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The “Debate” Between Science and Religion

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Well, the March for Science and Earth Day are behind us.  Let’s be honest, it was really all about “climate change.”  The whole thing freaked me out a little because it was all about “belief” and “deniers,” words I not accustomed to using in scientific pursuits.   For the record, my formal education is in science – chemistry to be precise, through a Masters degree – and I make my living as an Environmental Consultant.  My occupation often leaves me more knowledgeable on regulation than science, but I think I have the bona fides to talk about this intelligently.

The scientific question of climate change is extraordinarily complicated, mostly by two factors.  For one the questions are mostly about degree. The data strongly indicates that the planet is warming – to some extent – and that there are anthropomorphic contributions – to some extent.  It’s that “to some extent” modifier where things get tricky and the second complicating factor comes into play.  That second factor is that all projections are based on data gathered from multiple, localized sources, and thus with higher degrees of imprecision than most serious scientists are comfortable with, and based on models which cannot possibly be tested for accuracy until the future actually occurs.  To actually sort through all the data, all the models and even evaluate the work done by others is a massive undertaking – one that really cannot be accomplished by an individual.  This is mostly the work of computers and given how often mass mailing databases get screwed up, as our junk mail tells us daily, to be suspicious is simply to be prudent.  The average individual, and even a lot of scientists, lack the training, time, and patience to know truth from projection, projection from exaggeration, and therefore science from political action.

So the question really comes down to one of authority – who do you believe?  Not to mention science does not need to march – science is a search for truth, truth speaks for itself and does not need political activity to bolster its conclusions – they should be apparent to everyone.  So whatever happened this past weekend may have been in the name of science, but hardly comprises science itself.  This activity only raises suspicion about the science it seeks to promote.  This is why there is a “debate” between science and religion; it is a fight for authority, not truth.  It is about who gets to declare what is true and what is false.

In the end it is a question of God vs man.  One the one hand religion says God is the ultimate establisher of truth.  On the other hand science, or at least people acting in the name of science, seek to set man as the establisher of truth.  Science started in an effort to find learn of God by the study of His creation, but it has come, at least for many, to challenge the very notion of God.  This whole thing so frighteningly parallels the Adam and Eve narrative that that story takes on a great deal of credibility- certainly as allegory.

How does one decide?  If we limit ourselves only to the natural the decision is very difficult.  Science, by definition, excludes the supernatural.  God is, also by definition, supernatural.  Unfortunately, while we all experience the supernatural more than we know, we lack the tools to understand and categorize those experiences, hence we tend to set them aside or otherwise ignore them.  And even if we recognize and grasp them, they are subjective and cannot effectively be shared with someone else.  (Hence the arts matter, for often they can be shared through communication that is not verbal or numerical.)  That’s why this is usually considered a “personal” choice.

But there is a different factor that is the decider for me.  When I look at history, when I look the people around me, when I consider all the ugly, nasty, and heinous stuff mankind has done through the years I become hopeless.  To vest man with ultimate authority is to abandon hope.  Oh sure, we make massive technological strides, which just increases our capability to screw up in bigger and more widespread ways.  For there to be hope there has to be an ideal – something apart from this mess that I can vest my hope in.  This is why I choose God for in choosing God I choose hope.

It’s simple really, even if we buy the worst case climate scenarios (which I most assuredly do not, by the way) with God I can hope.  Whether we avoid it or go through it, with God we will find a way.  Without Him we will simply be left with nothing but marches and debate spiraling ever downward.  I stand amazed that so many people invest so much effort to promote hopelessness.  I can think of no bigger illustration of how much we really do need God.

Hughniverse

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