May 17, 2011

Atheism and Science

Atheists think they're free, because they've removed their faith from religion.... and placed it in science... believing with religious fervor that science is the route to liberty of the human mind.
But-- science is just another construct of the human mind, and subject to the same weaknesses we know so well. Viewed 'objectively,' science passes every test for religion! Here's the proof.

If, as its practitioners insist, science were truly 'objective,' there should be only one school of thought (or, shall we say, church of belief) because all objective investigation (using the touted methods of reproducible experiments, mathematical equations, etc.) should lead to the same results and conclusions. But, the fact is that there are many schools (denominations) of scientific belief.

Moreover, scientists (believers) in a given discipline object strenuously if a practitioner from another discipline should have the temerity to cross the forbidden boundaries and bring new, fresh beliefs into their hallowed halls. A classic example is the shameful treatment of Velikovsky (a psychiatrist) in the 1950s. After the early space probes sent back data that confirmed his unorthodox theories, did his critics apologize? No; they simply absorbed the new truths... and stopped any mention of his name.

Today, the battle of scientific dogmas rages between the true church of the classic, gravitational model of the universe, versus the heretical, upstart proponents of the electric universe. Like Catholics and Protestants, Sunnis and Shiites, these two camps loathe each other and their aberrant ideologies.

Clearly, scientific orthodoxy becomes as entrenched as any religious views. This is a natural outcome of human nature, and occurs irrespective of the field of knowledge (be it religious or secular). The problem in both spheres, is that true believers of any stripe refuse to acknowledge this truism, and insist that their truths are somehow immune to the human tendency to cast our biases in stone.

Added to the problem of subjectivity in all belief systems, is the influence of purely practical or operational factors, the primary one being finances. All human systems require money to fund the salaries of the priests who conduct the services/research, instruct the initiates/students, and proclaim the dogmas/theories. In this regard, science may be objectively seen as in a more precarious situation than religion. Ministers are generally paid by their congregation or denominational authority, hence find it expedient to preach the message approved by those authorities.

Scientists, as highly educated individuals, feel they deserve high salaries-- much higher than the average pastor. Those salary levels must be secured by performing research and writing papers that are sponsored by well-endowed corporations. Obviously, the research must be of some relevance to corporate sponsors; but more troublesome, it must not compromise the profits of the corporation for fear of having the funds withdrawn. It's a clear conflict of interest that everyone is aware of, but few dare to question, at peril of their income.

Yet, secular humanists cling to this pathetic faith that science is objective, impartial, and the only system capable of yielding credible models of reality. Sure, there have been great advances in the material realm. Many of the great leaps have been born of the scientific breakthroughs of the 19th century, when the pioneers of electro-magnetism laid the ground-work for much of what followed. Advances in steam, and later, gasoline engines were more due to engineering progress, which resulted in trains, automobiles, aircraft, and so forth. Those early researchers were not beholden to the corporate sector as today's graduates, and were more propelled by a true spirit of investigation.

What passes itself off for science in this 21st century, especially at the theoretical level, is really another form of religion, if only its practitioners had the honesty and courage to admit it. All belief systems, whether grounded in theology or in natural observation, are subject to all the limitations of human psychology. They would all do better to cooperate than compete. But in that regard, they behave as purveyors of consumer products, and scramble to grab as much 'market share' as possible for their stake-holders. Bottom line: in the realm of ideas, humans are as irrational as in all their other endeavors.

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