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.