Ricky Gervais once posted this on Twitter:
I think Ricky Gervais is a genius, even when I think he’s wrong – and I think he’s wrong here. Feel free to troll me on Twitter – I could do with a few extra followers.
Now, lets forget the fact that science has a proven record of dropping stuff from space – atom bombs etc. What interests me about this tweet, and other comments like it, is the raising up of two opposing forces – Science and Religion, pitted against each other like a couple of gnarled fighters in a ring. Who are you gonna bet on in that fight? The guy who goes around telling people to be nice, but then contradicts himself by unflinchingly wiping out people groups; or the guy who deals in cool precision and knows which angle of attack will likely cause the injury of best fit?
In this fantastical scenario – which I’m quite enjoying thinking about – the characteristics displayed by Religion make him seem like one of those showy WWF Superstars from the 90’s, while Science is like the no-fuss Mr-Miyagi-style sensei. And maybe that’s not a bad analogy really, because you would never expect to see those two divergent fighting disciplines in a ring together – and that’s my point, which I’ll come back to.
There appear to be two underlying implications in what Ricky Gervais is saying here. One seems to be that science is a force for good, whereas religion is not. The other is that all religion is the same.
A few years ago, Tony Blair and the late, great Christopher Hitchens debated on whether Religion is a force for good in the world. It was a stupid debate – of course it isn’t.
I don’t claim to be religious. I claim to be a Christian. When you say that this act of religious hatred – shooting a girl in the head – is wrong and backwards, I agree. I’m not a Muslim. I don’t have to answer for Muslims or Buddhists or flipping Jedis. I’m not on the side of Religion. I don’t agree that all religions basically teach the same thing. They don’t.
I’m all about Jesus. You want to disagree with me on something, make it Jesus. He’s my only discipline.
Anyway, my point….
The Science v Religion debate is a misnomer. It’s not a real fight. It has spilled over from a genuine debate between creationism and evolution. But evolution doesn’t represent all science, and creationism certainly isn’t the ambassador for all religion. The fact is, though, that throwing Religion’s suited-and-booted pro-wrestler and Science’s Kung-Fu Master into a ring together causes a spectacle – and not a healthy one. As with any scrap, you end up feeling like you need to cheer for one side over the other.
I’m always amazed at how many of my friends tell me that they’re atheists because they believe in science. Do people really think that Christians don’t? Is this article being written on my I-pad, or have I just prayed it onto the website?
I believe in Science. Everyone I know does. Some people I know don’t believe in Darwinian evolution, but Darwinian evolution isn’t the head of the scientific household.
Science is amazing. I’m fascinated and awed by it. But Science only ever deals with process – how things happen. Religion deals with purpose – why things happen. When you start talking about why things happen, you’re no longer talking about physics – you’re talking metaphysics.
The problem comes when people who love science decide that science can do everything, even stuff outside the realms of science.
If you believe that science can explain why we’re here, why we love, why we experience beauty, why we have hope, then you’re not alone. But you’re not talking scientifically anymore, because science can do no such thing. And if you think that science will eventually answer these things, then you’re still not talking scientifically, because that’s a statement of philosophy, not science.
When people put their hope in science to answer everything, they become like a young lad who thinks that his Dad could beat up everyone else’s Dad, because, y’know, it’s their Dad.
Science is not your real Dad.
So, if you want to know how you got here, ask Science. If you want to know why you’re here, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Not to Religion, because as an entity Religion doesn’t really exist.
And if you want to know how the fight between Mr Miyagi and the pro-wrestler ends…well it’s probably on Sky somewhere.