Science, Religion, and Predicting the Future

In the recent hubbub about science being rational and religion being irrational, the case is often presented that religious people are susceptible to mental crutches and being ignorant.

I tend to believe that religious people and scientific people are both morons. Every single person on the planet is susceptible to mental crutches and ignorant opinions, including me, the author of these oh so right words.

Science has done a fine job of lambasting the idiocy of religion, in fact, religion has done a pretty good job of making that point. But let’s not forget the idiocies of science.

Yesterday I talked about Copernicus and his scientific discovery of a heliocentric universe, which was against the science and religion of the time.

Along with Copernicus’ interest in the “revolutions of the heavenly spheres” came much interest in astrology. Astronomy studies the heavens; astrology thinks you can predict the future by the stars.

Although Copernicus himself appears to have kept himself out of astrological quackery, many of the readers of his book did not (Kepler was in it big time, Galileo was a little bit). Astrology became a big deal. So much so, that many of the words we use today are from this astrological interest.

The days of our week are named for astrological ideas.

Consider the following words:

Consider–from the Latin cum sidera meaning “with the stars”
Disaster–from the Latin dis sidera meaning “against the stars” or “ill-starred.”
Jovial–related to the god Jove or Jupiter, the planet supposed to exert a happy influence.
Martial–being warlike, related to Mars, the god of war
Mercurial–animated, lively, relating to the god Mercury.
Ascendancy–having to do with climbing up, based on the astrological idea of “the point of the ecliptic or the sign and degree of the zodiac rising above the eastern horizon at the time of a birth or event.”

Astrology, using the position of stars and planets to predict the future, used to be considered a kind of science and was taken quite seriously.

Today astrology is in its rightful spot next to the self-help section. No serious scientist considers astrology to be scientific.

Although we may not be using the revolutions of the heavenly spheres to predict the future, scientists do tend to use the state of the planet we’re on to make predictions, most of which are equally faulty.

You can go here or here (not all of these in this list are based on science but many are) for a list of “scientific” predictions that did not come true. So, yeah, bash on the religious types that fail in their predictions too, no problem, let’s just be fair!

Predicting the future is hard. Science people and religious people fail here all the time. No one can predict flawlessly with merely human devices.

My point is this: Science people and religious people are in the end all the same: dumb. We live and learn. We prove all things and hold to that which is good. But be careful of those people, both scientific and religious, who claim to know everything and pretend that their side is never wrong.

There’s just way too much human history for us to be arrogant, know-it-all, jerks anymore. I want Niel Degrasse Tyson and Franklin Graham to both be humble. I think both overstep the bounds of human confidence. And so do you. And so do I.

Which brings me back to one of my favorite verses:

Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.


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