Rational people are often blamed for allegedly worshipping scientists’ words. In practice, “worshipping” and blindly following words — is something I tend to associate with religious believers, even if I hope it’s not true for each and every one of them. No man, whether a scientist or some religious authority, even if considered “respectable” by their followers — no one is a purely objective machine. The thing that is objective is the scientific method, which dictates structured ways of research, testing and drawing conclusions, based on what you see, find and measure.
Therefore it’s important to emphasize some points regarding the effect I call “the marveling of nature”, which many religious preachers tend to use.
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It’s only natural for us, humans, to be amazed of things that seem so wonderful and complex to us. Take the structure of the eye, for example, and its skills. Consider some other astonishing characteristics of animals. Furthermore, we should be suspicious of someone whose feelings do not dictate a sense of contradiction between such complexity/sophistication and simple physical laws learned in school.
This feeling of not being able to come to terms with things that seem complex to us — things that supposedly cannot be formed by natural processes — is not due to the fact that they haven’t been formed naturally, but because of the way our brain is built, or better yet because of the way our brain has evolved for millions of years. It’s very difficult for us to perceive very long periods of time. It’s hard for us to accept hundreds of millions of years. We cannot “feel” such slow development, and therefore it is translated by our feelings into something quick that doesn’t make sense: As if it took a couple of generations for fish to turn into reptiles, and ancient apes into humans. And this picture is totally rejected by us. To get a true feeling for the time involved: If we take the whole history of our young planet and squeeze it into 24 hours, then the whole known history of human culture will be squeezed into recent tenth of a second. Out inability to sense long periods of time and long distances (since never in the history of life on Earth we needed it) — is translated in out mind into some sort of feeling as of some great wisdom created all things in a short period of time.
The minds of people like Darwin or Einstein (and for that matter also yours and mine) are not essentially different in this context. However, some people have managed to distinguish between subjective feelings and simple numbers that express facts and actual findings (rather than feelings). Indeed it looks absurd for the eye to be formed by processes of natural selection — whoever denies this is lying. Yet the facts and findings we know – confirm this process. Indeed some of the things we see in nature are wonderful. Some of them are astonishing. Still, the wonder is in the eye of the beholder, not in the factual reality.
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Based on the evolutionary process, we can explain almost every “wonderful” phenomenon we witness in life. There are some fundamental differences between these explanations and the religious claims that often heard in such discussions:
1. In many cases these are just explanations and no one says they are 100% correct. They just “fit” the rest of our knowledge. For instance, it is common to explain the development of “eye patterns” on the surface of some creatures as a mechanism to intimidate potential predators. This is a mechanism whose development is justified by the “extra” survival of its owners. Is this the real reason? Apparently yes. Can we absolutely prove it? Of course not. Can our mind “feel” it? Most certainly not. Our mind translates this into a quick formation of eye patterns, which does not carry a natural explanation. In the real world, since the time of the dinosaurs, these eye patterns have developed through hundreds of millions of generation times many millions of creatures in each generation. It’s also important to remember that the evolutionary process is not purely gradual, but contains “leaps” and “jumps” due to genetic mutations and other random phenomena. With a bit of logic (and control over our natural feelings) we can also find a good explanation, say, for the characteristics of the famous “bombardier beetle”.
2. In many other cases we simply don’t have explanations. Science doesn’t claim to explain everything, and doesn’t pretend that one day it will. It’s legitimate to have open questions. It’s okay to sometimes have more than one explanation. Unlike the alleged “word of God”, scientific explanations don’t pretend to be perfect, and in many cases aren’t. They are also subject to modification if and when new findings are made, and it’s okay to say someone was wrong — it actually happened many times. It’s allowed (and desirable) to doubt anything.
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Scientists — sometimes called “evolutionists” by religious people — do not take advantage of people’s ignorance, but quite the opposite: They fight people’s natural feelings. They attempt to stick to facts, even if the latter are not always “comfortable” for the audience, or even for themselves.
Unlike the many (different) stories of “creation” of the various religions and beliefs, the evolutionary explanation is more than just a logical explanation of the phenomena. The distinction is simple: I will give you one hundred thousand dollars and five years, and you will create new species in the lab yourself, using the evolutionary mechanism. You will observe these principles with your own eyes. I will give you as much money and time you want, and you will never “create” anything in a way that contradicts scientific principles.
You may say: This still does not invalidate the concept of some “supreme being” that created all this, including the evolutionary principles? Yes, it does not. It also does not invalidate the concept of two supreme beings creating it. Or seventeen beings. It also does not invalidate the concept of a little miraculous purple fairy that created all this, including the evidence found by science. These concepts are simply irrelevant for our discussion. We can only discuss and research the evidence that we can see and measure, and not the things that we cannot see and measure. Even if the world was created some six thousand years ago with evidence of dinosaurs living some seventy million years ago, then the research of those dinosaurs is, for us, the only real thing that can (and should) be conducted. The other philosophical date of creation has no value in it, and has nothing to do with us.