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Are US Voters Informed Enough About Science? 868

Naturalist writes "For decades, educators and employers have worried that too few Americans are preparing for careers in science. But there's evidence to support a new, broader concern in this election year: Ordinary Americans may not know enough about science to make informed decisions on key questions."
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Are US Voters Informed Enough About Science?

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  • Obviously not (Score:2, Insightful)

    by suso ( 153703 ) * on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:05AM (#24580813) Homepage Journal

    What is it, 95% believe in a supreme being? Not that believing in a supreme being is compromised by understanding the results of science. Oh no.

  • by Hoski ( 1249412 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:06AM (#24580827)
    I thought it was general knowledge that ordinary people (not just Americans) don't know enough to make informed decisions. Not just science based issues, but all issues.
  • A Greater Truth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by benwiggy ( 1262536 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:07AM (#24580835)
    That's the beauty of democracy. You don't have to be qualified to have an opinion.
    "Most people"probably aren't qualified to have a meaningful opinion on economics, agricultural policy, foreign policy, military strategy, etc., etc.
    That's the price you pay for giving everyone a vote.
  • Re:Obviously not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TechnoBunny ( 991156 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:08AM (#24580845)
    Science has *nothing* to say about the existence, or otherwise, of a supreme being.

    Now, who's uninformed?
  • Re:Obviously not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Da Fokka ( 94074 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:11AM (#24580867) Homepage

    However, since most religions are mutually exclusive, statistics suggest that at least a majority of those people who believe in a supreme being are wrong.

  • by Notquitecajun ( 1073646 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:11AM (#24580869)
    I suspect that most of the reaction is about those who believe in creation (or even God for that matter); I could list several more:

    1. Global climate change

    2. Viability of alternate energy sources

    3. Carbon credits

    4. "Scary" parts of nuclear power.

    5. Where the power from the electric car will come from.

    I'm certain there's more. Disclaimer: I'm a conservative, which probably gives you some sort of impression of my views on the above.
  • Re:Obviously not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Elemenope ( 905108 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:13AM (#24580899)
    Science has lots to say about the means by which such a being could act, and places restrictions on the time, place, and manner of such creative acts. Many of the things that science has excluded as possible means (barring massive deception on behalf of the selfsame being) are means that are expressed in religious texts. As a religious scientist, one is restricted fairly strongly to believing those texts only metaphorically, or not at all.
  • Just science? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RandoX ( 828285 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:14AM (#24580915)

    How about economics? Psychology? Current events? Foreign relations?

    People don't know enough about anything to make an informed decision when it comes to the actual issues. Campaign managers know how to spin anything to make their guy look good and the other guy look bad. I consider myself a fairly smart guy and there have been times where I've accepted a candidate's not-quite-straightforward answer until someone calls them on the facts.

  • short answer... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by je ne sais quoi ( 987177 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:17AM (#24580927)

    Long answer: Meh... There's really just the consolation that maybe Americans at least were never all that science savvy to begin with so the current state is nothing new. A more rigorous science education would probably be better.

    I'd say a good start on that is to get the fucking religious dogma masquerading as science out of the schools. You know what I mean: intelligent design.

    A good second step would be to hire more teachers who are actually good at science and math, but that would mean increasing the salaries and that probably won't happen. It used to be that intelligent women would do fulfill this need because of few career options but nowadays women can go on to science based careers not just in education. I've taught earth science to elementary education majors, very few of them found math and science to be enjoyable, but instead feared it. I can only presume they would transfer this to their students.
  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:17AM (#24580931)

    That's the thing about voting. You get to vote regardless of whether someone thinks you have The Right Information about whatever topic. It's representative democracy. There are other forms of government that only let you decide in certain selected circumstances.

    Almost every election we hear some variation on: "Americans are stupid. We hate them, their religion, their culture, and the things they like. Why won't they vote for us? Don't they know we're better than them and can lead them from their benighted ways?"

    Yeah, we know. That's why you keep losing.

  • Not just the Yanks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CmdrGravy ( 645153 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:21AM (#24580965) Homepage

    It's not just the yanks suffering from this.

    Here in the UK we've had a bunch of morons sitting around outside a power station protesting about it burning coal. Fair enough, thats only mildly moronic but when they are also rabidly against any nuclear power alternatives it becomes stupidly moronic and when they suggest that everyone currently working in the power industry should be forced to move to the Shetlands and build wind farms it's unbelivably moronic.

    Also people like Prince Charles speaking out about GM crops sets everyone a bad example.

  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:22AM (#24580973) Journal
    This isn't a job interview. At least it shouldn't be. We can't possibly have enough information to determine who would do the best job of running the country. If we could judge that objectively, then there would be virtually no political decisions, instead just some skilled advisors in each subject.

    Democracy is all about the subjective factors. Is a public health service better than lower taxes? Should we invest more in education? How much more? Is it better to have extra perks for minorities or should everything be equal? Is the level of immigration too high, too low or just right?

    None of these have a right and a wrong answer. You pick the answers that seem right to you and pick the candidate that most closely represents your views.
  • Troll topic (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Slashdolt ( 166321 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:22AM (#24580977)

    This entire topic flame bait, plain and simple. There's nothing I can possibly post here that will not fan the flames.

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TechnoBunny ( 991156 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:24AM (#24580997)
    But science is predicated on what we see and observe. Should a supreme being decide to throw the rule book out the window, do all kinds of crazy shit, but then (being omnipotent), change everything around so we didnt see any of it then we'd be none the wiser.

    So no, science doesnt restrict the acts of a supreme being at all. Do you really think God (should he exists) spends his days saying 'MeDammit, if only the laws of Physics were different....)

    Omnipotence is the ultimate get out clause.....
  • by urcreepyneighbor ( 1171755 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:24AM (#24581001)

    He notes that nuclear waste controversies hinge on how much risk a community is willing to tolerate, which is not a matter decided by science. Likewise, debates on the use of embryonic stem cells in scientific research routinely boil down to moral beliefs about when life begins.

    Risk? Moral beliefs? Irrationality is what got us into this mess. Pandering won't help.

    You have a better chance of being killed by a drunk driver than a nuclear power plant. And, no, you won't go to a magical afterlife filled with clouds, cake and concubines after you die.

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:25AM (#24581023)

    However, since most religions are mutually exclusive, statistics suggest that at least a majority of those people who believe in a supreme being are wrong.

    Well, it means that they are wrong about the mythology, which is what differs, not about the idea of a supreme being as such.

    If you take a loose definition like "sentient, all encompassing" you could probably get 90% of the worlds population to sign off on it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:27AM (#24581035)

    ...about trolls.

  • Re:A Greater Truth (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 3arwax ( 808691 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:30AM (#24581073)
    But we aren't a democracy. We are a republic and too few people realize this. The masses are too stupid and easy to control so politicians greatly prefer a democracy to a republic. Under a republic they would have to follow this thing call the Constitution which places limits on what the federal government can do. In a democracy they just have to convince enough idiots that they want something and they magically they have the power to do it. Democracies fail when the majority realize they can raid the treasury, much like this last stimulus check. Really, there are enough people in large groups who are stupid. It isn't too hard to manipulate them to give you more power and if you get caught doing something bad there usually isn't enough people who care to stop you.
  • Re:Eh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Teun ( 17872 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:31AM (#24581075) Homepage

    I fail to see how knowing science makes you able to make rational decisions.

    You just gave us the perfect example of what becomes of us when lacking information!

  • by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:34AM (#24581095) Journal
    I'm not going to argue with you since I don't think it will go anywhere, but don't act like religion just takes your money and scams you. Religious organizations are responsible for a HUGE percent of the humanitarian aid and support going on in this world. Yes, it's been used for evil (and still is in many places), but I'm talking about religion in American and Today. When was the last time you helped out at a homeless shelter, or traveled down to help disaster victims, or went out and took donations to help people in a war-torn country? I know people that did those things. Religion has power indeed, but it's power to motivate more than anything... as long as people keep their wits about them, that motivation can be a very good thing.
  • Re:Obviously not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hogwash McFly ( 678207 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:37AM (#24581127)

    Why not?

    If something exists, it is part of the natural world and can be examined through the scientific method.

    Why is a supreme being excluded, tucked away in some comfortable pocket safe from rational enquiry? Science says that it is highly unlikely that dancing can affect rainfall. Science says that it is highly unlikely that anyone can walk through walls, or walk on water, or heal the sick by touching or praying. Practically any rational thinking human being will agree with these assertions and many more, but when it comes to God they suddenly go on the frotz like a malfunctioning robot.

    So why can't Science say that your garden variety supreme being is highly unlikely to exist? Because a lot of people might get their widdle feewings hurt? Because they are afraid of there being no afterlife?

    God is an unnecessary link in the chain. Adding God to the equation solves nothing and raises a million questions. By the remote possibility that he/she does exist, he/she ain't doing much. We evolved ourselves out of the mud and the slime. We learnt to walk, to cook food, to build skyscrapers and airplanes and put a man on the fucking moon. We did it our fucking selves. We are our own gods. That's the 'miracle' right there.

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oliverthered ( 187439 ) <<moc.liamtoh> <ta> <derehtrevilo>> on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:38AM (#24581137) Journal

    the possibility that something exists is always there.

    but actually saying that it exists with no evidence is just plain crazy.

  • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:40AM (#24581159) Journal

    How can voters be informed when the media aren't? It seem that whenever I see anything whatever about science on the TV news, they get something wrong, usually badly wrong and backwards.

    The average American (at least the ones I talk to) don't think that scientific consensis is that the globe is heatihng and we are responsible.

    I don't know about the rest of the world's media, but ours is abysmal. Without an informed media you can't have an informed populace. Perhaps that's what our corporate-controled media wants?

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ATMAvatar ( 648864 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:40AM (#24581165) Journal
    Then you get a supreme being that is intentionally trying to make its existence seem unlikely or absurd, but still punishes you for all eternity if you do not believe in it.

    Sounds like a loving deity to me.

    In either case, the religious text are wrong in some respects, unless you take them metaphorically as the GP suggests.
  • by Teun ( 17872 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:41AM (#24581173) Homepage

    It's not just the yanks suffering from this.

    A lot of educated people will probably agree with you.

    Here in the UK we've had a bunch of morons sitting around outside a power station protesting about it burning coal. Fair enough, thats only mildly moronic but when they are also rabidly against any nuclear power alternatives it becomes stupidly moronic and when they suggest that everyone currently working in the power industry should be forced to move to the Shetlands and build wind farms it's unbelivably moronic.

    Also people like Prince Charles speaking out about GM crops sets everyone a bad example.

    A lot of educated people will probably disagree with you :)

  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:42AM (#24581181) Homepage

    From: []
    "In the meantime, the real crisis that is coming has started to produce a number of symptoms, some alarming and some merely curious. One of these is what I like to call The Paradox of Scientific Elites and Scientific Illiterates. The paradox is this: as a lingering result of the golden age, we still have the finest scientists in the world in the United States. But we also have the worst science education in the industrialized world. There seems to be little doubt that both of these seemingly contradictory observations are true. American scientists, trained in American graduate schools produce more Nobel Prizes, more scientific citations, more of just about anything you care to measure than any other country in the world; maybe more than the rest of the world combined. Yet, students in American schools consistently rank at the bottom of all those from advanced nations in tests of scientific knowledge, and furthermore, roughly 95% of the American public is consistently found to be scientifically illiterate by any rational standard. How can we possibly have arrived at such a result? How can our miserable system of education have produced such a brilliant community of scientists? That is what I mean by The Paradox of the Scientific Elites and the Scientific Illiterates. ... I would like to propose a different and more illuminating metaphor for American science education. It is more like a mining and sorting operation, designed to cast aside most of the mass of common human debris, but at the same time to discover and rescue diamonds in the rough, that are capable of being cleaned and cut and polished into glittering gems, just like us, the existing scientists. It takes only a little reflection to see how much more this model accounts for than the pipeline does. It accounts for exponential growth, since it takes scientists to identify prospective scientists. It accounts for the very real problem that women and minorities are woefully underrepresented among the scientists, because it is hard for us, white, male scientists to perceive that once they are cleaned and cut and polished, they will look like us. It accounts for the fact that science education is for the most part a dreary business, a burden to student and teacher alike at all levels of American education, until the magic moment when a teacher recognizes a potential peer, at which point it becomes exhilarating and successful. Above all, it resolves the paradox of Scientific Elites and Scientific Illiterates. It explains why we have the best scientists and the most poorly educated students in the world. It is because our entire system of education is designed to produce precisely that result. ... Let me finish by summarizing what I've been trying to tell you. We stand at an historic juncture in the history of science. The long era of exponential expansion ended decades ago, but we have not yet reconciled ourselves to that fact. The present social structure of science, by which I mean institutions, education, funding, publications and so on all evolved during the period of exponential expansion, before The Big Crunch. They are not suited to the unknown future we face. Today's scientific leaders, in the universities, government, industry and the scientific societies are mostly people who came of age during the golden era, 1950 - 1970. I am myself part of that generation. We think those were normal times and expect them to return. But we are wrong. Nothing like it will ever happen again. It is by no means certain that science will even survive, much less flourish, in the difficult times we face. Before it can survive, those of us who have gained so much from the era of scientific elites and scientific illiterates must learn to face reality, and admit that those days are gone forever. I think we have our work cut out for us."

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:42AM (#24581187)
    Science and Religion are not mutually exclusive... although, that might be part of the point - most people believe they are...
  • Re:Obviously not (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:43AM (#24581189)

    science is repeatable

    throwing the rule book out the window, do all kinds of crazy shit isn't

    What part of 'supreme being' are you failing to grasp?

    You can certainly choose not to believe it, but logic isn't going to help much here. These kinds of considerations are built in to the religion.

  • by Homer's Donuts ( 838704 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:44AM (#24581197)

    That's why we don't vote on stuff like global warming.

    Global Warming: Religion, disguised as science.

    Not that you don't have a right to believe in it.

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Da Fokka ( 94074 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:47AM (#24581243) Homepage

    True, but that's not the type of religion people base their lives on. The simple fact that there is a sentient, all encompassing being does not stipulate that there is an afterlife, that it's necessary live a good life or that homosexuality is a sin. You need a more specific set of beliefs for that.

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PC and Sony Fanboy ( 1248258 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:48AM (#24581245) Journal

    If something exists, it is part of the natural world and can be examined through the scientific method.

    ... except there are lots of things that are unobservable.

    ...Unless you're willing to argue that cellular biology didn't exist until we invented the microscope, and that there are stars out there that didn't exist until we built telescopes.

    I'm not saying that God exists.

    I'm saying that it is ignorant to claim that something doesn't exist because you can't measure it.

    There are plenty of people who claim that God exists, and that they have personal evidence. Sure, the evidence sucks, but that doesn't change the fact that there are hundreds (if not thousands!) who believe that they have evidence that God exists.

  • Re:A Greater Truth (Score:3, Insightful)

    by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) * on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:48AM (#24581247) Homepage Journal

    More accurately, we are a constitutionally-limited republic, as the Constitution delineates clearly the different branches of government and what powers they have and do not have.

    The Founding Fathers debated vigorously over the form of government -- some wanted a more pure democracy, giving more power to states and others wanted a strong federal republic. This debate has been central to our politics for the last 200 years or so.

    In the end, everyone agreed that the public was too stupid to run things by themselves, so they elected for representational democracy and a republican form of government.

    In the end, it doesn't matter if the public doesn't know enough about science. The public doesn't directly decide issues of law or public policy -- that's why we elect our representatives in Congress and in the Executive Branch.

    Unfortunately, we failed to realize that they, also, are too stupid and too greedy to decide anything of importance. ;)

  • Re:A Greater Truth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:49AM (#24581269)
    Which is why you consume differing sources of media. If a news show or written article says something factual or editorial that you've heard from another source, switch to another source, until there's a difference. The problem with this is that it forces people to think, and people (sometimes even smart people) don't want to think.
  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:49AM (#24581275) Journal

    I'm not religious myself, but just to play the devil's advocate:

    1. Belief that it's all a metaphor doesn't necessarily make one any less religious. Saint Augustine argued exactly that: that the whole genesis is a metaphor and only an idiot would take it literally. He got sanctified by the Catholic Church. So...

    2. (A possible) God doesn't have to obey his own rules, or exist _inside_ the universe he created.

    Think of (a possible) God in terms of, say, a game programmer. Let's say you're this uber genius nerd in a CS university, you're bored enough one week and write the uber-universe simulation. Sort of like a SimCity or Children Of The Nile or The Sims 2 or Spore. Except let's say you're really really smart and have an uber-computer and those little creatures on your screen actually go sentient.

    Now think about your position in the universe you just created. You're entirely outside it. In fact, there's no way for you to ever be _in_ it. You could create a character in that world, but it won't be _you_.

    Also realize that whatever rules you set there, don't apply to _you_. E.g., if you set those creatures to no longer need to eat, it doesn't mean _you_ also suddenly don't.

    Now also realize that you didn't sign any contract or anything. You can change the program's rules or bypass them any time you feel like it. If you want to raise a mountain over there, or have a jolly good flood, who's to stop you? Conservation of mass and energy? You can just change a variable and create more mass and energy. And if a bunch of those simulated people nailed your avatar to a cross, pfft, who's to keep you from resurrecting that char? Laws of biology? Pfft. You wrote the laws of their biology, and can amend them. Or change a bit in the database and have that guy up and kicking like nothing ever happened to him.

    Or if that's too hard to palate, think Blizzard and WoW. All Blizzard employees exist outside of the world of Azeroth. In fact, they can't ever really be _in_ that world. They can create characters there, but the real "gods" at Blizzard are and remain fundamentally outside the world they created, and are not subject to their own laws. If they want to do something as mysterious and supernatural as creating a whole new island, or indeed a whole new planet out of nowhere (see the Burning Crusade launch), who's to keep them? If they don't like their own rules, who's to keep them from changing those rules?

  • by goldspider ( 445116 ) <> on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:53AM (#24581335) Homepage

    A lot of educated people will probably disagree with you

    Which is why "educated" isn't synonymous with "intelligent" or "rational".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:56AM (#24581371)

    GM crops are bad, full stop.

    They do not produce seeds, which means that you have to buy new seeds each season. It makes a complete mockery of food security given that you can only buy the seeds from the GM companies.

    It's being hailed as the solution to the so-called food crisis, but in fact it will be catastrophic in the long term. If GM crops were to become the norm for a lot of the world, it would place third world countries (and first world at that) dependant on these corporations for the most fundamental product on the earth, food, and will lead to mass starvation when people/farmers can't afford to buy the seeds.

    As with every single product ever to exist, when there is a de-facto monopoly, prices will be increased to the absolute maximum possible, which will result in poverty and starvation.

    Past evidence is enough to show that "big business" will put profits over people, even if it meant starvation.

    Thats not to mention possible irreversable contamination...

    It's all very well doing trials, but it is far different to say, medical trials.

    When something goes wrong with medical trials, the trials are stopped. The people affected will remain affected, but no other people will be affected.

    If GM trials go wrong, it would be impossible to contain it, quite possibly contaminating the surrounding countryside and beyond.

    I know this is technically off-topic, but Prince Charles has a very good point and shouldn't just be shouted down as scientifically ignorant.

  • Re:short answer... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by infalliable ( 1239578 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:02AM (#24581471)

    The second point is really key. You need to have strong science focused people, with good communication skills, "teaching" science. Whether it's on the local news or in a classroom, having people who really don't understand the science just do more damage than good. There needs to be professional rewards for those people who are good at science/engineering to go into those fields. Currently, there is none.

    As an engineer, I can easily make $60k a year out of undergrad. If I taught, I could maybe pull $45k...and I'd need to get a masters for it. That is why science teaching, in general, is not of a high quality. The good professionals realize that they are at a serious financial disadvantage to go into teaching.

    There are good science teachers out there, who really love their job, but more needs to be done to persuade good science people to go into teaching.


    On a second point, news outlets need to get over their "requirement" for balanced reporting. For most science topics, there is a clear scientific case for one side.

    Ethanol is bad economic/energy policy...why is/was it championed as a savior for so long?

    Intelligent design...there is zero debate on its lack of merits in scientific circles. The media keeps bringing them up as legitimate options/theories.

    Drilling for oil to remedy near-term gas chance of it doing anything. It's at least 10 years to actually get a drop from an offshore well as there are zero ships available to do the work.

    For all of them, the media presents the point of the corporations set to benefit as being the "definitive authority."

  • by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:08AM (#24581517)
    GM crops are bad, full stop. They do not produce seeds, which means that you have to buy new seeds each season.

    I think your quarrel is not with GM crops in principle, but with Monsanto's business model, which I quite agree makes Microsoft look positively benevolent. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater; genetic engineering can create crops that are more efficient converters of sunlight to food, which can enable us to feed the world population with a much smaller environmental impact. More food grown on less land is a very good thing.

  • as the saying goes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by misanthrope101 ( 253915 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:08AM (#24581527)
    The only thingn worse than democracy is everything else. No single person or even group of people is smart enough to know everything, and even very insightful people (Edward Gibbon, for example) make bad or inneffectual legislators. Even the ancient Greeks had problems with democracy, and Athens had what, about 10K people at the time? Problem is, every other system sucks worse. Democracy is the way it is because we are the way we are, and if people didn't suck, you wouldn't need government in the first place.
  • by MazzThePianoman ( 996530 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:09AM (#24581533) Homepage
    Education is key. Start with our education system so people learn critical thinking skills and common sense. Then task representatives as information gathers to bring the information to their constituents so they can make an informed decision and have the representative represent that decision. There is still the chance of manipulation but it is lessened by a better more critically thinking base of voters.
  • by thedonger ( 1317951 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:21AM (#24581709)

    We are afraid to force people to "learn or fail." Somehow the idea that a kid might be dumber than his classmates has become a violation of civil liberties, like somehow I have an inalienable right to be wrong but still get full credit.

    I wonder if "learn or fail" would result in school overcrowding instead of prison overcrowding...

  • by FictionPimp ( 712802 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:26AM (#24581747) Homepage

    Wow, I did all that stuff because I wanted to help people. Not because I was afraid of a fiery hell or wanted a wonderful afterlife.

    My experience is that people who help in the name of religion are doing more of a look at me thing. They want to look good and want to go to heaven. It is a peer system like highschool. They want to be cool and in the 'in' crowd. So they go along.

    Beyond that, a lot of their 'good' work is used just to push their agenda. Will that christian homeless shelter take in a homeless man who refuses to embrace god? The ones around here require you to console with a church leader and read the bible. Which is why I choose not to donate my money or time to them.

    I just wanted to do something good.


  • Re:A Greater Truth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmajik ( 96670 ) <> on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:28AM (#24581779) Homepage Journal

    To take the example of parenting, we let anyone no matter how irresponsible or unqualified have kids, and then punish them - and the kids - when they screw up the job of parenting. How stupid is that? We don't do that with dentists or doctors or any other role of responsibility.

    You and I probably wouldn't enjoy living in a society that resricted people's biologic function of having children. Nor would we want to live in a society where children were seized in great number from their parents post birth.

    Regarding occupational licensure -- this is as much brought on by members of said occupation as a way to do supply-side limiting of people legally allowed to perform their trade, with obvious benefits to their own salary. Occupational licensure is _always_ sold to the people as "for their safety", but always asked for by those employed in the trade, not consumers who have been harmed.

    If biology worked just a bit differently, and more people had difficulty having kids, and compensated surrogate mothers were more common, you can damn well expect some sort of union or occupational licensure for surrogate mothers to show up. And then you'd have precisely what you describe-- a license or permit required to have kids.

    The ramifications of licensure in politics, when viewed through the lens that licensure is really incumbent protection, are unpleasant to consider. The effective barrier to entry into US politics is still too high; adding a licensure system where those in charge are other licensed polititians seems like socio-political suicide.

  • by DrWho520 ( 655973 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:29AM (#24581801) Journal
    From wikipedia, "In science a theory is a testable model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise verified through empirical observation." Not that Wikipedia is even close to the HGTTG, but that is a very concise and accurate definition of a theory.

    First and foremost, a theory is a testable model. Models are approximations of nature.

    1) Start with theory 1 and state a hypothesis (Theory 1 is bullocks)
    2) Write a procedure that can be run by any nitwit grad student (drop a ball from x feet, observe N star formations)
    3) Examine results (ow, my foot! ow, my eyes!)
    4) Make a conclusion (my data does not allow me to conclude Theory1 is bullocks.)

    A well designed experiment provides scientific benefit whether your conclusion matches the original hypothesis or not. You either provide evidence for or against a theory, a model.

    Yes, you should not accept Big Bang blindly, nor dismiss it out of hand, but I am still waiting for the test procedure that verifies the Big Bang theory. Aha, but the above definition states you can verify a theory via empirical observation. Sure, but if your empirical observations of the universe is what gave birth to a theory, more of those same observations cannot be used to verify the theory. That is incestuous. Lots of evidence points to a Big Bang occurring, but nothing explains why. A model of a system needs to explain why.

    Just because everybody agrees with it does not make it true; science it not a democracy. String/M-theory are very popular right now, but it does not mean they are correct.
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:31AM (#24581829) Homepage
    As far as science being more difficult than the humanities, here's my view on it. It's harder to get 100% on a humanities test than it is to get 100% on a science test. In humanities, the responses are often subjective, and there's no perfect answer. The other side of the coin is that if you don't know all the material, you can still get a pretty good mark (lets say 70%) on a humanities exam, just by presenting your answers in a clear and concise way. If you don't know the material in science, it's very likely that you will end up with a failing grade.
  • Re:Obviously not (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:33AM (#24581861)

    Even the religions that say that an omnipotent being does not exist?

  • by Lilith's Heart-shape ( 1224784 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:35AM (#24581913) Homepage

    As an atheist, I am all too aware of the excessive cultural importance placed on religion in this demon-ridden country. As far as I'm concerned, it wouldn't have killed the British to sic a few privateers on the Puritans to sink the Mayflower before it reached North America. They would have done the whole world a favor in the long run.

    As an anarchist, I don't consider myself qualified to vote anyway. Nor do I consider anybody else qualified to vote. You can't be an anarchist if you're telling other people what to do -- or picking a proxy who will give the orders in your name.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:36AM (#24581943)

    Its scary, but based on your comment that you're a conservative you think its obvious, and I guess it is, that you choose to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence of global warming. I always assumed that "conservative" primarily meant small government, fiscal responsibility, pro-business - its unfortunate that it now means anti-science as well.

  • by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:38AM (#24581975)
    Actually, isn't the 'explosion' part already being questioned? I read about an idea that said what the universe is doing is probably cyclical. Expand, contract, expand, contract - kind of a thing. I think I saw it here, actually.

    The closed Universe model is very much out of favour, and has been so for a long time. All observations indicate that the expansion of the Universe is not slowing down towards a later re-collapse and Big Crunch: in fact, the expansion appears to be accelerating.

    That being said, it really is 'just a theory' as one can NEVER prove it. Not EVER. Not even with a time machine, because if it were true it would be damn hard to record the event without altering it dramatically. That would, as far as I know, disqualify it from ever reaching 'law' status.

    There's no such thing in science as 'law' status. We don't start out with theories and then prove them and then call them laws. There's no committee sitting down to vote on what we call a law and what we don't. And a lot of things we call laws are, well... wrong in reality. Have you ever encountered an Ideal Gas for the Ideal Gas Law to model? Or a perfectly Ohmic resistor that obeys Ohm's Law? No, me neither.

    For the record, the predictions of the Hot Big Bang Model match the observed microwave background to enormous accuracy []. And it gets the isotopic abundances of the atoms right, too. That the Universe was extremely hot and dense some 13.7 billion years ago is about as well established as it gets.

    I really like these sort of 'science of the past' conclusions. They're nearly all faith-based, just like the other religions they compete with.

    That's true, because I can build a radio telescope and measure the 2.7K microwave background myself, which is there just as the Big Bang model said it should be. And I can also build a godometer and monitor deities. Oh, wait...

  • by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:47AM (#24582125)

    Except that not all religious people believe that the Earth was literally created in 7 days 6000 years ago. As the GP said, many believe in these little things called metaphors. Many Christians correctly believe that the Earth was formed from a collapsing dust cloud about 4.5 billion years ago. Many Christians also believe that we evolved from some form of lower primate sometime within the last 100,000 to 200,000 years. As said, science and religion are fundamentally different things, though some will force them to overlap.

    Religion explains the story behind something; Science the how and the facts.

    Suppose my buddy gets a snake bite in the middle of an imaginary jungle and I'm rushing him to the hospital in my car. A group of natives sees my car whisk past. A few see me through the window - others take note of the physical features of the car.

    Now, which explanation offered of this new mystery event would be true:

    1. That some type of combustion engine appears to be rotating a drive shaft that in turn rotates a set of wheels that the vehicle rests upon. As the wheels rotate the vehicle is propelled forward at high speeds.
    2. A strange looking little man inside of the car yelling obscenities is making the car go down the road.

    Well, in truth, both are true, and because they're explaining different facets of the same situation and reality, neither are mutually exclusive. The only problem starts to come in when the two groups of natives start to argue and discriminate based on what the other group believes.

    In the same way, if God created the Universe, Big Bangs might be a pretty good way to do it. Evolution for creating life might be as simple to such a being as us mixing cake batter and watching it rise into a final product.

  • by LEMONedIScream ( 1111839 ) <<lemonjellly> <at> <>> on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:47AM (#24582127)

    Conservative to me means what my mother said "privatise everything, the bastards."

    Right, as I have no clue on what your stance is on these topics, could you enlighten me? I'd hate to lump you into a decisive category where all conservatives all believe the same thing.

    Perhaps another part of the problem is that you've categorised yourself and seem to have 'defaulted' to their views.

  • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NotBornYesterday ( 1093817 ) * on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:52AM (#24582221) Journal
    Perhaps Americans and non-Americans alike should bear in mind that /. is more casual conversation than fine literature, and overlook the odd typo, searching instead for the actual content in a post. Have you any thoughts on his point? Or is it just easier to whore for karma by bashing Americans?

    sm62704 - Good to read you again. You've got a point about the media. How do we deal with an untrustworthy media? As much as I hate to admit it, I think the parent touches on the root of it when he references education. Literacy and more science education would help, but the real key IMHO is a detailed education in history. What generally passes for history education is actually a summary of an idealized point of view about what happened on a bunch of dates.

    Real history education begins with researching the original sources, or as close as you can come. It continues with the realization that you will have to deal with divergent points of view and contradictory evidence. It forces you to challenge what you had assumed or been taught before, as you search for a deeper, hidden truth. You confront propaganda, and its pervasive role in history.

    No one is immune to being fooled, but it's a lot harder to fool someone who has been taught to question the face value of things, and how to compare different sources to learn more.
  • by NiteShaed ( 315799 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:53AM (#24582249)

    That being said, it really is 'just a theory' as one can NEVER prove it. Not EVER. Not even with a time machine, because if it were true it would be damn hard to record the event without altering it dramatically. That would, as far as I know, disqualify it from ever reaching 'law' status.

    And here we go again. Theory does not mean what you seem to think it means. A theory in science is as good as it gets. It does not mean wild-guess, it does not mean "I have a feeling". Evolution, The Big Bang, Gravity....these things are our descriptions that best explains conditions or phenomena that have been observed. If a better theory comes along, one which better explains our observations, it would supplant these but right now that isn't the case. "Law" is an outdated term, which was inaccurate to begin with because nothing is immutable. There is always the possibility that new understanding of a given subject will prove that our previous understanding was incorrect.

    I really like these sort of 'science of the past' conclusions. They're nearly all faith-based, just like the other religions they compete with...

    You know you're one of the people who the article is talking about, right? You don't understand these elements of science, and here you are telling people how they're wrong. Science and Religion are not equal. One is based on observation and experimentation, the other is based on "revealed" knowledge, from a source that by it's very nature is unquestionable.

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rugatero ( 1292060 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:54AM (#24582267)
    Schroedinger's God can exist and not exist at the same time, as long as you don't look at Him.
  • by hanshotfirst ( 851936 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @09:59AM (#24582371)

    I thought it was general knowledge that ordinary people (not just Americans) don't know enough to make informed decisions. Not just science based issues, but all issues.

    If history hasn't been revised in the time I type this, that was a big factor in setting up America as a representative republic rather than a pure democracy. The electoral college in particular is based on this mindset of the founders.

    Unfortunately, it assumes those MAKING the decisions are actually knowledgeable and informed. These days that doesn't seem to be the case either.

  • by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @10:06AM (#24582511)

    You know you're one of the people who the article is talking about, right? You don't understand these elements of science, and here you are telling people how they're wrong. Science and Religion are not equal. One is based on observation and experimentation, the other is based on "revealed" knowledge, from a source that by it's very nature is unquestionable.

    I call bullshit. In fact it would seem that I know MORE about science than you, due to your statements here.

    Semantics are everything, please try and think while you read, but I'd love the opportunity to present to you my point of view...

    We're really discussing two very different things that use the same name.

    First there's 'science' (little 's') that behaves very much the way you're describing. Models, hypotheses, and so on. Nothing is certain, everything is debatable and experimentation is encouraged as part of the quest for knowledge.

    If your opinions are directed at little-s-science, then I very much agree with you. Unfortunately, it has become eclipsed by a darker cousin...

    I'm referring to 'Science' (big 'S'), which bears all the distinguishing characteristics of a major religion, sect, or cult. In this arena superiority and popularity are wielded as giant sticks to keep dissenters in line. Doubt is actively discouraged and ridiculed (as evidenced by some of the statements you have made above) in order to further the most popular theory. This flavor of Science is susceptible to all forms of coercion - political, economic, religious - you name it.

    You can always tell the two apart by the comments of the practitioner.

    'science': "Feel free to experiment and learn for yourself whether or not this is correct."

    'Science': "Only a moron would doubt the findings of people obviously better than you."

    The difference is stark, and devastating.

  • Re:Just science? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @10:06AM (#24582521) Homepage Journal

    What does informed mean? It doesn't mean just having data; it means having a collection data that enables you to make a good decision. The most informative kinds of data sets contain data that cut across each other. When you take income and deduct expenses, each of which is raw data, you get profit, which is derived. You become informed when a piece of data falls into your hands that alters the significance of the data that you always have.

    It isn't as hard to become informed as people pretend it is. It's not such a long, arduous and complex process. The unpleasantness of becoming informed is of a different nature: you have to be open to data that undermines what you already believe to be true.

    This is the problem of a world in which people have access to 500 cable channels and a countless number of politically partisan blogs and news aggregators. It becomes very easy to avoid the pain of revising your opinions. Thus, while people consume more data than ever, they are becoming progressively less informed.

  • Religion vs. God (Score:5, Insightful)

    by number6x ( 626555 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @10:13AM (#24582689)

    Religion does not really have a problem with science. Religion has a problem with God. Everytime Religion comes face to face with something God has done, Religions freak out.

    If you don't believe in God, you can just skip my reasoning here. If you do believe in God, and believe in a God that made the universe, please bear with me a few minutes.

    Western peoples once believed the Earth was the center of the universe and the Sun an all of the planets and stars rotated around the Earth. When the Copernican model of a heliocentric solar system started to be taught, religious leaders opposed it. It contradicted their dogma and their doctrine. They thought that if the dogma and doctrine were proved wrong it would undermine religious authority. This still goes on today and is often portrayed as a 'fight' between 'science and God'.

    But, for believers anyway, it was God that made the Earth and the Solar System. Who on Earth is powerful enough to try to dictate to God that God got it wrong? It seems the leaders of most religions think they are!

    Religion was being brought face to face with the works of God. In particular a heliocentric Solar System. They didn't like it. Too bad for God! God should have known better! How dare he oppose doctrine and dogma like that. Who did God think they were undermining the Church's authority?

    Its still going on today. Science reveals the way a part of the universe works through Evolution, quantum mechanics, or the big bang and Religions get in line to oppose it. They don't like being shown how God does things.

    Its not 'science vs. God'. Its 'Religion vs. God'.

    Religions don't like the way God chose to create the universe and they want to outlaw the study of God's creation (science). Religions do not like it when God gets God's way!

    If Religions don't like the way God made the universe and the mechanisms at work in the universe (like Evolution), then those Religions should make clear to their followers how they disagree with God and don't like how God chose to do things. They should make clear that they prefer a book printed by Mankind or dogma created by Mankind over God's way.

    If only God stayed out of their way, most Religions would be much happier.

    (non believers can now return to their regularly scheduled programs)

  • The Real Question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by moxley ( 895517 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @10:20AM (#24582825)

    How can you expect them to be informed about voting when they don't even understand history and a huge percentage can't even list all 50 states let along tell you where Iraq or any other country is on a map of the globe?

    The real question is my mind is: "Are people in the US informed about anything that is not on TV shows?"

    Now obviously I can point to myself and some people I know and probably many of you here on Slashdot who are vociferous readers and who think most TV is trash designed to dumb down the public and say, yes, there are Americans who are very informed.

    But as far as the general public is concerned? I think the answer is "no."

    In general whe people talk about this there is a snarky lightheartedness that comes out, but I think behind that is a sadness for our country and the prospects for the future; a sort of resignation of hopelessness.

    I don't blame the people entirely, even mostly. it has happened so slowly, and I think it is the result of policies that have allowed corporations and profits to come over everything else, including people and politicians/legislators who have abdicated or been corrupted and allowed this to occur.

    I will give one example. Look at television (which I think is a HUGE part of the problem) and the FCC - the airwaves are supposed to be for the peoplel, the people supposedly own them. This is a total fucking joke. Corporations own the airwaves, even public broadcasting. "Public Access" stations, which were so few and far between except in some major metro areas have been almost wiped out. Instead we have "infotainment" news that focuses on scandals and sex; (hey, sex is great, but not in the place of real news). Reality TV? Seriously, why watch this crap, who cares what some completely brain dead over-privileged Laguna Hills teen slut obsesses over?

    Look at how textbooks have been politicized, especially in primary education and in one area in particular: history. I had a chance to look through some high school and jr high history books several years back and was appalled. There are decent history books like Howard ZInn's "A People's History of the United States" which seem to only be used in better schools.

    So these sorts of things progressing over years are what allows a populace to end up where ours is, with a system that has institutionalized corruption and an administration that has ushered in the age of a kinder, gentler fascism - So are the voters informed? FUCK NO - and it's so much worse.

  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @10:29AM (#24583019) Journal

    Such shenanigans would count as 'massive deception'. [...] That kind of behaviour makes God a liar and a fraud, which is not the kind of thing most theists like to believe in.

    If we're talking about the God of Judaism and Christianity, he's the same guy who gave commandments like "Thou shalt not kill" and "You shall not covet your neighbours house; you shall not covet your neighbours wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour."... while leading the same people to Palestine to kill the original inhabitants of it and take their land. The promised land wasn't exactly empty, you see.

    It's also the guy who commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, just to see if he'd actually do it. Then it turns out it was just one hell of a practical joke.

    And that's not even getting into more philosophical discussions about the world he created and how it set the stage and created the necessity for most of the sins he then condemned.

    He's not that nice a guy. So a bit of deceit wouldn't really stand out, in all that.

    Plus, you can think of it as "storytelling" rather than "deceit", if it makes you feel any better. Same as how Blizzard tells you that Stormwind was destroyed and rebuilt once, but in WoW that never actually happened in-game. It's back story. But the new "universe" started directly with the rebuilt one. Or like when your D&D GM tells you something like "you're in a grand ballroom, in front of a festive table on which servants pile up roast boar and exotic fruits", when you can see that you're in his basement and the only food around is some cold pizza ;)

    If God has been intervening in the Universe, he has been doing so in such a way as to conceal his own involvement.

    Actually, I don't know... if we're still talking about the same guy, I don't think he bothered making any excuses or cover-ups about breaking his own rules. He's outright proud of a miraculous genocide or two (the flood, or Sodom and Gommorah), and the list is actually much bigger.

    If, for instance, he created the world in seven days in 4004 BC, then he retconned in 13.7 billion years of entirely synthetic history.

    To stick to the WoW example, Blizzard created the world of Azeroth complete with a history stretching waay back to outright evolution scales. (E.g., back to the time when the elves as a species split from the trolls.) It created it full of ancient ruins, million-year-old dinosaur skeletons, and NPCs and artefacts telling stories from way before the game got actually launched. The game is, what? A couple of years old? Yet it has a history that goes thousands of years before even a line of code of it existed.

    Are Blizzard a bunch of liars and frauds? (Well, ok, some disgruntled ex-WoW-players would probably say so.)

  • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 ) <> on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @10:42AM (#24583269) Homepage Journal

    They should elect a politician who will consult with the best scientists in the world and act on sound scientific advice on topics that both they and the electorate don't know enough to make a call about. Is man-made global warming real? I don't know, I think it probably is, but that's the kind of question that climatologists should be telling us the answer to. Should we put a man on Mars? I don't know, that's up to NASA to convince congress that there is enough benefit either technologically or in terms of international prestige and national pride. Elect someone who will take advice and act on it in a way that is not guided solely by prejudice.

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Corwn of Amber ( 802933 ) <corwinofamber@ s k> on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @10:46AM (#24583333) Journal

    To date the only successful (defined as getting large mindshare) attempts at moral systems absent religion designed for mass instruction have been unspeakably evil. i.e. Socialism, National Socialism/Fascism, Communism

    I fail to see how religion is any less evil. Moreover, Fascism, National-Socialism and Communism fit the definition of "Cult".

  • by mgblst ( 80109 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @10:54AM (#24583479) Homepage

    Global Warming: Religion, disguised as science.

    Why do you believe this? There is lots of evidence for global warming. Does it make you feel uncomfortable that you might need to change your lifestyle if it turns out to be true?

    In fact, it would seem that you are the religious one, refusing to accept any evidence against your "beliefs".

  • by emeraldemon ( 1167599 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @11:02AM (#24583611)

    None of these have a right and a wrong answer.

    I couldn't disagree more. All the questions you ask DO have a right answer, in the sense that they represent concrete choices whose outcomes change the quality of life of us all, and one choice will improve our quality of life more than another (or worsen it). We don't know which is the right answer, but that's a function of our ignorance, not the question.

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @11:02AM (#24583615)

    Atheism is in itself a belief system. The belief that there is no God.

    That depends on your definition of the word. Having just spent about half an hour reading lots of Wikipedia pages, I can't honestly say whether I would describe myself as atheist. Richard Dawkins said, "I am an agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden" which is exactly my view -- the whole god/no god thing is as irrelevant to me as the existence of fairies at the bottom of the garden. The burden of proof rests 100% with theists.

    I am agnostic because I have no knowledge of gods -- I have no proof of the non-existence of gods, just as I have no proof of the non-existence of fairies.
    I am atheist because, with nothing to believe in, I don't believe in anything (do I believe in nothing? As much as I believe in no fairies).

    That might make me an agnostic atheist, but I like the definition of apatheist too.

    My fellow Americans can't understand the logic though. Here, you either believe or don't believe: black and white.

    I see many shades of grey (but then I'm not American), most of the confusion seems to come because I don't understand why the theists make such a big deal about the whole thing, when it means nothing to me.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @11:05AM (#24583681) Journal

    It's not just a problem for public opinion. Here in the UK, buisness leaders say there are not enough young people studying science at school.

    That's because you don't get to be a "business leader" by studying science. Instead, you get to be an interchangeable cog in the machine run by "business leaders". Unless you stay in academia, in which case you get to join a medieval hierarchy where the higher up you go, the less science you do... but at least you can go up.

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <jmorris@beau . o rg> on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @11:22AM (#24583975)

    > I fail to see how religion is any less evil.

    I can't help it if you are too mentally limited to see objective reality.

    The problem as I perceive it is that most people aren't going to take the time to study and ponder issues of morality. So religion short circuits all that and just gives them a prebuilt moral code and tell them "You WILL do this." Since any religion that lasts very long has a workable moral code embedded within this allows a stable society to exist.

    Now observe what happens (go to any college or university) when people are freed from religion but not given any other basis for a moral code. They tend to become amoral, hedonistic and because we seem to be preprogrammed to 'need' a religion will fall for the first fruity new age crap that comes their way. Or they become socialists, which is even worse.

    What too many people who have been educated beyond their intelligence can't seem to understand is that science ISN'T a religion. Science is just a way of asking a small subset of questions. But science can't be used to ask the big questions and attempts to misuse it in that way gets results about as meaningful as attempts to divide by zero or take the square root of a butterfly. Equally importantly, Secular Humanism IS a religion and can offer answers to the bigger questions... and is exactly as 'scientific' as Wicca.

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @12:06PM (#24584795) Homepage

    The way he said it was kind of a cop out, but the idea has some reasonable basis. Let us assume for a moment a supreme being. this being is so vast and powerful as to be incomprehensible to human brains. Let us assume that his supreme being has,through out history, acted through Avatars (Christ, Buddha, Krishna, etc) to reveal portions of itself to mortal man. Being limited, these people who have been shown some portion of Truth, believe that they have seen the whole Truth. They are wrong, but they believe it.

    The Supreme being, being.. well.. Supreme... understands that people cannot see all of It, and therefore considers all followers to be Its followers. No religion, even the ones that claim a monopoly on truth need be entirely right, but none need be entirely wrong either. From a logical prospective, religions have many individual tenants each conceivably with its own truthness and falseness. You're presenting a scenario where if any one piece of the religion is false than it must all be false. Think how it would be if science were held to same standard:

    'Oh, well, ya know I thought we had something with his whole evolution model, but i can't figure out how this one piece fits so we'll just have to scrap the whole thing.'

    Religions, from this point of view are analogous to sweeping models, not to individual facts which can be proven or disproven. Like every model, some parts are going to be stronger than other parts, and you're never likely to able to be sure of the whole thing.

    Now I'll grant you that some people are far to dogmatic to look at their religions that way, but it doesn't mean it not a viable way of looking at them, and many people use some modified version of this way of thinking of their and other religions. Unitarian Universalists and many Neo-Pagans think of religion this way for certain.

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @12:24PM (#24585103) Homepage Journal

    All the religions focus on banning behaviors that were perceived to be harmful to their regional society at the time. The differences are largely because they were started in different places and times.

    Several religions consider pork unclean. The religions sprang up in the Middle East where water was scarce. Pigs use lots of water. Therefore, pork ranked right up there with gluttony in the absence of a modern world market. There were also health issues, IIRC.

    Even banning homosexual behavior could possibly be explained away as a desire to preserve evolutionary diversity. If having a percentage of people who are homosexual in the gene pool confers some evolutionary advantage, and if saying "Sex with your own gender is wrong because it can't create children" made it more likely that those traits were preserved in future generations, it's possible that the seemingly arbitrary rule in question prevented the trait from dying out by attrition. That certainly doesn't make it right in a modern world where artificial insemination can produce the same effect, of course.

    The point is that you shouldn't assume that those seemingly arbitrary rules you talk about really were arbitrary. It is equally possible that they served a necessary purpose at the time which simply no longer makes sense in a modern world.

    Just a thought (and admittedly a somewhat bizarre one).

  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @12:30PM (#24585225) Homepage Journal

    Just to recast your comment with a slightly different spin, religions were created by man based on an imperfect understanding of the divine. Religion doesn't have a problem with science inherently. Religions institutions have a problem with science.

    More to the point, religion and science are both based on imperfect understandings of the universe and grow and evolve as new truths are revealed. Religion just tends to have a harder time being convinced. :-)

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:3, Insightful)

    by digitrev ( 989335 ) <> on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @01:20PM (#24586175) Homepage
    No, humans are the number one cause of all war, dispute, and strife in the world. Religion is just the #1 scapegoat.
  • by db32 ( 862117 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @01:36PM (#24586487) Journal
    No, but it is a fairly decent argument for saying that you can't use science to prove/disprove those fairies. To be honest I have never been impressed with the personification of God that came from the Judaeo-Christion mythology. This is where one of those scientific observation things messes up their religion. Almost every culture has personified things they didn't understand. On top of that, the whole son of kings, born poor, superhuman/son of god stuff is hardly new. Buddha was the son of royalty, lived poor, and is representative of about the closest thing Buddhism has to a "God". Jesus, same story. Herculese, once again. The trouble is that most people have a terrible time separating the concept of "God" from a specific mythology and personification. When you hold up most of the world religions and strip away the silly mythology stuff that has been shown to be natural cultural development stuff, most of them have a fairly similar view to the concept of "God" and "Soul" in the grand scheme of things.

    Even outside of the nonsense of any particular religions story. The very nature of "God" takes it outside the scope of science. A higher power, a creator, something omnipotent, etc. All of the characteristics and actions of "God" would make it unobservable and indistinguishable from our natural world.

    Science attempts to answer the question "How". Religion attempts to answer the question "Why". Unfortunately people get the two confused quite frequently. Science can't really answer "Why" any more than Religion can answer "How". But both sides try to twist the question to sound legitimate. "Why does a balloon pop when poked with a needle?" Is a bad scientific question. Science can only describe how it pops, on the grand scheme of things "why" it popped is because that is the way all of creation was designed to operate.
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @01:42PM (#24586625)

    A God trying to test your faith with events that point towards him not existing is kinda incompatible with a God that created you in his likeness and the drive to research and discover things. If God wants blind faith, if God wants you to believe in him and ignore your research, while at the same time giving you the drive to learn and the craving for knowledge, he's pretty cruel.

    And I kinda don't want to believe in such a God. And why would a God that obviously wants you to believe in him try to give you good reason not to? It just doesn't add up.

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lachlan Hunt ( 1021263 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @02:04PM (#24587051) Homepage

    The fact is that man have created their own gods in their own image.

  • by OwnedByTwoCats ( 124103 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @02:38PM (#24587703)

    And using the same argument, I could claim that the universe was created, complete with the appearance of history, Last Thursday. By my cat, Sidney. He says so.

  • by grizdog ( 1224414 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:22PM (#24589363) Homepage

    The problem is not that people aren't informed about science, but that they aren't informed about the scientific method.

    Scientific Creationists come up with a "theory" and present it as some sort of equal competitor with Evolution. The notion that a theory has to allow one to make predictions, and to test the theory with experiments, and thus to be experimentally falsifiable, isn't well understood, and it is critical. Scientific Creationists would never admit of an experiment which, if performed, could prove their theory was wrong as stated, and needed modification or simply had to be discarded. This is what makes Creationism dogma and not scientific.

    This extends to popular opinions about controversial scientific questions, like Global Warming. Everyone from George Will to Al Franken has an opinion about the subject, and all but a handful of them desperately avoided taking a college course that involved labs and any real interaction with the scientific method when they had the chance. But they figure they have as much right as anyone else to weigh in on the subject.

    Of course, they do have such a right, but it doesn't help the general understanding when they ignore the scientific method, which they do not understand, but claim that their innate intelligence allows them to understand something which scientists have to sweat over for years.

    The net result, I fear, is a "science without tears" society, where students are given to believe that it is not necessary to actually study a subject in order to assert a competence in it. Employers may want to see certain courses on the transcript, but public policy won't be driven by fact and empirical observation - it will be driven (moreso than it already is) by who has the biggest microphone.

  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @05:19PM (#24590325) Journal

    Agree wholeheartedly. But if you're gonna take the creation metaphorically, then why take the deity literally...

    So don't. My argument was merely that we can't prove that _a_ god can't possibly exist.

    Plus, you'll notice that my beardie-nerd-in-the-sky example isn't literally the christian god, although it is very loosely based on it.

    The creator of a simulation is still restrained *as regards the simulation* by the parameters of that simulation. A human being, obviously, is not restrained literally by his or her creating an online avatar, but he or she *is* constrained in his or her ability to act with that avatar inside that particular virtual world by the rules governing avatars.

    Duly noted, and as I was saying somewhere else, he won't be _literally_ omnipotent. There are some restrictions, some of which you've correctly noted.

    But as someone who's been a coder on a MUD and nearly managed to program another one from scratch (before getting bored and giving up), I can assure you that those restrictions are more loose than you have to think. The rules governing avatars are very very loose, when you're the one who wrote those rules and can change them on a whim.

    Plus there's a lot of stuff you can do by simply editing files online or offline, completely unconstrained by the limitations of an avatar. If you want to create, say, a talking sword, just fire up your favourite text editor and program one. Or if you want to raise the sea level to above Mt Everest to wipe humanity, I doubt you'll be using your in-game avatar for that. Why would you? Instead of wondering how you can make your avatar able to command the sea, just open up an editor and code that change. Most of my building was done that way.

    Funnily, you'll notice that the christian god never made an avatar, so he wasn't constrained by that anyway. He's adamant that no, you can't see his face. He can do all sorts of miraculous stuff in the world, but you can never see _him_. It would very much fit a god _outside_ our universe.

    Mind you, I'm not saying you should believe in one, much less which one. Just that, as idle intellectual exercises go, being the coder and admin of an online world gives you quite a bit of freedom and power. (Though if anyone will want to play your game, that's another good question.)

    And if we were to extend the programming metaphor, if a creator/designer were to write himself up a world, he or she is still constrained by the relative power, expressiveness, and syntax of the language by which the world is written.

    Indeed, but to some extent it's again not that much of a limit. As someone who's started from assembly and went through two dozen languages or so (about half as idle curiosity only), I'd say as long as it's Turing-complete (for the pedants: in the loose sense, without also requiring infinite memory), you can find a way around its limitations.

    And, pointedly, this argument isn't happening in a vacuum (with hypothetical religions and hypothetical deities) but with actual posited deities of actual religions.

    Actually, mine was just a hypothetical exercise. Pretty much just saying that _a_ god could exist, and the programmer example was just one of the possible examples. Whether it also fits any particular religion, is no longer my concern.

    Many of whom, I feel compelled to point out, argue that they are *consistent* and *do not alter their mind/decisions*. Which blows all to hell the fun intellectual exercise of a God who decides one day to change the rules.

    I don't know any god like that, but then it's been a decade since I've read a bit on the history of religions.

    The christian God, for example, _did_ change his mind repeatedly. One moment he's against pork, the next moment he changes his mind about it 'cause he wants to feed Peter. One moment he's still pissed of

  • by Americano ( 920576 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @05:58PM (#24590903)

    Say for example that this 'god' changed the size of the nuclear force 2 bill years ago. That would change the ratio of different chemical elements compared to what we would expect to see.

    Of course theists would simply argue that, since God is eternal and timeless, he didn't change his mind "at time x." He simply changed his mind, and that's the way things are inside his created universe at all points in time.

    To assume that god changing his mind would have to occur at "some point in time" inside our universe assumes that god is subject to the concept and perceptions of time and space, which religion posits that he created. As an all power being, he is not "bound" in any sense by the things he's created. He can change them on a whim at any time.

    The problem is, you cannot argue this sort of logic as proof against god - there's always 'Turtles all the way down' to fall back on when you start arguing specific points like this.

  • Re:Obviously not (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <drsmithy@ g m a i l . c om> on Thursday August 14, 2008 @05:26AM (#24596425)

    Or then you could see through his bias, be a better person so to speak, and discuss the rather valid point he's making...

    Saying people who enjoy a bit of sex, drugs and intellectual wankery (the college/university "lifestyle") are "amoral" (or have a "bent moral compass") is not a "valid point". Indeed, his venom lacks even a slight nod towards politely-masked bias and just slides straight into an anti-liberal diatribe.

    (Aside: I find it extremely difficult to believe such an opinion isn't rooted in religious beliefs, and hence am extremely sceptical of the GP's claims of agnosticism.)

    To say nothing of the fact that anyone who actually has been to college/university will know that kids from religious background hit it just as hard - if not harder - that those who aren't. Because, since their "moral compass" is based on fear of, and constant guidance from, their church and/or peers, as soon as that guidance is gone the fact they're often incapable of making their own decisions (especially in 'grey areas') comes to the fore.

    Indeed, not only does he have no "valid point", but his argument is completely arse-about-face as well. People whose "moral compass" is not dependent on an outside authority are _vastly_ better equipped to deal with situations where that authority is absent, or is in conflict with reality.

    If a piece of test is not worth discussing, then it's not really worth derogatory comments like yours either.

    Stupid and poisonous attitudes should be identified as such and beaten down at every opportunity, so as not to infect others.

    Or, as has been put more more elegantly in the past, "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing".

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Thursday August 14, 2008 @11:27AM (#24599929)

    A likely excuse... honestly, you believe that crap? That god wants you to chop off part of your dick for some unknown reason? Why'd he put it on there in the first place if he doesn't want you to have it? Honestly, that's some serious gullibility there.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN