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