Friday, March 7, 2014

Science vs. Religion

"I think that science tolerates the unknown in a way that religion doesn’t. My argument is not for people who search for god. My argument is with people who feel that our understanding of ‘god’ is completed. And those are the people who make so much of our existence on this planet such a hell, because they really think that they have the right to kill other people - to hurt them - because of what they understand ‘god’s will’ to be. That’s a very destructive thing. So science is - the whole methodology of science - is saying that we are not permitted these absolute truths that religion pretends to have…that we do not know the answer to these questions; and not only that, but the little that we think we do know…if you can prove us wrong, we’ll give you our highest reward. That’s part of the whole methodology, the whole functioning of the system itself.
Scientists do terrible things. Scientists have biases. Religious people do terrible things and they have biases. But absolutely intrinsic to the whole methodology of science is that error-correcting mechanism which says we must never lose sight of that. That’s not in religion, not present at all. Talk about humble…the fact that we do science and that we can bring ourselves to see [our] little, tiny, Earth…that is humility.
What science has done for us spiritually is that it has been the only thing that I know of that has compelled us to ween ourselves of our infantile need for centrality. And that is present - very much the essence - of so many religious formulations…of where we come from, why we came to be. It’s the sign of mental health that we can bare to think that this planet was perfectly fine for 4.5 billion years without us. That cosmic evolution goes on for 13.5 billion years before we even get here.
How long have we been in science? How long have we systematically been looking at nature? Not even 400 years. And yet science gets us out to Enceladus. It takes us out of the solar system. It enables us to ween ourselves of that spiritual narcissism which compelled us to be at the center of everything. So when it comes to humility, when it comes to a tolerance for ambiguity, and for the unknown, I think science worships the unknown. I think scientists are most comfortable in that place of not knowing, and that’s where they live. And that’s the great strength of science.”
Ann Druyan responding to an audience member who suggested science was somehow afraid of the unknown

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