I rarely take the opportunity to bitterly rant about something that’s actually important, but it’s key to call out both extremes on an issue. So, just as North Carolina needs to stop letting coastal developers decide what science is, atheists need to stop trying to wrap themselves in the mantle of science. It’s just as bad as any fundamentalist screaming about creationism, and here’s why:
It betrays a misunderstanding of both atheism and science.
Let’s start with atheism. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in any sort of god or mythical figure. That makes you an atheist. It doesn’t make you scientific. It doesn’t make you rational or a skeptic. It doesn’t even make you smarter than the people who do believe in some sort of god.
Why? Because science is built on hard facts and observable experiments and religion is built entirely on faith, the simplest definition of which is “belief in the absence of proof“. There is no experiment you can conduct to show somebody their god does not exist because that’s not how the rules of belief systems work. Of course there’s no proof: there’s not supposed to be any. If you choose not to believe based on the total lack of evidence, OK then.
So what is atheism? Atheism is a philosophy. At root atheism is a belief that moral and ethical codes are not dictated by an unseen outside force by rather by human beings. You can optimistically believe it’s built into our DNA to be decent or cynically believe it’s a malleable lump of clay pushed around by a society. The point is, it isn’t engraved on any tablets. Building and maintaining it is up to us.
What about all those asinine clods who insist on “teaching the controversy”? To that question I say, “trust in the scientific method”. Any reasonably intelligent person will notice, very quickly, that creationism fails for the exact same reason you can’t disprove the existence of God with a scientific experiment: you’re trying to prove something exists for which there is no proof. Creationism, even in its “‘intelligent’ design” guise, is not science, has never been science, and unless some seriously wacky stuff happens, will never be science.
Of course, this is rarely about actual science. This is, for many, about screaming how much smarter you are than other people. And to those people all I can say is shame on you. Science has enough problems without you using it as both club on those you don’t like and shield against moral reproach. If you don’t have the conviction to stand by your beliefs on their own merits, you’re just like the fundamentalists you’re whining about.
So get out of science and stay out. Protecting you from people you don’t like is not its job.
image courtesy tonynetone on Flickr