Friday, September 28, 2012

Thinking Scientifically, Always

I work in the science field, so I know all too well that scientists and atheists are pefectly capable of cognitive dissonance and all kinds of backwards thinking that we often accuse others of doing. Although we are human, of course, we should know better given our training, so it makes me so angry when I see people in my field of work not applying their critical thinking skills to anything outside of the particular experiment they happen to be working on.

In this case I suppose I shouldn't have expected much more, since the person in question is also a die-hard Catholic (albeit one with an extensive historical knowledge and very much a "the whole thing is one big allegory and full of copying errors so it's all to be taken with a grain of salt" type Catholic). Still, she was perfectly able to crawl right under my skin when I happened to bring up how disgusted I am with what is going on in Greece.

In case you haven't heard, A 27 year-old man in Greece has been arrested and faces up to 2 years in prison for making fun of a Greek Orthodox monk, Geron Paisios. He created a Facebook page in which he called the monk Geron Pastitsios, a type of Greek lasagna, possibly using it as an extended parody linking the monk to Pastafarianism. To face 2 years in jail for something so asinine is ridiculous and something I expect of Iran or Saudi Arabia, not the country that invented democracy. My colleague doesn't agree, or rather, she doesn't believe it.

"Greece is a civil country", she says, "so he must have done something far worse than what you think. You're an idiot if you think that online newspapers are 100% reliable, so he must have said something horrible. Besides, you're not allowed to offend people, you can sue someone for saying terribly offensive things, maybe that person doesn't go to jail but there is a precedent in other civil countries. So, whatever, I'm sure he deserves it".

Oh deary me. A part from her horrible mangling of free speech and libel laws, the core of her argument is so rotten I almost fell out of my chair. What in the hell kind of scientist are you?!

You don't get to work your way backwards from a conclusion, I tried to explain. Of course you can't assume that newspapers have all of their facts straight, but that is entirely besides the point. We have a certain amount of evidence: I have read many articles about this, and they all say the same thing regarding his "crimes". With the evidence that we have, my conclusion is that no, Greece is not behaving like a "civilized country", not even close. That does not mean that this conclusion cannot change based on new evidence that can arise later, however I really don't care how mercilessly he poked fun at the guy, he could have inserted the guy's face into this NSFW cartoon and plastered it all over Facebook, unless he credibly threatened followers of the cult or some similar real crime was committed, my conclusion remains the same: Greece is not to be considered "civilized" so long as they have these totalitarian laws.

You know what the real problem is? Even putting it in the hypothetical: let's say that all he really did was call this guy a pasta name. Let's say for the sake of argument, it is 100% confirmed that that is all he did. Would you be willing to revise your conclusion then? Her answer was still no.

This is about not wanting to see what lies in front of you, not about not being able to or not knowing how. It's about her being religious, and she wouldn't want anyone calling Ratzinger Pope Spaghetti, so she just wont admit that one of the core and most important principles of a free country are being slowly but surely crushed underfoot. 

And ultimately, this is about not thinking what you do in life has any importance outside of the lab. If I was to think in this way regarding an experiment she'd be the first to kick my legs out from under me in utter disgust. 

I, on the other hand, was attracted to this line of work specifically because I value the importance of thinking scientifically, and I think it is the best, most fair, most objective and therefore most humble way to view life.

If you ever see me working backwards from a conclusion, slap me.

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