Richard Dawkins appeared on Al Jazeera recently in an excellent, 30 minute interview around the theme of “Is there room for religion in science?” For me, like many atheists, the greatest, non-compatible difference between the two is that those who value science are taught to rejoice when their favorite and most inspiring theories are empirically overthrown, while religions teach their adherents to hang on stubbornly to their beliefs in spite of what counter evidence appears — they call that “faith”.
Not all religious folks obey this version of stubborn faith and instead change their beliefs and let their spirituality evolve over time. And not all people who say they value science rejoice when data contradicts their favorite theories. Science fans can be politically obstructive, biased and display vested self-interests just as a religious person can. But, the rhetoric, policy and temperament of both sides is different. The “Science temperament” is thirsty for more accurate estimates of reality and willing to sacrifice any opinion to move in that direction while the “Religious temperament” praises unyielding belief in spite of counter-evidence as a virtue. Here is a post listing confessions of scientists to their previous mistaken opinions.
I must say, I have always been scientifically minded since I was very young. I have always rejoiced at having my opinions overthrown. I’ve used this blog to document many of my past mistaken beliefs. And today, I’d like to playfully share two of my long-held opinions that were severely challenged on my recent trip to Europe:
The French & Their Language
When I was younger, I had bad experiences in Paris (in contrast to Germany, Holland and other countries) when I could not get people to speak with me. I also never liked the sound of the language. But my European trip took me to Alsace region in France where I met some fantastic people who were very kind about baby French. I even have begun to like the sound of the language. It is embarrassing how such a short trip could overthrow such a long held prejudices! My French host suggested that my experiences may have been favorable because Alsace people are special in France. This may be, but I am glad to enjoy my new images and my dissolving prejudice.
My image of Belgian beers before my trip was fruity, sweet beers — which I do not enjoy at all. But my Belgian host introduced me to his favorite Belgian beers which were not fruity or sweet — I loved them.
Questions to readers: What are some non-religious opinions you have had overturned by your exposures in life?