Further to my note of a few days ago, about the Sikh girl who managed to get her personal delusions championed over mere secular beliefs.
It occurs to me that the position religion occupies within the British judicial system – or seeks to occupy, with a great deal of success – is similar to the position it seeks to occupy in science. Fundamentalist religion challenges a varied range of scientific theories, but the alternative hypotheses supplied often function as refutations of commonly held knowledge purely for the purpose of proving religion right. And since these hypotheses can be dismantled within a few minutes (see some previous notes for examples), religious science tries to exist outside the conventional norms of scientific peer review as the proponents of these hypotheses KNOW they cannot be true. They use fractured fragments of physical laws and gross – often deliberate – misinterpretations of currently held thinking to support their claims, because when these claims are examined on the basis of proof and evidence . . .
. . . well, guess what? They get raped. Big time. One of my favourite examples, which I’ve mentioned before, is the debate over origins of life. The current primary scientific thinking is Abiogenesis, the evolution of life from slow combining of chemicals into organic, self-replicating molecules. No scientist believes that life spontaneously formed from one single event, merely that something may have happened to catalyse the chemical reactions that, billions of years down the line, led to us. Yet creationists deliberately lie about what scientists believe on the subject. A common theme is that Abiogenesis is the same theory as Spontaneous Generation, which was debunked over 100 years ago as a medieval explanation for decay, mould, maggots etc. The fact that the two explanations hold virtually nothing in common is ignored. When I first heard this argument, it took five minutes of research to find out what creationists must already know – they are wronger than a ball of wrong, Abiogenesis is an infinitely more complicated, subtle and different theory from Spontaneous Generation, and no-one believes man evolved from monkey since Darwin never fucking SAID that.
I’m digressing onto my favourite hobby horse, because the fields of science or law are quite similar in some ways. Both rely on evidence, or at least proof beyond reasonable doubt. Men are not sent to jail on vague whims or delusional fancies – entire sub-fields of science have grown up around the practice of discovering the truth around crime.
Now, God can’t be proved. As such, religion – as I keep saying – is a man-made construct of beliefs, fancies, morals, ideals, practices, dogma, and so on. Logically, and in the eyes of the law, it should have no more practical or authoritative impact on a ruling than any secular belief system. And yet this is where science wins over the legal system, because so far science is more or less above religion. Physical laws are irrefutable and don’t care what you believe. Legality, though . . . legality is as human a construct as religion, drawn up to ensure a safe and productive society as much as is possible. Even though the basis of law is human-constructed, the upholding of law is based around truth, proof, and concrete tangible evidence; so it’s an abstract concept supported by extremely real scientific and logical processes.
Since religion is a complete affront to logic and science, people who want to elevate themselves above the norm – like the girl who felt that religious jewellery was somehow more important than secular jewellery even though her evidence for this was rooted in a personal conviction – should be asked to prove the existence of God, and hence the truth behind God’s teachings and scriptures, before their case will even be heard.
I would shit myself for joy if that ever happened. It makes sense, surely? A murder suspect must try and prove that he didn’t do the crime by offering evidence that he was not at the crime scene, or had no connection with the weapon, or whatever. These facts can and have been falsified, and sadly – unlike in science – falsified legal facts can remain buried forever.
But that’s quite different to deliberately introducing a falsehood in the first place. It would be like me sueing my bosses for making me tie my hair back. What grounding do I have for it? A purely secular belief that it restricts my personal liberty, and also I like my hair down. No case. But sue them for restricting my religious liberty, because I’m of a faith that can’t wear their hair up? That’d work. It’d work even though I couldn’t prove that the writings I get my belief on have any absolute authority.
If you can’t prove God, get the fuck out of the courtroom and take your bullshit with you until you can offer documented evidence to the contrary. Take religion out of politics, medicine, science, law . . . it used to matter. Now it doesn’t. We’ve moved on. If you hold beliefs based on texts that cannot, indeed WILL not prove themselves, you should expect to be questioned.
And to forestall anyone, I – like any good scientifically-minded atheist – expect to be questioned. Question everything. It’s only the people who know their thinking can’t win that refuse to be questioned on it – if they were that strong in their convictions, they’d be happy for the whole world to quiz them.