Oh, the humility!

Sometimes I get a kick out of the arguments for religion, because they’re so entertaining. Whether this is actively fostered or simply a by-product of our media, the most common style that I see anymore is the sound bite. By that I mean, the brief and memorable, sum-it-all-up sayings that sound good, even though content-wise they’re rather deficient. The comments on any article at Scientific American dealing with evolution will provide many examples. Sound bites have the advantage that they’re quicker to snap off than a reasoned explanation, and that they can appeal to those who don’t want to make any effort whatsoever in considering a position. I’m refraining from comments about such a target audience…

Quite prevalent is the humility plea. Generally, it takes the shape of denigrating science because of what we have no answers for, and usually adds in some dig about the arrogance of assuming that we do. We mortals should be humble in the face of the deity, rather than curious or, god forbid, logical. Evolution is a favorite target, as is cosmology. Come on, say it with me: “Evolution is just a theory.” Very good – you got that nasally whine just right on the word “theory.” I’m not even going to go into the ignorance of what the arguers think “theory” means – it’s not worth it anymore. It’s just amusing, listening to someone wielding the statement as if they had made a major point instead of announcing their vapidity to the world.

The best part of these is the hypocrisy, though. Without fail, the arguer seeks to pour scorn on both science and secular education for daring to go with the evidence, but never, ever tumbles to the fact that religion attempts to define far more about the world, its beginnings, and whatever supernatural realm it proposes without the faintest shred of evidence (no, Caleb, a book is not evidence.) Science, somehow, is arrogant because it examines the real world and forms theories that support the facts, and predicts specific behavior or results. But religious folk, who usually couldn’t describe any portion of evolutionary theory or evidence accurately enough to pass a high-school biology exam, need to inform everyone else of how wrong science must be, of how much it’s based on dogma, and by golly how come my idea of six days and unchanging forms of animals isn’t taught right alongside this?

Because it’s fucking stupid – is that an adequate reason? While some may want to believe in magical realms all they want, others who actually want to know what works in the real world, will stick to knowledge obtained through empiricism. That’s the stuff that isn’t imaginary. Whether someone’s christian, muslim, buddhist, pastafarian, wiccan, or trekkie, it’s the stuff that works exactly the same regardless. That’s kind of – no, actually, that’s precisely – why its relied on and taught to children.

Especially entertaining is when someone actually uses the term “dogma.” When applied to science, this apparently is a corrupt and laughable concept, conveniently ignoring the fact that religion relies on dogma – it’s where the entire idea came from in the first place! So, Harvey Dent, which is it? Is dogma good, or bad? Doesn’t matter, actually – either way you just trashed your own argument.

In a way, you have to appreciate those who, in their haste to set those arrogant scientists straight, demonstrate both their own incredible ignorance and their distinct fear of ever finding out how wrong they might be. The arguments are ancient and long-rebutted, but like a child excitedly telling a decrepit joke about a horse walking into a bar, these helpful folk stand up on their soapboxes to show off their inability to perform even the most rudimentary of rational thoughts: that maybe somebody who’s making a living in the field might, just might, have caught the fundamental discrepancy that our helpful religious zealot trumpets. It is undeniably too much to expect that they actually type the term into a search engine. With so much information available to us right there on the machine you’re reading this upon, it astounds me that so few can ever make that logical leap into the abyss to see whether someone has indeed rebutted their insightful little proverb. I suppose that it has actually occurred to some, but there’s a little too much chance that the answer won’t be what they want it to be. So if they don’t ever learn it, it doesn’t exist. La la la la la la la…

To cap off the amusing portions, one of the surest ways to remain humble is to actually start learning about something – it’s safe to say that it takes humility to open oneself to learning in the first place. The amount of knowledge we have about myriad subjects is astounding sometimes, and it frequently results in finding some previously-held belief was mistaken – I’m not just talking about religion, because every subject can foster these results. If someone is concerned about never being found wrong, then the best thing they can possibly do is to dig a hole and fill it in on top of themselves. But if they harbor an honest interest in learning, in finding out new and fascinating facts and ideas, then discarding the anxiety over being “right” lets them absorb without filtering it through their ego. Every time someone finds out they were wrong about something, this is actually a very good thing, because they just moved forward.

Some people consider that a good thing.