Science: Humbling the Faithful

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Science is hard.


Science is really, really hard.  I know this because I’ve been spending a lot of my time in recent years trying to get a grasp on various areas of scientific inquiry. From astronomy to physics, evolution to chemistry my studies have taught me one thing above all others;  what humans know is infinitely minute, what I know is 1/10th of .0001% of that (I’m likely being far too generous).

Science has a way of humbling us. I think we have a lot to be proud of, especially considering the length of time that modern science has had to get to where it is after surviving the Dark Ages, but I feel a certain sense of awe and wonderment when I consider all of the things we don’t know – I feel insignificant and tiny when I look at the Hubble Deep Field or when I consider the vastness of the human genome.

I won’t go as far as to say that belief in the Christian god is not inherently humbling, what with the idea that man is entirely depraved – but that belief also comes with the idea that you have all of the answers to life’s most difficult questions in a single conveniently packaged volume or available to you when you seek god through prayer. Furthermore, there is a tendency to be easily satisfied and unscrupulous regarding the answers you find – faith makes inquisition and discovery less necessary or involved.

I’ve been fascinated by science since long before I lost my faith but that fascination was superficial at best.  When I believed I needed my understanding of science to synchronize with my faith and when they didn’t match up I had to drop the science in favor of the faith because I already had the answers and it was unwise to question a mighty god, prone to outbursts of rage.

There were occasional episodes where I was willing to challenge my beliefs and tip-toe into an acceptance of the old earth and evolution but accepting these things meant changing some fundamental beliefs I had. These few revelations probably planted the initial seeds of doubt that eventually took root in my mind to weaken the walls I had built around my god. As those roots grew the walls crumbled and I found myself capable of facing god in a different way – opening my options to the idea that perhaps he was not real.

Science humbled me enough to be able to find and appreciate doubt. It taught me that scrutiny was a beautiful thing and that I had failed to ask hard questions that made me uncomfortable, it then challenged me to hold my god to the same scrutiny that I had once held to  scientific fields like evolution and astronomy.

I’ve been called arrogant by Christians that are truly convinced that atheists think they know it all. I’m convinced that the opposite is true and that we are humbled by the miniscule knowledge we hold and by our place in the universe. I think I am, at least.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field

  • Jolex41

    Great post.

  • It's the very fact that science is humbling that disturbs many (most) religious extremists. It's a lot more fun instead to wallow in an arrogance based on the belief that a supreme being made humans in his own image and who told them to take dominion over the earth.

  • Lisa

    Beautifully written!

  • If atheists did 'know it all", they would know there was a God. 😉

  • Brucr

    Just throwing it out there, but is there a reason why science and religion cannot co-exist? It seems to me that religion can and should be that body of science that we just don't understand yet. And yes, as our science teaches more, our perspective of "the religion" must change. But does that not create a more intimate relationship with the religion?

    I don't go to church. And I'm pretty certain that my concept of God and my perspective of religion is pretty different from most. But religion has existed in some form in nearly every civilization of humankind. Almost alwsys it is a belief system for things not understood. It has its purpose.

    • It's purpose has consistently been to answer unknowns, science has adequately replaced that.

    • Hostile and incommensurate: science mode and religious mode. Keep them separate and polarized, other wise each contaminates the other. The complement, of course–or call it co-existence if you prefer. Co-evolutionary? But, like some football game: we have fans, rooting and supporting one over the other. Cheeseheads. Team Spirit. Got to just walk away, showem both cheeks. They're going to Just Vote.

  • I don't know how relevant this is, but I was watching one of the ghost shows on bio. the other day where an Indian woman said she saw Krishna. She spoke about it the way Christians speak about seeing Jesus or God come to them, and I was just amazed. I had never seen someone of another religion talk about an encounter like that. Chad and I talked before about how we think that sometimes that sort of thing manifests itself according to what you have been brought up to believe.

    Like I said, no clue if it's really relevant here, but for some reason this post made me think of it. Perhaps it was the arrogance with which some Christians insist their God is the only one that exists.

    • I think it's relevant as it confirms the bias that occurs with all religions. Believers will prove to themselves what it is that they believe, Confirmation Bias is as strong a tool of evangelism as anything – and it's the main reason that people are encouraged to give "testimonies" of their faith, as sharing one's story of conversion with many people will eventually resonate with one of those people, beginning the cycle again.

  • There is no disparity between true science and God. It is only there in the minds of those who choose to believe in the fallible and finite understanding of psuedo-science which is what the meager bit of human understanding has brought into the realm of knowledge. Oh, that people would learn what the Bible makes plain; "My thoughts are not your thoughts saith the Lord, neither are my ways you ways; for as the Heavens are high above the earth so much higher are my thoughts than you thoughts and my ways than your ways."

    Put aside you meager understanding and submit yourselves to God so that you can finally learn from him through the Holy Spirit what is good and true and right. Divine revelation will clear the view of those who will come to a point of humbling themselves under the mighty hand of God and repenting of their sins with a sincere heart of sorrow for their offenses against him and then asking his forgiveness. At that point of salvation you will begin to see things as they really are for the first time. If you say you had a salvation experience without this revelation then your experience doesn't line up with the word of God and you have been deceived. God doesn't reveal his truth to those who believe in their head but their heart holds back. It is all or nothing at all with him. He gave his all and deserves no less from us.

    • a jenkin

      Rick you so right. But mr oxley don`t get it. He will bow to God of the universe one day,and I hope it won`t be too late.Sometimes we have all this knowledge but we don`t have any Godly wisdom to go with that knowledge.He talks about faith. Well faith is believing in something you can`t see.I ask mr. oxley can you see air? But you it`s there because you can see the leaves moving.Who created the air?Who made man?Who made YOU mr. oxley?