Bazinga! The Big Bang, Beliefs, and False Dilemmas   2 comments

Big Bang Theory Justice League

As a warning, this particular blog post is going to talk about science, religion, arguably politics, and other things that have nothing to do with the TV Show shown above, though I may mention it at some point.  Don’t confuse it with the historic event of the same name if that happens, though, and vice versa.  I’ll try to keep this as lighthearted as I can, but people have a lot of painful issues related to this topics.  Heck, some people just approach these topics and start getting angry even if everyone’s being civil and they’re not sure why, and I wanna be sensitive to that crowd.  Also, there are some Discworld spoilers.  Anyway, here I go…

I’ve become increasingly aware of a growing trend in society, one where people have embraced a False Dilemma, one of the most comically delightful logical fallacies of them all.  In short, there are many who believe that scientific reason and religious belief cannot coexist in a person’s personal view of the world.  I used to hear this logical fallacy more from the atheistic side of things… people saying that they’re people “of science” when the question of faith arises, and it’s generally impolite to point out that these aren’t mutually exclusive things.  Most people saying this are (or at least I *thought* they were) aware of the fact that they’re not exclusive, it was just a shorthand of explaining their stance on things.  (Also, they get really confused if you play dumb and say “So am I.  So, back to the topic at hand…”)  Lately I’ve seen this issue from the other side of the discussion, though, fellow Christians who refer to “atheistic beliefs” and then discuss things that I personally adhere to.  I’ve gotta say, it’s starting to make me wonder why this separation seems so firmly entrenched in people’s minds.

It wasn’t always this way…

Until the late 1800s, Christians had a habit of being not just contributors to the sciences, but often the big names behind them.  It’s asking for trouble to list famous Christians who are scientists or say “EVERYONE SHOULD BE BOTH SCIENTIFIC AND RELIGIOUS!” just because there’s a history of that, especially in an article where I reference a logical fallacy in the title, so as proud as I am of the teamwork between these two traditions I’ll save that for another time.  Instead, I want to talk about personal preferences and letting ourselves get so focused in an experience that we miss the reality of what we’re looking at.

Christians who believe that scientific thinking is dangerous may have an overconnection to a particular experience with their faith.  Terry Pratchett’s book Small Gods discusses this a bit; a particular religion in Discworld had its god in a strange scene where his church was filled with people “praying” to him in a courtyard, but he didn’t “experience” it like he expected to.  If he hadn’t been there as a turtle (long story), he’d have been completely unaware.  The book eventually posits that the church itself had created a structure that people “believed” in more than they believed in the god itself.  Churches who put too much of an emphasis on “tradition” can often feel like this to me.  New understandings of scriptures can upset some people if it contradicts something they’ve had wrong since they were children, and altering their approach to scriptures by bothering to look up what things mean in the original language or what they mean in the context of the political or social issues of the day that certain scriptures were written can just feel “wrong” to some.  So if their personal image of God creating the universe has always involved a sudden “poof” of divine energy while God wills things into being, then it’s easy to understand how the idea of evolution can feel like an attack.  Even though Evolutionary theory and the Big Bang do nothing to contradict the Bible, they do alter a different timeline, and the timeline was already a core, foundational part of how they understood things and perhaps even a part of their own personal identity.  If this seems strange to you, you’ve probably not had to console a friend who reacted poorly to Disney’s decanonization of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  (Arguably an inapt metaphor as Evolution and The Big Bang don’t contradict the Bible, but Disney may wind up contradicting the Expanded Universe.)  While I can definitely understand a desire for something as personal as a walk with God to be something we defend, this doesn’t mean that we should defend a view that isn’t even supported in the original text.  This is arguably what Peter does in the Bible when he tells Jesus that he won’t be killed; Peter had a belief that Jesus was the prophesied savior, and he was, and that Jesus would make it possible for everyone to walk with God again, which he did… but he had a set idea in mind for what that would look like when it happened, and what Jesus was suggesting was antithetical to that idea.  Peter had to eventually change his idea of God’s plan into something more like God’s idea of God’s plan, and that’s exactly what we need to do as well.  As Christians, we can’t assume that just because the Bible doesn’t talk about evolution that it didn’t happen.  Consider God to be the baker and evolution to be his method of baking this time around.  You can believe in both baker and baking, and everything’ll be perfectly fine.  And hey, if I get to Heaven and God tells me “Actually, I didn’t create you through evolution, I created you through this N-dimensional phase shift thing that I can do” then I can take it.

For those in the scientific community who’ve felt unsure about religious beliefs, I can definitely understand your trepidation.  I would ask you to test the hypothesis and refine it as you examine.  This is hard due to the lack of scientifically testable factors (how do you test for the existence of things that are outside of all visible and gleanable reality?)  We have to look to history for evidence, and sometimes that evidence doesn’t exist until an archaeologist locates a new city.  Just know that the Bible never lists “doubt” or “questioning” as a sin.  Sure, we in the modern day give “Doubting Thomas” a hard time, but that’s not really a thing that the Bible does.  (I imagine the other disciples did, though.  I mean, can you imagine being the one guy out of the loop on that?  “Okay, guys, you’re crazy.  It’s been a great three years and all, but he’s Dead.  Until you can show me the stab wounds, I’m not buying it.”  *Jesus walks in* “Shalom!”  “AAAHHH!”)  Historically, we have the evidence to know that Jesus claimed to be the savior, and so that only leaves us with three other options.  As C. S. Lewis put it, he would have to either be a Liar, a Lunatic, or Lord.  And, well, from what evidence I can see I personally have to rule out those first two.  I can understand why it’s easier for me to accept something that I’ve lived with for my entire life than it is for someone to accept for the first time, so I doubt that I’m going to be convincing any people of anything with this blog post.  I could talk more on this issue, but this article really isn’t about trying to convert people so much as trying to remind people that this isn’t a situation where two issues are mutually exclusive or contradictory.

Also, a nearly identical article could’ve been written about denying the correlative, because even though they’re the opposite problem a huge number of people manage to do both of these simultaneously while thinking that they’re still logically sound (and, really, just adding extra logical fallacies doesn’t remove the, uh, falaciousness? Falsitude?  That thing.  I’m gonna stop before I invent too many more words.)

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2 responses to “Bazinga! The Big Bang, Beliefs, and False Dilemmas

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  1. Science is reality. Religion is fantasy, aka bullshit. There’s nothing more to say about it.

    • I respect your opinion, but science is the process by which we interpret and understand reality, not reality itself. Also, it’s kind of unscientific to say there’s nothing more to say about a subject, because the whole point of science is that we can continually reapproach and reexamine topics. We should never lock ourselves into a certain frame of thinking, otherwise we fall into the same group of “scientists” who said that human flight was impossible. Thanks for your input!

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