Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Logic of Science vs. Religion

2007 Dec. 24

Letters to the Editor
Appleton Post-Crescent
PO Box 59
Appleton WI 54911

Re: Logic rests with religion more than atheism

Kurt Williamsen is so wrong in so many different ways about so many different subjects that I can’t possibly tackle them all. Let me, therefore, confine myself to his fundamental misunderstanding of how science works.

One thing he did get right was that “Scientists cannot claim to be 100 percent certain of their assertions.”. Of course, he phrases it as if it’s a bad thing. In fact, any scientist worth her or his salt would proudly proclaim that science NEVER claims to be 100% certain about ANYTHING. All scientific knowledge is held tentatively, subject to revision if better information comes along.

In fact, that’s exactly what happened with the situation which Williamsen mischaracterizes as Einstein contradicting Newton (whose laws of motion had held for a couple of centuries before relativity came along). Not at all. Einstein REFINED the laws of motion, showing how Newton’s equations were perfectly fine for speeds and gravities common to Earth’s surface but needed an additional term to accommodate speeds closer to light and gravities more like the Sun’s.

This isn’t to say that contradictions NEVER occur. The classic is Galileo’s showing that objects of different sizes fall at the same speed, not (as Aristotle had claimed) that heavier ones fall faster. But Aristotle was more a philosopher than a scientist and had arrived at his understanding not by conducting experiments but by thinking about how things SHOULD be.

This is exactly what religion does. It doesn’t test against reality, it just consults authorities and makes pronouncements. Religion claims to be 100% certain about everything, because that’s what keeps the fannies in the pews and the folding green in the collection plate.

And, y’know what? They ARE 100% certain about everything, even (perhaps especially) the many, many things they’ve gotten wrong, like whether the Sun revolves around the Earth or whether witches deserve to die horribly. And they remain stubbornly impervious to evidence to the contrary.

By contrast, science -- specifically BECAUSE it’s non-dogmatic -- is self-correcting. There are millions of instances where one scientist has improved upon the work of earlier scientists. And there are thousands of times when science has proved some aspect of religion wrong. But there has yet to be a single case -- ever, anywhere, by anybody -- of religion proving science wrong about anything.

= = = = = =
Richard S. Russell, Parliamentarian
Atheist Alliance International
2642 Kendall Av. #2, Madison WI 53705-3736
608+233-5640 •

Sun god! Sun god! Ra, Ra, Ra!


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