Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"A Mere Shift In Authority?"

You know how when they campaign to increase the Minimum Wage the policy’s opponents insist that the pay raise will do irreparable damage to the economy?  I am sure such complaints originate from the earliest of times:

MINIMUM WAGE OPPONENT:  “It’s insanity!  Raise the Minimum Wage from four cents an hour to four-and-a-half cents an hour, small businesses will go bankrupt and thousands of “four-cents-an-hour” employees will be thrown out of a job!”

They raise the Minimum Wage to four-and-a-half cents an hour and what happens to the economy?


Despite some negative consequences, the unemployment rate does not skyrocket among low-income employees, and the American Free Enterprise System does not come crashing to the ground.  (Which does not deter Minimum Wage opponents from pressing the same “Panic Button” every single time.)

RECENT “JUST THINKING” READER:  “Is this about the Minimum Wage?”

LONGER TIME “JUST THINKING” READER:  “No, he’s just clearing his throat.   Besides – What can I tell you? – the man loves to hear himself write.”

Maybe I continue, please?

“By all means, sir.  And feel free to turn the corner at your earliest possible convenience.”

Thank you.  As with the Minimum Wage, so with scientific discovery, in the context of Fundamentalist vituperation.  The phenomenon began – I actually don’t know when the phenomenon began, but this was certainly one of the earliest and noisiest examples of it – on the occasion when established religion opposed to the verifiable determination that the Earth revolved around the sun.  

Religious resistance to this scientific breakthrough was monumental, its propelling impetus:

“Challenge the literal accuracy of the Bible and religion itself comes crashing to the ground.”

FUNDAMENTALIST BELIEVER:  “It’s blasphemy!  You assert that ‘The Earth revolves around the sun’, and you challenge the entire spectrum of religious authority!” (The words, “You big, going-straight-to-Hell- idiots!” being subliminally understood.)

They change “The sun revolves around the Earth” to “The Earth revolves around the sun”, and what happens to the entire spectrum of religious authority?


Religion holds up just fine.  In fact, the new discovery may have strengthened religious belief.  As in,


– The Bible is a product of “The Omniscient Entity.” 

– Something in the Bible is wrong.

– “The Omniscient Entity” was wrong.

FUNDAMENTALIST BELIEVER:  That doesn’t make sense.”


– Being the product of “The Omniscient Entity”, everything written in the Bible is right.” 

– The scientific discovery contradicts what is written the Bible.

  The scientific discovery is wrong.  

FUNDAMENTALIST BELIEVER:  That’s better.  And by the way, that is also blasphemy, so ‘See yuh later, scientists!’

Additionally – of perhaps an even greater concern to Fundamentalist Believers – if “The sun revolves around the Earth” is thrown out, next thing you know, The Ten Commandments themselves lose their Divine Certainty, you can freely covet your neighbor’s…whatever they’ve got, and it’s Sodom and Gomorrah all over again!

It did not happen. 

Despite the universal acceptance of “The Earth revolves around the sun”, religious adherents remained steadfastly religious.  Some denominations inevitably split off, but they remained religious in their own way.  The folks who fell out of religion entirely?  Who says that had anything to do with the Earth revolving around the sun?  They may have just gotten fed up with kneeling.  Or in the Jews’ case, hungered for pork.

History reveals that, although science has challenged Biblical belief, religion itself remains robust and influential.  Regardless of that fact, however, a scientific claim rises to the surface – “Climate Change”, for example – and Fundamentalists immediately forget that nothing bad happened the last time, and they once again proclaim that religion is in terminal distress.  (This does not make them “anti-science”, however.  They are simply “Fundamentally” religious.)

Okay.  Here’s where I make another turn.

I do not know where precisely my “Skepticism Line” is set, but… you know, I’m watching some kind of science broadcast on television, and this accredited expert looks directly into the camera, and he reports that the geological phenomenon he is talking about took place on this planet approximately “seventy-seven million years ago.”

Although I may not rise up in righteous indignation, bellowing that the World is less than six thousand years old, I have been known on such occasions to chuckle ironically to myself, thinking, or in fact proclaiming out loud…


(My reaction encouraged by that classic vaudeville rejoinder, “Vas you dere, Charlie?”)

What can I tell you?  My reaction, though not religiously motivated – nor all that passionate in its intensity –  is nevertheless considerably less than accepting.

Here’s the thing… speeding this up, though I am likely to return to the matter on another occasion.

Although scientists accept the inevitability of, as one practitioner I saw on TV put it, “swimming in uncertainty” – meaning that they do not currently have “The Answer” – science does claim, via the “Scientific Method”, to possess the one true path for determining that answer.

The “One True Path.” 

That has a familiar ring to it, doesn’t it?

Though I do not equate science with religion –  as, to date, no scientist has burnt any of its naysayers at the stake – I nevertheless wonder if, in our acceptance of the “Scientific Method”, we have not simply exchanged…

One Ultimate Authority for another.

(Which does not mean – hypocritical me – that I want them to discontinue their experiments with painless dentistry.)

1 comment:

JED said...

I'll begin by stating the dichotomy of my life. I am a Christian believer who happens to have degrees in Electrical Engineering and Biology. But it turns out to not be problem and I have not been ripped in two nor have I blown up. I've worked in the sciences and in technology and even worked for the US Geological Survey (you know, those guys and gals who say the Earth is billions of years old) for over a decade. Too often, the fundamentalists in both science and religion have forgotten what "fundamental" means. The scientists have commented on things they have no way of understanding using the scientific method and many in religion have foolishly assumed the Bible was written as a text book to explain planetary mechanics. Many in science forget the scorn heaped on other scientists in the late 1960s who first thought they saw evidence that dinosaurs weren't the cold-blooded, lumbering, lizard-like brutes shown in old science fiction movies (so much for the impartiality of science) while many Fundamentalist Christians forget the fundamentals of Christ's teaching - 1) Love the Lord your God and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. And even further back, Micah 6:8 says, "...and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Now that's fundamental!

A certain overweight, slightly deaf radio talk show host has said that God would not allow the Earth to be destroyed through human-caused global warming. What the entertainer fails to grasp is that global warming, short of completely destroying the Earth and humankind, will wreak havoc on the lives and property of humans. People will starve and be displaced and if we truly love our neighbor, as much as we are able, we need to work toward keeping that from happening.