Posts Tagged Galileo

You Believe What You Want To Believe (Tom Petty)

Scientific research relies on rigorous systematic testing that involves treatment and control groups and extensive peer review to prove or disprove hypotheses. That way we can be confident in the result, regardless of what the findings may be. In reality this is not always the case, people believing what they want to believe regardless of the evidence. Look at the trouble Copernicus and Galileo had trying to convince people that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Sadly, despite being scientifically trained, I am not really any different.

As an example, coffee is a marvellous drink proven, through scientific research, to increase energy levels, improve physical performance, and lower the risk of developing type II diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver cancer and colorectal cancer. Much more spurious research that obviously needs to be repeated with a larger data set seems to link coffee to sleep disturbance, increased blood pressure and raised levels of cholesterol.

The research is similarly biased when it comes to alcohol consumption. I like nothing more than to sit back with my very full glass of red and read how the resveratrol in my Shiraz keeps my heart healthy and further protects me against diabetes and Alzheimer’s. All that nonsense about depression, cancer, cirrhosis and memory loss is surely just that?

The list goes on. Any research that supports an activity I engage in and enjoy is sound while anything that contradicts it is suspect. Science even has a name for this, confirmation bias. I suppose religions would call it faith.

Dr. F. Bunny

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Planet of the Apes

There I was watching my favourite movie (the original with Charlton Heston of course) thinking (not for the first time) that this is an allegorical tale of church versus state. For those not familiar with the story it centres on an astronaut (Taylor) who lands on a planet far in the future, a planet that is ruled by apes. The planet’s human population is primitive and mute. The arrival of our intelligent talking astronaut threatens the religious beliefs of the apes, who have been taught that only they are created in God’s image. Dr. Zaius, an orang-utan who is both Minister of Science and Chief Defender of the Faith (no conflict there) realises the threat and does what he can to dispose of Taylor. However, Taylor’s cause is championed by two chimpanzee scientists, more interested in the truth than politics, and claim, under threat of prosecution for heresy that an intelligent civilization existed before the apes. They help Taylor escape and show him their diggings in an ancient cave. The cave holds a human doll that talks. Rather than acknowledge this as proof Dr. Zaius orders the cave to be sealed, while Taylor escapes and finally finds his own proof. He is, in fact, back on Earth.

This is not a new story, religion rejecting science. While religion refuses to believe scientific evidence it expects us to believe in a doctrine for which there is no evidence at all. Dr. Zaius knows Taylor and the chimpanzees are right but cannot acknowledge this fact because it will bring his civilization crashing down around him and so he must suppress the information and expunge it from the records, for the greater good. Heretics like Galileo and Copernicus faced similar opposition. Fortunately for us they continued to pursue the truth. As science reveals more and more religious inaccuracies religious support will continue to fall, but not without protest and quite possibly violence. People always fear the unknown.

Religion provides a warm blanket to protect us from the unknown. It guides us, leads us and tells us what to do. I understand why the excellent book, “Life of Pi” claimed it would make us believe in God (and religion). Life with God (and religion) is much simpler and less stressful than life without. To choose a life without God means to believe that death really is the end. It also means that we all have to take responsibility for our own actions and develop our own moral compass by which to live. This is difficult and requires careful thought and consideration, but I still prefer this route to the one where every bend and cross road is lit with preplaced signs instructing us which way to turn.

Dr. F. Bunny

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill.
I will choose a path that’s clear.
I will choose freewill.

(Rush – Freewill)

 

 

 

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