February 25, 2018

Stop Believing in Science!

Ben Shapiro points out here that two public intellectuals - Neil Degrasse Tyson and Steven Pinker - have made what Shapiro argues are ridiculous Twitter statements following the school shooting in Florida.

Tyson stated:
Evidence collected over many years, obtained from many locations, indicates that the power of Prayer is insufficient to stop bullets from killing school children.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) February 16, 2018
while Pinker said that the shooting and similar occurrences:
...[C]ast doubt on the idea that there is a benevolent shepherd who looks out for human welfare. What was the benevolent shepherd doing while the teenager was massacring his classmates?... If you’re counting on God to make the world a better place you are probably going to make the world a worse place because he is not listening and we saw that yesterday.
Shapiro has an excellent discussion on the problems with these statements, and I am not going to rehash them here. Also worth reading is David Bentley Hart's book "Doors of the Sea" (an abbreviated article of which is here), in which he says:
It is of course somewhat petty to care overly much about captious atheists at such a time [of a tragedy], but it is difficult not to be annoyed when a zealous skeptic, eager to be the first to deliver God His long overdue coup de grĂ¢ce , begins confidently to speak as if believers have never until this moment considered the problem of evil or confronted despair or suffering or death. Perhaps we did not notice the Black Death, the Great War, the Holocaust, or every instance of famine, pestilence, flood, fire, or earthquake in the whole of the human past; perhaps every Christian who has ever had to bury a child has somehow remained insensible to the depth of his own bereavement...It would have at least been courteous, one would think, if [the atheist commentator] had made more than a perfunctory effort to ascertain what religious persons actually do believe before presuming to instruct them on what they cannot believe.
With that said, in pondering the (fairly consistent) mutterings of atheist scientists, it occurred to me that perhaps the problem religious people face is waiting for scientists, engineers, etc. to come up with solutions to the problem. After all, we do not have light shields which could be worn by all school children to prevent bullet injuries, do we? In fact, while science has been quite good at preventing and curing disease, and very good at exploration and observation, it has also been very good at identifying, developing, and selling personal and global weapons of murder, mayhem, and mass destruction, including (but not limited to): viral plague agents, incendiary devices, nuclear bombs, machine guns, flame throwers, grenades, cannon, tanks, mass starvation, and poison gas, as well as appropriating otherwise useful devices for related purposes.

The Renaissance is often posited as the bright line between the "Dark Ages" and modernity - when the tides of light started to push back the old world of religion and superstition. A useful, vague, dividing line is the year 1300 AD. Now, there had been body counts estimate quite high before that time, and quite high after. However, using Wikipedia numbers (raw, I know), which include deaths due to disease, etc., we can make a few general observations (using the high number listed):

Before 1300:

Total Deaths in War: 7,594,766 (1848 years; 549 BC - 1299 AD)

Total Years of Warring for All Wars: 2,889

Average Yearly Deaths During War: 2,629

Bloodiest War: Mongol Conquests; 40,000,000 (1206 - 1368 AD)

Bloodiest Average Deaths / Year: An Lushan Rebellion; 4,500,000 deaths per year (755-763)

After 1300:

Total Deaths in War: 59,311,510 (718 years; 1300 AD - 2018 AD)

Total Years of Warring for All Wars: 2,701

Average Yearly Deaths During War: 21,959

Bloodiest War: Taiping Rebellion; 100,000,000 (1850-1864)

Bloodiest Average Deaths / Year: WWII; 14,166,667 deaths per year (1939-1945)

So, we can see, in the much shorter period of time from 1300-2018 AD, the body count rose massively as scientists and engineers improved humanities ability to kill one another. (Note: I make no claims here as to the morality of better killing, though I am not sure scientists should be able to boast that "we've gotten so much better at curing disease and causing death..."). Perhaps this is why scientists are so concerned about global warming - science created most of the machines and methods that have, according to scientists, caused the ecological disaster in the first place.

In short, advancing the cause of science in its varied forms has proven disastrous for many members of the human race. Perhaps we should consider praying more and supporting science less, in hopes that scientists don't decide to develop some device, organism, or virus that manages to wipe us all out, for good.

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