Science!

There are two types of opinions with respect to science: that it can be used to explain everything and the alternative that its scope is limited. I know a lot of us are tremendously resistant to the belief that science can explain everything. We crave mystery in our world and we often believe science takes that away. But what sometimes we fail to realize about science is that more often than not, it creates mystery where there previously was none, it creates questions more than answers. Scientists themselves are fueled by the mystery surrounding our universe and the entities within it. It is exactly the lack of knowledge that drives them. But they base their search on the premise that knowledge can be obtained, and that is why they keep looking.

The alternative hypothesis: that there is some forbidden place where knowledge (certainly synonymous with science) cannot reach. I am here to argue that this belief not only is absurd, but also combats mystery, knowledge, human progression, and opens the door up to whole lot of other absurdity.

The second we allow someone to make a faith-based claim, it allows for all other faith-based claims. There can be no rational argument against an irrational belief. They are simply on two entirely different fields. Say one person wants to believe in spirits or ghosts, not harmful ones, just that they exist and are gently “floating” around. I could provide him or her infinite arguments and philosophical contradictions for why that belief is absurd. And in return, at the finale of the inevitable mind-numbing debate, this person could simply cite, “I just believe, okay?!” And that is when the conversation ends. No one can debate that. What do you say to that? “Do you believe your dreams are real too, as utterly convincing as they sometimes may be?” They could say yes to that too. It is a totally personal, irrefutable claim.

The real problem occurs not with the belief in ghosts or fairies or any harmless stuff like that. The issue truly is of principles. This belief has just opened up the door to an entire body of pseudoscience, religion, superstition, and absolute quackery. This includes the fundamentalists that say “homosexuality is a sin,” “Americans deserve to die” and other volatile and aggressive claims like that. How can you argue with someone who believes in fairies? You can’t. How can you argue with a Muslim radical who believes he is going to be with 72 virgins when he collides his captured plane into the World Trade Center? You can’t.

Most people like to believe they base their lives on principles. And they should. But when you admit faith into your life, you have entirely abandoned principle. Faith is ambiguity, it requires a line at some undefinable, culturally biased location. When I say, Chinese medicine is beyond the scope of science but Scientology is just plain silly, I am being entirely vague and irrational. When you demand evidence, it is a defined, even if difficult or even unattainable target. But it is there and we can find it. It is the difference between believing in unicorns parading around on Mars because someone told you so, or not believing in unicorns parading around on Mars until someone shows you so.

I empathize with this craving to believe, this desire to find something extraordinary, to escape from the monotony of everyday life to something incredible. But what amazes me is how little of this incredible place we all are truly aware of. And consistently what I observe are that the populations who are open to faith are also the least aware of what awesome stuff is actually going on around them. If any creationist could with an open mind take a full day to study natural selection, they would find it absolutely the most simple and elegant theory on the origin of complex life (the only one too). They would be smiling an ear to ear grin at how amazingly simple and beautiful it is. But I promise you the truly absurd ones won’t do that because they already “know” how we got here, because it says so in their book or they simply can’t “believe” we evolved from bacteria. Faith gets in the way of knowledge, of mystery and puts delusion in its place. And where there is no knowledge, it is okay to say, “I don’t know.” That is an okay answer, but one that our egos often fail to acknowledge.

I understand the fear of science explaining everything. It seems to simplify our lives to a series of interactions and laws. We can be explained, down to our very thoughts, even down to love, by biology, by chemistry, physics, and even mathematics. It is why people still fight against online matching websites. It simplifies love to an algorithm. There is no overly romantic person or metaphysical entity determining who is right for who. It is a computer guided by data sets determining what we ourselves are so absolutely terrible at accomplishing (because we are too incredibly good at deluding ourselves). But while this may superficially frighten us, I cannot think of any reason why it actually should. We are still alive, right? I am still the one doing the living. If even my decisions are not my own, I am still the observer of this fantastic place. So why resist the truth when the truth can certainly be just as beautiful and less scary without ghosts and demons than the fictional world religion and quackery have created?

So I argue for us all to rid ourselves of one thing, of faith, of delusion, and replace it with the principle of relentless and consistent demand for evidence, no matter how hard it flies in the face of our previous beliefs and bias. But in return for our abandonment of fiction, I give you this:

And this too:

Grayson Cobb

Grayson Cobb

I am a long distance backpacker, triathlete, adventurer, climber, kayaker, and lowly medical student currently living in Norfolk, VA attending Eastern Virginia Medical School and getting out for adventures on weekends.
Grayson Cobb

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