Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.
"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.
“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.
As a fraction of the lifespan of the universe as measured from the beginning to the evaporation of the last black hole, life as we know it is only possible for 1/10^30 of a percent. And that’s why, for me, the most astonishing wonder of the universe isn’t a star or a planet or a galaxy. It isn’t a thing at all. It’s an instant in time. And that time is now. Humans have walked the earth for just the shortest fraction of that briefest of moments in deep time. But in our 200,000 years on this planet we’ve made remarkable progress. It was only 2,500 years ago that we believed that the sun was a god and measured its orbit with stone towers built on the top of a hill. Today the language of curiosity is not sun gods, but science. And we have observatories that are almost infinitely more sophisticated than those towers, that can gaze out deep into the universe. And perhaps even more remarkably through theoretical physics and mathematics we can calculate what the universe will look like in the distant future. And we can even make concrete predictions about its end. And I believe that it’s only by continuing our exploration of the cosmos and the laws of nature that govern it that we can truly understand ourselves and our place in this universe of wonders.
Brian Cox, Wonders of the Universe
Nature is evidence for God like rainbows are evidence for Leprechauns’ gold. Like the rainbow, nature is perceived as having a beggining and an end. But we know that there is no end to a rainbow; that the arc is just an illusion of perspective, and where we can’t see we fill in the gaps with pots of gold and spirits and, in the big picture, gods.
This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.
I know some of you are worried sick. I understand that you feel that God is being driven from our culture and strange customs are being tolerated and embraced: People are learning that sexual orientation is a varied spectrum of preferences rooted in genetics and not a binary conscious decision. Many people, even the President supports equal rights for all to marry and have families regardless of these preferences. Behaviors that used to be taboo are all over your televisions and are being generally accepted in mainstream society.
Women are in the workplace, they are moving into positions of power and they are seizing control of their reproductive systems and expressing their sexuality if/as they see fit. Even different races and ethnicities are mixing and demanding equal access to all areas of society. People are finding that the bedrock of family values is not sexual or ethinic composition but love, support and understanding.
Science education is dominated by the theories of the big bang and evolution by natural selection. Children are learning that the universe is 14 billion years old, the earth over 4 billion and that we evolved ultimately from single celled organisms and more recently from lower primate ancestors along with the other modern “great apes”. We’ve also learned that the balance of our world’s ecosystems is not static, but very much susceptible to the actions of humans. The Bible’s account of creation and balance has been completely usurped.
I can tell that some of you think this is some secular liberal plot to overthrow Christianity and force everyone to be gay atheist evolutionists. But I’m here to tell you, what you are witnessing is not some conspiracy to destroy America. It is simply that the earth is turning and time is rolling forward. The world is progressing and society is evolving. Populations are growing, science is uncovering the mysteries of the universe and humans are rethinking some of our more archaic beliefs and customs. The spread of technology is giving more people access to information that is naturally expanding their minds. It is a process that has been underway for all of human history and has indeed been met by opposition all along from those who were happy with the way things were and who saw change as decline and destruction.
I can understand why this is unsettling to an ideology that is dedicated to conserving tradition, one rooted in one book that was written before humans knew what a star was. But your efforts are futile, no matter how angry or violent your response, you can not stop the steady march of time and the tide of discovery. No matter how much shelter you find in your faith, the world around you is changing; It always has and always will. To stop this would amount to stopping the earth from spinning, or to resisting the invention of the wheel, resisting desegregation or rejecting heliocentrism. It turns out that the values that you see as objective and eternal are actually as subjective as “spicy” and “bland” and the knowledge that you seem to see as complete and everlasting is a constantly evolving body of human work. There is no war being waged on your values, no enemy in these developments but discovery itself, and if your beliefs are threatened by progress and discovery, perhaps they should be.
A failure to embrace these progressions will no doubt lead to further anger, fear and confusion amongst you as the changing world becomes a stranger and stranger place. Instead, smile and find joy and pride in human progress and discovery. Join us in welcoming tomorrow and whatever new knowledge it brings. You are invited.