Faith in Science

Unless you are a scientist working on a very specific area of research and actually understand a particular phenomenon in detail, you take everything else stated as true by science on faith. When I argue with my friends we need to change society to slow down global warming I’m really preaching on faith – my faith in a particular idea. I can’t personally prove its true. I’m testifying for the global warming gospel. I am not a scientist. I read a lot of popular science books and magazines, and that isn’t science either, nor does it make me a scientist or even scientific in my thinking. Popular science books are the Matthew, Mark, Luke and John gospels of the world of science.  The real enlightenment is through understanding experiments. 

Last night I attended the Memphis Astronomical Association meeting and heard a lecture about how the speed of light was figured out over the centuries.  We are told the speed of light is 186,282 miles per second in a vacuum.  I can’t prove that.  The lecture last night covered several methods that scientists used since the 17th century to calculate the speed of light.  If I wanted to I could recreate those experiments myself and have a better understanding – one that is not based on faith.

For our culture to be based on scientific experience rather than faith we need to train kids to practice science.  Even though measuring the speed of light is a difficult problem, there are probably many many ways to get the job done.  One creative approach I found was by melting marshmallows in a microwave.  I have no idea if this experiment is real or not. Right now it’s in the faith realm.  There are other stories like it on the net but using cheese instead of marshmallows.  My point is people can come up with creative ways to solve the problem.  Teachers need to find more of these experiments to help raise kids to understand how things actually work.  If the marshmallow experiment is bogus, then they need to learn why?

I’m reading Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and in one chapter he explains how much astronomy can be achieve by an ordinary person with a stick.  I don’t need to duplicate these stick experiments because Tyson explains them so well that I’m willing to accept them as true.  However, I think our schools would be better if we actually let kids do these stick experiments.  Knowledge is more than words.  Our society is failing because people live too much in fiction and not enough in fact. 

When I argue with my friends about global warming I need to understand the science behind the concept and I need to do some experiments on my own to have experience, or at least read about specific experiments and understand them.  So I’m wondering what are a basic list of experiments that can prove that people are impacting the global weather?  These can be thought experiments too – Einstein discovered a lot about reality with some good thought experiments.

From my reading, most scientists now support the idea that humans are impacting the global environment, but many people do not believe that or refuse to believe that.  Global warming is a vital issue with many people but it ranks very low among all vital issues the public is considering in the current presidential campaign.  If the impact of global warming will be as dire as some scientists predict it should be rated #1.  Why isn’t it then?

There are very few climatological scientists in the world, and few people want to take up the discipline as a hobby.  Most of the talk about global warming deals with CO2.  Normal people have to take on faith that extra carbon in the atmosphere is bad and that people are at fault by adding it to the air in their daily lives.  I meet lots of people who flat out say they don’t believe this.  How can I counter this belief without whipping out a series of scientific proofs to change their mind?

Our society and all the other societies around the globe need to be more scientific in their thinking.  Faith in science doesn’t cut it.  We need an educational system where more real experiments are practiced by school kids.  After that, they need to study of historical experiments until their logic is a sixth sense in which they view the world.  We need to develop a mind set where we can understand scientific ideas and not just argue the ideas on faith, like ancient religious scholars discussing how many angels fit on the head of a pin.

Now all I have to do is go out and find those proofs – any help will be welcomed.

Jim

 

 

3 thoughts on “Faith in Science”

  1. Your post hits squarely on the head the nail that always seems to poke at me in regards to discussing one’s beliefs, etc. The struggle becomes what one decides they have to accept on faith vs. what one wants to delve into and find out first hand. The reality is that we have to take the greatest portion of our lives on faith. And I’m setting aside all religious and philosophical stuff here and just talking about science/the material world. We cannot know…not TRULY know…for ourselves the nuts and bolts of everything we choose to believe. I think it becomes important then, as an adult, to make choices about what we want to be passionate about and then do exactly what you are suggesting–find out the facts to support it so that we can discuss it intelligently.

    The whole global warming/environmental issue is a big one, even more so as a Christian (which you might not believe). I took an amazing chemistry class at a Christian university 11 or 12 years ago. It was all about practical chemistry and the professor was very environmentally conscious. He and I talked some about the weird role that the religious community plays in regards to environmental issues. By and large it all seems to be lumped in with some sort of new age/liberal dogma and so many, many Christians end up throwing out the baby with the bath water in regards to environmental issues. That coupled with an idea that since (according to our beliefs) the world will eventually undergo some kind of destruction and rebirth, that we don’t have to take care of our environment.

    Keep in mind, that in almost 40 years of living I have never, ever heard a preacher or read a Christian author who has said anything about NOT taking care of the environment, and yet this is an unspoken stance that I found had crept into my life and one that I had to evalutate, because I LOVE this ol’ earth. I spend an inordinate amount of time oooing and ahhing over the earth and the heavens. Nature means a great deal to me and I feel that it is my responsibility as a Christian to honor the gift of this planet and to do my part to take care of it.

    And yet I struggle with the political ideologies that have attached themselves to issues like global warming. On top of that it is not something that I want to take the time to devote my life to studying. I have heard some very (seemingly) credible people offer up evidence proving that the plant is being destroyed by global warming. I have also heard some very (seemingly) credible people offer up evidence that the warming and cooling of the earth is a cyclical thing and that what we are doing has nothing to do with what would naturally be occurring in this cycle of the earth’s history. What I want is to have someone with no agenda other than exposing the facts to lay out both of these groups of scientific data and tell me the truth. It isn’t acceptable to take on faith those scientists who only espouse what one’s political party, religious organization, personal biases, etc. says is right. There has to be a middle ground of scientists who aren’t affiliated with any of the above groups. I just don’t know who those folks are.

    In the end, I will continue to practice the idea that caring for the environment is a big deal and will work on my own personal issues regarding just how I can do good things in this area while being able to balance it with ALL the other things taking up my time.

    As far as education goes, I just read an interesting post that sort of goes hand in hand with what you are saying. If I can remember where I found that I’ll send you the link. It was espousing a more open educational system that is geared towards more practical lessons, individualized education, etc. I think that is the only way to do what you are suggesting. The public school system has to get away from this warehousing mentality and become a more specialized organization that raises up kids as individuals while balancing that with the need to teach them things they need to know.

  2. Years ago, back in the 1970s I met a priest who like to say the Bible tells us to be stewards of the Earth. There are Christians who now promote environmentalism from this perspective. However, I sometimes feel that those people who so strongly believe that humans aren’t damaging the Earth believe so because of deep religious beliefs. I have no proof of this, but I’m guessing they do not want to give mankind such an significant role. My guess is they want to believe that only God shapes our destiny.

    I can’t help but wonder if the idea that mankind can be evil enough to destroy the Earth is too much for them. Another angle is Christians are concerned with personal salvation – so creation is about themselves and God – worrying about bigger issues is beyond the scope of what they can deal with. Besides, planetcide is not listed in the Ten Commandments.

    Religious people who believe in an afterlife, and that is more than just Christians, may feel this world is not as important as the next world. Non-religious people will see this world as our only world. Mankind has two lifespans – every individual has a short life, and collectively we all live as long as our species. Our species will die someday – we’re not immortal. But I’d rather our species didn’t die of something stupid like smoking.

    Carl, I’m glad you brought up this religious angle. If our species face a planetwide crisis of self-destruction then it must be dealt with at all levels by all people. To refuse to participate is a sin of omission. We are a violent self-destructive and cancerous species. Not only do we have to deal with our personal sins, but we must deal with our sins as a species. At a deep psychological level, I believe the people who refuse to believe that mankind is causing the greenhouse effect can’t deal with that.

    Jim

  3. I agree. It is weird because I feel that same way about the scriptures talking to us about being stewards of the earth and looking at Adam’s original call which was to take care of the garden. Like I said, I’ve never heard anything preached against taking care of the environment, etc. and yet I have a deep seeded belief that this is exactly the way most Christians feel. I guess I have no evidence either way, but it is interesting to ponder.

    You said that “worrying about bigger issues is beyond the scope of what they can deal with.” and I think this is true for the greater part of humanity as a whole and not just religious people. That is sort of where I was getting at with some of what I was saying, the whole idea of choosing what to be passionate about. There are so many worthy causes that it can become overwhelming to think about them all and the guilt can become oppressive. I often think of Schindler at the end of Schindler’s list and his break down when he realized that he could have done so much more. I think sanity is preserved when we find some middle ground between being entirely self-involved and being so involved in every cause there is to the point of not truly living and enjoying life.

    That is probably why I believe so strongly in doing the little things. Recycling our pop cans, not littering, etc. Although small I think these are good starts, as is educating oneself and our younger generations, voting responsibly, etc.

    I can’t honestly say I have found the secret to achieving that balance. If I had I would probably be much less stressed than I sometimes am and I wouldn’t have to work because I would be a much sought after teacher! 🙂 But I’m trying, that is for sure.

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