So I got into my truck after work the other day, and noticed that there
was a note on my windshield. My immediate thought was that someone had
dinged my truck in the parking lot and left me a note with their insurance
information, but that wasn't it; it was, instead, someone's commentary on
my bumperstickers. Okay ....
Now, I realize that my bumperstickers might be a little controversial.
I'm fine with that. From the Jesus-fish-like silver rocketship bearing
the word "SCIENCE" to the red sticker with the bold white letters reading,
"NO GODS, NO MASTERS", I'm perfectly aware that they might be a little
So I knew exactly what the anonymous scribbler was reacting to when I read
the small, cramped lines of text:
Science is a faith
like any other,
your master is
the ideas of men
who could be wrong.
Now, my first reaction was pretty much: What the hell is wrong with
people? I mean, I don't go around leaving notes on the windshield of
every vehicle I see with a WWJD? sticker, now, do I? Do
other people have such fragile worldviews that they must argue every last
My second reaction was a little more complex; the problem was that the
writer's worldview and understanding of science was so completely alien to
mine that it took me a minute to sit and stare at it and puzzle out what
exactly they were on about.
I'm not "mastered" by any ideas. As near as I can tell, the person who
wrote this thinks of science as a bunch of these "ideas of men" written
down as gospel in a huge book somewhere that I just blindly accept.
That is not science.
I have no faith in the ideas of men. I don't need any. I have no faith
in evolution, no belief in general relativity. That's not how it works.
These are theories; everything science brings us is theories. I'm
perfectly, casually prepared to completely and faithlessly abandon any of
them on a moment's notice, the second a better idea comes along. So is
any reasonable person with any understanding of how science works.
Science -- or rather, the scientific method, for it is a
process, not a thing -- requires only one simple belief of you:
The belief that the phenomena of the material world are observable,
measurable, and reproducable.
That's it. That's all. And you can argue with me that this belief
is a "faith," if you like, but frankly, if it's a "faith" you don't share,
I don't see how you get out of bed in the morning, how you can
function without that "faith" that, say, your doorknob is going to work
the same way every time. Without that "faith", you're caught in the same
damn mental trap as poor Descartes.
Observable, measurable, reproducable.
Everything else you might label "science" is just ideas built on top of
this idea. Someone makes an observation, comes up with a hypothesis about
what's going on, and devises an experiment to test it. And you know what?
You don't have to take their word for any of it. You can do the
I know. I have. I've measured the arc of the sun across the sky over the
course of a season. I've measured the acceleration of falling objects to
understand the force of gravity. I've watched a disc of paper and a disc
of metal fall at the same rate inside an evacuated glass tube.
I don't have to have faith in science. I am not mastered by the
ideas of men. I've seen them work. Anyone can do it. You can do
There are a lot of scientific ideas that I haven't tested myself, haven't
thoroughly researched the findings about them, that I tend to accept on a
day-to-day basis as being probably true. Again, I'm ready to discard
them; none of them has my allegiance.
The people who "believe" in science have flown in the sky, plumbed the
depths of the ocean, mapped the human genome, and gone to the goddamm
moon. Those who don't tend to just dress up in fruity robes, funny hats,
shout a lot, start crusades and jihads. And they assume that just because
they believe everything they're told, then that's how everyone else
arrives at their picture of the universe, too.
In a word: No. In two words: Fuck off.