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Ignorance and Belief

Entry 669, on 2008-01-09 at 21:47:26 (Rating 4, Religion)

I often sit in strange places writing blog entries. As I was sitting in a mall writing the blog entry of 2008-01-08 a rather odd character came up to me and asked what I was doing. I said I was writing a blog entry and explained what a blog entry, is but then things moved on to what was I writing about. I said I was writing about Christianity but that I was an atheist myself.

The discussion then became a lot more involved and I had to defend the validity of my writing on a subject I didn't believe in. I pointed out that often the best overview comes from someone who isn't closely involved with the subject. How can anyone fairly describe a belief system they are totally tied up with? And if someone studies a subject, finds it has little veracity, and then doesn't believe in that subject, surely they are no less qualified in commenting on it.

I went on to defend atheism against various points, none of which were really very convincing. But the saddest question I had to answer was: "if evolution is true and humans evolved from apes and monkeys why are there still apes and monkeys?" I don't know how many times I have had to deal with this and it reveals so many misunderstandings that I feel saddened every time I hear it.

Evolution doesn't say that humans evolved from apes as they are today and it doesn't say humans evolved from monkeys at all. Apes and humans both evolved from a common ancestor which was neither ape nor human. Both apes and humans have continued to evolve since they split. The most recent split was about 5 million years ago when humans and chimps split from a common ancestral line.

But the implication that biologists would believe something which was so easily refuted is even more amazing. Do these people not think that biologist might have thought about that question? They obviously think people who believe evolution are either fools or liars. I suppose the same claim could be made against creationists, but in that case they clearly are fools - at least from the point of view of their belief in something which is clearly untrue.

And the claim that scientists doubt evolution is also untrue. Less than 5% of the senior scientists in America are Christians and less than 1% of biologists doubt evolution. Clearly, it is only ignorant people who doubt it. The more ignorant the person is the more likely they are to believe religious explanations of the world instead of scientific ones. This isn't surprising when religion relies on faith for its foundation instead of the truth (or the best approximation to the truth science can gain because real truth doesn't really exist).

Another point the person I was debating with seemed to miss was that there are many religions which all seem to be mutually incompatible. I admitted that I could never be 100% sure I was right and he claimed he was 100% sure. But when I pointed out that suicide bombers are also very convinced of their religious beliefs he finally realised that absolute certainty doesn't imply truth. In fact only people who are prepared to admit that they can never be absolutely certain of anything are likely to have the honesty to even get close to the truth.

My religious friend said he would go away and think about what I said (which was a good response on his part if he really means it) so if I ever meet him again it will be interesting to see if he has changed his mind on anything.

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Comment 44 (1226) by OJB on 2008-03-01 at 11:01:09: (view earlier comments)

Unreasonable belief is belief not backed up by evidence in the real world. It is belief based on the authority of sources with no objective credibility. It is belief which defies questioning and correction. Reasonable belief, on the other hand, is belief based on observed facts, common sense, and self correcting logic and empirical methods.

Ideally I would not talk to anyone who is part of a system if I wanted an unbiased and fair view. Of course, any opinion is worthwhile if it can be backed up with facts.

Science does successfully remove false beliefs. I know that scientists are people and far from perfect, but the system helps eliminate aberrations caused by their mistakes. A religious system maintains a fixed set of beliefs and ignores facts by relying on faith instead.

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Comment 45 (1238) by SBFL on 2008-03-05 at 22:39:30:

I don't assume faith and science to be conflicting. Like I said I believe in both (broadly speaking).

Have addressed this one on another thread. Basically you are saying you yourself cannot be trusted to comment on your belief system - atheism. Maybe so, but your experience, learning and knowledge must count for something. Many can see the pro's and con's of an 'idea' that is their own and can comment fairly on it.

'Science' is just as much afflicted by bias and vested interests as you would have us believe 'religion' is. Lets just pick up a newspaper, oh another "Global Warming" headline....what was it you said "Science does successfully remove false beliefs." Well done Science with this one.

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Comment 46 (1240) by OJB on 2008-03-06 at 08:44:52:

My topic for today will be the war between science and religion so I won't comment here.

Let's just say that all opinions count, especially when backed up with evidence, but we should be cautious of opinions on a belief system put forward by people who are already deeply committed to that system.

Oh no. Please don't tell me you are a global warming denier!

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Comment 47 (1244) by SBFL on 2008-03-10 at 01:04:41:

Already commented on your new post before coming back here. Your argument there was flawed in my view. Well not so much flawed, as it was too generalistic.

As you are already committed to your belief system....

No, I'm not. Still ambivalent on the subject, because science has yet to be conclusive on the subject matter. Surely you are not a global warming advocate, considering scientific opinion is divided on the matter. Bit of a contradiction if you were!!

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Comment 48 (1255) by OJB on 2008-03-10 at 11:30:48:

Well actually scientific opinion isn't divided, unless you mean that a few percent of scientists having some reservations means divided (in which case everything is). There is an overwhelming consensus that global warming is both real and significantly caused by human activity. Do some research in the journals if you don't believe me.

The so-called division of opinion has been fabricated by business and political groups. It doesn't exists to any significant extent in science any more than the fake crisis in evolution does.

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