Monday, January 09, 2012

Vox Day: Religion must win over science to save humanity

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Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day)
Vox Day

For all his crowing in protest of being labeled anti-science, Vox Day has certainly not shied away from making it beyond clear, time and time again, where his priorities lie whenever confronted with the inherent incompatibility between dogmatic faith and the pursuit of reason. His latest WND column is a prime case study of this mindset:

A few years ago, when I published “The Irrational Atheist,” one of the most controversial statements I made was that Sam Harris’ Extinction Equation, which postulates that the combination of increasingly deadly technologies with religion meant that the human race was at risk of eliminating itself, was an indictment of science, not religion. Religion, after all, has been around for thousands, if not tens of thousands, of years, during which time the human race has prospered and multiplied.

Science, on the other hand, only dates back to the 17th century. And as I pointed out in the book, during that time it has produced, either directly or indirectly, the only serious threats to the existence of the human race that man has known since, depending upon your perspective, he was either being hunted by saber-toothed tigers or being drowned to near-extinction during Noah’s flood. Since religion clearly predates any of the various threats to the homo sapiens, and because science has produced them, then logic clearly dictates that if the Extinction Equation is to be taken seriously, the only effective solution is to eliminate science.

Shorter Vox: “Religion makes people kill each other and science makes people develop newer and better tools for accomplishing our goals, so the obvious solution is to kill science.” ’Cause who needs computers and cars and medicine, anyway.

Vox then claims that no-one has ever seriously addressed this claim that religion is safer simply because it’s been around for longer. It apparently fails to occur to him that if no-one’s taken the time to lay out a point-by-point rebuttal, it might not be because they lack the ability, but rather the interest in hammering out a thorough dismantling of such a self-evidently idiotic and illogical position. No-one’s taken the time to explain with exacting detail why flat-Earthers are wrong, either, but you don’t see anyone claiming it’s because of the strength and validity of their arguments. (But then, Vox’s overinflated ego has always prevented him from accepting the fact that most people may choose to avoid addressing his claims for other reasons than a supposed inability to match his purportedly indomitable intellect.)

However, solely in the interest of humoring him, here’s my take on his little conundrum. I wouldn’t advocate for the complete removal of religion from society (nor, I believe, would most of anyone else, contrary to Vox’s typically broad-brushed claim), but it is nonetheless abundantly clear that if one had to choose between science and religion, anyone at all concerned with the well-being and development of human civilization would invariably prefer the former to the latter. After all, even Vox himself doesn’t address the underlying premise that regardless of whether scientific advance combined with religion could eventually lead to big problems for humanity, the drive to destroy ourselves (rather than the mere ability to do so) is intrinsically derived from religion, not science. After all, the reason we do anything is not merely because we’re able to do it, but because we want to do it, for one reason or another. All science would do is give us the tools to control our own destiny. I think it takes a seriously deranged mindset with very fucked up priorities to choose to forgo all our advancement, and the discipline that spawned it, in favor of tribalistic belief. This denotes, at worse, a deep-seated cynicism about the human race, indicating the belief that if we had enough power, we would always inevitably pursue our own destruction.

Now, I’m as big a cynic as the next person (or probably moreso), but the idea that we should abandon our quest for enlightenment and instead settle for chanting to intangible deities solely because we’re afraid to have any amount of power over our own development strikes me as both cowardly and self-defeating (not to mention all-around pernicious). In the end, the facts are thus: We’ve progressed from flint and spears to quantum mechanics and space-travel in the span of around ten thousand years, and regardless of all our warring, our species as a whole is still going strong and prospering. And even our own inter-species violence is slowly but surely declining as well. Quite frankly, if things continue along this general trend – and I see no reason to expect they won’t – then regardless of whether religion does disappear in the end, the result will still be a happier, healthier, stronger and more prosperous society than ever, one that will always continue improving itself.

Of course, science will always lead to the development of newer and badder weapons that various governments and combat forces will only be too happy to use against each other. That is a sad but inevitable consequence of the human condition. But it’s simply wrong to focus on the negative aspects of scientific progress and essentially miss the forest for the trees. Human society has always been, and presumably always will be, a constant balance between good and evil, greed and empathy, the ability to do wrong versus the will to do right. So far, good has inevitably triumphed again and again. It takes a pessimistic bent that I find simply deplorable to ignore all this and instead take the simple, stupid, craven route and cast aside all that makes us so damn brilliant as a species to reduce ourselves to a bunch of prostrating primitives jabbering about our problems to an imaginary sky-being who probably wouldn’t give half a damn if it even existed.