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RE: Bzrd

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Posted by S.H. Le on September 26, 2000 20:10:25 UTC

First off, let`s recognize that there are at least 2 approaches to explaining things.
1) Purely Scientific: theories and hypotheses derived entirely from observable phenomena. These are explanations intended to explain some observed event empirically through quantifying things. The strength or weakness of any scientific theory rests on how accurately it makes predictions, not how well it explains away things after the fact. Ex. The earth is millions of years old based on radiometric isotopic measurements established through experimentation and mathematics.
2) The Dogmatic View: from pre-established explanations, the dogmatic person will simply dismiss the validity of facts that contradict the already established ideology. This pre-established explanation is believed to be beyond doubt. Ex. The earth is only 6000 years old because it apparently says so in the bible, thus rendering any radiometric methods wrong.
Now, the archetypal scientist is:
i) Objective: will try not to allow previously conceived notions to cloud his judgment, his conclusions will be drawn empirically from observation/measurement.
ii) Skeptical: this doesn`t mean he denies everything in the world. It means he enters every situation doubtfully, convinced only by the facts. He realizes that nothing is absolutely certain, and such is the nature of science.
iii) Humble: the scientist is perfectly aware that something like evolution for instance is "only a theory". This doesn`t make it invalid, but it is the inherent nature of science that predisposes it from ever proving anything beyond doubt. A particular event can be observed by 2 different scientists that provide completely different explanations. So a certain subjectivity seeps into experimentation. Science can`t be entirely free of value judgements only because scientists are human. The point is to find the best explanation for the time being, by eliminating wrong theories. Thus, science isn`t MOVING TOWARD an objective bias-free view of the world, it`s GROWING AWAY from error. In light of this, the scientist can`t help but be humble because we understand so little. The scientist`s ideology must change to accommodate the facts, so naturally, it breeds a certain "never sure attitude".

Contrast this view with that of the dogmatic person. Conversely, he believes he`s found some universal truth in scripture that`s beyond question. This dogma must be 100% true as it arises directly from God`s mouth. What could possibly breed more hubris? Some of the most atrocious events ever to occur in history were committed by those who were "absolutely sure" of some doctrine: the Hitlers, the Spanish Inquisitors, European imperialists etc. There`s something innately dangerous in accepting ideology above the evidence. Science does not offer such easy clear cut answers. One may find an elegant theorem of today, dashed by new observations tomorrow. Science makes only the promise of something being "the best explanation we have for the time being".

How did someone like Hitler ever get elected? I would contend it`s because totalitarian regimes offer an irresistible dogma. Some infallible leader is hand picked to think for us. Who wants the uncertainty of science when one could unquestioningly accept some easy truth offered by a fascist? History has shown us how the masses voluntarily relinquish their fundamental ability to question the world around them, simply to accept the authority of some charismatic leader. Our so-called democracy shows little alternative.

It`s time to question. What`s so great about holy writings? Do they offer some truth unavailable anywhere else? Why should they be accepted beyond question even in light of the evidence? What makes them infallible?

That`s not to say that these writings are not valuable. They are historical remnants of a by gone era, and we needed them to progress to the level we are at today. There`s still more to be discovered, so why limit ourselves to the mistakes of the past?

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