Religious teachings are critically flawed as a means of determining what is true. The value of the stories and the intuitions they promote are essentially subjective and thus relative to a person or group, while science has been distilled to universal strength.

Given a problem--say, what is the speed of sound in a vacuum?--anyone with the necessary technology and tools can answer it. Given a well-defined problem, the scientific answers will agree. (In the case of sound in a vacuum, the answer is no speed. Sound consists of compression waves. Without air to be compressed, there can be no sound.)

Every day new advances in scientific understanding are made, old ideas challenged and perhaps overturned. While religions proclaim, I believe and that is enough, science insists, Show me the evidence. And that's what the difference fundamentally boils down to. The brunt of the rest is hackneyed apologetics.

In the court of law it would be absurd to render a verdict based upon intuition. Evidence and logical argumentation rule. The same should hold in the court of human knowledge. Does Intelligent Design best account for biological life? Present the evidence. Evolution? Same goes. There is no free ride in science, nor is there a secret bias. Yes, individual scientists can be biased. But science is not an orchestrated group activity. Conflict and heated questioning is the norm. Most scientists would like nothing more than to prove everyone else wrong. Sometimes they do.

On the other hand you've got the ossified doctrines of most religions. They tend to start with their cherished conclusions and argue backwards. And where they encounter a chasm too great to cross with a rational argument, they resort to sweeping it away by calling it a matter of faith. Believe it and it will be so.

Because a treasured endpoint will inevitably bend the lines of thought, it takes determination and diligence to keep from making a detour into fantasy land. As much as religions rely on and promote sloppy, unrefined thinking, they prevent people from better adapting to a world in which human knowledge is growing and changing every day.

At this very moment I am working on a keyboard with a layout referred to as QWERTY. Those are the top six keys on the left side of the keyboard. Virtually every English-language keyboard has this layout, although there's nothing natural or logical about it. In fact, the QWERTY layout was designed many decades ago to slow down typists. On the old manual typewriters, the hammers tended to mash together and jam.

But computers have no hammers to jam. So why use a keyboard design slower than potential others? Think of all the wasted time with awkward, inefficient finger motions, and the many cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, that could be avoided by changing. Think of how much longer coffee breaks could be. Why hasn't a new, more efficient keyboard been adopted? The answer: dumb inertia.

Isn't it obvious that the teachings of religions hundreds and hundreds of years old impose a similarly quirky handicap on the human mind?


[simultaneously posted at 360 Degree Skeptic]

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