Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Difference Between Science and Faith



I believe in God and I believe that through God's will, the Universe was created. I can't prove it, but still I believe it.

Some people speak of a personal relationship with God. I wish I had that same experience. So far it's been a very one-sided relationship: I talk to God and, as of yet, he/she hasn't talked back. I'm a rational person, yet this hasn't deterred me.

No one I know has died, gone to heaven and returned to tell me about the experience. Yet, I still believe in Heaven.

Why do I believe? It's called faith.

The belief in God, Jesus, or any other Higher Power is an article of faith and, as such, is improvable. Faith is an illogical act, and possibly one that is purely emotional or instinctual.

I like to believe that we are all accountable to a Higher Authority in this life, and that there is a God in the Universe who is responsible for us being here, as well as for giving order and reason to the universe.

I don't believe our existence, the known universe or the world that we live in are random.

Despite being a person of faith, I'm very disturbed by the trend of "intelligent design," which is simply creationism in disguise.

Presently there are battles going on in Pennsylvania and Kansas over the science curriculums taught in those states, and the outcome could have national ramifications.

Faith is not science. They are not the same thing. In fact, they are polar opposites.

According to the dictionary, science is defined as 1.) The state or fact or knowing knowledge. 2.) Systematized knowledge derived from observation, study, and experimentation carried on in order to determine the nature or principles of what is being studied.

By it's very nature, science is objective. It is not arbitrary, it is not prejudiced and it is not biased. It is empirical.

Science is not subjective. It does not pre-draw its conclusions and maintain them despite evidence to the contrary. Science seeks to establish facts. Science is systematic and exacting.

Faith is everything that science is not.

Faith is defined as unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence. Faith is a complete reliance, trust and confidence in the absence of proof or evidence.

This is the Jewish New year. Happy Rosh Hashana to my Jewish friends! According to the Jewish calendar, the one that corresponds with the Book of Genesis and the alleged creation of the world in just six days, the year is 5766. By that account, the world is less than six thousand years old.

Of course not all Jews believe this -- just the ones who are literalists, the ones who accept the entire Old Testament as fact. Those Jews are not alone. There are millions more fundamentalist Christians who share that same absolute faith, who believe that everything in the Bible is literal and true.

The only problem with this is that science has proven that the world is older than six thousand years. Much older.

Using radiometric dating methods, scientists have discovered rocks on the Earth that date to about 3.8 to 3.9 billion years ago. And it is scientific consensus that the earth is approximately 4.55 billion years old -- give or take 1 percent. Fossilized dinosaur embryos recently discovered in South Africa have been dated at 190 million years. They are the oldest ever found.

A new study has revealed that humans and chimpanzees share 96 percent of the same genomes. That's a pretty close cousin. Sounds like evolution to me. Scientists have also discovered that even fruit flies share nearly 60% of human genes.

This sort of evidence should shake the biblical literalists, but it doesn't. Upon further reflection, why should it? They believe what they believe, despite evidence to the contrary. Remember, it's called faith.

Evolution is heresy to these biblical literalists and, by the way, they are not small in number. According to a Harris Poll, 54 percent of Americans do not believe that humans developed from a earlier species.

But scientists know that Neanderthals, Cro-Magnons and humans existed at the same time, and that they are separate species within the genus Homo -- meaning we are all related cousins.

Neanderthals reigned from about 230,000 to 29,000 years ago, Cro-Magnons existed from 35,000 to 10,000 years ago, and anatomically modern humans are known to have developed around 100,000 years ago.

Both Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons used language and had larger brains than humans. They crafted tools, made jewelry, built huts, wove clothing and painted cave walls.

It is believed that Cro-Magnons created the first calendar around 32,000 B.C. and Neanderthals buried their dead in a ritual manner. Primates aside, these other species -- our human cousins -- are fine examples of evolution.

Science is best taught in schools. Faith is best taught at home, and in churches, temples, and other places of worship.

Faith is not science and should not masquerade as such. Faith should not be taught in public schools as science. If parents want to send their kids to religious schools to get that sort of education, then that is their right. But their children will not be getting a genuine education in science and, therefore, they will not be America's next generation of scientists.

Copernicus was considered a heretic by Christians because he had the audacity to propose the then controversial and offensive notion that the sun revolved around the earth -- not the other way around. Other scientists were burned at the stake for adopting and furthering his observations.

The educated world once believed that the earth was flat; this was common wisdom 500 years ago.

Many natural phenomena (thunder, lightning, floods, earthquakes etc.) were once explained by superstition and myth, but have long since been provided a rational explanation by modern science.

Regarding these matters, religious fundamentalists have since changed their tune in the intervening centuries, but they are still stuck in the Middle Ages when it comes to evolution.

For the sake of promoting creationism, the Kansas state board of education is actually seeking to change the basic definition of science to include the supernatural.

Evolution and a belief in God are not mutually exclusive. You can believe in both without conflict. In my opinion, as well as that of millions of other people -- including many leading scientists -- God is the intelligent designer of all things, including evolution.

It was through divine intervention that evolution was allowed to proceed. So, man may not have been created in God's image, but then again, Adam was not created from dirt and Eve was not created from one of Adam's ribs either.

That is not science and neither is creationism, or what is now conveniently being referred to as "intelligent design" by religious fundamentalists.

We've come too far for this kind of pseudo controversy, or for such primitive ideas to be promoted and promulgated.

For the sake of science and reason, for the good of our country, and the advancement of learning and knowledge, lets please keep science and religion distinct and separate.

Copyright © 2005 The Independent Report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

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