Misconception #1: Scientists Have an Atheist Agenda.

Published on Friday, April 30, 2010 By jetchison

Science for the De-Converted – Part I


Misconception #1: Scientists Have an Atheist Agenda. People of every stripe tend to generalize about other groups. We all do it, and it’s mostly subconscious. It makes it easier for us to handle the massive amount of information we hear on a daily basis. If we can automatically qualify the source of information, it makes it easier to determine how credible it is.


Christians do this as well. It makes life easier if you can discredit the people who present information that contradicts your viewpoint. So, scientists are often presented within Christian settings as a monolithic group of atheists who are determined to drive religion out of society. They are painted as people who twist the truth, or even withhold information in order to achieve this agenda.


However, the very nature of the scientific community makes this completely untrue.


The Truth: Science doesn’t try to prove a negative.



According to SkepticWiki, “Its very difficult to prove the general non-existence of a phenomenon.” This is certainly true of theists, but they seem to think that scientists aim to disprove God.


I recently read a “fun fact” that said “All Polar Bears are Left Handed.” This made me smile, because it reads like a scientific fact, but no scientists would dare make such an assertion. The statement is equal to saying, “There are no right-handed polar bears.” In order to make this statement in the scientific community, you would have to show that you have tested every single polar bear on earth for right-handedness. This is not practically possible.


For the same reason, a wise scientist would never attempt to scientifically prove that there is no god. Just like left-handed polar bears, you cannot prove that something doesn’t exist without scouring every square inch of the cosmos. Good luck with that.


The Truth: Attempts to manipulate scientific data are sought out and frequently exposed within the scientific community.


Scientists are not all friendly with each other, and will not think twice about exposing a fellow scientist as a charlatan if it can be proven. Scientists from every nation speak the language of data. If a scientist publishes a paper where the data is being manipulated unfairly, he will suffer the derision a thousand times over as other papers are published that expose his mistakes. Even the quality of the data itself, the selection sources and methods, and the calculations are all held under the strictest scrutiny. If there is any bias in the interpretation, it will most likely be exposed.


There are no grand conspiracies to fool the uneducated. Such a plot simply would not work because a scientist can achieve far too much personal gain by exposing someone else’s lie than by participating in it.



It helps to see it like this: imagine there are only two scientists in the entire world who are studying the mating habits of the manatee. There are limited funds for scientists who study this, so if only one of them gets a grant and writes a paper stating that manatees exhibit polygamous behavior, the other scientist (who naturally thinks he or she is the most knowledgeable on the subject) will scour the data, the findings, and the source, to make sure that it’s all correct. First, the second scientist may wish to use the findings in his or her own work. But secondly, if the published scientist got a government grant and published erroneous work, the competitor will want to expose the error in order to win the grants in subsequent years.


This type of competition is healthy, and goes a long way toward preventing any large-scale deceptions or manipulations of which the scientific community is often accused by the uninformed.


The Truth: Scientific conclusions ≠ intent.


Just because no scientific study has indicated the presence or need for a deity in the universe does not mean that this was the intent of the work. It may be true scientific study in general has the overwhelming lack of indication that the universe has any outside influence, but that does not mean that is what scientists wanted to believe.


Consider this: Religions have a religious agenda.


Religions accuse science of having an atheist agenda. Atheism is a smear tactic used to discredit a person and their message—just as calling someone a homosexual used to be in decades past. This accusation goes a long way in preserving the messages religions hold dear.


Another damnable part of this accusation is the presumption that any agenda is bad, because it assumes a bias. But these same outspoken people are often pushing for an agenda of their own. Religions outwardly legislate according to their religious beliefs, and we are currently seeing anti-homosexual legislation all over the United States. Some countries are seeing their speech legally curtailed under the guise of it being “blasphemous.” Religious people who accuse scientists of having an agenda should consider their own motives.



Discussion

  1. Jim Moyers says:

    Excellent. I am continually taken aback by how little most people, not just fundamentalists, etc., know about science. This is all the more surprising to me as most of my scientific education was obtained in church school and Southern Missionary College (now Southern Adventist U).

  2. Erin says:

    The whole article is wonderful, but I must say the last line of it is something that just rings true in my being. “Religious people who accuse scientists of having an agenda should consider their own motives” Truer words were never spoken. I love this site!

  3. Andrew says:

    Not to mention, many scientists were/are very religious themselves. Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Francis Collins to name a few were/are all Christian, which evinces the fact that often the scientists themselves could be said to have a so-called religious ‘agenda’, if they are to be accused of having one at all.

  4. bigjohn756 says:

    Can I say that all human religions are false since they are man made and and, therefore, fictional? It seems to me that there is someone, or some group, that would know enough or be able to learn enough to prove that. Wouldn’t be I, by the way.

  5. [...] Misconception #1: Scientists Have an Atheist Agenda [...]

  6. quiet time says:

    Once more an outstanding written article from you. Keep it up!

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