Why Map of World Religions but not World Science?

Map of world religions

Everyone’s seen maps of world religions like this one, but why do you never see a Map of World Science?

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 nonsense. 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 theory that explains the facts of reality better. It works that way in science, not religion.

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 their head sagely and says, “Ah, but Christianity can answer the Big Questions,” remember how shallow that claim is.

The trouble with ignorance is that it picks up confidence as it goes along
— Arnold Glasow

(This is a modified version of a post originally published 8/31/11.)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The Bible’s Confused Relationship with Science
Parallels to Christians’ Selective Use of Science
Reject the Scientific Consensus? How Do You Justify THAT?
The Bible’s Confused Relationship with Science (2 of 2)
About Bob Seidensticker
  • jammgor

    The trouble with ignorance is that it picks up confidence as it goes along
    — Arnold Glasow

    My my, how you do go on – I’m a simple man – just follow the 10 commandments (if you can) and you won’t go wrong! Who the hell cares what YOU think is right or wrong. Hitler thought killing 20,000,000 people was ok. Mao thought killing 60,000,000 was right. Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, The Kaiser, Napoleon, all justified their respective slaughters. Muslims justify murder. Justify domestic violence. You cannot naturally come up with your own moral ideas , because you are a degenerate. An unregenerate degenerate. There only 2. Degenerates and regenerated degenerates.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker


      just follow the 10 commandments (if you can) and you won’t go wrong!

      Which one? Check out the set in Exodus 34—hilarious! And the set in Ex. 20 talks about God cursing the children to the 3rd and 4th generation. Do you follow that guideline as well?

      My own reaction to the 10 Cs is that “don’t covet” is nice, but the omission of “don’t enslave” and “don’t rape” pretty much pegs it as the blatherings of an early Iron Age culture. Interesting, but not much reason to feel bound by it.

      Who the hell cares what YOU think is right or wrong.

      Golly—can I be on a committee with you? You must be a hoot to work with!

    • Y. A. Warren

      How many have “Christians” killed?

  • Y. A. Warren

    The problem with the war between religion and science is that they do seem to be region specific. All power bases will kill to protect their territories. Scientists falsify results, and religions to continue using fear of science (change in perception) as a basis for control. The primary problem is competition for absolute power. Neither religion nor science is free from the perversions of power through politics.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      You seem to imagine the Hatfields and the McCoys, each of which have done bad things, each of which have murders to answer for.

      That’s not the way it is with religion and science. Religions are inherently irreconcilable with each other. Conclusion: they’re irreconcilable with reality.

      Science is the adaptable one, the one that seeks the evidence, follows the evidence, and changes its opinion when necessary. Religion–not so much.

      • Y. A. Warren

        It is not I that imagines that science is ant-religion; though we have much evidence that many religious people are anti-science.
        There are many politically and financially motivated “fact” finding expeditions is science, as there are in religions.

        There are some areas of study that are rather new, especially in the neurosciences. I believe that what is called “fee will” in religion is actually frontal lobe function. If this is true, then it will always be that there are people who need fear as a motivator because they are incapable of reason through mental defects caused by frontal lobe damage.

        There are also people who have hallucinations based on sleep, food, fluid deprivation and other brain issues. Religions have co-opted many of these states and interpreted them as mysticism. It is good that there is a place of protection for so many people with limited abilities to understand complex thought processes.

        That being said, it is important for religion and science to find a way past the distrust of each other. Change is frightening for most people, especially those who have followed certain traditions for many generations. Change must be fed to people in digestible bits and bytes.

        For science to succeed in becoming something that people seek to understand, it must be made accessible and trustworthy. “Prove us wrong” is a great way to challenge young people, but they must be given the tools with their mother’s milk.

        Early childhood education that includes input by seasoned scientists would go a long way toward getting others comfortable with the real ways things in our lives work.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          are many politically and financially motivated “fact” finding
          expeditions is science, as there are in religions.

          Not sure what you’re saying here. Could you clarify?

        • Y. A. Warren

          Science is not always free from forcing the evidence to meet the demands of funding sources. A simple example is a prominent cereal manufacturer funding nutritional science that came up with the food pyramid that recommended 11 servings of grain a day.

          In science, there are many studies that are repeated over and over because only the favorable findings are published. As long as nobody takes on falsified or inconclusive evidence, the “facts” stand as the latest scientific evidence. As simple example is the many tests on medications that had never been studied in women, but were thought to be effective in all populations.

        • MNb

          Correct, but as soon as somebody takes on ……
          What’s the religious equivalent?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I agree that there are errors and even fraud within the domain of science. And politics or business needs can continually push science in a bad direction.

          Science has a self-correcting mechanism. Religion doesn’t. That’s why there’s a Map of World Religion and not one for science.

        • Y. A. Warren

          This is true, but science is so much newer than religion, probably because many of the brain processes of humans are so much newer than the ways of learning in the earlier animal brains. On an eternal, universal scale, we can’t expect that all people in all places will evolve simultaneously. It will take careful, patient communication to reassure people wanting to give up their ancient imprinted fears and magical ways of “handling” the anxieties that these fears cause.

        • MNb

          “it is important for religion and science to find a way past the distrust of each other.”
          Nope. Science doesn’t need religion at all. It might have escaped you, but scientists don’t make that much money. Their prime motivation is fame. That’s why science doesn’t have a strong power base and that’s a big plus.
          Let’s take Newtonian Classical Mechanics once again. You won’t find any contemporary (ie of the last 100 years or more) textbook on this subject that even hints at religion, whether generally or specifically. All the mathematical equations of Newtonian Classical Mechanics can be understood without religion, mean the same for everyone independently from religion or atheism and yields the same results regardless of religion or atheism. Even it’s flaws are the same for everyone. Newtonian Classical Mechanics wouldn’t change a bit if religion or atheism was poofed away today or if one specific religion managed to wipe all others away.
          I can’t judge how important science for religion is. The importance of religion for science is exactly zero at best; it’s negative in cases like Ken Ham.

  • Y. A. Warren

    The whole arguments misses the reality theat many scientists are also adherents to some religion.

  • Y. A. Warren

    Not all religions are anti-science, nor are all scientists anti- religion. As long as the universe has existed, there are many things that have been beyond current understanding. As long as humanity has existed, the evidence is that many things which were deemed mysterious were subjects of awe. Religion and science are not mutually exclusive.

    My big issue with religion is the pretense that they have absolute answers, but this has also been my problem with the old way science was taught. Life and knowledge are both ever evolving. Science and religion have both been guilty of great arrogance.

    When will the two ever decide to work on common language for describing the energy that is the universe that is open to any kind of experience?