It’s Science, Bitches!

I recently saw a short video about science that was foisted upon my Facebook feed, in which two clips were presented; one of Steven Colbert interviewing British comedian Rick Gervais, and another of a Richard Dawkins at a symposium talking about the empirical nature of science.

Colbert was asking why Gervais believed in science. He asked, with some obvious

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Comedian and Religious Excoriator, Rickey Gervais

undertones of sarcasm, if believing in the universe being a certain way and black holes etc. [referencing Stephen Hawkings] isn’t ‘just a belief’ because Gervais was placing his faith in what someone else [Hawkings] told him. Gervais replied that if you took all the religious books and destroyed them, their teachings would never come back. But if you took the science books and burned them, the same tests would eventually be rediscovered and prove the same things. Thus, he implied, science is more true than religion.

In the Dawkins video, Dawkins is asked by a student why he believes in science, and flippantly replies ‘because it works……bitch’, likely quoting from ‘Breaking Bad.’

Both of these clips assert the same idea: science is real and true because it is testable. They imply and assert the opposite as well: religion is “made up” because it is not testable by scientific means. What’s astounding is how utterly wrong this idea is, for history is not something that can be tested.

Physics can be tested, generally, because we believe the universe carries on uniformly according to “natural laws” that do not change. But no one suggests that history can or should be subject to the same criteria. You cannot run test groups on George Washington crossing the Delaware, or Alexander the Great crossing the alps; no one can devise a simulation of conditions by which Caesar can be resurrected, or Aristotle’s lectures re-attended in the modern age. Yet no one doubts that such events happened. No one contests that such people lived, wrote, spoke, and acted as they did. History is subject to a different standard of critique and evidence than physics. That does not make history any less true.

To pretend that religion is somehow defunct because it cannot be scientifically tested is to throw out all history, not merely religious history.

What is perhaps more disturbing is that a scientist like Dawkins, and his audience, bought into such a popular deception.

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Historia, by Nikolaos Gyzis (1892)

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