"You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion. Dogs do not ritually urinate in the hope of persuading heaven to do the same and send down rain. Asses do not bray a liturgy to cloudless skies. Nor do cats attempt, by abstinence from cat's meat, to wheedle the feline spirits into benevolence. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, quite intelligent enough."
“Faith means not wanting to know what is true.”
"Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
- George Bernard Shaw
"If you would be a real seeker after truth,
it is necessary that at least once in your life
you doubt, as far as possible, all things."
- Rene Descartes
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wiseman knows himself to be a fool."
-Shakespeare, “As You Like It”
“Learn to think before you believe, or you’ll soon believe that you don’t have to think.”
-St. Brian the Godless
Christianity and Perception
I’ve told this story before, but not in this venue. I call it my “Soap Cherubs” story.
Oh, stop groaning…
“When I was ten my family used to talk about these two prized Italian carvings of cherubs that they had, hand carved in great detail out of soap. Being Italian themselves, they were rather proud of them.
One day I carefully dabbed some water on my finger and tested a wing. It didn't feel soapy at all. I then noticed mold marks. And a label "Made in Japan" on the bottom. I carefully bent a wing tip, and it flexed nicely. It wasn't soap. It was plastic. And it wasn’t carved. It was injection-molded.
I told my mom, tried to explain the facts as to why they couldn’t be soap, and it was like she couldn't hear me. I was just a kid, and she knew that they were soap, and I was just hitting her with way too much detail. Same with my aunt and my dad. But the cherubs weren't soap, and I know this today for a fact.
She didn't lie when she told me that they were soap all those times, but it wasn't true, and nothing that I could say could convince her that she was wrong. And yet she and the rest of my family were wrong. They just didn't see details in things like I did, so they were unable to see that the cherubs were not carved soap, even when presented with the evidence.
I learned that they were blind to many, many other things in addition to the "soap" cherubs that were not. One of them was the illogic of their religion.
Open your minds someday, people of faith. You're not seeing the plastic.”
Ahh, an oldie but a goodie…
Incidentally, I am adopted, a fact that has caused me much relief in my day.
I think this little (true) story of mine outlines the differences between the belief-based mindset and the fact-based mindset. The Christian mind versus the Atheist mind, if you will. Many Christians, having been taught to distrust or merely to ignore much of science, do not see the need to train themselves to perceive fine details well. They’ve been taught that the details of this reality are superfluous anyhow, since it’s all about the afterlife. Also that contradicting concepts can exist side-by-side. And that the Bible tells us all we need to know. And the most horrific, that to doubt any of this is not only wrong, but metaphysically evil, something you can go to hell for, thus making one of the bastions of intellect itself, critical thinking, a punishable offense.
But science teaches us to doubt in all things, including and especially yourself, at all times. That doubt in all things is the most intelligent attitude, and that the true skeptics are almost always the ones to find out the real truth eventually.
The two mindsets are diametrical opposites. And they are at war.
Having not studied science, many Christians cannot truly comprehend, cannot “internalize” things like vast spans of time, vast distances, the complexity of nature’s web of life, and our place in it. They are unused to the sheer mind-numbingly complex amount of fine detail that comprises even basic science, and thus for example see “irreduceable complexity” where the scientist sees the normal mechanism of evolution at work over vast eons of time, more than sufficient time to produce the contested results. The eye. The flagellum. Both easily explicable and even “common-sensical.” I can easily visualize the process of the evolution of a vertebrate eye, and I’m no scientist. I can intuit it from what I know about evolution and other examples of such appearances of complex traits. And incidentally, to think that a few light-sensitive cells would be of no discernable advantage to a creature living in a world of otherwise completely blind organisms is very “short-sighted” indeed. Same with the rotory mechanism involved in the euglena’s locomotive apparatus. Given enough time, the most complicated and seemingly improbable results are possible, and life on this planet has had an awful lot of time. A vast span of time. Eons.
An unimaginable length of time to some, unfortunately. If you think the world's only six thousand years old and therefore have trouble even imagining a million years, how can you ever hope to grasp the changes that can occur in four and a half thousand million?
Why can’t these Biblical Christians see how easily understood these “irreducibly complex” things are as the end result of this incredibly long process of nature weeding out that which does not serve the organism and its accentuation of that which does? Because they don’t have the tools to, nor do they ever want to posess them. Such tools themselves are considered sinful. Hence they are blithely unaware of so many of the fine details of this world, because you can only really learn to perceive these fine details by loving science enough for you to learn how to think in an ordered, scientific manner. You certainly can’t learn to see them by reading the Bible. When the Bible was written, nobody could see them.
(Which brings up the question of why, if the Bible was written by God, did He never mention in it anything more advanced than what the people of that day themselves knew...)
It’s actually an even more basic problem than human ignorance. It’s the age-old seemingly instinctual conflict between the belief-based and the reality-based. The people that turn away from the future and embrace the supposed security of the past, and the people that learn from the past and the present so as to create a better future.
As ever, when the "distant past belief-based mindset" meets the "future of our species fact-based mindset," it tries to kill it immediately out of fear of it eventually factually proving its precious beliefs wrong. Failing that, it hates it and calls it names, thus proving itself not only the most primitive modality of human thought, but also as you would expect from that, the most immature.
Names like terrorist, for instance. You betcha.