RE: virus: Science and faith

carlw (
Thu, 11 Feb 1999 10:47:06 -0600

I was lucky. I was home taught by skeptics and raised on a mixture of classics, history, literature, maths and physics. So far as I remember, I was not asked to accept things "on authority" but was lead into questioning most everything through a combination of historical backgrounding and an interrogative teaching process.

As I recall it, my intro to physics was partly experimental (we did a lot of chemistry, mechanics and "thought-experiments), partly anecdotal (My pareents had a lot of bright academic friends who got involved with us) and partly Lancelot Hogben's Science for the Citizen (a wonderful book). So even if it was dated (by today's standards) it was well founded in the scientific method.

The classical Alcohol/Water molar mass/volume experiments were enough to let me figure out that there was something to molecular theory. Electrolysis was I think, the other experimental platform that clinched it. The answer (today) for that kid is to show them SEM images and computer models. So much easier to grasp than intellectual models.


-----Original Message-----
From: []On Behalf Of Reed Konsler
Sent: Thursday, February 11, 1999 9:36 AM To:
Subject: virus: Science and faith

>>Does playing
>>the role "member of religion" make one particularly succeptible?
>Somewhat tricky. I rather think so. Once one has accepted something,
>anything, "through faith", you have surrendered your rationality. And I
>observed that such an abdication of reason tends to infuse the subject's
>thinking no matter how carefully the subject believes that they have
>partitioned their thoughts. Bear in mind though that as (an amateur but
>keen) student of history, I am very biased on this subject. I have seen no
>good from any religion in recorded history. Due to an interest in debate in
>this area, I have also probably suffered more, and from much noiser
>representatives of religious worldviews, than is most peoples misfortune.

Ok, I'll fiat for the purpose of discussion that believing one thing on faith
makes one more succeptible. I had the opportunity to sit in on a fifth grade
science class as a sort of expert / observer. One of the kids said something
like "I don't get it. You can't see them 'cause they're so small. What makes
you even think there are atoms? How do I know you aren't just making it up?"

Now, I'm not asking you how <abstract> scientists know that atoms exist. I'm asking you this: think back on your science education. How much of what you learned was learned as a appeal to skeptical rationality? How much of what you learned as science, say from age 5 to age 15, was accepted becuase an authority figure (your teacher, the textbook, etc.) told you it was true? My education was pretty much like the latter. Does that make me more succeptible to "dogmatic" thinking?

I think it does. It's a dillema of human nature. To get even a tenious grasp on culture we, as children, have to accept everything on faith...this is one of Dawkins main points in his "Virus of the Mind" essay. If we are indoctrinated scientists, then we have a tendency to accept
without thinking "what scientists say". Same with religion. It's not a religion thing or a science's a human thing, a consequence of our mortal bodies and the material definition of our existence.


  Reed Konsler