Confidence and Ignorance

The library at Melk monastery.The more that I know, the more that I know I don't know.

Self-awareness of personal lack of knowledge can be uncomfortable because it leaves us feeling overwhelmed, impotent, or frustrated. However, it is realistic to be cognitively aware of the limitations of personal and human knowledge. It is awareness of ignorance that drives scientists and free thinkers onward. Not so, religionists.

Religionists attempt to cope with feelings of ignorance by assuring themselves and one another that they alone are privy to the Truth. Creationists compensate for potential feelings of inadequacy concerning their inability to comprehend science by assuring themselves and one another that scientists admit that they don't know everything. If scientists are not sure, then it is admirable to deny science for the sake of creationism and the paranormal. God will reward them for their intransigence.

Wells Cathedral sinking in the Sands of Ignorant Hubris. (Wells is actually my favorite cathedral.)I suspect that this self-congratulation concerning belonging to an exclusive club lies beneath the current tolerance of Christian religionists for other religions. To religionists of any particular faith (Fs) the devotees of different faiths (Ws) are wrong in their specific beliefs (and isn't this a satisfying excuse for Fs to feel superior to Ws!). But the fact that Ws also believe in some kind of religious nonsense indicates that Fs must be justified in believing in religion. I kid you not, religionists with whom I have chatted have pulled this argument from their bag of apologetic tricks.

This line of unreasoning means that atheism must be the new enemy, whereas other religions are acceptable because "you must believe something!" If atheists are correct (and we are, on the basis of lack of evidence) that the supernatural almost certainly does not exist, and that scientific understanding definitely discredits all naturalist claims in the Bible, then the biblical literalist must recognize that F is built on sand. Not a comfortable thought for those whose playground-level comfort is that God will reward them and punish their enemies.

In line with several of my posts:

F in science, A in self-esteem:

"So what if American students ranked 21st out of 30 industrialized nations? So what if we're even worse in math -- 25th?"
I'm not sure where those numbers came from – looking at the tables provided in the official PISA document, I count 28 nations ahead of the US on the science scale (35 ahead in proficiency levels) and 34 ahead of the US on the mathematics scale.

"When asked to rate their own scientific abilities, they put themselves at the top with their better-educated peers. This is the real trend in American education. No one can match us when it comes to self-esteem."

There have still been very few comments on these results on the Planet Atheism blogs. I should have thought that these dismal results would provide ammunition in the war against anti-science, creationist ignorance.

Still, as Maureen Dowd pointed out, "The world is globalizing, nuclear weapons are proliferating, the Middle East is seething, but Republicans are still arguing the Scopes trial."

While looking for church images, I came across this handy idea – inflatable churches. They probably pump them up with hot air.

Blog posts re religious credulity in the US : The Recent Harris Poll on Belief : Americans will believe anything

...section index...

apologetics, atheism, Christianity, creationism, education, religion, science, theism, Maureen Dowd, PISA.

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