The Scientific Indian

Humans evolved over millions of years. It wasn’t inevitabe, it wasn’t predictable, it wasn’t random either. It just was. It has taken incomprehensible amount of time to evolve the complexity needed in our neural clumps to hold reasoned representations of the world. Considering this biological history, it is safe to say that it will take imponderable time and much cumulative efforts to refine questions like ‘what caused the world’, and, even longer to interpret the answers. Future is an unkind place for those of us in the present. It’s a mirage we’ll never catch, a climax we’ll never reach. You won’t be around then, I won’t exist, humanity itself may not exist. But, questions will be asked and answers will be found. The questions and answers, now and then, do and will owe an awful lot to science and nothing at all to religion.

Given this conception you would excuse me when I say this: Religion, for reasonable minds, is like bicycle lessons for a fish, useless and stupid.

Comments

  1. #1 CRM-114
    July 31, 2007

    Thanks. That’s a quote worth saving … and, yes … already saved. (What did we do before cut-and-paste? I honestly don’t remember.)

  2. #2 Zed
    July 31, 2007

    History does not begin or end with us and is not linear either.
    We may have to suffer through a couple more 1000 year long dark ages before get to a place where understand our reality in a coherent manner and have it stick, kind of like ideas of republic and democracy.

  3. #3 JuliaL
    July 31, 2007

    Religion, for reasonable minds, is like bicycle lessons for a fish, useless and stupid.

    Cute, but I’m not sure this actually says what you want it to say.

    Bicycle lessons are indeed useless for a fish, but not because bicycles aren’t real and not even because bicycles aren’t useful to other creatures who are just as real and just as worthwhile as fish. Bicycle lessons are useless for a fish because the fish is missing something that would permit it to connect with a real and useful part of the world: the fish lacks legs. So your sentence appears to say that reasonable people are missing something that would have otherwise let them connect with the reality of religion, and with its actually existing positive value and usefulness.

    Similies/metaphors can be tricky. Maybe you need a different comparison to make your point?

  4. #4 Selva
    July 31, 2007

    >Maybe you need a different comparison to make your point?

    On reading the post again, I agree.

  5. #5 3cheers4
    August 1, 2007

    i would argue that since religion is rooted in mythology, we may learn from religion the humble origins of civilizations, the infancy of our cultures, and the vulnerability of our psychological states to delusion.

    religion is “useless” as an explanatory model for “who are we/why are we here” questions, but not useless overall.

  6. #6 -H-
    August 1, 2007

    Saying a ‘stationary bicycle’ would work.

  7. #7 Doc
    August 1, 2007

    …er, just linked you on a post at my blog: your trackback came back 404 for some reason…

    well put, by the way.

  8. #8 ubrayj02
    August 2, 2007

    As “useless” as religion is (in your view) religious ideas and practices are so universal that the ability to engage in religious thoughts and practices defines a portion of what it means to be a human being.

    “Music” (either with instruments or through vocal song) is another example of a similarly “useless” thing which, again, due its ubiquity in human life, can be used to distinguish our species from many others.

    Don’t take your negative feelings about religious practices and ideas too far. Otherwise you risk losing those aspects of yourself that make you most human.

  9. #9 Pansee Atta
    August 2, 2007


    As “useless” as religion is (in your view) religious ideas and practices are so universal that the ability to engage in religious thoughts and practices defines a portion of what it means to be a human being.
    “Music” (either with instruments or through vocal song) is another example of a similarly “useless” thing which, again, due its ubiquity in human life, can be used to distinguish our species from many others.

    Unfortunately, that’s not a great comparison, since people rarely kill each other over music preference. Religion certainly is a significant part of all our pasts, and it’s quite possible for us to appreciate it as just that; a relic of a more superstitious time. By no means does religion make us human,it is simply another aspect of culture which we are free to discard once it becomes obsolete.

  10. #10 ubrayj02
    August 3, 2007

    I am sorry for not being more specific, but by “religious ideas” I am not referring to organized religion. I am referring to a class of ideas that are salient, and transmit well between human beings, but hold little (or no) connection to the mechanics of everyday life.

    A religious idea: “That mountain has emotions like a human, and can be angered and appeased by our actions.”; or, “An invisible man created this planet, and he watches over us.”

    These sorts of ideas manifest themselves in individual human brains all the time. These sorts of ideas become more widespread, and more easily transmitted, when groups of people get together.

    “Religious ideas” (as I am using the term), can be used to describe a part of what makes us human. If you have ever taken a course in anthropology, you will understand where I am coming from.

    Don’t be so extreme in your condemnation of religious ideas. Evidence of religous ideas are used to show the transition our species made 60,000 to 50,000 years ago from physically modern Homo Sapiens to culturally modern Homo Sapiens.

    They are by no means “obsolete”, as any serious investigation into the use of religious ideas will show. Religous ideas are used to run large nation-states, wage war, and maintain all sorts of incredibly complex economic behaviors.

    I do not practice any “faith”, I am not spiritual, I don’t believe anyone elses religious mumbo jumbo. I suppose you don’t either.

    A big part of me agrees with what you wrote, but upon a little bit of reflection I realized that religious ideas have been with us since the dawn of our species, and they show no signs of disappearing in a puff of Dawkins-inspired logic.

  11. #11 MartinM
    August 9, 2007

    Unfortunately, that’s not a great comparison, since people rarely kill each other over music preference.

    Although it would in many cases be entirely justified.

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