pate 283-4 of the hardcover edition:

    I have previously told the story of a respected elder statesman of the Zoology Department at Oxford when I was an undergraduate. For years he had passionately believed, and taught, that the Golgi Apparatus (a microscopic feature of the interior of cells) was not real: an artefact, an illusion. Every Monday afternoon it was the custom for the whole department to listen to a research talk by a visiting lecturer. One Monday, the visitor was an American cell biologist who presented completely convincing evidence that the Golgi Apparatus was real. At the end of the lecture, the old man strode to the front of the hall, shook the American by the hand and said – with passion – ‘My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years.’

  44. Tommy

    I think I heard him relate this story also on various videos on You Tube and others, and, while anecdotal, is a perfect example of the attitude that science brings to the world. It’s anti-dogmatic.

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