Science or religion?

Spoiler alert: science.

Science and religion are not compatible. Or at least that’s what I believe to be true. I want to write the “how” I got to that conclusion. I’m not a good writer, but I’ll try to be brief and clear as possible. The topics that I’ll mention are pretty extensive, but I’ll do my best to not digress a lot before I get to that conclusion.

Also, I’m not a chemist, physicist or any kind of scientist at all. And exactly because of that, I don’t intend that anybody who read this, will blindly believe in what I’ll write. On the contrary, what motivates me to write this article is to share the skepticism towards any kind of acquired knowledge.

Method of approach to the truth

You can see differences between science and religion from the most basic aspect: their method to approach the truth. Quoting Steven Weinberg,

Religion relies greatly on authority. It may be the authority of sacred texts, like Sunni Islam and Protestant Christianity, or text together with religion leaders, like Shia Islam or Roman Catholicism.”

I don’t think I have to say much more. Let’s use Catholicism as example. Catholicism says, “here you go, this is The Bible. Read it and believe in it. I can’t prove anything it says, but don’t mind that. And don’t look for evidence. Believe and you’ll be saved”. Got it. In contrast, science has heroes instead of prophets. Heroes that did and continue doing amazing discoveries all over the world. Nonetheless, they’re not authorities that are consulted in order to fix current world problems. Just because I can, let me quote Steven Weinberg again,

Einstein is the greatest hero of the 20th century. But no one today, arguing about the theory of gravitation, would settle the issue by referring back to Einstein’s papers of 1915. Today it’s understood that any reasonable good graduate student understands general relativity better than Einstein did. We have learned, we have progressed.

In science, there’s no fear on telling somebody that he’s or she’s wrong, so long as you have evidence on your claims. And when I say evidence, I don’t mean just any evidence. With the risk of being called opportunist, I’ll use particle physics as example. From a while back, the greek letter sigma (σ) is used to represent the confidence in the results of an experiment. Sigma is related to the standard deviation of the normal distribution of a series of values. When you say you have a 1-sigma experiment, it means you received the expected value in the 68% of the cases. Today, the gold standard to say you’ve made a scientific discovery — at least in the particle physics field — is 5-sigma; your theory needs to correctly predict a result in 99.99994% of the cases.

So in one hand, we have religion that says “believe because I say so”. On the other hand science tells you “sorry, we can’t accept your theory as true if it’s incorrect in more than 0.00006% of the data”. And that’s the main reason I consider religion to be more harm than good to human beings. Because when we ask questions, religion says “it’s like this because I say so”.

Why are we here?

Curiosity is an instinct that we have since birth. We share it with lots of living beings. And it’s precisely that instinct that makes us ask ourself questions of the type “why are we here?”.

Multiple religions have tried to answer this question since the beginning of time. The Bible reads in the Genesis book that God created the universe in six days. And he took a nap on the seventh. And along a handful of books tells us the tale of the creation of the first man and women. Noah’s Arc. Cain and Abel. Moses and the Ten Commandments. Then in a second part, it tells us how God came down from heaven in flesh, he predicated, taught, was betrayed and died, in order to save us from our sins — sins that we committed before being born. And then he revived. Always telling us about this great divine plan that God has for all.

But all this time, religions have been trying to answer the wrong question. And this is were I find the biggest reason for human beings to associate with a belief. It’s hard for human beings to conceive that nobody put us here, that we’re not fulfilling the plans from a bigger mind, and that we won’t go to heaven after we die. It’s pretty much on the other side. Human beings feel so much more safer knowing there’s a bigger mind that takes care of us, and will take care of us after we pass away.

But then, what is the right question to make? Surprisingly (or not), it’s the same question. Just asked in a complete different sense. In the sense that cosmology asks. Why are we here, in sense of, what were the conditions that had to occur in order for me to be today, in my desk, drinking a coffee and writing this. And this sense of the question is what I think can be a real purpose for mankind. General thinking is that science has mostly everything figured out, that scientists are only working out the details. General thinking can’t be more wrong. General thinking didn’t hear about the Higgs boson, or the experiments that took place in the LHC in 2012. General thinking doesn’t know that universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, thanks to the dark energy. General thinking doesn’t know that although this dark energy contains around 60% of the energy in our observable space, we barely have an idea about what it is, or where it comes from. General thinking also doesn’t know that our galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy will collide and merge into a bigger galaxy. This will happen in a couple billion years, give or take. And what is more amazing to me: general thinking couldn’t witness how this two fields of science — astronomy, which studies the macro-universe; and particle physics, which studies the micro-universe — ended up being fundamentally linked to each other, making this amazing science cocktail that can result too tempting for a person with a high sense of curiosity, and the proper patience. And if you managed to complete reading this last sentence, you might be. It was pretty long.

The end

This article is a limited explanation of why I consider that, if humans are concerned about the question of why we’re here, we should always fallback to science and not religion. The 20th century witnessed an incredible advance in mostly all of science fields. The 21th century might get even better. With every new discovery, new questions arise. And this new questions truly make me believe that the idea that humans are predestined to something is merely distracting and irrelevant.

I will never deny that religion has had a big paper in the history of humanity. Nobody can deny that. And I’ll even push myself to say that in most of the occasions, religion played a nice role to us. The union of Rome Empire under one flag, being a pioneer in science discoveries, and even setting the bases of moral are all things that are attributed to religion. But nonetheless, as happened with the Geocentric theory and a bunch of others, we need to let go of Theism and give that role to science in order to continue to a future that looks very much promising (if we take Trump out of the equation).

So, science or religion?

This is almost a literal translation of a post I wrote in my Facebook. Apologies for orthographic mistakes and a poor redaction.

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