The following article was submitted by Robert Randolf Lyons as a response to a letter in the Chilliwack Times. Feel free to send in your own articles for publication to [email protected]
(For the purpose of this article, though each has its own, optimal context, the phrases:
* ‘the religious;’ and ‘the supernaturalists’, are generally interchangeable.
* ‘science’; ‘rational thought’; ‘knowledge’; and ‘logic’, are somewhat interchangeable, by virtue of the mountain of petrographs, tablets, scrolls, books, &c, covering the overlapping of their general areas of philosophies.)
I saw a letter in the Chilliwack Times, dated 2013 February 05 Tuesday, apparently by Robert Bogunovic, on the general topic of religion in the schools.
Bogunovic claimed to be quoting a Humanist "manifesto" from 1933. I don’t know if the quote was correct. I have witnessed or experienced countless incidences of religious people, misquoting; quoting out of context; presenting false facts; or presenting irrelevant or specious arguments to support their religious views. Of course, so do some atheists, in some heated discussions, when they run out of rational things to say. We are all imperfect creatures, oops, imperfect organisms.
However, I suggest that the religious resort to such tactics because there is no rational argument, only fervour to support the concept, or paradigm, of supernatural beings. Perhaps it may not seem relevant to the discussion about religion in the schools, but that is also why, historically, the religious have killed "unbelievers". Without evidence to support their beliefs, only by eliminating "unbelievers" can the religious overcome rational objections to religion and have their world of "true believers". As history also shows, having a generally religious perspective is not enough, because the fervour of the individual may still froth at differing versions of supernatural beliefs.
Bogunovic claims "the first Humanist Manifesto (1933)" called itself a religious movement. I don’t know who, if anyone, wrote the purported manifesto, or when, but it is not being claimed as a position by anyone I know, or have ever known. Nor, I suggest, does it matter what "manifesto" is presented for any individual. The validity of the argument must stand, alone. Still, the variety of perspectives for the term, "religion" may include the hope that reason, or humanism, will become the "new religion", using "religion" in its meaning as a synonym for popularity. That perspective fits the purported "manifesto" better than the one presented by Bogunovic.
I am not the first, of course, to paraphrase this idea: ‘Only the tide of knowledge will wash away the darkness of ignorance and superstition.’
To the best of my knowledge, though, I have never known any scientist; scientific philosopher; rationalist; evolutionist; humanist; or atheist who genuinely considers science; scientific philosophy; reasoning; evolution; humanism; or atheism to be religions. All those whom I have known, with views in the realm of scientific philosophy, consider all concepts within the realm to be polar opposites of religion.
Bogunovic seems, typically for the religious, to want to cling to his ‘religious perspective of science’. That perspective holds that the realm of scientific thought, including evolution; humanism; or atheism, are all just different religions, equal in stature to other religions. The religious gleefully seize upon any words, from any source, that seem to support their religious perspective against science or secular thought.
However, the definition of religion requires a belief or set of beliefs about supernatural beings.
Science requires, to paraphrase in general terms: systematic observation; measurement; accumulation of data; experiment; and the formulation; testing; and modification of hypotheses. An important aspect of scientific experimentation is that the results must be independently reproducible by other diligent investigators with appropriate equipment. Irrelevant to science are: belief; persuasion; influence; authority; social standing; or numbers of supporters. Facts prevail.
It is impossible to observe; measure; or perform experiments on the supernatural, nor thence to formulate and test hypotheses of the supernatural. Therefore, there is no place in science for the supernatural. Therefore, science is not a religion.
Evolution is a well-documented, general area of science, involving numerous scientific fields. Massive amounts of great and minute evidence have been accumulated from systematic observation, by countless scientists in many fields; with countless measurements; experiments; and the formulation; testing; and modification of hypotheses. No other scientific field, I suggest, has been more or better represented, in these scientific principals, than evolution. There is no place in evolution for the supernatural. Therefore, evolution is not a religion.
Neither is atheism formed upon a set of beliefs in the supernatural, as are religions. Arguably, neither is atheism formed upon any set of beliefs. The definition of atheism is: "a", meaning "not" or "against"; compounded with "theism", the belief in supernatural beings. Therefore, an atheist is, literally, one who does not believe in supernatural beings. Atheism is the rejection of beliefs involving supernatural beings. No other paradigms, beliefs or philosophies are implied or required. While atheists may argue about everything else, they need only agree that there are no supernatural beings, to be included as an atheist. That is all. Clearly, there are no sets of beliefs about supernatural beings in atheism. Therefore, atheism is not a religion.
Nor is an atheist required to believe in bio-evolution, to be an atheist, though that is the case with most educated atheists. Long before evolution became an overwhelmingly accepted scientific fact, though, there were probably atheists. When ancient, stone-age man may have wailed about the river god taking his child’s life, an atheist might have said, "No god, probably crocodile."
I am, primarily, a rationalist, scientific philosopher. I did not begin with formal rules or dogma of any atheism paradigm. Rather, my basic, genetic intellect, through the route of knowledge of the real world, rational and scientific thought, led me to reject all supernaturalism, by any name. Only by rejection of supernaturalism can I be defined, also, as an atheist. Atheism is the rejection of the idea of supernaturalism, or supernatural beings, or religions. Therefore, I am not religious, and I am certainly not religious about atheism.
I am not very knowledgeable about the varied views in any humanist association, but I think they generally place importance on the real world and humanity’s place in it, and place no importance on beliefs in supernatural beings. 2013 February 06 evening, as a result of the Bogunovic statements about the Humanists, I went to the BC Humanist web page.
From the BC Humanist home page, I went to their page, "About Humanism". Near the top of that page, I read, "According to the American Humanist Association, Humanism is a rational world view, informed by science, inspired by art, motivated by compassion. Humanism is a naturalistic philosophy that affirms the value of humanity without the need for supernatural explanations or dogma."
The page continues with, "The British Columbia Humanist Association outlines humanism as:", and shows ten items, starting with, "1. Humanism aims at the fullest development of every human being.". The other nine points seem to me to be noble goals for humanity. They are, I think, worth reading, and I recommend everyone go to their website and read them.
There is not one word, there, about humanism being a religion, as mentioned by Bogunovic.
Before I left the humanist web page, I emailed my application for membership. As an intelligent, knowledgeable, scientific philosopher, rationalist, and atheist, I suppose, in ‘spirit’, I always was, more or less, a "humanist". Indirectly thanks to Bogunovic, since 2013 February 06 Wednesday, I am now, officially, a Humanist.
Bogunovic suggests that the public should fear that the opposite of religion in the schools is a religion of humanism. I have already shown that there is nothing in Humanism that qualifies as a religion. Anyway, Bogunovic’s arguments are specious and obfuscating because the issue is proselytizing religion, not Humanism. Educating in rational philosophies and science is not proselytizing Humanism, even if Humanism promotes those same ideals. Educating in rational philosophies and science, certainly is, though, the opposite of proselytizing religion.
The true, paramount issue, in this line of discussions, is whether we want to use our education system to train generations of religious thinkers or scientific thinkers.
Moments spent teaching, learning or musing about magic, invisible people in the sky are moments without learning scientific or rational thought.
There is too much knowledge of the real world for all of it to be taught in the short, few years in grade school. With the best instruction, students still cannot possibly learn all of the knowledge of all of the sciences and will still leave schools ignorant of most of the knowledge of most of the sciences. Any scientist can spend an entire life in one tiny area of a field of science and still remain ignorant of most of the knowledge of most of the sciences. It is impossible to learn everything about everything. It is vital, then, to be thoroughly trained in the best principals of real learning about the real world.
Essentially, the choice, for schools, is between training minds for improvable, untestable religions or training minds for provable, testable realities.
All that science has brought to us has been produced by scientific thought, not religious thought. No one prayed chemicals out of the test tubes nor rockets to the moon. Science, not religion, produced the electric motor and the computer, based on such as the theories of chemistry and electricity; the airplane, hydraulic jacks, submarine and surface ship designs based on such as the theories of aerodynamics and fluid dynamics; and the x-ray machine that guides the medical scientist’s hands in surgery or administration of chemotherapy, based on theories such as nuclear physics.
Facts of science are formed into "theories", like evolution.
Living organisms heal better with science than prayer. Probably, most religious people, with access to the benefits of medical science, will rely on medical science, not religion, when they become dangerously ill. Science trains medical scientists to look in appropriate science books for cures, not in bibles.
I have met the results of education in religious schools. Their level of ignorance of the sciences is generally appalling. The main cause of this ignorance seems to be the style of teaching and the information taught. This is especially true in the sciences they call "evolution sciences". Of course, there is some variation between individuals. Generally, though, their understanding of science seems mainly based on the concept that science is only correct if it can support or accept their idea of equal and parallel "theories" of evolution and creation.
The meaning of the word, "theory", like many words, can differ with the context or intent of the user. In common, or colloquial use, the word, "theory", may broadly refer to any idea that attempts to answer an unknown. Examples of this informal use of the word may include explanations drawn from the real world or from the supernatural, which includes religions.
In science, the use is much more restricted, following scientific principals, described previously. Significantly, the requirements that theories be testable and the results independently reproducible, excludes all things supernatural, including all religions, from being considered to be "theories".
A common ploy that I have experienced, coming from the religious, is their use of the informal idea of theory, in their arguments to support their religion, while demanding that the strict definition be applied to scientific theories. Then, they demand that both "theories" be treated as though they are equal.
While using the suasion of "equal theories", the religious and their religious schools seem to treat God-creationism as the basic reality of all knowledge, in other words, the prime paradigm, while treating evolution with contempt. Genetics is taught with highly questionable information and teaching practices that seem to express their religious versions of science that have the sound of science, but not sound science.
I have had ‘discussions’ with religious students countless times in the past, and very recently. The flow from the fervent is often very fast, very loud and very full of many statements of their highly questionable, or clearly wrong, versions of facts. They usually give little pause and show little interest for understanding opposing knowledge. Typically, rather than trying to understand science, they seem to have memorized phrases or ideas for the sole purpose of supporting religion by attacking evolution.
I have, usually, I’m ashamed to say, been drawn into trying to modify their misshapen facts into scientific reality. I’m ashamed because, after many years and countless discussions, I have, almost always, left them still clinging, vehemently, to their false understanding of science, their ‘religious versions’ of science. I’m ashamed that I still fall into the same trap of completely wasting my time.
The versions of genetics, as presented to me by religious students in discussions, have little relationship to well-supported, mainstream genetics. Their versions are very different from what would, or should, be taught by a competent, secular teacher in a secular school, with the purpose of preparation for life in the world of science and reality.
The religious versions of logic are also directed, systematically, to pressuring for agreement towards their beliefs, and away from science. The religious may claim to be using logic, often insisting that their version of logic must be used to determine truth. Contempt may be used to overcome the listener’s reluctance to accept the religious versions of logic. Step-by-step, they may pressure for the listener’s agreement for each stage, with the goal to elicit a sum of agreement that existence of their supernatural beings can be shown to be logical. The route to that agreement is usually by the same pseudo-logic steps to the reverse agreement that science or, at least, evolution is not logical. It doesn’t matter that they have no scientific evidence for their supernatural beings, they need only persuade, coerce or confuse the listener into agreeing that it is as plausible as evolution.
The religious versions of science and rational thought are always only word trickery, though. Science and rational thought fundamentally reject the supernatural, so the religious must resort to trickery, false science and belief because they have no science that supports them.
Using their religious versions of science and logic, the religious could, by the same, step-by-step stages, march towards any conclusion, even the most ludicrous fantasies. If the listener can be persuaded that fantasies may be plausible, then the listener may, also, be persuaded towards the ultimate goal of the religious. That goal is the conversion of everyone to their beliefs. Fundamental to that goal is the intermediate goal of having religion, ideally their specific religion, given equal stature to science in the schools.
The nature of knowledge presented in the schools has a fundamental influence on the nature of knowledge in the broad society. Development of learning processes affects development of intellect.
There has been considerable research in the relationship of religious fervour compared to the level of knowledge and intellect. I don’t know to what extent those considered clearly in the category of mentally delusional are included in the studies. I don’t know any way that degrees of religious fervour can be separated from degrees of delusion. It saddens me to see a mentally neglected street person yelling to the air; at a wall; or engrossed in conversation with some imagined person, whether their subject is a person from their memory or from a religion. To simply this paragraph, though, I’m going to ignore the delusional aspect and assume there is none included. The consensus, thoroughly simplified, is that the clear, well supported conclusion, drawn from the data, is that the lowest in intellect and scientific knowledge have the highest religious fervour.
If the clearly delusional are included, that inversely proportional relationship firms.
In the mountain of knowledge of philosophies, there is the encompassing subject of knowledge, or knowledge of knowledge.
For those to whom knowledge means belief, you will find your place in countless churches.
For those to whom knowledge means science and the real world, you will need all of the resources of secular schools, including all of its time and all of your mind.
Please keep religion completely out of the schools.