October 15, 2012
Science vs Religion
Recent comments by U.S. Rep. Paul Broun regarding his religious beliefs and how they influence his votes in Congress have caused a lot of concern, since he sits on the House Science Committee: CNN Belief Blog post
This got me thinking about fundamental differences in how people think about humanity in general based on their religious beliefs.
If I come from a standpoint that mankind was created by an omniscient, omnipotent diety in their own image, created as a perfect being, then I am coming from a place of having been created perfect and then corrupted to the present state. So the focus would be regaining what was lost, and returning to the previous state of perfection.
However, if my point of view is that mankind has evolved from mammalian progenitors who evolved from even earlier forms, then understanding our reactions and impulses comes from considering our progenitors. By understanding how our primate relatives interact, we gain insight into ourselves. In this model, we are still developing and evolving - simply one more step in an ongoing process.
I personally find the second model most useful, since it provides me with insight into human behavior and motivations without getting bogged down in moral judgement. It is also interesting to think about how certain behaviors affect individuals and groups on an overall troupe success or survival basis.
That said - I think that having people who have strong religious beliefs that contradict current scientific thought should be ethical enough to recuse themselves from those committees in the first place. In the absence of such ethics, the committee should excuse them from membership based upon their strongly held beliefs. Should a passionate pacifist be elected, they certainly should not serve on a Committee responsible for making decisions that affect the military. This does not promote democracy, it ensures that things get bogged down in committees forever and nothing can ever get into the house to be democratically voted upon!