Sacred cows

A fundamental difference between a scientific worldview and a fundamentalist religious worldview is that in science arguments from authority carry no weight. If the King says the Earth is flat all you have to do is sail around the world to prove him wrong. Many religions rely on revelation for much of what they understand to be true. Some revelations can be tested, but some pertain to the afterlife or events for which there is no longer any evidence. In the case of the Bible many appeal to its authority when evidence is lacking. Relying on a prophet is, to me, no different than arguing from authority rather than evidence.

If scientists are not careful they too can cling to scientific ideas for which the evidence is lacking. I think too often scientists wade into waters that are beyond the scope of science. Science cannot prove or disprove Heaven or Hell. How can anyone prove there is no God?

I’ve never heard religious doctrine presented as a theory, but this is standard practice in science. If someone worked out a theory which more accurately reflected reality than the Theory of Relativity, he or she would receive a prize. If someone presented ideas that more accurately reflected reality than a sacred text they would be called a heretic. This unwillingness to change makes me suspicious. Religions have changed over the centuries, but there are always those who call for a return to the old days.

Science has it’s sacred cows, too. These get in the way of scientific progress. Let’s all pursue the truth.

2 Replies to “Sacred cows”

  1. It’s true that science can temporarily have it’s sacred cows. However, the system is set up where, eventually, bad ideas get supplanted by better ideas.

    Unfortunately, religion has no such mechanism. At least, not if the people following the religion are genuine. There is really no Biblical reason why slavery shouldn’t still be routinely practiced. There are specific rules in the Old Testament that tell people exactly how to treat their slaves.

    Only through arbitrary, revisionist religious introspection can stupid ideas like that get purged from a religion.

    Science has had plenty of stupid ideas. But it isn’t hamstrung by a non-changing dogma. Bad ideas eventually get purged when better data is available.

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