The Arrogance of Science and Atheism


Humility. If there is one thing most religions have in common, it is the idea that people should be humble before some form of deity. And that if a person does not bow down or even just acknowledge the existence of such deities, he or she would be perceived as incredibly arrogant. Being humble is what the religious love to brag about. A common remark against atheists is that they have become too smart to believe in gods. It is as if using one’s mental faculties (as in science) is of lesser importance than just blindly accepting certain ideas (as in religion). But is the devout to dogma really humble compared to the sceptic who espouses science? Let us find out.

It is the month of February. There are neither religious nor secular holidays to speak of for this month. (No, Valentine’s Day is not a real holiday. You do not get a day off and you certainly do not get double pay). Except perhaps that the two people, whose ideas are truly humbling, happen to be born in February. They are, of course, Galileo Galilei, born on the 15th in 1564, and Charles Robert Darwin, born on the 12th in 1809.

galileo_darwin

Gandalf and Dumbledore? Not really, it’s the February Guys: Galileo and Darwin. Contrary to popular knowledge, these two were not scientists. They were WIZARDS. Just look at those bad-ass beards.

Let us start with Galileo as he was born earlier. Galileo was an Italian astronomer and physicist. Although the telescope has been invented for some time, he designed his own telescopes and used them to observe the sky. Now, his “humbling idea” was not entirely his. It was developed earlier by the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. Indeed, what he actually did was collecting and analyzing data he gathered from his observations with the telescope. Copernicus originally proposed heliocentrism, the idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun along with the other planets as opposed to Ptolemy’s geocentrism, in which the Earth was the center of the Universe with the Sun, planets, and other celestial bodies moving around it. However, nobody liked Copernicus’ system and thus, his writings were suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church.

But Galileo did his own research and found out that everything he had observed with the telescope conformed to the Copernican model and placed the Ptolemaic model in obsolescence. He published his findings in “A Dialogue on the Two Principal Systems of the World.” What Copernicus hypothesized, Galileo confirmed with empirical observations. For Galileo, who was also a professor of mathematics, the Ptolemaic system does not compute. However, for the dominant authority at the time, the Roman Catholic Church, the very idea of a non-geocentric Universe was offensive to its religious feelings. Under the Ptolemaic system adopted by the Church, the Earth was the center of the Universe thereby making the planet, and most especially its human residents, the center of attention for its creator, the god of the Bible. But Galileo’s discoveries put that idea into question. If the Earth was never the center of the Universe, what more of the humans living on it?

milky-way-earth-location-Universe-today_02

Even our Solar System is not at the center of our galaxy.

Now, you might ask, what is so humbling about Galileo’s idea? First, that the Earth has been reduced to just another object orbiting a much larger object. This planet is not in any special position in space. The very ground we stand upon is but one of many worlds that exists across the vastness of the Universe. The only difference is we are on this particular world and not on another. Second, our planet is truly insignificant on the astronomical scale. In Galileo’s time, the picture of the Universe is that of the Sun at the center with the Earth and other planets going around it. If that was not humbling enough, we now know that even the Sun is just a small star among the billions of other stars in the Milky Way galaxy. And there are billions of other galaxies. To make things even worse, scientists today have observations suggesting that everything we can see in the Universe, all the planets, stars, and galaxies, are less than ten percent of what the Universe contains. The rest of the Universe, it seems, is stuff we cannot directly observe. This is the part where science is the opposite of arrogance, as it does not claim truths about what is not yet known.

So, the Earth is no longer at the center of the Universe. But what about humans? If the Universe does not revolve around Earth, can the humans at least claim to be at the center of the living world?

This brings us to Charles Darwin, born some two hundred forty years after Galileo. Darwin was an English naturalist who proposed the idea of evolution by natural selection. Like Galileo before him, Darwin’s “humbling idea” was also not entirely his. Several other naturalists, including his grandfather Erasmus Darwin, had also suggested the idea that all living things had come about by evolution. The only difference was Darwin, like Galileo, painstakingly collected numerous and consistent evidence supporting his idea.

Now, Alfred Russel Wallace also came up with the very same idea of evolution by natural selection as Darwin. And the two in fact had been in correspondence with each other. Darwin already had his manuscript for his ideas ready way before Wallace came up with his but he had deferred having it published fearful of the potential uproar it would bring. Even when he had known of Wallace’s idea, being the gentleman Darwin was, he decided to submit his paper together with Wallace before the Royal Society so both of them would get credit. Of course, though both deserved credit, it was Darwin’s name that was attached to evolution by natural selection, giving us the term Darwinism.

So, what is Darwinism and what is so humbling about it? The modern theory of evolution is the scientific explanation that “life on Earth evolved gradually beginning with one primitive species – perhaps a self-replicating molecule – that lived more than 3.5 billion years ago that then branched out over time, throwing off many new and diverse species, and the mechanism for most, but not all, of evolutionary change is natural selection” (Coyne 2009).

Before Darwin, there has never been a rational explanation based on observations for the apparent design of all living things. Many theories of evolution had been proposed but none had the simplicity and overwhelming amount of evidence that Darwinism had. Of course, there are religion-based creation myths that tried to explain how life came to be but all of them are in conflict with each other and not supported by any evidence.

So where is the part where we are supposed to be humbled? Most, if not all, creation stories tell versions of a narrative about gods, giants, dragons, and other monsters playing a part in creating the world and the creatures that inhabit it. And since human beings are telling these stories, they are, often than not, central to these myths thereby making themselves special above all other living things.

Evo_large

Our family tree. No, the monkey is not your uncle. He is, however, a very distant cousin.

These are in contrast with Darwinism in which humans are just another species of organisms that arose from earlier and more primitive life-forms. Human beings evolved just like every creature that ever existed. We were neither created from molded clay, spitted out from the belly of a giant, nor came out of a bamboo that split in two. All these stories are simply that, stories. They have no basis in fact. They were simply the products of people who had insufficient data for meaningful answers to nagging questions of their existence. And, whether intentional or not, these stories have human conceit in them.

Christianity in particular has a history of opposing purely naturalistic evolution because it removes man’s special place in the world. As with the Roman Catholic Church’s objection to heliocentrism during Galileo’s time, opposition to Darwin has largely been from organized religion. The religious establishment could not accept that humans are closely related to chimpanzees, more distantly related to monkeys, even more distantly related to birds, reptiles, and fishes. The very thought was degrading as it diminishes humans to just mere beasts.

Now we can clearly see how this view contradicts most creation myths wherein humans are the main characters with the other beasts as mere supporting cast. In Darwinism, each kind of organism is a star of its own right. Every living thing that exist today are all pinnacles of survival. No single creature can claim to be the best among all others because each one is best suited in their respective environment. Indeed, if we are to crown a type of organism as the king of the beasts for dominating the most number of ecosystems, we would give it to the lowly insects as their kind has conquered nearly every niche in every biome they have been exposed to.

People might differ and maintain that we humans are special because only we have unique traits such as self-awareness, symbolic language, and intelligence. But even these traits are not restricted to humans only. Recent research studies have found out that other creatures have, to a lesser extent, some form of awareness, language, and intelligence. They just do not exhibit them as much as we humans do because of genetic differences in their biological makeup.

Where does this leave us now? Since humans are simply the result of millions of years of evolution, just like all other species, what significance do we have left?

Some religions, like the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church, have already accepted the fact of evolution by natural selection. But they still assert that humans occupy the biological pedestal, claiming that humans have souls created by their god. Of course, this begs the question: where in the evolutionary tree did this god insert the human soul?

Another contentious issue with a deity guiding the process of evolution is that the whole thing is incredibly wasteful. Just think of it as manufacturing a thousand cars and then rejecting nine hundred and ninety-eight of them, leaving only two to make it out of the factory. No intelligent designer would do that. Surely a human engineer could do better. The way it actually plays out in nature is that most offspring never survive into reproductive stage. Only the fittest few ever make it. Either they are eaten by predators, outrun by competition, fatally infected with pathogenic microbes and parasites, or simply victims of natural calamities.

There are no perfect individuals and no perfect species. The best or fittest individual is only slightly better in any given trait than worst one in any given population. But these differences in fitness all add up under varying circumstances. If there is a deity designing all of this, then it deliberately designed most of these individuals to fail. Why such a cruel fate?

However, if we understand evolution as Darwin did, we would see that nature is neither caring nor cruel but simply apathetic to the plight of creatures big and small. If a god had any hand in this, it is not the god of any organized religion but an impersonal god unconcerned with the goings-on in the living world. Darwin was particularly aghast at the idea of a benevolent creator which designed a wasp’s parasitic larvae which hatched under a caterpillar’s skin and devouring it from the inside, slowly killing its host as it developed into an adult wasp thereby repeating the same macabre method.

For most of human history, we were like that poor caterpillar, suffering from the various parasites and microbes we could not see, and barely surviving from natural disasters we could not yet explain. Yet the religious argue that the whole world was designed with us in mind. Is this not arrogance? Is this not human conceit? Putting ourselves on a pedestal at the center of all things and then claim humility before some god?

Now, while both Galileo’s heliocentrism and Darwin’s evolution do not specifically claim to deny the existence of religion’s gods, they certainly call into question man’s true place in the Universe. Even if a god exists, it most likely would not be so parochial and anthropocentric to focus all its attention on a single species of bipedal apes on a small planet revolving around an average star in just one of billions of galaxies.

Suppose an anthropomorphic god with infinite wisdom does exist, would it be so insecure as to restrict what humans would think? Even Galileo once said, I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.

Let us go back to question in the first paragraph: is the devout to dogma really humble compared to the sceptic who espouses science? Clearly, this is not the case. We now know from Galileo and Darwin the undoubtedly humbling facts that we humans are neither at the center of the Universe nor at the top of the living world. Rejecting this reality is not only arrogant but intellectually dishonest. The faithful pretends that he has knowledge of the world as he imagines it to be as revealed from some divine source. This is in contrast with the unbeliever who only has her mental faculties to try and understand the world as it really is. And finally, the atheist does not bow down to gods not because she is full of herself, but because she realizes no human should be ever a slave to the whims and caprices of imagined petty cosmic dictators.

So, what consolation do we still have if we are insignificant like mere dots on a cosmic canvass? Knowing that the Universe is indifferent, we should treat one another more kindly as we are significant only to each other, because “in our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves” (Sagan 1994).

calvin speck

Yes, we are all significant. To ourselves.

21 thoughts on “The Arrogance of Science and Atheism

  1. Ahhhhh good English but bad history. In fact that your history is so bad that

    1. You never knew that Copernicus was a friend of the pope and the pope encouraged him. In fact if Copernicus works were really damned you would not know anything about it.
    2. Do you know that Galileo cannot even explain his theory coherently. Just two facts
    Kepler a protestant who defected (not converted) to Rome because he was persecuted in his own country whose theory Galileo despised :) Now Kepler’s law is universally known as Kepler’s planetary law of motion :) If you believe galileo at that time then you would believe that the earth revolves around the sun in perfect circle
    b) Galileo cannot explain using his theory (then) about the other theory which is also true that is the stellar parallax
    3. At those times it is easy to postulate that the earth revolves around the sun but proving it without reasonable doubt is another matter this is due to the scientific gadgets which are so crude at that time :)

    4. Darwin is a theologian not a scientist. If I were led to believe then what is the real qualification of Darwin to even formulate a theory. BTW his evolution is still a theory that means it has not passed itself of any respectability of being a fact and that is after 150 years.

    5. Now how about the theory of evolution just one question in one computation between the homo erectus brain and the homo sapiens the homo erectus MUST at least produce 25,000 new neurons PER GENERATION just to produce the sapiens. Gee you cannot see it now that we are producing another 25,000 neurons so it is evolutionists burden that such thing can really happen. 6000 years of human existence and science has not produced that evidence so is evolution still confined to the realm of theory :) Just won work :)

    All of what you said so far is not only arrogance but in fact wholesale ignorance of history and science

    • For your comments 1, 2, and 3, here’s what really happened.
      http://www.starcourse.org/jcp/galileo.html

      As for 4 and 5, I think I do not have to take you seriously. You failed to understand how Darwinism works and what the word “theory” means in science. Please read my article again as I made hyperlinks on key terms.

      • Do you have to take me seriously? Nope dont even expect that :) :) :) In fact when you presented a blog it seems to me that you dont know really what you are talking about nor you do not know any science that was being used that time in fact you dont know (if you are living at that time) how to refute the stellar parallax that is being used against Galileo in fact you dont have any idea :) :) :) Of course you know now things that Galileo never knew coz of the advancement in science. But the truth should be revealed that Galileo CANNOT PROVE BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT his heliocentric theories at that time. Nor can you prove it if you are living at that time :) :) :) and of course your not Galileo :) :) :)

        As for Darwin and the problem of the neuron it seems to me again you dont have any inkling :) :) :) I will leave you at that I mean to your own delusions :)

    • “Now how about the theory of evolution just one question in one computation between the homo erectus brain and the homo sapiens the homo erectus MUST at least produce 25,000 new neurons PER GENERATION just to produce the sapiens. Gee you cannot see it now that we are producing another 25,000 neurons so it is evolutionists burden that such thing can really happen. 6000 years of human existence and science has not produced that evidence so is evolution still confined to the realm of theory :) Just won work :)”

      I call bullshit unless you can cite me a peer-reviewed scientific journal containing the alleged “impossibility” of such. And please, Darwinism has tons of evidence from fossils, genetics, biogeography, chemistry, geology, and artificial breeding.

      • To tell you the truth even evos are aghast on that question and until now they dont have an answer to it. Of course I can expect too that you cannot answer it you are not even versed on the problems of evolution in fact you just ate all and without questioning it (who questions evolution BTW it is the only science that is not falsifiable :) :) :) )

      • The other question that you should think of is why is it that evos said that everything about the cell is “junk” (that is why you have a term called JUNK DNA). Creationist said no there is something on it :) and who won the debate? Maybe you should ask yourself if the evolutionists mantra is a hindrance to science or not :) In fact you dont know this confirms that you really dont know the real problems of the pseudo science called “evolution the unfalsifiable” :)

    • 6000 years of human existence ???

      are you mad bro?

      wtf you slate the op for bad history and slate darwins theory for being just a theory ??? either you are a troll or a young earth creationist idiot

      firstly go look at the scientific definition of theory next go learn some human biology we have been around for at least 250.000 yrs according to Ge-nome research

      • About the 6000 years of human existence – first prove that human beings did exists before that then we can have a discussion, as far as I know you cant :) BTW the 2500 years of human existence that you are parading here is a evolutionary idea not bad really but that is WHAT the evolutionists say as for the evidence that is another different matter, for I do not without question just digest things what is being forced down on my throat :)

        Now not only me who said that evolution is a theory Jorge Coyne too in his book on evolution chapter 1 :) :) :) Gets :) :) :)

        I think since you have started the ad hominem and troll calling I think I suggest that you buy books about evolution one good one is that of Ernst Mayr (I read that) also that of Jorge Coyne :) :) :)

  2. Brilliant blog – thanks. As a geologist I also find people’s perception of time very limited. Evolution (cosmic included) requires extraordinary amounts of time to work its magic. The problem is of course humans only have their own life times as a frame of reference. Its like watching a film where you only get to see the very last frame after millions that have gone before it. From that single frame science has to figure out the “film”. The plot, what caused the film to be made, what the film is made of, the characters in the film, the action scenes and so on.

    Religion cannot answer these questions because it simply does not have the necessary tools. It can’t observe, measure, collect and collate evidence, form hypothesis, tests hypothesis and most importantly religion cannot change its mind (although it certainly has tried to) once evidence to the contrary is observed. Religion also does not have to “defend” itself in peer review and scrutiny.

    Science is by its very nature the only method known to humans to provide real knowledge. Never has a scientific discovery been debunked by a religious “truth”.

  3. http://elf-ideas.blogspot.ca/2013/02/see-jungle-go-darwin-yeah-city-all-over.html

    Instead of commenting on this well-researched and well-written article of yours, I would just post the link to an article I wrote on my blog–my reaction to an anti-Darwin comment on this article of yours that goes:

    “Darwin is a theologian not a scientist. If I were led to believe then what is the real qualification of Darwin to even formulate a theory. BTW his evolution is still a theory that means it has not passed itself of any respectability of being a fact and that is after 150 years.”

    aLfie

  4. Well, as a short note… it would certainly be arrogant for anyone to attack an already established scientific theoretical framework without them having first the necessary credentials nor data to back them up…

    Why bother to claim the works of Darwin as wrong without first establishing one’s own credentials… at least be a scientist first…

    • Arfel

      Since you are quite courageous enough to answer even though I can see the lack of the blogger to engage me at such then I will answer your unfounded self confidence to the theory of evolution.

      Two things

      A science who purports itself as “already established scientific theoretical framework” hmmmmmmm in theoretical physics there was once a talk of “ether” it is a theory that persisted the longest time in fact it counted centuries before a new theory called the theory of relativity came along. So being a “established” scientific theoretical framework does not assure you of any validity, so dont put fool yourself that anything established cannot be toppled in fact human experience says it is and it can be replaced if a new and viable theory can be found :)

      Now the word science in evolution I would not quarrel with you and I think that you would agree with Darwin when he said (in effect) his falsifiability statement

      “If an organism can be found that has not gone through slight succesive modification my theory will actually break down”

      In fact Darwin here is right in fact the so called “Junk DNA” has many more things to tell us in fact this is a question which I always pose to evolutionists

      Which came first the the information in DNA/RNA or the molecular machines which builds RNA/DNA? For an ID proponent it is all or nothing deal

      Some nut (and I will however warn you in answering like this) who happens to know nothing about science pushes back the argument a little further to justify an answer but in closer look it seems to us that his argument is not even hard science in fact we cannot see the evidence which he only saw in wiki for us to see it in nature :)

      • I will rephrase my question to you for clarity

        Which came first the the information in DNA/RNA or the molecular machines which encodes and decodes the RNA/DNA? For an ID proponent it is all or nothing deal :) :) :)

        I just hope that you would not also enter here (again) the “deity” question coz I am speaking of science here and you have never answered anything yet to the set of question I have put on the table of course except for one :)

      • Who cares about the origin of DNA and RNA… no credible Biologist thinks that the origin of DNA and RNA are due to Evolution… You should have read more posting something as absurd as this… if you don’t know…

        Regardless of the question yet unanswered the fact remains that we know now that species formed from preexisting species and this process is known as Evolution… no other known process amounts to the same naturalistic explanation… unless we are gullible enough to believe that an unfounded entity which happens to exist for eternity just shows up and breaks all the known laws of physics… that snakes without vocal cords can talk and Donkeys can speak…

        If you really think about it… Creationism is a Hoax… made by ignorant men trying to make sense of the world from outdated stories and imaginary tales…

      • Then you dont know your evolution at all and I knew it :) If the DNA/RNA and the molecular machines that helped to build it is not a product of evolution then how can you account the changes in the genome big or small? All our science know that every changes should come in the molecular level. You just made a big blunder my friend in fact no scientist worth his name will ever answer the way you answered :) In fact you never quoted one means that you are groping in the dark

        About creationism I have to remind you that one creationists scientists Howard Humphreys has made six predictions five of them had already come to pass as true and the other 1 awaits confirmation while evolutionists has made 6 also and 5 were proven false and this is in Physics

        Now in Biology as I said above the junk DNA is a term of evolutionists while creationists revolted on that idea. The creationists were proven to be more credible and do you know why?

        With using just one philosophy of creation and that is

        They believed that all of God’s creation even the smallest has a use or is doing something useful and not just hanging around as useless.

        There are many more. But I will leave you to your senses for the more I look at it the more I believe that you have to read your science books. Tsk Tsk Tsk

  5. Joseph, I think I speak for everyone here…do go away you irritating little man. I don’t think anyone gives a damn about your posts, you are just trolling.

    • LOL kelly I just ask questions if you know anything about the problems of evolution. The problem with you guys can be summed up with this quote

      The wise man believes only in lies Trust only on the absurd and learned to expect the unexpected

      Whatever it is served you eat without questioning, digest it as if will it feed your belly and it will be full

      But one someone comes along and say that you are eating poison you became zealous of what you are eating and throw more name callings ad hominems etc etc :) Evolution (Darwin) and Galileo (physics) is a good science and scientists but for the sake of “intellectual” discussion those who held opposing views should be given a chance to be heard. In this case the 5th horseman who BTW is only a little child should think about his evidences, details and assumptions for he might be very very wrong in fact those who held that Galileo were mistreated, maligned, the church dismissing scientific evidence are coming from the mouths of those who are not historically inclined but on the cafeteria of men drinking coffee and sandwiches. In fact the blogger here do not have any sense of hard facts to begin with :) Now Darwin and his evolutionary concepts I look at the evidence and the evidence is just not convincing for me anymore or even before when I am questioning its assumptions.

      Kudos I just hope the questions above should be answered by an “intellectual” many a reply after the post have never answered the questions above but what I got are dismissive comments :) Truly the boy is quite likely to be more protective of his cherish personalities and sciences and without questioning them is truly the hallmark of “flatline” or even degenerative nature of your intellects :) :) :) Ok goodafternoon here and I am finished :)

      • “he might be very very wrong in fact those who held that Galileo were mistreated, maligned, the church dismissing scientific evidence are coming from the mouths of those who are not historically inclined but on the cafeteria of men drinking coffee and sandwiches.”

        Owl really mate? So why was Galileo sentenced to life imprisonment, later commuted indefinite house arrest, by the Catholic church?

      • So what kind of life imprisonment are you talking about? You mean living in a flush villa, continuing his experiments and scientific endeavors? With maids provided? In fact he can go and visit his friends houses only that he has to write written notices. Now if that is house arrests then tell me I will tell the pope himself that I am willing to go under house arrests. BTW all that I am saying to you were all written by the governor of the place where he is under house arrests. Not a friend of the papacy but nevertheless an eyewitness account of your so called house arrests :)

        On Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 3:47 PM, The Atheist Freedom Wall wrote:

        > ** > 5th Horseman of the Apocalypse commented: “”he might be very very wrong > in fact those who held that Galileo were mistreated, maligned, the church > dismissing scientific evidence are coming from the mouths of those who are > not historically inclined but on the cafeteria of men drinking coffee and > san”

  6. :D all i can see down here…are idiots…who comments and replies sh*t …its like a question with an answer questioned and answered again and again and again.. seriously…idiocy

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