I’ll try to ease up on the sarcasm from here on out…
I’m in a bad mood today. Last night, my friend “Yitaru” (well, that’s obviously not his real name but that’s his name in the chatroom) came into the atheist chatroom and asked the following question:
Why should science replace religion for our morals?
We tried to make clear that we didn’t think that morals should be derived directly from science, but that science and logic should be used to influence moral decisions. The example we used was abstinence-only education. I ran two thought experiments.
Two teenagers who have been educated about safe sex use condoms and therefore do not contract any STDs or have any pregnancies.
Two teenagers who have been through abstinence-only education break their abstinence vows (the average time is 18 months after taking them), have sex, but are told that condoms don’t work and therefore don’t use them. Their chances of contracting STDs or having pregnancies increases.
However, he sort of leeched onto the “philosophy” part of it, calling religion a philosophy just like science. Well, in a sense, science is a philosophy, but it’s different from other philosophies for the following reason.
Evidence. Again. I think I’ve already made a post about evidence being what separates science from Intelligent Design somewhere…
Of course, evidence and logic are the shoes on your two feet. You can get further with both than with just one (that’s a Babylon 5 quote that’s been modified, for the record).
And then he said that logic is subjective (?!?) because what seems logical to one person is illogical to another person. Ha!
And then when we were trying to explain to him why (again) science is not another religion and expressed our frustration, he claimed that we had been personally attacking him and said that we were all like a bunch of Creationists and left (damn… run-on… and I’m too lazy to fix it). When I talked to him privately later, he said that the Creationists and the Atheists are like two children fighting over whose toy is better. That science has no reason to say that other philosophies are wrong because it itself is a philosophy. I then had the pleasure of listening to him flaunt his “agnosticism” and say that he had “seen the light.”
Well, it’s a shame that I have lost an ally to postmodernism, that dreadful enemy of reason. But I think I’ll address the “my toy is better than your toy” analogy.
Let’s take… a Barbieist (supporter of the Barbie doll) and a Legoist (supporter of Legos). Let’s imagine that they support their toys for the same reason that religious people support their religions (in other words, think of a Muslim and a Christian arguing).
Barbiest: My toy is better than your toy.
Legoist: No, my toy is better than your toy.
Barbiest: Is not!
Legoist: Is too!
Now, let’s have the Barbiest ask the Legoist why the Lego is better than the Barbie.
Barbiest: Why are Legos better than Barbie dolls?
Legoist: Because my parents played with Legos.
Barbiest: Well, my parents played with Barbie dolls too!
In other words, they believe what the believe because of tradition. What’s another popular reason why religious people believe? Authority.
Legoist: Well, the CEO of the company that makes Legos says that Legos are better.
Barbiest: Well, the CEO of the company that makes Barbie dolls says that Barbie dolls are better.
The other reason would be revelation…
Legoist: I just have a feeling inside that Legos are better.
Barbiest: I just have a feeling inside that Barbies are better.
I think that this argument seems absurd, and I hope it’s quite obvious why. Richard Dawkins ended his book, A Devil’s Chaplain, with his letter to a ten-year old daughter that highlighted a good reason for believing in something (evidence) and three bad reasons for believing in something (tradition, authority, and revelation). However, when an evolutionist gets in an argument with a creationist, I have found that it almost always ends like this:
Creationist: It’s something called faith! Something that you will never understand!
So let’s change the argument a bit.
Barbiest: I think that Barbie dolls are better than Legos.
Legoist: I think that Legos are better than Barbie dolls and here’s why. You can build stuff with them, building stuff is fun. It’s also useful to develop those skills if you want to become good at Math, or if you want to become an engineer.
Barbiest: I still like Barbie dolls better because I believe they’re better because I believe they’re better.
Bottom line. Science is better because we know why. We know why because of evidence and logic.
But logic is subjective! What’s logical to one person isn’t logical to the rest of us!
That’s about the same as saying that where one person thinks there’s a cliff edge, another person won’t think that there’s a cliff edge. Logical fallacies can be considered subjective, but real logic is objective.
If P then Q, then if P then Q. If you haven’t taken symbolic logic, that might not make a lot of sense… But let’s say that P means that it’s raining. Let’s say that Q means that the sidewalk is getting wet. Therefore, if it is raining, then the sidewalk is getting wet.
However, there is room for fallacy here. If Q then P. If the sidewalk is getting wet, then it must be raining, right?
Not necessarily. The sidewalk could be getting wet because a sprinkler is broken. Maybe a child spilled something. Maybe a block of ice is melting. We can probably figure out which it is by observing the immediate area around the sidewalk, to gain evidence to figure out what is causing the sidewalk to be getting wet.
Let’s take the following “proof”:
1. Richard Dawkins is happily married to Lalla Ward.
2. Richard Dawkins was introduced to Lalla Ward by Douglas Adams.
Conclusion 1: Douglas Adams is a good matchmaker.
3. I have the same birthday as Douglas Adams.
4. If I have the same birthday as Douglas Adams, then I was exposed to the same astrological energies, and Douglas Adams and I are the exact same person.
Conclusion 2: I am a good matchmaker.
5. If I am a good matchmaker and I think that two people would make a good couple, then they will make a good couple.
6. I think that Richard Dawkins and I would make a good couple (Well… not really… there’s sort of a half century and two years age difference).
Conclusion 3: Richard Dawkins and I would make a good couple.
Richard Dawkins and I are meant for each other.
So! Is Richard Dawkins going to read this “logic” proof, divorce his wife, and come marry me?
Of course not! Why? Let’s play spot the fallacies… I think that they’re blatantly obvious, so I’m not going to go through it and pick it apart.
The point is, no matter how logical I think something sounds, that does not mean that it actually is logical.
But philosophy does not necessarily use fallacies!
True, but it doesn’t take evidence into account either. To Aristotle, and to your and my common sense, a ball weighing 100 cubits that is dropped at the same time as a ball weighing 10 cubits will hit the ground before the ball weighing 10 cubits. We know this is not true, however, because of the laws of physics, but also because a little known scientist named Galileo tested that claim. The evidence was that they hit the ground at the same time, and now our laws of physics are more correct.
But who was right? The philosopher? Or the scientist who went out and tested the claim?
You’re right. Science is just another philosophy, but it’s right, and the reason why is because… we tell you why.