Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Science vs. Religion

Science begins with a question and the foundation of the accumulated knowledge of past scientific work, always aware that future work may call any of that past knowledge into question. Answers are sought through contemplation and experiment, examining what can be observed and devising ways to test and clarify our understanding. It is by nature a process of successive approximation, gradually, continually improving and refining what we understand. While it may never lead to a complete understanding of everything, it is the only path we know to revealing reality, tantalizing glimpse by tantalizing glimpse.

Religion, on the other hand, begins with the premise that all answers can be found in an ancient book. This premise stands in contradiction to the whole enterprise of scientific investigation and ultimately of meaningful education. Without the external pressures of modern society, religious “education” consists mainly of rote memorization of the scriptures and some limited exploration of their interpretation according to whichever leaders were involved. This can be seen today in areas dominated by fundamentalists. Religion actively impedes the learning process, even going so far as to declare some ideas as heretical, off limits to even private thought.

Religion is an insult to the individual and collective intelligence not only of our own species but all species. Even as it purports to hallow nature as creations of its god or gods, it denies the magnificence of nature and the processes underlying it, seeking instead to project the notion that it all is the product of the grand design of some mythical, mystical consciousness, the origin of which remains obscure, but, despite its putative ability to create the entire universe, somehow it is unfulfilled without human worship.