What to do when people use religion as an excuse for homophobia
While it is true that you'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar, sometimes the stifling surroundings of an oppressively religious environment can turn the best of us sour. The following article is a humourous example of one reaction to the pickling of science by religion.
For most people receiving another piece of trash mail through the post, glancing at the title before throwing it away is just another daily chore that requires very little emotional input. For me, a generally apathetic physics teacher from a particularly gloomy corner of middle England throwing out a ‘Bella Italia’ Pizza menu three times every week is just another source of complete ambivalence. Every so often though, the winds change, the skies darken, and a cold chill runs up my spine as something much more sinister replaces the skateboarding youth trying to earn some cash for his next bag of family friendly drugs.
Dressed in a smart suit, and wearing a particularly unassuming smile Marcus approaches the door clutching a batch of dreary beige leaflets. You would never assume he was about to deliver a piece of mail that could pose a threat to our very existence. Maybe suggesting that Marcus was a genuine threat to the human race is over stating the mark, but he did ruin my evening. After urging him away with the excuse of having to look after the children, he left me with his leaflet cheerily suggesting that I get in contact if I find anything interesting.
Well, Yes Marcus I have found something of interest, and yes, Marcus I will get in touch:
(I should mention at this point that Marcus was probably just the messenger boy for this heinous multinational corporation, but as the only name I had, I addressed it to him.)
I would like to address the Leaflet entitled ‘The Missing Pieces’ and what you have decided to term ‘fashionable science’ which I found to be a truly riveting read. I do however have a couple of small points that you may find of interest:
As a Physics teacher working in a Majority Muslim college and with experience of working in catholic college I am fully aware of the good work and positive effect a common belief system can harvest amongst young minds. I have had many well natured debates with students about the position that god can take within modern science and have been genuinely surprised by the level at which these young minds have grasped the subtlety of some very delicate scientific points. The concept of a God can be a divisive issue with strong views on both sides, often with the way we brought up and our parents’ views on religion and theism swaying our standpoint much more so than any logical argument ever could. That is fine.
Even the late great Stephan Hawking referred to the possible existence of God in his ‘A Brief History of Time’. His point, one I agree with whole-heartedly, is that there is plenty of room in what we DO NOT KNOW to insert a god. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle is a gaping chasm in physics, which has space for whatever belief system you choose to follow. A seemingly basic question such as ‘why does the charge on a proton have the same value as the charge on an electron?’ simply cannot be answered without the rather unsatisfactory image of a god in his workshop gradually tweaking the electron until it has the perfect value before allowing it to explode into the universe. If this is, where your version of God fits in then I am totally fine with that.
It is therefore unfathomable to me as to why you are pedalling total and utter garbage suggesting that in seven days God created the world, that evolution is a lie, and that intelligent design is the only way the eye could form. How it is possible that anyone believes this anymore? How is it possible that anyone is that idiotic? How is it possible that with all the miracles of human technology and the scope of scientific brilliance that is available at everyone’s fingertips, someone still believes the ramblings of a mad man from 2000 years ago?
The stupidity could be genetic, not everyone is particularly well educated or has a grasp of basic logic and inference. My six year old believes in Father Christmas, but will eventually come to realise that this was just an elaborate lie designed to get him to behave properly in the run up to Christmas. This is not a bad analogy for religion as a whole; an all seeing being that can never be observed, capable of giving, or not, based on a set of rules that only those in charge of have access to. This is a great way of keeping the un-educated in line, but that is not what my issue is here. Stupid people are always going to be gullible and misguided. If you made a flyer out of cheese, they would believe it was part of the moon sent down by god provided you promised them a lifetime’s supply of free Wensleydale.
The problem you have is that people are generally smarter than they used to be. 200 years ago a box in the corner of the room that showed moving pictures would have been nothing short of a miracle, now it is just old technology. 200 years ago, people would believe that god created the earth in seven days because there was no credible alternative, now science can provide not just an alternative hypothesis but data of when and how it happened.
I do not expect you to have spent as much time around Science and Physics as me, I do not expect that you would be able to quote the laws of Thermodynamics or be aware that certain strains of bacteria have evolved under laboratory conditions. I also do not expect you to defecate on my doorstep and tell me it is chocolate, so I do not expect you to bring me this rubbish and tell me its science.
As referenced in your flyer the laws of thermodynamics do state that Energy can never be created or destroyed, and as a statement on its own you could suggest that the big bang did not happen because of the implied creation of energy out of ‘nothing’. That is a gross and horrible misquote of the most fundamental of all the laws of Physics. ‘The energy stored within a closed system will always remain constant’ is the law you were searching for, often summarised as ‘energy can never be created or destroyed’ for simplification. Most people will vaguely remember a grumpy physics teacher mumbling something about this through his tired and grey beard, before going on to talk about some equation they have never seen or heard of since. You are playing on this forgotten knowledge, recognising that people will remember the simplification and forget that this only applies to a closed system. Even if someone remembers the full law, they are unlikely to understand how to apply that to big bang theory and the start of the universe. The most infinitely OPEN system that it is possible to conceive.
Not knowing is one thing but brazenly lying to further your agenda by purposefully misquoting scientific laws is not just, unacceptable, but disrespectful and downright morally corrupt. Doing the research, finding out what you did not want to see and then manipulating the quotes so it fits your program. This is what one would expect from an archaic dictator grimly holding onto the last days of a dying regime (another apt religious metaphor).
Also suggested within your wonderful leaflet is that the evolution of the eye is too complicated to be explained by modern science, well let me enlighten you in 15 lines written by a fool with a laptop.
The eye is simply a collection of cells that are highly sensitive to visible light. You have cells all over your body, which are sensitive to light; every plant has cells that are sensitive to light. It would have been advantageous before the eye had evolved for other cells of a living organism to have a sensitivity to light. Any living thing that could determine where the ‘light’ was would enjoy a significant genetic advantage. This would allow plants to better photosynthesise, allow animals to find the plants that were stronger and larger because they were located in the optimum position. The creatures with the increased sensitivity to light, would grow stronger, were more likely to mate, to pass on the genetic light sensitivity to their offspring. This process of genetic advantages passed down through the generations is the basis of evolution. The more precise an analysis of the environment an organism can gather the better the chance of survival. It therefore becomes advantageous for the light sensitive cells to group and cluster creating areas of the body with a higher resolution of light sensitivity. These areas with increased sensitivity and resolution are areas we could determine as hyper-light sensitive or, primitive eyes. To summarise the eye is not that different to you feeling the heat from the sun with your bare skin, it is just the light sensitive cells have clustered together over millions of years of evolution.
Even if we did not know the evolutionary path way the eye has taken over millions of years, is it really such a complex organ? Almost everyone has a camera in their back pocket that works in the same way as the eye, producing higher resolution images, and managing to record to a hard drive ready for later re-call. If Gods design really was that intelligent, why can we buy an upgraded model for next to nothing on Amazon or eBay?
Maybe you did not know the eye followed a straightforward evolutionary path. The vast majority of the population are not up to speed on the nuances of evolutionary theory. Although the majority of the population are not pretending that they understand evolutionary theory and making wild false claims to further the wide scale brainwashing of society.
I would invite you then Marcus before you darken my door, or anyone else’s door again to think long and hard about what bile you are about to spread. You may think that you are providing a service, that you know the good that comes from a sense of collective being. To that I would say, no one has ever charged into battle in Science’s name. Palestine is not at war with Israel because one believes in Quantum loop theory and the other is still clutching to the tattered remains of string theory. Hitler did not execute millions of people because they did not share his belief that gravitons mediate gravity rather than the curvature of space-time.
Science is not the enemy of society, Stupidity is.
It is important that we remember when discussing the existence or not of a God, exactly where that God fits into modern society. My Grandad was a Methodist Lay Preacher and a staunch believer in science; the two are not mutually exclusive. Books go out of date he would argue, (I look at my shelf and notice the ten year old and now defunct books on String Theory and have to agree) the Bible is no different. It was of its time, written when our understanding of the world was much more limited and the text reflects that. Just as Newton’s book on gravity is now nothing more than a simplistic model, it was still a revolution in its day. It would be sensible to shelve the bible in a similar way: revolutionary once, but now eclipsed by the modern world. That does not mean you have to give up your belief in God, but if he does exist it is in the spaces of the world we DO NOT understand not pushing back against the world we DO understand.
About the author
This article was written by Robbie Davis, a physics teacher from the United Kingdom.