Saturday, March 12, 2011


[I wrote this back in August 2009, and it got lost in my Drafts folder after that. I still think it's interesting, and decided to post without heavy updating or editing.]

Science news from last week is that the appendix does, in fact, have a purpose. Unsurprisingly, religious bloggers have jumped on this as "proof" of science's fallibility and therefore, by extension, religion's truth. Many suggest, as did Rabbi Yonason Goldson, that "... knowledge and understanding have caught up with yet another aspect of Creation ...", asserting the position that eventually science will learn enough to see religion was right all along (the writer somehow connects this to mixing wool and cotton; not sure I follow that particular leap).

I disagree with Rabbi Goldson, largely because he tries to strengthen the artificial divide between science and religion. The part of his article I do agree with is this:
"But jumping to the conclusion that anything we cannot explain must have no purpose or rationale demonstrates one of the most common forms of human arrogance. How often have science and medicine had to rethink their positions after new research has turned long-held truths upside down and inside out?

Even the greatest among us are prone to this kind of error. King David questioned the purpose of spiders and of insanity. (Personally, this author has a problem with mosquitoes.) The Almighty did not explain Himself to David."

This arrogance, as he terms it, exists on both "sides" of the debate. Just yesterday, while discussing the topic of belief, a friend determined the question unanswerable, the existence of God therefore irrelevant, and belief therefore foolish. But this is the same mistake biologists made for years; everyone "knew" the appendix had no purpose because we had been unable to find that proof. How, then, does lack of evidence disprove religion?

We cannot dismiss any idea or concept, whether the value of the appendix or the existence of God,  because of lack of evidence. All an unanswered question proves is that the question has not been answered.

Of course, that works both ways. Assuming there is a God, and the Torah/Bible/Koran contains his literal words is also incorrect, because it too is unproven. There exists a tension between the two positions, and it is within that tension that belief can exist.

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