“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
“Faith is the license believers give each other to go on believing absurdities” Sam Harris, in Letter to a Christian Nation
Astrology is bad science. This is obvious to rational people. The evidence supporting it is weak while the evidence against it is strong. I’ve mentioned the point in an earlier blog, and brought up the example of identical twins leading less than identical lives. This one fact alone is proof that Astrology is not scientific.
And yet, millions of Americans still believe in the fact of Astrology. Many make a living writing horoscopes and/or star charts. It is so popular that very few newspapers are without a daily horoscope – although plenty of them are savvy enough to realize this isn’t actual news, so they lump it with comics and add the disclaimer “For entertainment purposes only.”
Despite this disclaimer, the irrationality behind the very idea, and the evidence against it, Astrology still finds many subscribers. How is this possible? It’s because of faith. Those with faith in this bad science think that when a horoscope appears false that they must have misinterpreted it. Or they rationalize it by stretching its meaning to fit their experiences (horoscopes are well-known to be “vanilla” for this very purpose). Or they call it an “imperfect science” that has too many variables to be entirely accurate, like meteorology. They use faith in the first sense defined above, in being certain of the unseen.
The rest of us see such faith in the light of the second definition, a license to believe when facts fail. We don’t see their faith as noble or virtuous but rather as a poor excuse. This unwavering and stubborn faith is known as dogma.
We must all have faith, but we need not have dogma. I have personally never been in space and seen the round Earth with my own eyes, but I believe that it is round. There is a preponderance of evidence attesting to a round Earth, so much so that you would be irrational in this modern age to believe in a flat Earth. The difference between this scientific faith and dogma is that faith alone is nor required, nor is it unalterable. I could believe in a flat Earth if the evidence in its favor was greater. I have, after all, never seen a round Earth with my own eyes.
While it’s unlikely that scientists will revert to teaching a flat Earth, it’s possible because science is reasonable. Scientists would rather discover new data through trial and error rather than to admit that science is incapable of error. It’s wiser to a scientist to be as accurate and correct as possible rather than be seen as infallible. This is scientific faith.
The Holocaust actually happened. While this isn’t proven in experiments by men in white lab coats, it is scientific fact. The historical data, the eye-witnesses, and the standing architecture all give strong evidence to a Holocaust that actually occurred. The dogmatic view that the Holocaust never happened (which is actually held by many people) is based on weak evidence, and more importantly on a platform that no amount of evidence will ever change the minds of those who hold this view. The scientific view is based on a rational examination of the evidence at hand.
Religion is based on dogma. Believers have not left an out, a way to disprove their religion, and if you attempted you’d soon run into the excuse of needed faith. There is no way to change their minds, and no amount of evidence will ever amount to an iota of difference. This is why religious believers are hostile towards science, and always will be.