Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cracks in the Edifice of my Religion

I have two religions.

On the one hand, I am proudly Jewish, albeit a secular Jew.  This is in spite of the fact that, as most of my friends and many of my acquaintances know, I am an atheist.  Many non-Jews consider this to be a contradiction, but it's not - according to one survey, over a quarter of American Jews don't believe in God.  (My own Judaism/atheism is complicated, beyond the scope of this post.)

My other religion is Science.

Why do I believe in Science?  Simple.  Because it works.  Both the results and the process of Science have progressed over the millennia, and while it still isn't perfect, it is the best thing that humans have going for them.

So I guess you could say that my discovery of Jonah Lehrer's 2010 article The Truth Wears Off has given me pause.  (Margaret actually saw it when it came out and has used it in her class, but happened to leave a copy of it laying around this week.  I hadn't seen it before.)  I've always known that Science's grasp on truth is always uncertain (that's part of the point of the scientific method), but I guess I didn't know that it is as tenuous as Lehrer makes out.

Am I having a full-fledged crisis of faith?  Well ... no.  But I do wonder if my lack of deep existential dread might be part of the problem - I don't want the scientific method to be fundamentally flawed, so I choose not to believe so.  It just needs some tweaking and a bit more time to converge on highly-probable truths.

And yet, if I only believe this because I want to, how is that different from believing in God?

P.S. - one time I said to an acquaintance that Science is my religion, and he responded, "Scientology?"  NO!  Scientology is to Science as Astrology is to Astronomy.  Please don't confuse them.

No comments: