A System Of Thinking,
Not A Set Of Beliefs
I'm sure this has been pointed out somewhere before by someone else if not yourself but I would just like to add something to your reply to the question "Do Most Atheists Believe in Evolution?" What I would like to say is from a history professor I had my freshman year in college. He is Catholic and very well studied. I made the mistake of using the phrase "believe in evolution" and, to my surprise at the time (as I had only known him for less than half a semester), he said something along the lines of this:
You do not believe in evolution. It is a theory of science, and so is not something for you to believe in, but either to accept as a valid explanation or reject as an inadequate explanation. Science is not a system of beliefs, but rather a system of logical thinking, and a means of explaining our surroundings.
This isn't much, but I found it to be a simple answer to this question and others like it.
As always keep up the good work and great writing.
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Geoff Parsons"
Subject: Re: the 'belief' in science
Date: February 10, 2002 1:27 AM
I remember one Madalyn Murray O'Hair saying pretty much the same thing, but when she said it, I was left empty, not knowing why she thought she was right and thus unable to fully test what she said. The way you explain it here, I can test it briefly and see that this is, in fact, an excellent way to describe the situation.
It's one thing to explain the position that many or most atheists hold. This is not the same as pushing our beliefs on others, urging them to accept our explanaion. This part of science because science is voluntary: in agreeing with ourselves to follow truth wherever she may lead, we choose to accept as most likely to be valid those evaluations for which the evidence says, "This is the most valid explanation at this time, according to our current understandng of how the world works."
Science offers potential explanations up for evaluation by the community, and deliberately invites those peers to give our explanation the most thorough testing possible.
Just how this could possibly be seen as even remotely resembling any of the major theistic systems of thinking is beyond me: I have given this claim the most thorough scrutiny I can muster and every time it has been found wanting. I have yet to encounter a valid argument in favor of thinking that science and religion are compatible when dealing with the same subject under the same condition.
That science and religion are not compatible methods for determining truth from falsehood is evident. What remains is to determine if one or the other is superior. I submit a single piece of evidence: the various rates of human life expectancy over the past, say, 2,000 years. In this sense, we are measuring little more than the rate of premature death among infants. Mortality rates do not measure how old adults get to live as much as they measure how many children get to live to adulthood.
Thus, for my evidence, I point to the fact that, for the most part, human life expectancy is linked directly to humankind's support, awareness, and application of science, as well as humankind's general, overall trust in science as a valid method for determining truth from falsehood and for learning about the nature of our environment as well as our own makeup and functioning.
Human use of science is inversely proportional to the infant mortality rate, not only when measured by time and era, but when measured by cultural setting: those cultures and subcultures which place a strong trust in and support for science tend to have lower infant mortality rates. This applies both to nations and tribes as well as subcultures within the large, pluralistic nations such as America, India, Russia and the former Soviet Bloc, China, the larger South American nations, and the more diversified European nations such as the United Kingdom: those subcultures which respect and support science get to watch more of their children grow up to become adults.
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