Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Scientific Method Vs. Superstition Vs. Myth Vs. Religion (Part I)

Jeff and I were talking the other day about hummingbirds. We have four hummingbird feeders around our house, and we love to watch these tiny birds as they hover, sip, and often chase each other around in the air. If you watch them carefully, you can see their tiny little feet, tucked up under their bodies as they fly and hover. And sometimes they perch on the edge of the feeder while they drink the sugar-water we put there for them. They have feet.

"They have feet." It seems crazy to have to say that. It seems like an obvious thing to say: Of course hummingbirds have feet. How could we doubt that? Yet I read recently that some ancient Greek "scientists" wrote that hummingbirds DON'T have feet. Really?

I seriously wonder about their observational skills. Okay, maybe they never got as close to the birds as we do every day. But, still. Really?

So then of course I have to wonder about every bit of "received wisdom" we have from the Greeks, the Romans, the Norse, and everyone else who ever wrote about nature anciently. I remember all that stuff I learned in school about the ancient gods and goddesses of the Greeks and Romans, about how they supposedly made up these beliefs based on observations.

If they couldn't see feet on a hummingbird, OBVIOUSLY they would make up a pantheon of supernatural creatures based on hearing thunder, for instance: Oh, there must be a "god" up in the sky bowling. Or when some unmarried and supposedly "virtuous" woman gets pregnant: Oh, some "god" fell in love with her long enough for her to conceive a child, and then (of course, because they're gods, and they don't have to stick around with mere mortals) left her to try to explain it to her family and her village.

But here's the thing: If you lack knowledge, whether because you can't see well enough to notice feet on a hummingbird, or because you have drunk in the myths of your ancestors without stopping to think about them, or for whatever reason, you will tend to believe in ideas that seem ridiculous to anyone who knows more than you do.

If you don't believe in those other ancients, though, why should you believe in the accepted knowledge and understanding of the ancient Hebrews? And then the ancient Christians? Why believe in that God of the Old Testament or in any of His prophets?

Does your modern skepticism about some ancient beliefs preclude you from having your own religious, i.e., non-scientific beliefs?

How can I bear my testimony of my Heavenly Father's love and of His Son, Jesus Christ, my belief in their love, and my belief in the restored gospel and modern-day prophets and (of course) the Book of Mormon, if I don't accept any other religions?

What makes this different for me?

(More, next time.)