faith

Entertaining rant on "faith" vs. science:
I am sorry if my column offended you, but please understand: I am deeply offended by the notion that myths invented in the Bronze Age by superstitious desert nomads should be given exactly the same credence as the work of people like Darwin and Einstein and Euclid and Hawking and Newton. Our world is being driven further and further into irrationality by people who cannot reconcile their faith with reality, and therefore decide that it is reality which is lacking.

[...] It is considered perfectly okay for you to mock my perfectly rational ideas about evolution, but if I point out that your position depends upon the notion of a magic superhero in the sky, you'll probably take offense. Why? Why are irrational beliefs somehow less subject to scrutiny and dissection than rational ones? Why can't we simply point out in school that some people believe that God made the world in seven days, and that's fine, but there's no actual evidence to support that, other than some poorly translated writings that were cribbed from oral traditions that were already hundreds of years old before the first written copy of Genesis ever appeared?

Tags: ,

82 Responses:

  1. "myths invented in the Bronze Age by superstitious desert nomads"

    It wasn't invented by them; it was given by God! ;)

  2. jabber says:

    Emacs is better than Vi!

  3. It was going great until he started going on about Northern Ireland's troubles being based on religious differences. Even back when it was about religious differences it wasn't really about religious differences.

    • jwz says:

      But thankfully, religion always adds that extra serving of "crazy" that might otherwise be lacking in a purely economic battle.

    • lars_larsen says:

      They couldnt use racism as an excuse for hatred, so they had to find something.

    • transgress says:

      well actually, it kinda was. Go way back and look into England's fall out with the catholic church, however I do suppose it wasn't entirely religious as too why they had the falling out. Sure it's had little to do with religion in the last couple hundred years, that doesn't mean it didn't originally play a significant role.

  4. caitlinburke says:

    Just yesterday he posted a 1238-word personal ad to his blog. Hmm, I've never been to Las Vegas, and I'm not doing anything this weekend ....

  5. mykwud says:

    This is all well & good, JWZ, but when can we expect "Faith vs. Predator"??? It's the matchup we've been dying to see in these pages for years now.

  6. mykwud says:

    ... GENESIS DOES what NINTENDON'T!!!

  7. ciphergoth says:

    Actually the linked magazine article that inspired the letter is even better:<lj-raw>

    Currently, I'm thinking the best course of action would be to remove science entirely from public school curriculum, because it doesn't seem that Americans want their children to learn how science works. Bits of trivia about prisms and how snowflakes form is all very good and well - isn't it nice how smart my Junior is? - but actually understanding scientific method, or accepting that there might be such a thing as objective truth regardless of whatever medieval notions one might personally ascribe to ... Lord, no, we can't have that.

    Americans seem to believe that the word "theory" is a synonym for "some bullshit I made up that might be true or not." This is incorrect. A better word for that might be "religion."

    </lj-raw>

    • transgress says:

      I personally liked the: Americans seem to believe that the word "theory" is a synonym for "some bullshit I made up that might be true or not." part. How true that is- but look at our culture, full of movies 'based on true events' and magic supplments that 'may' make you loose 300 pounds and also encourage mr happy to grow 4 inches (but 'these comments have not been evaluated by the FDA and this product is not intended to cure any disease'), we are bombarded with fiction presented as non-fiction with funny sounding small print disclaimers, after all nike doesnt run any sweatshops! (and thats part of its 1st ammendmant rights!), so in the end- with all the shit floating around presented as fact but with little disclaimers- is anyone truly surprised that in this culture 'theory' is a synonym for 'some bullshit i made up that might be true or not'.

      More astounding than that however, I find it amazing we trust the FDA or any other similar agency (hey this pill was tested on monkey's, had no side effects on them and helps you not be so hungry [however it also destroys your nervous system, increases your risk of stroke astronomically and funny enough- we are not fucking monkeys, 2% of dna is a huge difference).

      hrm, im ranting, point made, good night.

  8. fo0bar says:

    sfgate article

    Damn fundamentalist christians. I'm a pretty tollerant person; I see religion as a spectrum, not a rigid set of teachings and requirements. I was raised catholic in a progressive environment and formed my own beliefs: the bible (an interesting read if you haven't read it) is a collection of stories from many people (and hence have a certain amount of "creative leeway"), a long time ago, and has been translated many times. Don't take it word for word. Likewise, God may exist, or may not exist. No way to prove either condition. So as long as I'm generally a good person, I shouldn't let God (or perhaps lack thereof) affect my life.

    Whether I believe God exists or not doesn't change this fact: people didn't just magically appear 6000 years ago direcly because of god. That being said, "creationists" and fundamentalist christians (also, BushCo) are helping divide the world between "religious" and "non-religious" people. Classic example: my mom is catholic, sings in the church choir, wields power tools, and is about the most liberal person I have ever met.

    • lars_larsen says:

      A friend of mine is studying political science. He recently did a study and found that religious affiliation (or lack thereof) has absolutely no correlation with political affiliation.

      • Do you not find it just slightly ironic that you've made this statement without any reference to real evidence and are expecting us to take it... oh... on Faith?

        • lars_larsen says:

          I dont have a copy of his paper. But you shouldnt take any science at face value. Go ahead and try to reproduce it yourself.

        • flipzagging says:

          Gallup did a poll just last week on this. There's a definite correlation with voting preferences, but it's not the defining issue. Similar Canadian stats -- we're 43% Darwin, 38% biblical. Again, we find some correlation with voting preferences, but a little under half of those who voted for the secular socialists also believed in Eden.

          I guess many people don't think origins are a political topic. For them it's like tomato/tomahto. Technologists like us feel that irrationalism == end of world. I think we're more right though.

      • transgress says:

        I will agree that religious affiliation and political affiliation have no direct correlation, however I would argue that there is a correlation based on sociologocial reasons (such as people born into country x are more likely to be of religion y simply because of environment- furthermore, country x has strong roots in political system z- therefore a person from country x is most likely to be of political affiliation z and religion y.)

        Think a little more global to see what I am saying, people in the US are most likely to be christian, of whatever denomination, and also capitalistic, and believe in democracy the republic. Whereas one born in the middle east are more likely to be muslim (really that actually holds true throughout the world- you have over a 50% chance of someone you meet being muslim [of course that also depends on where you are]), and also depending on which coutnry they are from to believe in a number of political system (divine right, republic, etc), whereas china you will probably end up another religion and be indoctrinated in communism. This is part of what the soviet propaganda machine was about, social conditioning. And also, part of why I cannot believe in religion- at most, in any given religion, you have to subscribe to their theory to goto heaven or whatever splendid place they believe in, therefore you have to believe in theres. The locality of your birth and upbringing play a major role on what you see as valid religions (but granted its not set in stone either), therefore going to the everlasting greatness spot of yummy has as much to do with where you are born, as with how you live.

        The notable exceptions being of course 'open' religions/philosophies which do not require such allegiance.

        Sometimes I really wonder what conclusions on life a person would draw if they were somehow to spend almost the entirety of their life in isolation from other humans, but manage to learn the language that you spoke, and towards the end of their life you got to talk to them about 'things'.

        I also wonder what parts of fear come pre-programmed, and what's learned (i.e. are we born with the knowledge that jumping XXX hundred feet down will most likely kill us?), however thats another debate for another time.

      • ciphergoth says:

        This result is so far at odds with every other survey I've ever read (particularly those leading up to the presidential elections) that I have to wonder.

        • lars_larsen says:

          Some religous "coalitions" vote with one political party. But overall, a person being religous or not has absolutely no bearing on their political party affiliation.

          Here is a paper on the subject, although it is not the paper I was talking about. Go to the end and look at the tables. Overall the votes for each party are pretty much equal.

          http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/issr/crisp/KellstedtL.pdf

  9. "Organized religion destroys who we are by inhibiting our actions, by inhibiting our desicions, out of fear of an intangable father figure who shakes a finger at us from 1000 years ago, saying do it or, or i'll fucking spank you!" --The movie Dogma

  10. jabberwokky says:

    I am of the growing opinion that religion *must* be taught in schools. Aggressively and completely. It has played a important historic role in the development of modern society.

    Much like feudalism should be taught - so we don't make the same mistakes. "Here is what people believed, some people still do this today" is a perfectly valid and truthful education. For feudalism, show the modern warlords of Africa and the resulting famines, show the royalty of France and the beautiful courts. Turn to religion and show modern creationism with all the problems the belief has and show the glorious Sistine chapel and the beauty of the ceiling. In such education you are advocating neither a feudal society or a particular religion, but rather showing how they affected us and what they produce.

    Education is about teaching children how to think and then giving them knowledge. Teach them how to think critically and show them how we got to where we are. Let them decide: if you have presented a full view of our modern world and the history that got us to where we are... *and* have taught them the tools to think and research, they will come to their own beliefs. Hopefully these beliefs will not mirror ours - hopefully their beliefs will be a little better. We will have then hoisted them a bit higher to become the giants upon whose shoulders *their* children will stand.

    • 33mhz says:

      To some extent, they do teach religion, and not in the sense of Sunday School or anything. I took world history in highschool in a public school in Texas, and we learned about the rise of Christianity, the Protestant Reformation, the rise of Islam, etc.

    • tiger0range says:

      Like the theories of the exinction of dinosaurs are all given and compared against each other, if you teach creationism as an "alternative theory" then you better be able to critically compare the weeknesses and strengths of each of them against each other. Is there a non-debunked scientific study that gives evidence to creationism? What is the weight of evidence on each side?
      Unfortunately such an even-handed contest would slap down creationism so hard that the hypocrites would be calling it no fair attacks. If Satan is perverting science, then they really should go to living off subsistance farming in grass huts. Otherwise, they are mucking in filth and acting holier than thou.

    • srattus says:

      interesting.

      now all that is left to be done is to establish an independent principality and breed up a superior educated generation.

      we're overdue for a pandemic anyway to thin the herd.

    • webserf says:

      There are so many things that kids should learn. My son just finished a unit on Islam in Social Studies (7th grade) which included the relationship between Islam and Judaism and Christianity, and when/why Islam split into Sunni & Shiite factions. Maybe California schools aren't so terrible after all.

    • vatine says:

      Back in teh days I went to school (in Sweden) I had, over the cours eof the 12 years I spent in school two distinct subjects. One was "christianity" (essentially a review of the Bible from Genesis onwards; imposed because back then we did actually have a state church) and later on "Religion" (studying an assortment of christian churches, Judaism, Islam, Hindusim-lite, Taoism, Buddhism (large wheel, small wheel and Zen-) and a small (probably too small) selection of assorted nature-god-based faiths. Then, for good measure, we did it again. And again...

  11. baconmonkey says:

    Believing that life and the universe are too complex to exist without a creator is irrational.
    Believing that an infinately complex complex being exists on it's own and created everything is rational.

    Thus, Occam's Razor is the wrong tool. The correct tool is Goldberg's Rogaine, which states that the most complext answer to any problem must be true.

  12. harryh says:

    I dunno about that "further and further into irrationality" bit. We've always been this stupid about things.

  13. violentbloom says:

    The thing about myths is that back then, in many cases they were looking for a rational explaination...the way of thinking and general understanding of the world was just a lot more limited. I think even if you took a great brain like einstein or hawking and they grew up with the same culture and knowlege of the time, they wouldn't have come to the same conclusion as they have in modern day. Scientists today have a lot of information gathered over hundreds of years to work with.
    Of course that doesn't explain the people who still believe the myths, god, or voodoo... I saw an interesting thing about explaining greek mythology based on archeology... in example, wooly mammoths have a big single nostril opening in the center of the head...cyclops!

    • transgress says:

      The thing about myths is that back then, in many cases they were looking for a rational explaination...the way of thinking and general understanding of the world was just a lot more limited. I think even if you took a great brain like einstein or hawking and they grew up with the same culture and knowlege of the time, they wouldn't have come to the same conclusion as they have in modern day.

      Agreed. When I read older text's that were/are considered brillant, I often come away thinking 'well thats not really that profound, its kinda common sense', however then I have to think about the times they were in and how uncommon of a thought it must have been, in many cases they were the first to (publically) present such an idea. I think it even happens in modern times with modern things, its inevitable- this is going to go a little specific into one field for my example, but consider a programming error like a 'buffer overflow' (long technical explanation left out), its a pretty low level 'feature', and yet it seems so obvious- but I wonder if without having it pointed out, would I have caught it?

      Have you ever read much about Isaac Newton? The man was literally a genius, of the type I fear the world hasn't seen in a long time, and probably will not see in a long time either. I mean he came up with the basic laws of physics that we all take for granted now, but when you read about his life- it really is quite astonishing, I remember at one point in his life some european mathmaticians council presented a problem that they expected would take the entire community months to solve- however Mr. Newton came in and within a few _hours_ solved it; and even he laid credit to the work of his predecessors (if i have see far it is because i have stood on the shoulders of giants). It makes you wonder where he would have gone had he been born in say 1970 or 1980...

      • valacosa says:

        Yeah, maybe Newton wouldn't have gotten distracted by Alchemy and spent the rest of his life doing something productive.

        But if that happened, who would be Dornkirk from Escaflowne?

  14. flipzagging says:

    "Science and religion don't conflict. They're about different things."

    "All religions are the same, they all share the same values."

    "Oh yeah? Well, science is a sort of religion too."

  15. autopope says:

    One: having grown up and attended school in a nation where religious education "of a predominantly Christian nature" is the law of the land, I can swear that nothing generates agnostics as efficiently as an institutionalized state religion.

    Two: it's my impression that the only nation where the theory of evolution isn't believed by a majority of the educated population is one where, in large areas, as William Gibson says, "what really smarted about Darwin, down there, was the logical implication that blacks and whites are descended from a common ancestor. Butt-ugly, but there it is. That was the first objection to evolutionary theory that I ever heard, and it was a very common one, in fact the most common. That it was counter to Genesis seemed merely convenient, in the face of an anthropoid grand-uncle in the woodpile."

    Creationism == racism. Spread the meme.

    • jwz says:

      nothing generates agnostics as efficiently as an institutionalized state religion.

      I'm not sure that theory is playing out so well in, for example, Iran...

      • flipzagging says:

        All the Iranians I know feel great sadness about the revolution now (or are staunch secularists). And every commentator I read says that Iran now has the most pro-American population in the whole region.

        Unfortunately, they're stuck with crazy theocrats for the foreseeable future.

    • gutbloom says:

      I'm with you.

      I've also wondered why creationists aren't upset by extinctions. If God went to the trouble to create each individual species and gave us "dominion over them", isn't it a point of failure when we wipe one of them off the face of the Earth?

      • king_mob says:

        We have dominion over them. As Muad'Dib said, he who can destroy a thing, can control a thing.

        I am not being facetious. I have heard precisely this expressed by many persons of a theocratic and rigthtward bent.

      • transgress says:

        the word dominion, in some circles, is thought to have been slightly mistranslated- and had originally more of a meaning of 'care-taker', which dominion implies, however it implies more of a 'control' than I guess it originally had.

        But hell, the bible also says the world will end in a certain way, but when you read into it- the book of revelations was a series of anonymous letters written to the vatican. Kinda weird if you think about it, I wonder if I wrote a bunch of strange obviously lsd-induced predictions about the end of the world, if the vatican would even consider it valid.

        In a lot of points though, here is another part of the story- in some points, the bible itself predates the religion, which seems strange to me- Paul I believe it was, talks about going to Africa as a missionary and already finding churches, and so on. But c'est la vie, a scientist spends years going through a process and makes a mistake, its a fraud aimed at attacking the heart and soul of truth and democracy in america, the bible has some contradictions and its artistic freedom.

        (How did Judas die exactly? .. oh yea he hung himself THEN fell from the tree and disemboweled himself, thats why there is a contradiction)

        • jwz says:

          (or at least, his staff does)

          There's a really interesting Straight Dope entry on who wrote the bible.

          • transgress says:

            yea cecil is rad, no doubt there- I just read the whole thing, and it is interesting- although it leaves out the parts I remember watching on the discovery channel a while back about revelations being a series of anonymous letters to rome/the vatican, however overall it skips through a lot of details, but i suppose thats to be expected.

            Hrm I should go check out your website, it seems I will find myself in your great city on sat/sun and might check out your club if there is anything interesting going on there.

  16. gutbloom says:

    You MORONS! Don't you know that the soil is fertile becuase I go out on the winter solstice and howl at the moon all night? Are you completely unaware of the fact that the avian flu pandemic hasn't hit because I have a little tiki doll upon which I burn incense and mumble incantations? I'm not sure why I bother on behalf of you doubters. I mean, you laughed at me the first, second, and third time that I told you I had been praying for Voice Over IP but now, now, do you BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF THE LORD?

  17. I put no faith in my science, and no science in my faith.

  18. deimos_28 says:

    I for one think the word "theory" is misleading: "model" would maybe better...

    I don't think religion and science should be in conflict anyway because I consider that they address two different problems: science is striving to answer the question "how" whereas the religion tries to give an answer to "why". Science explains, religion motivates. Now I'm agnostic and I think it's the only scientifically defendable position.

    That "why" question is one that everybody either ignores or tries to answer - some with religious faith, some with scientific one (i.e, belief in something they cannot demonstrate). The question of how life first began on Earth for example is one that science can't (yet) answer (let alone the "why" question). So no flame wars!

    • Many of my friends are scientists (doh - given where I am) but they also happen to be theologians. Some of the most brilliant scientists I know agree that Science and Religion can be reconciled. I suppose it's become a semi-professional hobby for me. Well, maybe, humans are classical machines but are interesting non-classical machines possible? Somewhat fancifully, I say such non-classical machines could have "artificial souls".

      In my PHD thesis I have hypothesized that in an abstract, natural ecology a selective advantage could be gained from Quantum Information Processing. Tomorow I'm visiting a group at Oxford that is studying the possibility that bacterial photosynthesis centers can do Quantum Information Processing. If there's a selective advantage for quantum logic and biomolecular machines can support it -- it could be the case that living systems have quite "mystical" properties (that emerge from properties of QM). The world is an interesting place.

      • deimos_28 says:

        Note that you can quite simply create an "artificial intelligence" : just create an embryo "in vitro"... So the definition of what "artificial" means in "articial intelligence" is of some importance.

        Although I'm a complete layman in the subject, I think that intelligent machines will only be possible by using a biological information processing, in other words using something that we don't control at 100 % (as opposed to silicon chips).

        I think that an organism can only create an organism at most as complicate as itself (and with entropy I would imagine it would be in fact *less* complicated than itself). That that created organism can then evolve into something more complicated is another matter. but then, is it still artificial ? hmmm...

        • It's not (even close to) possible for human embryos to grow into babies outside a woman. Embryos can be fertilized in a test-tube but a so-called "test tube baby" requires a very real surrogate mother. But it might be true that someday "synthetic" humans could be made. For other animals it's often possible for a surrogate mom to be from another species. Is there something special about humans that requires human mothers? If my ideas about "artificial souls" pan out then, maybe, yes...

          But, really, I have no idea.

  19. omnifarious says:

    Frankly, as long as the evolution side of the debate refuses to understand why cultural identity and religion are more important to people than the objective reality revealed by science, they will continue to lose ground.

    Cultural identity and religion are the forces that have held people together in societies since we were bright enough to form them. Attempts to supress these things have largely led to either mass genocide or eventual open, violent revolt. It's not something you dismiss with a wave of the hand and calling it irrational.

    • mad props to who ever you are for placing some sense in the confersation.

    • king_mob says:

      This is completely specious.

      No one is asking people to stop going to church. No one wants sermons to be replaced by treatises on evolutionary biology. No one wants to outlaw even the most cretinous of fundamentalist hate-spouting creeds.

      Scientists and educators are trying to keep religion out of science and education. It is not the other way around; theocrats are not desperately trying to keep scientists and educators out of church.

      The problem is not our lack of respect for them; if anything, we're humoring them too much. The problem is their lack of respect for us; they believe we are essentially unqualified to participate in the political process or in public life.

      They can start accepting us, not the other way around, or they'll be the ones dealing with a revolt, and we're the ones who actually know how to put bombs together.

      • omnifarious says:

        So, it was perfectly fine to take thousands of American Indian children and force them to learn all about science, evolution and western thought in western style schools? I mean, your argument certainly supports that. Their belief system was no less a system of superstitions unsupportable by evidence than Christianity is. And you think that Christians should just suck it up when they discover the public schools they're paying for aren't allowed to teach a belief system they hold to be true. Well, given that, I think the Indians should've just sucked it up to instead of complaining so much and writing so many stories about how horrifying it all was. It was, after all, for their own good.

        Belief in the usefulness of science as a pursuit is a belief and philosophy. It is not science. There is no asymptotic approach to some measurable objective reality involved in whether or not you believe science is worthwhile. It is a faith that takes as its guiding principle that the more you learn about the real workings of the world around you, the better off you'll be as a people and the more enjoyable a life everybody will have.

        As for the intolerance argument...

        So, do you think the people of Iraq (or Afghanistan for that matter, though I think that war was totally justified) should be all tolerant about our soldiers tromping through their streets, acting like USians and assuming that everybody else should to? Or is that imperialism?

        • king_mob says:

          So, it was perfectly fine to take thousands of American Indian children and force them to learn all about science, evolution and western thought in western style schools?

          As an alternative it would have been all right with me if they had started their own schools and paid for them, or just dropped out of public schools completely. I don't think the US government has an obligation to humor every ignorant fool on the planet, but if someone objects to education I don't see any reason to force it on them. The world needs ditch-diggers too.

          Their belief system was no less a system of superstitions unsupportable by evidence than Christianity is. And you think that Christians should just suck it up when they discover the public schools they're paying for aren't allowed to teach a belief system they hold to be true.

          Of course not. I think they should be as free to drop out and remain stupid as the Indians should have been. Or let them go to private schools, or home-school. I don't care if the bumpkins replacing my windows, washing my car, and bringing me my waffles believe in Raven or JHVH. But I'm damned if I can see the taxpayer obligation to fund public schools which teach things at discordance with objective reality.

          Belief in the usefulness of science as a pursuit is a belief and philosophy. It is not science.

          This whole paragraph is nonsense. Science is not a faith, it's not a belief, it's not a philosophy. Attempting to answer some questions using scientific rigor is a useful method which seems to work well. It has nothing to do with making sure that you can measure all of objective reality, and it doesn't make any promises about making life better. Mostly it just tries to explain how things work.

          So, do you think the people of Iraq (or Afghanistan for that matter, though I think that war was totally justified) should be all tolerant about our soldiers tromping through their streets, acting like USians and assuming that everybody else should to?

          I don't know of any efforts to Westernize the Iraqis, except in the imposition of market capitalism and democracy. But we're invaders; it's their country. If they want to kick us out and move to, say, Swedish-style state socialism I reckon that's fine with me.

          Afghanistan seems to have turned more into a Taliban vs. warlords vs. Kabul kleptocrats kind of a situation; I don't think we're imposing much of anything on them culturally. Anyway, the Afghanis can take care of themselves. They kicked the British out, they kicked the Russians out, they shot Alexander the Great in the lung. They'll be back exporting raw opium and beheading adulterers in no time.

          • deimos_28 says:

            I think you're going a bit far when you say "I think they should be as free to drop out and remain stupid as the Indians should have been." I suppose we agree that "stupid" is the contrary of "intelligent", which means that by writting this sentence you are implicitly saying that an intelligent person must be educated (in the modern Western style).

            I agree with you that "science is not a faith, it's not a belief, it's not a philosophy". However, I don't think it was the meaning of the original sentence you quoted: "Belief in the usefulness of science as a pursuit is a belief and philosophy". I understand that to mean "thinking that science is better than no science is just a belief, not an objective statement." I am quite confident that the American Indians could be quite happy not knowing anything about manifolds, symplectic structures or genetics.

            As for the education problem (i.e allowing people to drop out if the teaching is in contradiction with their beliefs), I'm not sure about that either: one can argue that one is doing more harm than good by forcing children to go to school when it contradicts their whole culture. The problem is that nowadays it is quite difficult to be integrated in society without going to school. This means that either the children are (more or less) integrated into western society and have to bear the contradictions with the culture of their ancestries, or they remain in their original community. Idealy, one would have to be able to concile scientific teaching and religious beliefs, but judging by the trouble creationists have in doing this and knowing that islam and christianity have always known western-style science, I guess it musn't be all that easy for a culture confronted all of a sudden with these scientific theories...

            Sorry for the clumsiness of my sentences... ;)

            • king_mob says:

              I suppose we agree that "stupid" is the contrary of "intelligent", which means that by writting this sentence you are implicitly saying that an intelligent person must be educated (in the modern Western style).

              I suppose that's true. I tend to use the word "stupid" as shorthand for several states in which one's mental faculties are subpar -- below average intelligence, undereducation, willful ignorance, etc. I use it because "stupid" has a negative connotation. I don't like pretending that any of those subpar states are "all right."

              I am quite confident that the American Indians could be quite happy not knowing anything about manifolds, symplectic structures or genetics.

              Maybe. I don't know what the fuck the first two things mean, and I'm not the happiest guy on the planet. My knowledge of the third is pretty entry-level. But we're talking about high school. We are talking about what may or may not be taught in American high schools. I do not accept that huge chunks of knowledge must not be taught to high school students because someone's feelings might be hurt. If these facts are dangerous to their faith, let them avoid the fucking facts. I don't feel any obligation to anyone up during their spiritual crisis.

              The problem is that nowadays it is quite difficult to be integrated in society without going to school.

              Yes, that is a problem. Specifically, it is their problem. I feel no temptation to make an entire generation stupider so that the spawn of some Bible-thumping clod will feel "integrated." The clod can decide if he wants his kid ignorant or pure.

              • king_mob says:

                Last sentence should read "ignorant AND pure," not OR.

              • deimos_28 says:

                Thanks for the reply - I've now got more information.

                OK, so you agreed that an intelligent person must be educated. Just so I fully understand what you are saying, do you think that this education has to be Western-society style or would you consider other forms of education valid for the definition of "intelligent person"?

                Second, I have to admit I was exaggerating a bit by writing in "manifolds" and "symplectic structures" and you are write in reminding me that "we're talking about high school". This happens to be another point which I do not fully understand in your argument: you say "I do not accept that huge chunks of knowledge must not be taught to high school students". What are these huge chunks? In other words, what criteria do you use to consider that something is a huge chunk or not?

                Third, "The clod can decide if he wants his kid ignorant". I quite agree: there should be a certain amount of choice involved. I think the public education system offered by a democratic country should be what the majority of the population thinks it should be. I also think that one should have the choice, i.e. going through this system or not. The thing is, I'm not sure one actually *has* that choice, should one seriously consider the possibility of surviving more than a few days...

                I still think that one can live with both scientific knowledge and religious beliefs... After all, everybody has some faith that they cannot let go without questioning their whole identity. For some, it's faith in God. For others, faith in progress, faith in mankind, faith in philosophy, etc. I myself have faith in that people need faith - hmmm not very clear maybe.

                • king_mob says:

                  OK, so you agreed that an intelligent person must be educated.

                  Okay, you can't read. *plonk*

                  • deimos_28 says:

                    >>> I suppose we agree that "stupid" is the contrary of "intelligent", which means that by writting this sentence you are implicitly saying that an intelligent person must be educated

                    >> I suppose that's true.

                    > Okay, you can't read. *plonk*

                    I guess you didn't have much to say on the rest, judging by the subtelty of your last reply.

          • omnifarious says:

            Science isn't a faith, it's a discipline and methodology. It's a way of approaching asking and answering questions that asymptotically approaches a consistent explanation for all physical events in the universe.

            Belief in science as a useful pursuit is a belief. Valuing the kind of truth that science gives you is a value. IMHO, it's evil/bad/non-survival to think science isn't useful and the results it comes up with shouldn't be valued. But, that's my opinion. I do think that the ability of humans to work together in a family, community or society is more important to survival than valuing science is.

            As for the rest of what you say, I can't argue with you. You basically state that you think that non-believers in the value of science over faith deserve the consequences of poor education (which I heartily agree with) and should have the money to give the rest of us a decent education taken from them regardless of whether they choose one or not. Sort of like forcing PC manufacturers to pay to install Windows whether or not they ship it on the system.

            That's an interestingly honest stance, and I admire you for so baldly stating the truth about how you feel. I would invite you to think of the situation if they manage to get control of both national and local governments and turn the tables on you, as they're trying very hard to do right now. How would you feel about a government that tried to stamp out a belief system (belief in the value of science over faith) you think is better?

            • subtle_eye says:

              Belief in science as a useful pursuit is a belief.

              No, it's the only long term survival strategy for the species. Praying will not get us off this damn rock. The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program.

            • king_mob says:

              I would invite you to think of the situation if they manage to get control of both national and local governments and turn the tables on you, as they're trying very hard to do right now.

              What is this "if" shit? Don't you get a newspaper?