Sunday, September 7, 2008

The thinking man's post

So, I've been thinking (yes, again, or maybe still).

I'm thinking I'm not really an atheist as such, although in common parlance that word probably provides the most accurate picture.

One of the most accurate ways to describe me is as an intellectual. Actually, I think anti-anti-intellectual might get my precise meaning across more accurately.

Curiously, I've never enjoyed school all that much. I always did very well, so while I may have been good at learning, I've never exactly been a model "student." I never took notes, and I rarely studied. Of course, I found taking notes distracted me from paying attention to the instructor, and if I could internalize and understand what the instructor was saying, there wasn't much point in studying - either I knew it or I didn't. The benefits of having an excellent memory I guess.

Anyway, back to the point. I think education is good and fine and that everyone should get more of it. There's more than that though... there is an undercurrent in Western culture that knowledge and intelligence are bad. I find it very interesting when my wife describes China where intelligence is revered, and all of the popular kids are what would be the social outcast nerds over here.

It seems to me that most fanatical fundamentalist religion springs directly from this sort of anti-intellectualism. My real problem with (some) religion is not that it often teaches things that are blatantly false, but that it encourages a mindset where nothing is questioned, including (or especially) the authorities. Ultimately most religious arguments come down to argument from authority, and I think if we've learned anything in the last few centuries it's that authorities are often wrong, even the ones who are not self-serving manipulative liars.

I think it is extraordinary that we have created a view of the universe that is consistent across physics, chemistry, biology, geology, archeology and astronomy, among many other areas of investigation. It seems equally extraordinary that Young Earth Creationists can have a similarly comprehensive and coherent worldview... but only if you disregard, say, actual physical evidence.

And that is really the key. YEC springs forth directly from the belief that all of the answers have already been provided, so the use of intellect in the investigation of the world is pointless. That is precisely the kind of belief that I am saying I do not have and am opposed to when I say I am an atheist.

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