Looking over the history/philosophy of geocentrism today, I happened across this quote by Nicolaus Copernicus
For I am not so enamored of my own opinions that I disregard what others may think of them. I am aware that a philosopher’s ideas are not subject to the judgment of ordinary persons, because it is his endeavor to seek the truth in all things, to the extent permitted to human reason by God. Yet I hold that completely erroneous views should be shunned.
This is, in fact, part of a larger quote dealing with Copernicus’ heliocentric model, but the first part resonated with me especially. A few days ago I posted a criticism of the view that all dromeosaurid dinosaurs had feathers, but in conversation with Dr. Holtz and Dr. Norell from the AMNH, I have been proven wrong and correct my mistakes, and I do feel a bit embarrassed about being so emphatic with my hypothesis that I did not think into it further before posting it. Moreover, Copernicus’ words struck me because ever since I started taking a more serious look at science, religion, and the interplay between the two, I’ve come up with many more questions than answers. While I never doubted evolution previously, I never knew much about it and took the Non-overlapping magesteria approach to reconciling faith & science; as long as they’re separate I can deal with them both. This, however, does not work in my own mind where I am constantly comparing what I know and understand with my own interpretations, divorcing the two areas of knowledge only causing cognitive dissonance. Indeed, I have been regarded as a “bad Christian” for regarding evolution as fact and looking to natural processes to describe “how the heavens go,” but despite my high regard for science I cannot shake my belief in God either, although I have to say the picture of God that I have often differs from many people I know. Regardless of whether I’m right or wrong as to the presence of a deity, I think it is important to strive for truth and honesty, regardless of whether the facts go with or against a preconceived notion from religious doctrine. Such is why I take such issues with creationists and ID advocates; their condescending paternalism has led them to try and cram God into scientific constraints, making themselves (and their religion) look foolish. Would it not be wiser to plainly present observations and facts and say “I don’t know” when there is no apparent answer? Such seems counterintuitive to evangelical Christianity, but I would much rather be grouped with agnostics than lie to people for the sake of their souls. If anyone is brought over to Christianity (or any other religion) based upon a lie, what good is that? Would that truly be honoring God? I doubt it.
In any event, although issues of science are controversial (even divisive) in the church, honest clergymen should offer their congregations honesty and facts rather than try and protect them from outside ideas that give rise to unanswerable questions. Sheltering people from facts and scientific evidence is only going to do harm and cause more divisiveness in the long run, not to mention cause a reversion of thought to the Dark Ages, as we can see happening now. I do not mean this as people are getting more stupid, but rather the authority of a book (in this case one book) is supreme over all else, even observations from nature. Prior to the 1600’s, scientists based their knowledge on the writings of Aristotle and other “classical” thinkers, opting to look a “fact” up rather than observe it themselves. Thankfully, this changed and led to major revolutions in all areas of science, but there still are people who would much rather believe what they are told then use their God-given cranial capacity and question things for themselves. Indeed, it seems to be a religious virtue not to question things, “faith” being more important than anything else. I grow tired of churches putting strangleholds on people’s minds, putting out myths about “the world” (i.e. Haeckel’s embryos are still being used for evidence of evolution) in order to form a cohesive group of believers, “saving” them from what they believe are threats to God. I am saddened by people who I know are highly intelligent, but accept doctrine and dogma uncritically because it fits in to a preconceived idea, even bolstering it. The same can be said of almost anyone really, it being far easier to accept an idea that seems to fit neatly into established beliefs than challenge it and see if it holds up to scrutiny. Have we lost our ability to think for ourselves?