Thursday, July 30, 2015


"Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.
--Richard Dawkins

Through a conversation, which started innocently enough, I learned that a nurse with whom I work believes that dinosaurs are not real. She admitted to me that she holds "some strange beliefs" before explaining her "theory" that dinosaurs are a man-made conspiracy. So, on some level, perhaps, she recognizes that this belief is ridiculous.

When I challenged her on this point (by pointing out that evolution and the age of the earth have been confirmed independently through multiple scientific fields), she began spinning her reconciliation wheels at full throttle. Dinosaurs, she explained, cannot be real because that would mean that the earth is millions of years old, and that, in turn, would mean that the bible is wrong.

Oh, the bible. What else could screw up a person's perception of reality so magnificently?

This thirty-something woman not only attended nursing classes, which surely would have included biology, but she passed with high enough scores to be allowed by the nursing community to administer medical care.

Why is this a big deal? Is a belief in evolution and dinosaurs and an "old earth" really necessary to be an effective nurse? I don't know. But I do know that the antibiotic pill she gave to a patient two minutes prior to her ludicrous admission would not have been developed without those scientific theories being understood by the scientists who developed it.

Furthermore, this nurse is a member of the medical community, yet, she rejects a founding principle of one of the most basic fields of science. She believes that scientists are engaged in a global conspiracy to make the earth appear older than six thousand years. Think about this. An airtight, decades-old global conspiracy involving thousands of scientists across multiple fields--in multiple countries and cultures and religions--is more plausible to this woman than the possibility that the bible might not be literally true. And we allow her to give antipsychotic medications to children...

This is the power of religious faith. This is the power of beliefs based on feelings rather than evidence. Not only must the believer protect their beliefs from criticism, but at times they are forced--usually through exposure to evidence to the contrary--to concoct outlandish and baseless ideas to barricade their core beliefs.

It is this powerful corruption of one's reasoning faculties which drives an otherwise reasonable woman, who has studied science and medicine, to throw out her reason when it conflicts with her belief that a Bronze Age holy book is literally true. When I caught myself doing this very same thing in college, I realized my error and rejected faith altogether.

Without evidence-based support, beliefs should be tentative. When beliefs are supported by evidence, they are not based on faith. When evidence conflicts with a belief, it should be reevaluated, and possibly rejected. In either case, faith is useless. And no amount of conviction makes faith evidence.

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