Monday, September 3, 2012

Atheism and Faith

All too often I hear Christians saying that that it takes faith to be an atheist, just as religion requires faith. They typically state that the claims of the big bang or evolution are incredible and require incredible faith to believe. But to me these statements show a total ignorance or misunderstanding of the scientific method.

I will grant them this... The claim alone that the entire universe was born from the burst of amazingly compressed pure energy and that we evolved from simpler organisms are pretty extraordinary ideas, just as is the claim that everything is due to the hand of a cosmic magician is a rather extraordinary claim. I agree that the claims alone are extraordinary, but at Carl Sagan once said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". And that's what separates science from religion. Extraordinary evidence is exactly what we have.

Whether it be red shifting, background radiation, radiometric dating, elemental composition of the universe, application and adherence to natural law, fossil evidence, DNA evidence, distribution of spices, etc. We do have amazing evidence. Having that brings an amazingly unlikely claim from hearsay to unequivocal truth. There was a time when it was an amazing claim to say that the Earth wasn't flat or that the Earth wasn't the center of the solar system and universe. Yet through the study of our surroundings and the evidence collected, we find these to be truths rather than wild claims. The way to truly understanding our world is through this tireless pursuit of knowledge.

In contrast, all religion offers is wild claims and a history of denouncing any who question them. If a person chooses to question what science finds, that's all well and good. But they must then offer sound reasoning and scientifically acceptable evidence to to back up their claims. Science looks at the evidence at hand and then draws conclusions from said evidence. If that evidence overturns conventional wisdom as we know it, so be it. We've learned something, and that's the point of science.

Yet religion starts with a conclusion and goes no further. And what about flexibility? Science realizes that we don't know everything and is willing to adjust as new information comes available. But yet again, religion remains rigid and calls anything that disagrees evil lies of Satan.

Atheism by way of scientific evidence does not require faith. To claim as such just exposes the person's ignorance to the facts at hand.


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