Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When you confuse science with wisdom

Bill Maher was a guest on Stephen Colbert's TV show the other day. I don't normally watch either of them because I don't think either is particularly funny, but they had an interesting exchange when Colbert invited Maher back to church, and Maher realized the invitation was serious.

Colbert: "You were raised Catholic, right?"

Maher: "I *was* raised Catholic."

Colbert: "Come on back, Bill! The door is always open. Golden ticket, right before you. All you have to do is humble yourself before the presence of the Lord [and] admit that there are things greater than you in the universe that you do not understand, and salvation awaits you! Take Pascal's Wager: If you're wrong, you're an idiot, but if I'm riiiight, you're going to hell."

Maher, smirking: "I do admit there are things in the universe I don't understand, but my response to that is not to make up silly stories...or to believe intellectually embarrassing myths from the Bronze Age. But *you* believe whatever you want to!"

Colbert: "Well, yeah, I mean, I have a connection to our ancestors, because I, I...

Maher: "Sure...because these were men who did not know what a germ or an atom was, or where the sun went at night, and that's where you're getting your wisdom. Anyway, let's not argue!"

At that point, the conversation took a turn not in the clip that I've seen, as both men moved to another subject. What interests me, though, is Maher's chronological snobbery. He apparently believes that because the authors of inspired texts were not well-versed in modern science, they should therefore be ignored. But whether you know what a germ or an atom is has nothing to do with whether you understand (as Colbert does) that Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life."

The other problem with Maher's implicit argument is that he has no idea what wisdom actually is. Wisdom, by definition, stands the test of time; it's not wrapped up in technology. To deride the Bible as "Bronze Age" wisdom is to ignore the fact that if it is what the church says it is, then its truths are timeless.

1 comment:

  1. Yes. Yes! "Chronological snobbery" is quite a contagious disease with those New Atheist types. I am reading Jerry Coyne's new book Faith Versus Fact,and he also is a chronological snob. On page 17, after describing all the great scientific discoveries and advances in recent history, Coyne asks this question: "What new insights has religion produced in the last century?"

    In three thousand or so years, we have only managed to come up with 10 Commandments. Certainly, if we were as fruitful as science, we should have come up with more!