Faithful to Science

blog on science and religion

Month: June 2015

gods

[image: Frederick William Hayes The Rivals from Llanddwyn (c.1884)]

 

This week I was looking at a few websites and I found various repetitions of a statement that seems to be doing the round in atheist circles, namely that all of us disbelieve in most gods and the happy atheist simply goes one further. You can download a poster of all the gods that people have written about or made offerings to, and thus bolster your own atheism.

All I want to do this week is explain, briefly, why this sort of polemic (for that is all it is) won’t wash.

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The Place

image from http://wildlifesnaps.com/search_results.php?species_common=Martin,+House

Carnsore Point, Co. Wexford, Ireland. September 20th, 2009.

 

A poem by R.S. Thomas:

 

The Place

Summer is here.
Once more the house has its
Spray of martins, Proust’s fountain
Of small birds, whose light shadows
Come and go in the sunshine
Of the lawn as thoughts do
In the mind. Watching them fly
Is my business, not as a man vowed
To science, who counts their returns
To the rafters, or sifts their droppings
For facts, recording the wave-length
Of their screaming; my method is so
To have them about myself
Through the hours of this brief
Season and to fill with their
Movement, that it is I they build
In and bring up their young
To return to after the bitter
Migrations, knowing the site
Inviolate through its outward changes.

 

R.S. Thomas, included in R. S. Thomas, Collected Poems: 1945-1990

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Meeting

[image from https://mexicoinstitute.files.wordpress.com/ 2013/03/folk-art-community.jpg]

Particles in the universe come in two types, named bosons and fermions, after Satyendra Nath Bose and Enrico Fermi (“boson” is pronounced with a long ‘o’ and a hard ‘z’, to rhyme with “goes on”). Bosons include things like photons (particles of light), which can be absorbed or emitted in large quantities. Fermions include things like electrons and protons which form the building-blocks of matter. The chief distinguishing characteristic of these different types of particle is that bosons can congregate together in the same region of space and state of motion, all moving along together. Fermions, by contrast, only ever exist one at a time in any given place and state of motion. Photons in a laser beam are an example of bosons gathered together in the same motion. Electrons in different orbitals in atoms are an example of fermions avoiding one another. This leads to the fact that atoms with different numbers of electrons behave differently, which is the basis of chemistry.

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Humpty Dumpty

Here is a letter that was published in New Scientist magazine about two months ago.

“I was intrigued by your claim that science is not a belief system (4 April, p.5). Surely what it is not is a faith system. Science is belief based on evidence: faith, on the other hand, is belief irrespective of evidence.

“Science gives rise to beliefs that fit the existing evidence, allowing for them to change should new evidence make that sensible.

“Faith takes beliefs and puts them on an untouchable pedestal where they remain, no matter what contradictory evidence there is.

“Most of us frequently employ a fairly scientific belief system. Take the simple example of the day of the week. When I woke up this morning, I believed it to be Thursday, based on the evidence of my memory. Had I then looked at my computer, my phone and a newspaper and seen that day given as Friday, I would have changed my belief, trusting the evidence of the computer, phone and newspaper over my memory. However, if I applied a faith-based belief system, I would have refused to take note of the contrary evidence and insisted that the day was Thursday, no matter what.

“It is lack of faith, not lack of belief, that makes science so special and so wonderful.”

Kate Szell, London, UK

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