This is an interesting article from NPR that my friend Rafael linked to but not in the way that most people are viewing it. While the point of the article is quite clear to me—the gentleman was merely highlighting some recent psychology and cognitive science studies concerning whether scientific beliefs can provide some of the same psychological benefits typically ascribed to religion—the usual suspects immediately took up their respective (and polar opposite) positions and the mud began to fly.
My view—and apparently unique inasmuch that I just thought of this and cannot find it documented anywhere on the interwebs—really has everything to do with “why” the mud began to fly and nothing to do with the argument itself. I think people who know me know where I stand on the science versus religion question so there is no need whatsoever for me to rehash that can of worms.
What I will say that it is inevitable, nay, predetermined, that when people do enter into these arguments they always…ALWAYS…devolve into name calling, obscenities, character assassination, etc…and that’s just the Nuns, Ministers and Priests (buh dump bump Shish!). Seriously, these arguments are destined to become cesspools of hate and vitriol not because the participants deeply held beliefs are diametrically opposed or because these people are arguing about religion versus science.
No, and it’s never been those reasons. The real reason that these arguments devolve so quickly and so venomously is because people are defending their reasons for doing entirely subjective and self-centered actions under the guise of their beliefs. They are defending the subterfuge…the deception…not the beliefs themselves.
Humans on this planet have been subject to about 100,000 years of shifting environmental conditions with various levels of resources (food, water, shelter, etc.), constraints (predators, diseases, etc.) and we have evolved to react in certain ways when our wellbeing is threatened. Whether the threat is another human, a lion or the cold-ass winter, we react to try to protect ourselves. And we react in a completely self-centered way even when it is for the greater good of the tribe. Fast forward 997,000 years, lose saber-tooth tigers but introduce societal pressures and we have, essentially, what we have today. People attempting to maintain physical and mental survival amongst many competing factors but always with the self at the forefront…but always told that holding self above others is wrong, it is selfish, it is bad, bad, BAD!.
So what to do?
Enter the protections of belief and the command and control of organized religion and you can plainly see that people—unless they are sincerely ignorant and living in a cave in Pakistan, Somalia, The Sudan or India—know full well that when they forcibly mutilate the genitals of their female children or when they decapitate the heads of teenagers it is wrong. But they want to do these things. They sincerely want to do them but without a religion to hide their true intent, they never can.
That’s what people argue about. They argue about whether they get to keep the cloak of specious respectability that religion and “belief” allows them whilst still exercising their most base and ugly desires.
Seems pretty clear to me.