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Science: is it Really Against Your Religion?Bill Annett Salem-News.com
In matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning power is not above the monkey's. - Mark Twain
(DAYTONA BEACH, FL) - Science tends to rely on evidence and analysis and has little to do with myth - which is so dear to the heart of most of us. Religion, on the other hand, tends to preach, offer opinion and spin the wildest myths: half-godlike men, gods impregnating women, scourges, mayhem and genocide for the unworthy. A central myth, held by almost all religions, is that science is not worth a damn in defining religious belief; that science and religion are world's apart and never the twain shall meet. The popular illustration of this notion is the separation of church and state, which exists today as a myth itself.
Science in fact can isolate a Creator intelligence any day of the week, simply by describing its characteristics. If living organisms have body forms unrelated to each other, then it's self-evident that all life was specially created by an over-arching intelligence. Science can also determine the time span of the organism's creation. If carbon dating could establish that our planet was just a few thousand years old, and that a great flood had engulfed the planet, especially the Middle East, that would prove that the Book of Genesis is right on the money. I'm not saying it is, I'm saying it could be scientifically proven.
Nobody these days messes with scientific methodology (except maybe scientologists) to fault or prove religion, and that's too bad, because major questions remain to be researched and established. For centuries religions have insisted that a good-guy God exists, and that it's imperative for all of mankind to straighten up and fly right or risk moral collapse and godless societies. Yet a sane evaluation of such a truth has never been proven. A nationwide poll would surely reveal that in the U.S., for example, religion is such a universal human condition that it is not in decline, when in fact it is, sadly or otherwise, depending on your orientation.
"The public debate," says one writer (G. S. Paul) " is more misleading than informative."
So it's necessary to change the rules, so that anybody - especially anybody who wants to enter the debate - should try for a little more analytical approach. Some of the big lifters in questions of faith and society have noted the dearth of research, of fundamental information about the future of our (and other) societies. Paul Bloom of Yale par exemple. As a result, the body politic is left without the capacity to understand "the future course of national societies."
Example: what does the most recent popularity of genocide (say in the last 100 years) comment on the morality of any Creator? Was Hitler a faithful Catholic, or a cold-blooded fiend? Why is belief in the supernatural so prevalent, why are the French and Swedes so irreligious, and what does empirical data actually say about the hypothesis that religion is good for societies?"
These questions range from philosophical theology, to the practical apposition of religion and science, not to mention dabbling in psychology, economics and - god help us - politics. Journals that deal with these matters, unlike other media such as talking heads on socially aware media, are usually religious or neutral in content, and are accordingly seen as unbiased. Academic publications may not qualify.
Clearly, scientific statistical methods can be used in religious discussions, since the idea of a moral Creator subject to scientific investigation in a theological journal proves the ability of science to test the truth of religious claims. Although logical, any theological hypothesis may not be widely accepted unless it is an observed pattern. Comparing socioeconomic conditions and religion in today’s democratic societies tends to solve the central question concerning faith throughout history. At the same time, a theological belief overcomes many common legends by the implication of scientific probability.
It is difficult for core Christian doctrine to survive the hypothesis of a moral, powerful and competent deity. The enormous human suffering statistically measured by genocide among "immature humans caused by disease, reproductive defects and other natural causes – the Holocaust of the Children – has been as maximal as possible, and only a small percentage of adult humans have been able to make a free will choice regarding their eternal fate."
A host of theological absurdities result when a Creator fails to protect innocent children, tending to weaken Christian doctrine. One result is that there is no godly basis for the pro-life movement because there is no evidence that God favors life over widespread infant mortality. Nor can religion provide a solid foundation for individual or collective morality. This is amply illustrated by the actual conditions that exist in the most "successful" modern nations. Take the United States. Please. Infant mortality belies social morality.
Only the least religious nations today demonstrate the best social and economic standards, measured by a scale of truly successful societies. Historically, the predominantly Christian U.S. is the most dysfunctional "free-world" nation, measured by major indicators, such as crime, political morality and even public health. Meanwhile, high rates of secularism and better societal conditions produce high levels of economic prosperity and low levels of income disparity and poverty, which conditions tend accidentally but consistently to suppress widespread religiosity.
It's a no-brainer that "the religious right" tends to oppose effective progressive policies, while favoring popular religiosity. No totally successful socioeconomic nation that has been highly religious has ever existed, and the antagonistic relationship between comfortable or benign conditions and the popularity of religion suggests the unlikely odds of its happening.
But even America is experiencing a secularization process that has already worked to de-Christianize other advanced democracies, proving that American religion is so instable as to be less than integral to the national character. This development is driven by a corporate-consumer culture encouraging material values and lifestyles rather than religious piety and devotion. The irony exists in the alliance between American religious righties who oppose Darwinism if not science itself, and the more advanced corporate interests which MUST be scientific, all under the aegis of the Republican Party. Potentially, this contradictory relationship is self destructive for the former, while theocons seem incapable of finding a logical alternative.
Because majorities among the western nations are atheists and agnostics, religion is not nearly as universally common to the human condition, nor as vital to operative such societies as are the materialism so necessary to civilization. It's also true that fear of death, genetics, and a belief in the supernatural are not essential to popular religiosity. For most of us, religion is a superficial psychological knee-jerk response to a dysfunctional environment, with gods usually being petitioned for help when necessary. This casual and occasional source of popular faith, is easily set aside when the middle class feels secure in their prosperity. Once again, in the American model, the number of people remaining interested enough in religious commitment to attend religious services three or four times monthly measure in the single digits.
This casual approach to contemporary religion suggests that the level of opposing opinions does not amount to a grand struggle of ideology and ideas where the side with the best PR exposure wins the argument. The daily routine of the majority is what counts. The provision of universal health care that improves the security of the majority does more to boost secularism than does the effort of the atheist community. Once established, progressive polices are not countered by religious forces. And religious organizations can't prevail in sustaining the religiosity of a population.
Many of the wrongs afflicting humanity historically include imperialism, anti-Semitism, racism, slavery and apartheid. The were fomented in Christian societies long before evolution and scientific thought developed in the Christian west. Indentured slavery, largely by Protestants, who then developed the culture with torturous lynching and other genocidal developments. All the States with laws against teaching evolution were lynching states. Eugenics laws were widely approved by Protestants on both sides of the Atlantic. An invention of the Catholic church, anti-Semitism was further developed by Martin Luther and Americans such as Henry Ford. Hitler was inspoired by these pioneers.
Religion has its dark history, but it isn't the only organizational perp. Suicide bombing as an art form has ranged from Kamikaze pilots in 1945 to the Tamil Tigers in the 1970s, neither truly theistic in origin. Islamic extremists, who perfected the art form, perhaps were. Religion may be an equal-opportunity culture, but then so is science. Perhaps they aren't mutually exclusive after all.
Scientific research, says G.S. Paul, is solving some of the questions about belief and non-belief, but many in the supernatural world remain. "Such as why does a large minority of well-educated, science oriented persons with secure incomes continue to ardently believe in deities despite the lack of compelling evidence?"
______________________________________________________Bill Annett grew up a writing brat; his father, Ross Annett, at a time when Scott Fitzgerald and P.G. Wodehouse were regular contributors, wrote the longest series of short stories in the Saturday Evening Post's history, with the sole exception of the unsinkable Tugboat Annie.
At 18, Bill's first short story was included in the anthology “Canadian Short Stories.” Alarmed, his father enrolled Bill in law school in Manitoba to ensure his going straight. For a time, it worked, although Bill did an arabesque into an English major, followed, logically, by corporation finance, investment banking and business administration at NYU and the Wharton School. He added G.I. education in the Army's CID at Fort Dix, New Jersey during the Korean altercation.
He also contributed to The American Banker and Venture in New York, INC. in Boston, the International Mining Journal in London, Hong Kong Business, Financial Times and Financial Post in Toronto.
Bill has written six books, including a page-turner on mutual funds, a send-up on the securities industry, three corporate histories and a novel, the latter no doubt inspired by his current occupation in Daytona Beach as a law-abiding beach comber.
You can write to Bill Annett at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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