I ran into Bernie (not his real name) this weekend. Our talk turned quickly to politics, Sarah Palin, and the evils of religion. I mentioned that politics, not religion, is the opposite of science.
Bernie wasn't convinced. He brought up Creationism as an example of religion directly opposed to science, and of science being obviously right and religion being obviously wrong. I pointed out that the Creation story in Genesis is what a loving God would tell to a wandering semi-civilized people who began to ask 2800 years ago, "Where did we come from?" It is true at the level of explanation that a loving parent would give to a five-year-old child who asks where babies come from. It would be pointless and possibly cruel to burden a child with the mechanical details of human sexuality. It would have been equally pointless and cruel for God to say, "Well you have forty years of wandering to do..., let's start learning calculus, differential equations, and quantum mechanics." The Creationists mistake is to demand that we accept the five-year-old level of explanation as a mature explanation. In so doing, they generate an obvious falsehood and demand that we believe it along with the Gospel, which brings discredit to themselves and also to the Gospel.
Again, Bernie was skeptical. I get the sense that Bernie harbors a permanent anger toward religion, possibly to his having suffered some cruelty in its name. Or maybe simply because Bernie is a scientist, and is simply offended by biblical Literalism.
He began bringing up some of the recent research in neurobiology. "Indeed," I said, "there seems to be a neurobiological basis for religious experience." He gleefully agreed.
"But then you realize that elevates atheism to the level of color-blindness," I added.