Thursday, August 28, 2008

P. J. O'Rourke on faith and science

The incomparably witty P. J. O'Rourke has a fabulous article in the new issue of Science and Spirit entitled, "On God." Despite the fact that O'Rourke is admittedly no scientist, he makes several excellent points about science, culture, and faith that are worth pondering.

His comment on the fact (which I have pointed out elsewhere, with much less wit) that most people believe science not on the basis of experience, but on authority:

Faith depends upon belief in things that cannot be proved, and I can prove that more people flunk physics than flunk Sunday School.

"But science can be proved," a scientist would say. "The whole point of science is experimental proof." Yet we non-scientists have to take that experimental proof on faith because we don't know what the scientists are talking about. This makes science a matter of faith in men while religion, of course, is a matter of faith in God, and if you've got to choose...

That what is intuitive and obvious is not necessarily inferior to what can be shown by experiment:
Science and religion both assert the same thing: that the universe operates according to rules and that those rules can be discerned. Albeit this does make it easier to believe in God than, for instance, organic chemistry. Just the fact of rules implies a rule maker while just the fact of mixing nitro with glycerin and causing an explosion does not imply a Ph.D.
That God has it over science any day when it comes to dependability:
I'm also given to understand that the rules of science begin to bend and even break at the extremes of the universe's scale. Down where everything is subatomic-sized, things tend to be a bit random with mesons, leptons, quarks, brilligs, slithy toves, etc., subjected to Strong Force, Weak Force, Force of Habit, and so on. Meanwhile, in the farthest reaches of outer space, matter, antimatter, dark matter, and whatsamatter are tripping over string theory and falling into black holes. God is not like that. He's famously there in the details, and He is the big picture.
And then there's the matter why we fear God but are scared silly by science:
One sympathizes with science's faithful. The apocalyptic power of God has existed forever, and He's been restrained about using it, despite provocation. The apocalyptic power of science has existed only since 1945, and the A-bomb has been tried twice already.

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