Science and Religion, Bill Nye and the Mayor of San Antonio – A Clash of World Views in Texas

Introduction

The being cannot be termed rational or virtuous who obeys any authority but that of reason. Mary Wollstonecraft

After delivering a keynote last week in Roanoke on the topics of science and reason, exuberance, liberty, rejuvenation and improved men and women with ample references to Robert Green Ingersoll, I was ready for the first episode of a new Netflix series that complements all these qualities, namely, Bill Nye Saves the World.

The first episode entertained, informed and educated – three things that every keynote should do. The episode focused on demonstrating the reality and frightful consequences of climate change – and how a dire future could be mitigated by changes in public policies and innovative scientific safeguards during the coming decades. Using a panel of experts, special reports from around the world and a series of demonstrations, Nye made clear the dangers, and plain the solutions.

However, without a sea change in the science literacy of the political class, the future looks grim.

The Show

Bill Nye is a skilled promoter of science. His new show commenced just days after the March for Science in Washington, DC, Los Angeles and cities across the U.S. and the world.

Nye’s goal is to promote a scientific view, a key feature of the Reason dimension of REAL wellness. This orientation is critical in America for dealing effectively with the onslaught of religion in public policy by Republican politicians (and a few Democrats). The extent of climate change denial and all forms of bad politics inspired by reliance on revelation, holy books, indoctrination of the young and the privileged status of religions, no matter how ludicrous their dogmas and beliefs (see Scientology) is a threat to well being far greater than most recognize. Carl Sagan, who gave us the wonderful insights of Baloney Detector guidelines for good decision-making, said that a secular society dependent on technology that seeks to keep separate matters of church and state must promote a science – aware population.

This is not something we enjoy in America. The result? The leadership and politics we have today at the national and many state levels.

Because reason and science are not priorities in our school systems, we elect dunderheads who are aggressively anti-science. Things are worse than bad because people do not understand how science works and its applications in daily life – the religious elements have actually created an air of anti-science. Science is the bane of superstition; the magical thinkers, however, do understand that ignorance is their friend.

As Nye put it:

When presented with evidence that conflicts with your worldview, you’ve either got to change your entire worldview which you’ve held for decades or your whole life, or deny the evidence. And denying the evidence is easier.

Surprisingly, Bill Nye believes that if we work at it and present reason in effective ways, people will come around. I don’t believe that, though I surely want to.

An Egregious Example of Antediluvian Thinking

At a forum for mayor candidates last week, current San Antonio mayor Ivy Taylor was asked about the root causes of poverty in San Antonio. Her response:

Broken people. People not being in relationships with their creator and therefore not being in good relationship with their families and their communities and not being productive members of society. So I mean, I think that’s the ultimate answer.

Translation: Nonreligious people are at the root of society’s ills.

This strikes me as being unintentionally insulting to everyone in San Antonio who is not a judgmental, anti-science Christian fundamentalist. More seriously, it’s a reflection of the fact that religion can and does render otherwise sentient beings ignorant, socially intolerant and annoyingly divisive. This mayor and just about every Republican in the Congress and State Houses across the land are ill-suited for political office.

The mayor should know that there is no evidence for a sky god creator, and if there were such an entity we’d have no reliable clues as to what a relationship with him/her or it might entail. Based on existing religious dogmas, I’d guess it would entail lots of bowing and cringing, fear and guilt.

As Annie Laurie Gaylor explained in a Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) news release on April 25th, the least religious countries of this world:

* Have the lowest rates of violent crime, homicide and corruption.

* Are the best places to raise children and be a mother.

* Have the lowest levels of intolerance against racial and ethnic minorities.

* Score highest when it comes to women’s rights and gender equality.

* Have the greatest protection and enjoyment of political and civil liberties.

* Are better at educating their youth in reading, math and science.

* Are the most peaceful, the most prosperous and have the highest quality of life.

The correlation between lower religiosity and higher societal well-being is not limited to an international analysis. This trend also exists within United States. Those states that are the most religious also have a high occurrence of societal ills. The most religious states in the nation tend to have the highest rates of poverty, obesity, infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, murder and violent crime.

The mayor uses her religiosity to guide her politics, but the office she holds is not a pulpit for injecting superstition into public policy. Godlessness is not the root of all, or any evil, for that matter. There is no evidence linking non-belief in a sky god with family harmony or functioning in a productive capacity in society.

Godlessness is not the problem: superstition that fosters resistance to reality is the problem.

The mayor’s remarks call to mind the words of Edward Gibbon in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire describing early Christianity:

It was not in this world that the primitive Christians were desirous of making themselves either agreeable or useful.

All the best. Be well and think straight and try to look on the bright side of life.

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