The above picture has been doing the rounds on social media, and at face value, seems to make sense. Science has given us so much and religion has caused so many problems. Having a little girl smiling makes us want to agree with it, and sadly, there are too many Christians who preach that people are broken. These lists though, are too simplistic to be of any use, particularly in what science apparently teaches. Taking a quick look at each:
Full of wonder – Science came out of curious people wanting to investigate the world. As C.S Lewis put it; “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator”. Science works with what’s testable, “wonder” is not a scientific concept yet you can’t do science without it; science is powerless to explain it.
That we are smart – If it’s true science teaches this by its methods, then by contrast it also tells others that they are dumb, that they lack intelligence; it does what the list says religion does. Not everyone has the ability to be a scientist, to do science. Also, does science show we have intelligence? Yes, but like with wonder, we didn’t have to wait for the scientific method to be invented to tell us that. Indeed science came out of intelligent people, it was intelligent people who understood mechanical and engineering concepts to build the pyramids long before science even became a discipline or even a word. Science came out of what we already knew.
A great learner – pretty much the same as the other 2; it’s a value that is beyond science and if it has taught this, it has also taught the opposite for others.
Beautiful – again, not a scientific term or realm and has taught the opposite for others. Science, in its strict form, has no measure for beauty though some have drawn equations for it. There is the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” What is beautiful to one is not beautiful to another but science works in objectivity. Science teaches what the body does, not how attractive it is. If anything, science would have to teach that beauty is mere face value, objective values that can be measured; that people are only considered beautiful by how they look.
Potential for greatness – very much like the others if science has shown this it has also shown us that we have the potential to cause great harm. Also, greatness is not measurable so science can’t teach this. All of these terms are ascribed by humans, but science is powerless to explain why we are these things. People have concluded these things from science, but it goes beyond what science can show.
Reading this reminded me of a lecture given by Michael Ramsden about Professor John Gray. I have paraphrased some of it below (and included the video) but Professor Gray would argue that an adherence to strict science means none of the “science list” is true or possible:
To believe in progress, is to believe that using the powers given to us by growing scientific knowledge humans can free themselves from the limits that frame the lives of other animals Darwin shows us that humans are like are other animals. In world shown to us by Darwin there is nothing that can be called progress. The idea that humanity takes charge of its destiny makes sense of if we ascribe consciousness and purpose and meaning to the human race. But Darwins discovery was that species are only currents in the drifts of genes the idea that humanity can shape its future assumes that is exempt from this truth
There are 4 things we conclude if a strict form of scientific atheism is true
1) There is no such thing as meaning
2) There are no such things or the idea or person hood
3) In what sense can be held responsible for our actions?
4) Must abandon the idea of morality
Professor Gray goes much further in his book “Straw Dogs“. It paints a miserable picture, that doesn’t mean it’s not true though. Other people can pretty grossed out by science. As I said above, science teaches what the body does so if you think about everything involved in us to eat food, it’s not exactly pleasant. That though, is us bringing our perceptions and values and applying them to the data. The list under what science teaches is every bit a list of values and value judgments as the list of what religion teaches. The aim of the sign is to show religion is dangerous and science is not but let’s not forget, it is science that gave us guns, nuclear weapons and chemical agents. Both lists are far too simplistic to be of any value to show anything other than the authors preconceptions. I suspect its popularity is due to it attacking a religion and that it has a cute little girl holding it.
Religion, like science, has the potential to be used for good or harm, but it is people who teach these things based on the conclusions they’ve drawn. For Christianity in particular, there was a man named Jesus who stood against the Pharisees who beat people down. I doubt he’d be too happy about religion teaching those things either. There are theological debates about the doctrine of original sin, but if what people hear is that God sees you as broken and that you are broken, then Christians have got it so badly wrong, and I can only apologize if you have been taught these things.
Simple fact is, anything in the hands of a person can be destructive. It can also be very beautiful, depends on what the person does with it.