Sunday, October 28, 2012

Churches have no Laboratories


When Einstein published his complete theory of general relativity in 1916, he proposed three tests of general relativity, one of which was the deflection of light by the sun. Science could already predict the timing of eclipses, and knew that one would occur in a few years where the darkened sun would allow them to test Einstein's prediction that the sun deflected light. In 1919, an expedition set out to observe the deflection of light by the sun during an eclipse, in to the west African island of Principe. The expedition leader was British astronomer Arthur Eddington who acquired photograph negatives showing the deflection of light of stars that were near the sun. 


The resulting observation precisely matched Einstein’s predictions.  That is, Einstein had made a precise prophecy about the future down to meters of precision and within seconds of accurate timing.  This is the kind of accuracy in prophetic ability one never sees in religion.

Religion, speaking for God, seems to have enjoyed a monopoly of claimant powers; that is did, until science and technology caught up with and now surpasses its predictive and miracle claiming abilities. Science has gone a long way to eradicating famine, if not turning one loaf into thousands in terms of farmland efficiency. Medical science finds cures for plagues, mends the lame and gives sight to the blind, with numerical healings that far far exceed the onesy-twosy healing claims of ancient priesthood holders. Claims, I repeat, because in modern times, faith healing has never been truly verified, while modern science healing is verified daily in tens of thousands of hospitals and clinics. These days, the prophets seem silent and science vociferous in predicting all kinds of future events--from the gender of unborn children to eclipses and tsunami, and even general trends in climate change. Science is beginning to look forward in ways only God was once claimed to do.

Carl Sagan once wrote the following: "...if you want to really be able to predict the future -- not in everything, but in some areas -- there's only one regime of human scholarship...that really delivers the goods, and that's science. Religions would give their eyeteeth to be able to predict anything like that well. Think of how much mileage they would make if they ever could do predictions comparably unambiguous and precise."

We don't really have to imagine, though, do we? When white European conquerors of ancient America were received as gods with their guns and eclipse predictions, they abused the power by controlling whole civilizations and fetching gold and slaves from the subordinate worshipping masses. If modern religions had the power of modern science (while hiding the source of their power), we'd hardly have to imagine the outcome.

But herein lays one difference between science and religion: religions cloud the source of their acclaimed powers in obscure passages and murky definitions of God. Science openly reports, competitively referees and carefully accredits each advancement to the whole world (if the world would but take the time to read the publications). Again, Sagan explains that while the scientist is human, science as a whole attempts to be objective and available to all: "Science has built-in error-correcting mechanisms -- because science recognizes that scientists, like everybody else, are fallible...Scientists do not trust what is intuitively obvious, because intuitively obvious gets you nowhere."

Another interesting difference between science and religion: churches have no laboratories. What I mean is that if a scientist has a clever thought (hypothesis), before he turns it into a belief (theory), he will comb the journals to see if it was already out there and tested. If not tested, he will go to the lab and painstakingly experiment until he has validated or--most often--eliminated the idea. It is in the lab where good ideas and bad ones are sorted out. Churches have no laboratories. Just belief systems.

(Ok, church do have laVatories of white porcelain thrones, which in the Mormon-brand, members must clean.)

Furthermore, the scientific methodology requires that any good finding should be re-found (repeatedly) and verified (openly) before it can be said to support hypothesis. Scientists pride themselves to be published in refereed journals, where honors go to those that can disprove findings or hypotheses with new findings--as Einstein did of Newton. It's a hard career at times--hard on the ego and personal life--but rewarding because of its unparalleled consistency and trustworthiness.

As a former Mormon--who happily believed in modern prophecy--I used to wonder why the prophets are so reluctant to predict as they did only a hundred-fifty years back. Why have miracles become no more than rumors and subtle coincidences visible only to the chosen faithful? By comparison, technology and science deliver health and happiness in brightly printed packages available to all regardless of faith, creed, race or nationality. It would seem that the prophets have privately given into science. I believe it is because they know they haven't a chance to be so successful when science has been so wonderfully accurate. A smart man doesn't claim to be guided by the supreme intelligence and give predictions that could so easily be countered by lab-coated scientists whose probability calculations are greater than 90% correct.

Okay, yes, it would seem I am giving far too much credit to science. It can't heal everything nor correctly predict many things--from tomorrow's weather to next week's stock market. Yes, science is still dealing poor predictions often enough. But in comparison to latter-day seers and apostles, it is uncannily and openly predictive.


Happy Halloween, all.

8 comments:

  1. Yes I certainly agree David, this is great. Science is our best bet and anyone who doesn't believe it can, in the words of Richard Dawkins quoting someone else, can just eff off.

    Anyone who reads this blog, believes in science - they are looking at it on a computer which scientific minds created. We go to the doctor when we are sick even if we have a blessing (I don't). We use laundry soap and dish soap, we drive cars. Last night I was out and within a few minutes of the earthquake north of Vancouver, I knew about it and knew that my friends were safe. This is science with all of its failures; so many successes.

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  2. This is hilarious, it truly is! You believe science is more reliable than religion is hilarious! There are doctors that admit that some times their known cures do not cure. They also admit that people that should have died for whatever reason, didn't die. Doctors admit that miracles occur daily! Just recently a doctor has been in the news because he experienced getting a glimpse of paradise/heaven. This doctor said that he was a skeptic until he had this experience. He stated that his brain was dead, that there is no medical explaination for his experience. Both scientist and doctors admit that things happen daily that defies any earthly explaination.

    You constantly single out the LDS faith, are you forgetting that other religions believe in miracles as well? In regards to lessened prophecies, what would be the point? There are a lot of things that have come to pass, and much that hasn't. Your proof is really weak, you do realize that don't you?

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    1. "Doctors admit that miracles occur daily!" And who defined miracles and validated they were in fact supernatural miracles? No one!

      Take a look at this site: http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

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    2. @Doctor Covenunce,

      The lengths people will go to try to prove there is no god...wow! God is not a simple God. Your thinking is too simple. In all of your quotes in the scripture does it state when you shall receive...we can't and won't know why some prayers are answered and some are not. In regards to amputees, we don't and can't know how this plays in the human education. For instance, what is it Heavenly Father wants us to learn? Is he using an amputee to teach doctors how to create? Create limbs? Create limbs that closely resemble human limbs. Then eventually create human limbs. We don't and can't know that...at least not yet.

      Jesus, and/or Heavenly Father has to be very careful in interfering with our agency. If you're having a hard time with that concept. Think of your own children. Do you constantly intefere with their life? Or, do you at times step back and let them learn their lesson?

      See it is that simple, but also that complicated.

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    3. "Just recently a doctor has been in the news because he experienced getting a glimpse of paradise/heaven. This doctor said that he was a skeptic until he had this experience. He stated that his brain was dead, that there is no medical explaination for his experience. Both scientist and doctors admit that things happen daily that defies any earthly explaination."

      These are big claims. The dr. you claim had a near death experience has been debunked very well. See

      http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/this-must-be-heaven


      And

      "Jesus, and/or Heavenly Father has to be very careful in interfering with our agency."

      This is a cop-out. It says, "we have no evidence, and that's exactly how God wants it to be. And God will create confusion and even lie in order to walk that fine line of faith. He'll tell you that the mortal human race started 6000 years ago with Adam & Eve. He'll tell you that dark skin is a curse. He'll tell you there are Lamanites who descended from the Middle east and populated Ancient America. But then God creates 'evidence' to test our faith. Evidence of evolution, pre-adamites, DNA from NE Asia only, and so forth. God lies to test us and see if we'll be liars that are thrust down to hell."

      Yeah, this is god for some of you. But for the rational people out there, God would be the one backing Science 100%.

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  3. Matthew Harrison Brady: We must not abandon faith! Faith is the most important thing!
    Henry Drummond: Then why did God plague us with the capacity to think? Mr. Brady, why do you deny the one thing that sets above the other animals? What other merit have we? The elephant is larger, the horse stronger and swifter, the butterfly more beautiful, the mosquito more prolific, even the sponge is more durable. Or does a sponge think?
    Matthew Harrison Brady: I don't know. I'm a man, not a sponge!
    Henry Drummond: Do you think a sponge thinks?
    Matthew Harrison Brady: If the Lord wishes a sponge to think, it thinks!
    Henry Drummond: Does a man have the same privilege as a sponge?
    Matthew Harrison Brady: Of course!
    Henry Drummond: [Gesturing towards the defendant, Bertram Cates] Then this man wishes to have the same privilege of a sponge, he wishes to think!

    xD

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  4. I did not see this article as anti-God, but anti-kool-aid-drinking mind-set that we should rely on PEOPLE who use religion for their own gain over others.

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  5. The LDS Church's correlated portrayal of Joseph Smith "actually" seeing God is what always previously bolstered my belief, and now that I realize Joseph was just like all of us (plus a little bit mental and narcissistic), dreaming and imagining, as seems fairly obvious through his multiple accounts of the "first vision", I have journeyed out of Mormonism and into reality. It's beautiful, seeing the real world, and it doesn't mean I don't believe in God, just have a very different sense of who He or She is. God created this beautiful world, billions of years old with millions of species that have evolved and now here we are, conscious of it. Is that not a miracle? To me each day is a miracle, each breath of life, each little creature, each little grandchild of mine, each color, each person, the medical science discoveries and PROZAC, what a miracle that is!

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