Intermission – religion and science

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Some thoughts on the brink of a new year. An intermission in the exercise for fat loss rambling was at its place.

There are people in this world, quite a few people, who would let their children die in the hands of a holy man rather than have them live by the hands of a doctor. A holy man is trusted at the expense of logic and reason and without taking into account the human minds ability for imagination and self-deception. The doctor is disregarded because to the layperson he operates in a field as difficult to understand or more so than a religion with simple answers.

A holy man, be it priest, mullah, shaman or other is trusted because he is there, unlike the scientific paper(s) or the lines of reasoning that might, in the presence of sufficient schooling and training, convince people otherwise. 

In the health store the poster tells us that the vitamin C supplements can cure our colds. It might be right even though Linus Pauling was made a laughing stock claiming so, but that’s not the point. The poster is there, unlike the scientific papers or biochemistry textbooks undermining the claim. It is there with bright colors, a friendly smile and a promise it would be so nice to believe in.

We humans are prone to base our beliefs and understandings on the closeness of the source of information. Of course we are. Education and religion show a negative correlation. In areas where education in increased religion is decreased. When the textbook is slammed on your desk with the incentive to learn its contents the information is there whether you want it or not. The availability of good information make the esoteric unnecessary. This is not to say that any religious person is less smart or wise than the atheist, the human brain is more complex than that.

As frustrating as it is to see religions firm grip on virtues I hold high like those of reason, logic and skepticism, it is also very understandable. The holy man is there.

When your doctor tells you to reduce your saturated fat intake he does so because the information that he relies on is there. It is there in the local medical journal and it is there in pharmaceutical statin commercials sent to him.

Albeit, closeness of information is not all it takes, but I believe it to help more than it may seem. The doctor is unlikely to being swayed just by being shown a meta-analysis from Kraus, by being told the story of Ancel Keys or by some of Ravnskovs marvelous statistics. Just as a devout christian is unlikely to cast away his beliefs when listening to the evolutionary biologist.

But, the presence of good information is likely to sow seeds of uncertainties. I know from my own experience that my present views are the product of constant drops of information leading to uncertainties not to be left unexplored.

When someone close lose weight by eating fat and the results are there and clear in my face the impact is stronger than simply having heard of a similar episode somewhere. Of course, we can train ourselves to be more or less open and skeptical and the training can reduce the effect of the distance of the information. But, before we are properly trained to investigate information for what it is, irrespective of its closeness, distance matters. The commercial poster beats the journal, and the priest beats the scientist by being there.

My conclusion and solution to all of this is to keep being up in peoples faces. Be there. Talk to the doctor and the priest and your friends, write a blog, write a letter and spread seeds of potential knowledge. Admit to it when proven wrong and yield when a better argument is presented, but don’t keep your knowledge to yourself.

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