The last time I asked someone if he believed in God or religion, he sneered and said with the pompous authority of one who knows everything, "Of course not. I'm an atheist." His superior tone annoyed me, primarily because it wasn't the first time I had he ard it. Each time I confess a belief in a religion, a nearby atheist develops a curious picture of who I am: superstitious, naive and too wrapped up in the wonders of God and miracles to notice the everyday miracles of science.
To their credit, most atheists are not like the one I talked to recently, and by making gross generalizations about their beliefs, I would be as guilty and narrow-minded as the atheist I had met. Yet like the Christian Right, certain branches of atheism e spouse radical, often contradictory ideals; many of them point to science as proof of their arguments and as vindication of their beliefs, without realizing that science is as much a religion as Christianity.
Like religion, science is a quest for knowledge and a search for truth. Scientists attempt to explain our cosmic origins and account for our seemingly random existence - much like religions' attempts to explain our cosmic origins and discover the nature o f human beings. Science claims that the answers lie in bits of genetic material in the soupy, pre-life cesspool, and that if we look to the heavens, we will eventually discover our origins. The religious look to the heavens for a different purpose, and de pending upon the religion, believe that either divinity or a combination of that and pre-life soup explain our origins. Both institutions know the truth and point to evidence - the Bible, The Origin of Species, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Theory of Relativi ty - which illustrates the truth behind their convictions. The scientific method, championed by many, is hardly as infallible as it seems.
Human beings determine which elements of an experiment are significant and which can be thrown out; humans decide how to proceed in an experiment or a proof, which method of collecting information, how to record the information, and how to interpret the r esults. Science can never be purely objective as long as humans carry out the investigations, and lack of objectivity places science in the realm of religion. Einstein, Newton, Darwin, Galileo are all canonized saints of science, and their works are read and discussed with reverence. Others, like Stephen Hawking, are simply the mortal ministers of science on the Earth, and their works are on the canonizing waiting list. And science itself takes the place of divinity, for people dedicate their lives to sci ence and worship the great miracles of science in their homes and in holy places, such as museums.
Centuries ago, our ancestors believed that the planets and sun revolved around the earth, that space travel was nothing more than a whimsical dream, that life originated through God or some equivalent power.
Today, we discover new planets in other solar systems like our own, we routinely ship off satellites and spacecraft, we link the pre-life soup with the theory of evolution and claim that this is it, this is how it really happened. Yet centuries ago, when they made their conjectures and hatched their theories, they were also saying, yes, this is it, this is how it really happened.
Truth in science is as subjective as truth in literature, as enigmatic as an optical illusion, as elusive as music, as sketchy and nebulous as truth in religion. Science is not a superior alternative to religion, but merely a more palatable substitute.
Jessie Fillerup is a music education junior who is entering early writing retirement, due to numerous musical commitments. She would like to thank Kerry, her roommate, for her charitable contributions, Craig for his expert handling of a neurotic, an d the friends and family at the music building for their occasional