May 23, 2009
“I don’t believe in God because I don’t believe in Mother Goose.” [Clarence Darrow]
“I am a deeply religious nonbeliever. This is a somewhat new kind of religion. I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism. The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive.” [Albert Einstein]
“My main thesis is narrower and, I think, more defensible: understanding reality, in the sense of being able to use what we know to predict what we don’t, is best achieved using the tools of science, and is never achieved using the methods of faith.”
―Jerry A. Coyne, Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible
Mr. Einstein’s statement, in the quote attributed to him, in which I see much merit, demonstrates a developed version of the temporal kind of religion you have been reading about in these pages. As stated on previous pages, my views on religion are that if faith is required to believe something, that does not constitute knowledge. If you can show how you know it, and make it obvious to others and irrefutable in itself, by its own nature, it must be true and, therefore is knowledge. As you also saw in the preceding pages, people use all kinds of trickery to convince a naïve audience otherwise.
If something is known to be demonstrably true, it is not called faith. It is factual and faith is unnecessary. The only facts that can be found in religion are in regard to where some scriptural quote can be found. The quotes themselves, unless somehow already granted scientific support as a result of having had that process applied to them, so that they become understood as true for known and repeatable reasons, are anecdotal in their evidentiary nature. Without scientific support, they are not facts; they are, at best, guesses, fables, unsupported opinions, mythical or legendary, most times misinformation of undocumented origin. To call them ‘scientific’ is an attempt to scam.
That condition leads directly to the fractured condition of religion in our own times, that the nature of belief without credible verisimilitude loses in both directions; that is, that anyone can say whatever they wish others to believe and find support, and those same others will choose from the mess of it what to believe without requiring any vindicating support. Faith is never in what can be shown to be true; it is always in what one supposes or wishes could be true, and that is why it is called faith and not fact.
Knowledge is about facts, items that can be demonstrated to be true however one has gone about attaining to their awareness. Even the proponents of faith will demand that of their opponents in any argument. “Prove it.” Knowledge may be about what a scripture says, in the form that claims and can show the scripture actually does say it, but is not about the unverifiable information contained in that script or any other. Facts do not require faith to uphold them because they can be known and shown.
Before science, written records were humankind’s attempt to achieve veracity and uniformity of knowledge. As far back as art on cave walls gets dated, agreements were recorded about how the various important or interesting events took place, and put on display for all to see.
Later, discussions that would take place about those events could be settled by a viewing of the drawings and, later after the innovation of writing, the recorded words that described them. Not all recountings would agree, however, when groups of doubters gathered to produce their own accounts. In the drawings, small details most likely were varied from one accounting to another. In later writings, jots and tittles may have held different meanings to later interpreters. It still seemed necessary to devise some way to present a uniform view that all could understand alike. The scientific method has demonstrated itself capable to produce information that maintains cohesive verisimilitude for all who have adopted it and learned to understand how and why it works. That to which it cannot lend its support does not demonstrate a weakness in science, but does present the weakness inherent to unverifiable stories about reality and nature. To understand why requires a good understanding of how to apply abeyance in the principle of defeasibility.
To me as a toddler, my grandmother told stories about the fairies living in the lawn, whose table settings could be seen in the morning dew, and that I would destroy were I not careful while running across them. My faith in Gran’Ma’s admonitions faded over the years as my possession of factual knowledge increased while her stories went unreinforced, until now I can understand that as the nature of all faith: unreinforced Faith fades as knowledge about reality increases. Faith requires reinforcement and the avoidance of factual knowledge for its survival; for that exact reason you will find admonitions against erudition throughout biblical scriptures, even from their very beginnings in Genesis, attempts to enforce misinformation and derogate knowledge. Even possession of scriptures were forbidden in early Xianity, lest questioners emerge to cast doubt on priestly words that had served to reinforce faith.
So, why would anybody wish to proclaim faith to be a source of knowledge? To understand that, all one needs is an awareness of the political aspects of ecclesiastical religion: Knowledge is bad stuff, according to all kinds of biblical edicts, but centralist religion must hold its own in the face of advancing technology and the growing exposure and ease of access to information. When a growing skepticism, fueled in part by recent fiascoes created by attempts to tie political success to religious backing, inspires increasing numbers of people to become interested in discovering why such a controversy exists as has been initiated by the religious right, claims to knowledge must be raised by those who back faith in order to save face and avoid out-of-hand rejection.
Meanwhile, pronouncements against the value of knowledge must remain hidden or that effort will fail. The scientific nature of knowledge must be watered down to a point that anti-knowledge stances can appear to possess legitimate claims to it. Religion can then call its baseless presentations “science”. Misinformation, disinformation and stories must now be presented and accepted as knowledge by the very same people whose religious establishment once forbade and punished the common person for access to the scriptures, and presented tasting the fruit of knowledge as a sin so vile that Adam and Eve got tossed out of the Garden because of it.
There is another aspect of this that takes the discussion of it to a greater depth, that arrives when one realizes knowledge as in a relationship with understanding. Religion attempts to gloss this over with shiny pronouncements about such as “knowledge of God” and “the religious understanding of reality” while attempting to offer nothing substantial for support. Such hallowed words ring as hollow. The appeal is only to those already convinced and willing to accept edicts at the level of urban legends and grant their wholehearted preverified [decided before an investigation, if any, was begun; any search looked for support rather than objective evidence] support with no qualms or compunctions against errors being introduced into their lives.
Despite its criticism of the scientific method, and its avoidance of its application in their own behalf, religions hasten to proclaim vindicated ownership of whatever part of their edicts for which they feel science has found justification. They forget that, according to the law of averages, 50% of what they guess to be true ought to be, and the role science serves ought to be to discover which portion of their claims that applies to. What ought to be disheartening to them is to acknowledge that such edicts become no longer religious as a result of that, but then are demonstrably scientific, faith and gullible belief no longer required. Anything of religion not so demonstrable that still gets proclaimed scientific by their spokespeople, is not.
The scientific method must be shown as the reason and source for such edicts, and repeatedly so for all the future so that it can be demonstrated time and again, wherever and by whomever is so equipped by instruments and knowledge so that accuracy can and will be maintained. Anybody can claim something to be scientific, and when people fail to demand factuality they can and (it is plain through history) will get away with it. Errors multiply faster than they can be corrected. Religions result from that and gain ubiquity from it. Where no corrections dare be offered, the mass of humanity suffers regressive poverty, especially when such errors gain political backing and popularity.
The errors religion serves to perpetuate as superstition, along with the compulsiveness inherent to those with perverse views of nature, serves to thwart the development of common understanding. Understanding develops through applied knowledge; it could be regarded as “body knowledge”. The skill developed through rigorous practice shows as understanding, wherein the body seems to have its own mind and the thought processes of the left cerebral hemisphere become obstructions more-so than guides.
The nature of the interactions between the right and left brain hemispheres becomes perverted into “understanding” by the application of religious misinformation so that even such atheists as Sam Harris willingly support those practices of religion that proclaim spiritual development, that have at other times been shown to lead to insanity.
That which unbalances the homeostatic functions that maintain our bodies and minds at their best must be regarded as wrong and dangerous to ourselves and those who will be affected by our misdeeds. The false understanding to result from rigorous practicing of inducing chemicals, starvation or isolation becomes as much a second nature to such practitioners as it does for those practicing to develop a skill-set. The difference between the two can still be found in science’s requirement for verification, when one who has become capable to perform an unusual task gets compared to one who has become somewhat incapacitated as a result of interfering with the natural requirements of his body to function.
Understanding that has been developed to interfere with natural CC, then, can be rightly seen as misunderstanding and adjudged to be harmful. Misunderstanding is worse than ignorance because it leads to botched and costly actions. A community of that sort will lead into the expensive unbalancing problems so rampant in today’s America. Understanding that has been developed to enhance balanced, healthy vigor in application to a skill must be adjudged to be a benefit to its possessor, but also to his or her community. Why should anyone prefer the former over the latter, were a choice actually ever given before enforced indoctrination?