Are belief in God and belief in science all that different? Mike D’Virgilio has his doubts.
One of the fundamental assumptions of modern American culture, and especially of those in our professions of cultural influence, is that science is objective and rational, and religion is, well, not.
Contrary to this assumption, however, all people have faith in something, be they atheists, agnostics, or the religious. The mystery of life cannot be fully explained on this side of the divide between life and death, much as we all wish to try.
Although this should inspire humility among all parties, it does not prevent a good many people from characterizing religious people, especially Christians, as devoid of reason and as stubbornly clinging to proven falsehoods so that they can retain their unjustifiable religious faith. I would say atheists are devoid of reason, but that’s for another article.
A post by Denyse O’Leary at the Salvo blog on a neuroscience study about belief aptly outlines the issue:
The study compares religious believers and non-believers, which I think is a bogus comparison. Everybody believes something. One must be quite the dull stick not to believe anything.
Non-believers in traditional religions are often great fans of the environment, the government, their trade union, their home team, a political party, atheist book clubs, a rock band, their local Hell’s Angels club house, or whatever.
It would be a big step forward if researchers recognized that religious beliefs are not different in principle from other beliefs. The fact that such nonsense is even entertained is an impediment to science.
I am hardly surprised to learn that "the difference between belief and disbelief appears to be content-independent."
The lesson: science cannot avoid the influence of culture as it goes about its business.
But it should at least try.