Sunday, August 16, 2009

When Was the Last Time Your Worldview Cured a Disease?

Atheists get tied up in the creation/evolution debate, and for the wrong reasons. While it might be cool, the average man or woman in the street isn't directly affected by finding a new transitional ancestor for a while. Religious shills attack evolution, not because they're so concerned specifically about evolution, but because it's an aspect of science that at once severely erodes faith but is just odd enough to the unfamiliar that it can be used as a wedge to draw people away from critical thinking and Enlightenment values in general.

In my view, reason and science are important activities of one specific animal that serve as an extension of life's ability to recognize patterns and act on them consistently in ways to increase the likelihood not only of survival but of happiness. Looked at this way, it's science's ability to predict, and change the world, that is important.

So, in terms of public relations - i.e., in terms of selling what science offers to an often ambivalent or outright hostile American public, forget retrodiction of specific evolutionary innovations, cool as they might bexxx. In the creation-evolution debate, pull back the camera a little bit and ask creationists: so what are your predictions of discoveries in the next five to ten years? Not just fossils, but medical advances. How, exactly, will these medical advances result from a creationist or Christ-centered approach to biology? You'll find that there will be one of three reactions:

1) Most likely: obfuscation. The subject will be heard to utter such statements as: "Well, I really can't say." "It's whatever God chooses to allow us to learn." They might come out with something about faith healing (remind them that every single day at the hospital down the street, there's observable healing going on that no one disputes.) Be ready with solid predictions of your own, as well as how they came out of "secular" science.

2) They'll take the bait and make predictions. This can go two ways:
a) the subject can make concrete and reasonable predictions that are in no way based on creationism. Be ready to call bullshit and/or ask them why a secular villain like yourself is making exactly the same predictions.
b) the subject will make concrete bullshit predictions (exorcism being added to medical school curriculum; prayer being added to actuarial tables); be ready to make a bet with them and make some money.

3) They'll admit that healing people doesn't matter to them. Although this is the worst outcome for the world in general (i.e. that there are such people in it) it's the best for you, because you've now gotten them to admit that their worldview is sterile and incoherent but it's still more important to espouse it than to cure the sick. Make sure you're very clear with them and any listeners on this point. There are many religious people who will be just as disgusted with this attitude as you are.

The greatest flowering of freedom and productivity in human history so far is a result of the application of reason to escape religion; the worst period of European history (the Dark Ages) resulted from the dominance of religion. Modern science is just one more example of this. Miss no opportunity to make religious shills pick a side. They're either on yours, or they reveal their true and distasteful aims.

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