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Map of World Religions

Everyone’s seen maps of world religions like this one.

Have you ever wondered why you never see a Map of World Science?

Let’s imagine such a map.  Over here is where scientists believe in a geocentric solar system, and over there, a heliocentric one.  This area is where they think that astrology can predict the future, and that area is where they reject the idea.  The Intelligent Design guys reign in the crosshatched area, and evolution in the dark gray area.

Naturally, each of these different groups think of their opponents as heretics, and they have fought wars over their opposing beliefs.  (To keep it manageable, I’ve shown on the map only the conflicts with more than 1000 deaths.)

Of course, the idea is nonsensical.  A new scientific theory isn’t culturally specific, and, if it passes muster, it peacefully sweeps the world.  Astronomy replaced astrology, chemistry replaced alchemy, and the germ theory replaced evil spirits as a cause of disease.  One scientist should get the same results from an experiment as another, regardless of their respective religions.  Evolution or germ theory or relativity or the Big Bang are part of the consensus view among scientists, whether they are Christian, Muslim, atheist, or Other.

Sure, there can be some not-invented-here thinking—scientists have egos, too—but this only slows the inevitable.  Contrast this with the idea that Shintoism will sweep across America over the next couple of decades and replace Christianity, simply because it’s a better idea.

Let’s go back to our map of world religions.  Religions claim to give answers to the big questions—answers that science can’t give.  Questions like: What is our purpose?  Or, Where did we come from?  Or, Is there anything else out there?  Or, What is science grounded on?

But the map shows that the religious answer to that question depends on where you are!  If you live in Tibet or Thailand, Buddhism teaches that we are here to learn to cease suffering and reach nirvana.  If you live in Yemen or Saudi Arabia, Islam teaches that we are here to submit to Allah.  We ask the most profound questions of all, and the answers are location specific?

What kind of truth depends on location?

For discovering reality, religion comes up short.  Next time someone nods his head sagely and says, “Ah, but Christianity can answer the Big Questions®,” remember how shallow that claim is.

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Pingback: Science Answers the Big Questions | Cross Examined

  • http://crossexaminedblog.com bobseidensticker

    “You will not find an American astronomy, a bellicose biology, a capitalist chemistry, a Methodist math, or a feminist physics. There’s only one worldwide version of each, because they’re all based on facts, not opinions. Religion is nothing BUT opinions, no facts involved, which is why anybody’s word on religion is just as good as anyone else’s (to wit, no good at all).”

    Richard S. Russell

  • http://www.facebook.com/karludy Karl Udy

    Actually, maths does differ culturally. Some are base 10, some base 20, others base 12. Some have a zero and others don’t. Over recent centuries, one particular form of maths has become dominant, but this doesn’t change the fact that the indigenous maths of different cultures differs markedly.

    • http://galileounchained.com bobseidensticker

      Historically, that’s true. We can see evidence of that in our language (unique words for numbers through 12, the number 80 being roughly “four twenties” in French, etc.).

      But everyone uses positional-based, base-10 math today. Even if they didn’t, it’s just a translation.

      • http://www.facebook.com/karludy Karl Udy

        Well, not quite everyone. Everyone who has been through a Western-style education (regardless of where in the world they had that education).

        Interestingly, there is another phenomenon that is just as widespread as Western-style education. In almost every city where you can find Western-style education you can find churches and trained Christian theologians. Without exception, those where you can’t are where Christianity is legally prohibited.

        So pretty much everywhere they do maths the way we do, there are people who believe in the Christian God.

      • http://galileounchained.com bobseidensticker

        Agreed. As for global differences, calendars are worse. Not only are there different calendar systems in use (which require translations), but our Gregorian calendar wasn’t even used by more than half the world’s population until after China adopted it in the 1940s!

        I’m no fan of Muslim dictatorships, but I would imagine that all the engineers and scientists in those countries use math the way we do.

  • Pingback: Word of the Day: Argument from Authority (and How Consensus Fits In) | Cross Examined


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