Tag Archives: religion

Human Evolution: from belief to evidence

The notes below started with me reading the phrase “policy based evidence” somewhere, in the last week. I returned to previous thoughts about the different meanings of the word “believe” in the context of religion, politics and science. I went slightly off track but I found it useful to recognise that politics sits somewhere between religion and science on the scale of rationality. Science is led by your experience of life. Religion leads your decisions in life. Politicians try to persuade you to choose their proposals of how to change your life experience, through an inadequate communication system. The rules you are expected to follow seem to be:

Religion : take your values from an old book you get from your parents or someone else who is kind to you. The book will tell you what to believe without question to avoid going to hell; so only listen to evidence that agrees with the book. You don’t want any doubt creeping in and damning you for eternity. Try not to think too hard. Pray instead. Learn to keep conflicting ideas in different parts of your brain. What you do now only matters when you are dead.

Politics : decide whether to believe in individual accountability, shared responsibility or a compromise. Pick a political party and learn what your values are and what to believe, from the elders of your chosen tribe. Only listen to evidence that supports what your party believes. Learn to convert people to your cause by selecting which statistics to use.

Science : learn from others whose opinion is based on evidence. Consider everything you are told and check everything you doubt. Consider arguments against anything you believe, in case it is wrong. Weigh the likelihood of either side being right. If you still aren’t sure, do your own experiments. It is OK to be uncertain or to change your mind when what you believe is wrong. Base your values on what you learn about humanity and the environment we live in. Live the very best version of your life you can, because it is probably your only chance. Appreciate the elegance, beauty and complexity of the universe.


Never talk about Science, Religion or Politics

Science is about deciding what to believe by considering evidence.

Religion is about learning what to believe from a book, despite evidence.

Politics is about deciding what to believe then selecting evidence to prove you are right.

There is a lot of overlap between politics and religion, because of science.

(This is Version 2 of an earlier Twitter draft. It was brought to you by Science, or the Holy Internet Whale or your generous overlords. You decide.)

Responding to Irrational Politics

David Cameron, currently Prime Minister of the UK has tried to put together his thoughts on faith and morality. We might give him the benefit of the doubt and say he is simply poor at communicating his ideas but I’m afraid he may actually think like this.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/17/christianity-compels-me-to-make-difference includes the following:

“People who, instead, advocate some sort of secular neutrality fail to grasp the consequences of that neutrality, or the role that faith can play in helping people to have a moral code. Of course, faith is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality.

Many atheists and agnostics live by a moral code – and there are Christians who don’t. But for people who do have a faith, that faith can be a guide or a helpful prod in the right direction – and whether inspired by faith or not that direction or moral code matters.”

My translation:

Atheists are silly because I have faith. *
Morality is a good thing and it matters.
People with and without faith can behave morally or immorally.
People who have faith, only have morals because they have faith. *

The “*”s mark the points where Mr. Cameron has demonstrated beliefs that I believe all rational people would call “Wrong”. I’m not criticising his faith in Christianity but his logic. It worries me both that he is in a position to make decisions and that the other members of the cabinet appear to let him. Either they’re as daft as him or he isn’t really in charge.

If he is the acceptable face of the Conservative party, what ‘the hell’ is operating his strings?