Some atheists seem to trust that science is the way to a better world; isn't this view contradicted by history?

Science seems to have caused as many problems as it has solved, would the world really be a better place if religion was replaced by science?

Posted: June 28th 2007


There’s a lot of romanticism around the past – people remember the “good old days”, when things were simpler, grass was greener, everything was great.

But those days never really existed. If you seriously study politics, for example, you’ll find the there were the same sort of politics for the last 200 years. If you look at families, you’ll find that they have always been varied and at least somewhat disfunctional – read of the common families of the 1600s, for example, and I think you’ll be surprised. Not to mention the fact that slavery used to be common, torture used to be common, most people lived under monarchs, etc.

And, in fact, things have gotten a lot better, and most of those changes are due to science. Medical science means I have a good chance to be active into my 70s rather than dying in my 40s, or even sooner. Electronics means that I have access to a vast store of art, literature, and film, that I never would have been able to experience in the past.

And yes, there have been some bad applications of science – you can argue that military technology has allowed us to kill people with more efficiency than ever.

But representative government means that I have a much smaller chance of dying violently (either in my society or in war) than previously, and in fact if you look back 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, or 500 years, you’ll see that that’s the same.

I think that somebody who asks a question about the good that science has done using a global electronic network is missing the boat.

So, I’ll ask another question. How has religion improved the human condition in the past 500 years?

Posted: February 25th 2008

See all questions answered by Eric_PK

brian thomson www

Attempting to respond to a question like this, with all the assumptions behind it, only leads to more questions.

To address the last point first – how could science simply “replace” religion? The “functions” of each don’t line up. Science is not this “thing” that you can be expected to simply believe in without question, it’s just a name for the work of every scientist, since the first primate poked a stick into an anthill. It sounds as if you think science is a “religion,” a question already covered on a different page.

To address a claim like “science seems to have caused as many problems as it has solved,” do we have to start rolling out laundry lists of useful inventions, such as the computer you used to write that question and the internet you used to submit it?

Do you wish for a world without science in all its forms? Without the car, telephone, medicine, the plough? That world would not have nuclear power or guns, but it would still have people with inquiring minds and plenty of time: it would still have scientists. You just wouldn’t hear about them, at least not until they re-invented the printing press and the radio, as they inevitably would.

Do you propose fighting human nature, drawing a line under scientific progress, saying “this far, and no further?” Even if that were possible – and it isn’t, in a world of free people – a lot of people now living would have to die to give you your agrarian theocracy. It would be great for you if you were a member of the theocracy, imposing that anti-science regime; not so great for the average person, labouring unnecessarily to keep the world in a primitive state.

If it sounds like I’m going over the top in my response: this is what I mean by “more questions.” It is where a little imagination leads me whenever I hear an anti-science rant. The words “baby” and “bathwater” come to mind.

Posted: June 29th 2007

See all questions answered by brian thomson


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