Posts Tagged With: reason

Reclaiming Science: Stop the Abuse

We often equate science with facts and laws of nature, therefore we tend to hold writings couched in scientific lingo in high regard. To a fault we have become too trusting and forget that people write or say these things and people have agendas (purposefully or not). Yes, this is going to be one of those critical thinking posts (I know, it doesn’t quite fit with the theme of the site anymore, but I still occasionally touch on these topics).

Not that the abuse of science is anything new, but it seems to me like it’s becoming more prevalent. With technology so pervasive, we think we know science and trust anything that sounds vaguely like it. That can be a mistake. Take this article on “Finding Israel’s First Camels.” Innocent sounding enough, isn’t it? But very quickly we see an agenda materialize when we read, “Their findings further emphasize the disagreements between Biblical texts and verifiable history.” So is this on an archaeological find or a theological debate?

Reading further we don’t really learn about claimed “disagreements” other than, “archaeologists have shown that camels were not domesticated in the Land of Israel until centuries after the Age of the Patriarchs (2000-1500 BCE). In addition to challenging the Bible’s historicity, this anachronism is direct proof that the text was compiled well after the events it describes.” This is quite the statement and one would expect serious proof, yet the authors of this report don’t do this. The careful reader will note that they base their claim on the assumption that they have found the oldest camel remains.

The rational reader then will ask, “How could they possibly know they have found the oldest remains?” Well, they cannot, but these finds support their particular view of the Bible, so why bother with logic? Amazingly, this article actually waves a couple of red flags on its own:

“In all the digs, they found that camel bones were unearthed almost exclusively in archaeological layers dating from the last third of the 10th century BCE or later…The few camel bones found in earlier archaeological layers probably belonged to wild camels…the origin of the domesticated camel is probably the Arabian Peninsula…In fact, Dr. Ben-Yosef and Dr. Sapir-Hen say the first domesticated camels ever to leave the Arabian Peninsula may now be buried in the Aravah Valley. [emphasis added]”

Almost? Probably? May? And so they did find “earlier” remains that are “probably” wild?

Wow. This is the “science” that leads to the proclamation that “the Bible’s historicity” is challenged?

I don’t think the Bible has much to worry about here (and others have pointed out that the researchers above have ignored other research outside of Israel). My goal here isn’t to start a fight between “believers” and “non-believers,” but to show that conclusions couched in science or coming from scientists doesn’t mean we should not test their claims. Often, as with this example, it is not that hard. Another recent example was the recent Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham spectacle, portrayed as some great intellectual moment between science and religion.

It was more between two people who promote the “science and religion” aren’t compatible myth, albeit from different ends of the spectrum. One thinks science can’t see into the past (Ham), the other thinks science too dumb to detect design (Nye). Funny, I look at the Sun and see it as it was eight minutes ago and archaeology and forensics detect design every day.

These are the best we have to debate serious issues? They are not, but serious doesn’t sell.

We should be concerned that science and theology are so easily hijacked. Those who are well-schooled in the issues often don’t want to jump into the fray, they have better things to do. We cannot, however, give up on science, critical thinking and flushing out those who abuse these things and other higher fields of learning such as theology. We’ve let the few, the entertaining, and the media take over our learning for far too long.

Pope John Paul II said it best with, “Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.”

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Of Checking Sources & Not Jumping the Gun

Awhile back, an author wrote a book on guns in the United States. He argued that history showed that the “gun culture” was a relative new phenomenon and not present in early America. The book went on to great acclaim. Many endorsements. Awards were won.

Problem was, when people actually began to check the references, little of it was true. The book was withdrawn, so were the awards. Positions lost.

This particular incident was chronicled in Armed America. Regardless on your thoughts on the relevant issue (guns), that is besides the point for our purposes. What should be clear is as a writer doing research, or just as a citizen, don’t assume everything you read or hear is true, no matter how well it’s footnoted or couched in sophisticated words.

Too often we gravitate to only what confirms what we think is true. Rarely do we actually confirm or seek out other views. We let emotion drive our thinking and, in all reality, end up doing no thinking at all.

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true,” said Søren Kierkegaard. We can avoid this trap if we just train ourselves to stop, take a deep breath and dig a little deeper.

Ultimately, it’s about deciding to think like an adult.

Categories: Books, Critical Thinking, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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