This article led to a few interesting thoughts (and, no, not about evolution…)
Part of the controversy concerns the dating of human skulls, which the scientist in question said were 10,000 years old, but turned out to be only a few hundred. The deception was able to continue for so long because other scientists saw no reason to doubt the previously announced results. Everyone knew Dr. Protsch was a scientist with the skills to accurately date human remains. He reported to others that he had used his skills to date the skulls in question, and that their age was over 10,000 years old. The other scientists were perfectly happy to accept his testimony (before the doubts arose) even though they hadnâ€™t confirmed it themselves.
Science (and the secular world in general) doesn’t like to use words like ‘faith’ and ‘testimony’, but itâ€™s amazing to think about how many instances of accepting things by faith and testimony we have in the non-religious universe.
In the 1990 movie Joe vs. The Volcano (with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan), Tom Hanksâ€™s character is told by a doctor that he has a â€˜brain cloudâ€™–and a short time to live. (This leads directly into the main plot where he decides to throw himself into a volcano because of it)
Like most people, Hanksâ€™s character accepts the testimony of the doctor, since he knows the doctor is more familiar with the particular field in question (the human body) than he is. Later, it turns out the doctor in the movie is a quack (â€œbrain cloudâ€?), but in a way thatâ€™s the point: most of us, when visiting a doctor and hearing him/her tell us, â€œyou have a condition called â€˜monochloritekilopiosisâ€™, and you need to start taking these pills once a day for the next monthâ€ are going to accept his/her testimony of our condition. After all, the doctor is supposed to know these things, we really don’t have the means of finding out ourselves.
Of course, when you get down to it, weâ€™re taking the doctorâ€™s word both on our condition and on the solution, not to mention accepting the testimony of the drug company on faith that those little green pills weâ€™re given actually have the proper drug inside of them (itâ€™s not like we can confirm that, of course…what if theyâ€™re just jelly beans?)
There are so many other instances of exercising â€˜secular faithâ€™ in our daily lives when you look at it, that theyâ€™re hard to count.
- Iâ€™m accepting the testimony of scientists when they say thereâ€™s a planet â€œNeptuneâ€ out there (itâ€™s not like Iâ€™ve been there…)
- Iâ€™m accepting the testimony of the newscasters when they say thereâ€™s been an earthquake in Iran. (Was there really an earthquake? I didn’t feel it. Is there even really a country called â€œIranâ€? Iâ€™ve never been there, either…)
- Iâ€™m accepting the testimony of my history teachers when they say there was once a Civil War in the US. (I wasnâ€™t thereâ€¦how do I know?)
- Iâ€™m even accepting the testimony of my parents that my brother is actually my brother (I wasnâ€™t there when he was born, and itâ€™s not like Iâ€™ve performed a DNA test or anything–and even then, Iâ€™d just be accepting the testimony of the lab technicians…)
This is interesting because the whole idea of ‘faith’ and ‘testimony’ is anathema to many in the secular world, who scoff at the notion of religious philosophy that depends on them for knowledge of the truth. And yet, everything in our daily lives comes down to faith and the testimony of others–spiritual or otherwise. While there is always the possibility of ‘false testimony’ (as numerous examples from any field of expertise can attest), the important part is this: accepting things by faith is not something ‘illogical’ that only backwards, close-minded people do. All of us do it every day. We have to, or else we wouldn’t learn anything. (There’s only so much you can personally experience and verify on your own).
This can lead to a new perspective towards matters of the Spirit: is there really a difference between accepting the testimony of a select number of people that there is a God, and accepting the testimony of others that there is a country in the world called “Djibouti” (I mean, seriously…”Djibouti”?), or that there are little things called ‘viruses’ which cause our body to become sick, and are too small to be seen (that’s convenient, isn’t it…?)
This isn’t an excuse to become ultra-paranoid and join the moon-landing-deniers (although…do you know?), only that faith and testimony are normal parts of our secular life and it’s not too big of a jump to apply them to the areas of the spirit as well…