Thursday, 15 July 2010

Violence with Violence

Talk about selective reading. This is a joke. It's a bit of religious promotion based on some scientific studies that are confirming common sense. And for some it's too good an opportunity to pass up.

"You can't fight violence with violence" doesn't require detailed science, or God. It's common sense that some members of most societies have figured out is a good general rule, and that goes back well before Jesus. So, it's hardly as if it was a new idea - but fair enough, Jesus and some of his followers have made a significant contribution to the popularisation of that view and are to be congratulated on that.

And it's not as if science was around to figure this stuff out. As a science psychology is still relatively new, has many methodological problems, and the detailed thorough science is difficult to do. So, no surprise that science is late in the game.

But hold on, who is it that creates wars, and on what basis do wars begin? It's usually based on ignorance about differences and dogma, and religion has had a great input here (as have non-religious dogmas). It's religious politicians, like Bush and Blair that have wanted war on terror; it's religiously motivated political divisions that have caused conflict, from the Christian crusades to Northern Ireland and former Yugoslavia, to the continuing tribal, racial and religious divisions in Africa.

It certainly isn't to religion's credit that it has not sorted these problems out so far, and it is to religions discredit that it has contributed so much to the problems. Perhaps the question should be why has it taken science to step in and provide rational reasons to explain the complexities? It's because ignorant politics and religion have failed, and reason and science have had to come to the rescue to provide a less biased view that can be taken on board whatever one's politics or religion (dogma permitting). Science is for everyone everywhere. It doesn't matter if you're black or white, Muslim or Jew or Christian, Roman Catholic or Anglican - there are no divisions in science, and no dogma (except when fallible humans screw it up and become dogmatic about the science).

Thorough science isn't easy. The scientific method is used to overcome the foibles of the human mind, by trying to account for biases, such as those that religion and politics is likely to enforce. It's thanks to sciences like anthropology, sociology, psychology, and the engineering sciences and technologies like print, radio, TV and satellite that have provided a greater understanding of the natural variety of human nature and culture and education, and the dissemination of that knowledge, that has led to slow but positive progress in lifting the veil of ignorance of a non-scientific view.

But "You can't fight violence with violence" is a general rule. We are not that good at science yet; or more specifically we are not that good at listening to science yet. We still get ourselves into some serious fixes, through political gaffs, intolerance of the religious and non-religious alike, through ignorance. And sometimes we are left with no choice but to defend ourselves, even if it's our own fault that got us into the mess.

We are dumb apes - which is what science tells us, and helps explain quite a lot, but which many religious deny. This denial, and the ignorant notion that we of some particular religion or other are chosen in some way fuels the ignorance.

Science fails often, in the hands of fallible humans, despite attempts to develop a scientific method to overcome our fallibilities in seeking truth. Religion fails far more. So, less of the back slapping, a little more humility, and get on with promoting the views of Jesus the peace loving mortal man, and less of the religious dogma.

The Kneeler's post is typical of the selective reading that the religious have to develop as second nature if they are to make any sense of the Bible. And of course they always apply it to science. Science is great when it's curing ills - though it hasn't been beyond the religious to thank God for those cures. But where are most of the religious on evolution? Still in the dark ages. It's also typical of the religious to claim prior credit for scientific discoveries - though Muslims seem particularly good at this as they often claim the Koran said it first, no matter how vague the reference, and no matter that they got it from the Greeks. No, it only requires the holy book to come up with some common sense notion, like 'thou shalt not kill', which anyone can now see is an evolutionarily driven survival strategy, for the religious to claim with self righteous indignation that it's God's law, and
they, by association, are the righteous ones.

The Bible is just a book, written by men. Genesis has as much scientific validity and truth as The Flintstones - sure there were dinosaurs, but not at the same time as man (tell that to the curator of the Creationist Museum); see the similarity (talking snake?). The whole Bible is an invention of minds that today would be considered uneducated - not in language, not unintelligent, just ignorant of very basic science and the methods of science and critical thinking that would have debunked many of their ideas in their own day had those methods been available. So there's no shadow of disgrace on them - they were working with what they had.

The Bible bashers of today have no excuse. It doesn't take much to pick holes in most of the theological crap. We don't know how our particular universe started, so we remain ignorant of many things. We have no idea whether there is some ultimate intelligent agency behind it all, or if it is really all soulless fluctuations in nothingness - the metaphysics is beyond our data, just not beyond our imagination. But it's foolish to build whole systems of belief on that one speculative imaginary idea about the metaphysical inaccessible, and to pile theological bunk on theological bunk on top of ancient books that have to be deciphered in ever more obscure ways to make the theology fit reality (or not).

Science is the best we can do, for now. Ridicule it viciously when it's wrong, by all means - that's what it needs, that's part of the very method itself. We must be challenging our knowledge all the time, because we are not capable of being certain. We don't have the equipment, whether it's equipment we've invented or that which has evolved between our ears. But for God's sake don't rely on religion to tell us anything useful - and I mean 'for God's sake', for if there really is a God, he's going to be very disappointed in his own creation, if he's endowed us with brains, and we refuse to use them, to paraphrase Galileo.


Helegant said...

Not quite as I see it ;-)

Ron Murphy said...

Again, not very specific.