Sunday, June 23, 2013


"Of all the supposed virtues, faith is the most overrated."
--Christopher Hitchens

With regards to conflicts between science and religion, there seems to be two camps of believers: Those who may not understand how, but the two must be compatible (i.e. there is no conflict, only misunderstanding based on incomplete information). And those who subscribe to the mantra "if religion and science disagree, go with religion" (i.e. religion wins by default).

The first camp is the one which I adopted in college, and I think it is the most common among religious people, especially those who at least make an attempt to be intellectually honest without disregarding their religion completely.

The second camp seems to be common among those who value faith more than critical thinking and science, such as fundamentalists and Bible literalists. A third camp would be for those who cannot be intellectually honest without disregarding religion completely, and thus become disbelievers.

From time to time I hear people say that belief in things like evolution and the big bang, etc. are not necessarily in direct conflict with religious belief. Usually they cite the fact that most people in this country are believers of some stripe and at least 45% of the population accepts evolution and the big bang (I don't feel like looking up the actual figures, but it is close to that). This means that a substantial portion of the population believes in religion and accepts evolution and the big bang. I don't know for certain, but I would think that most of these people would fall into the first camp.

It may, in fact, be true that some people have been able to reconcile their religious beliefs with various scientific theories and discoveries. They may even consider such discoveries to be supporting of their beliefs. But this reconciliation does nothing to negate the diametric opposition between the scientific method and faith.

The two methodologies stand in direct conflict with each other. Faith, for instance, is the acceptance of something as true without evidence to support it. Some may claim to have knowledge through their faith (whatever that means...). And some may even claim things to be true in the face of evidence to the contrary (i.e. Young Earth Creationists).

The scientific method does not allow for this kind of thinking. It demands evidence. Without evidence, one cannot claim anything to be true or accurate.

And so we see that faith (accepting something without evidence) is, in fact, the opposite of the evidence-based scientific method. Science has no more room or tolerance for faith than it does for any other bias. It is designed to squash such presumed conclusions at their core. A belief supported by evidence trumps an assertion with no evidence every time. Any thing less than this is neither rational nor intellectually honest.

So, tell me again why faith is a virtue?


Bill Maher explains why faith is nothing to be admired (Warning: some language):

The Daily Show on Christian persecution from gays:

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