Science, religion and delusion

"Good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things. But for good people to do bad things – that takes religion."
  Steven Weinberg, Nobel laureate

I'll change that statement, only slightly, to "Good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things. But for good people to do bad things – that takes delusion."

This page written 2017/05/19, modified 2019/03/29 – ©
Contact: David K. Clarke

Google search Ramblings

Religion can serve as the delusion that causes good people to do bad things, but other delusions will do the job just as well; some examples: the delusion that vaccinations or fluoridated water are harmful, that anthropogenic (man-made) climate change isn't real, that the world is only 6000 years old, that wind turbines make people sick.

Why pick on Sarah Laurie?
Climate change and associated problems are among the greatest threats facing the world today. They have been among my greatest concerns for several decades.

About 2004 I became sufficiently concerned about the lies being told about wind power to start writing net pages giving the facts. The subject became one of my main activities. In 2010 Sarah (then doctor) Laurie, who lived only 12 kilometres from me, started her campaign. Her campaign, based on fear, was probably much more effective than mine, based on fact.

Wind turbines at sunrise in South Australia
Wind turbines
As a specific example of someone who did bad things through delusion I'll cite Sarah Laurie, who travelled Australia and the world telling people that if they lived near wind turbines they would become ill. Ms Laurie has done enormous harm while she believed she was doing good. She slowed the take-up of clean, renewable wind energy, which was desperately needed, along with other forms of renewable energy, to replace fossil fuels and limit climate change and ocean acidification. The burning of coal kills millions of people world wide each year; wind power save lives by displacing coal-fired power stations.

She made people needlessly anxious, and anxiety can itself lead to illness. She mislead people about the causes of their symptoms, so that they didn't look for relief in the right places.

She was deluding herself and causing other to do the same.

Her error was in not examining her 'evidence' critically. She accepted as evidence those stories that agreed with her preconceptions rather than searching out the evidence that was based in science. She embraced the delusion of Wind Turbine Syndrome.

The only reliable way that mankind has ever found to understand the world is through science. Religion has provided fairy stories in an attempt to explain the world; science uses observation and reason to search for truth.

Some have said that science is just another religion. No! Science is based on sound, verifiable evidence; religion is based on unsubstantiated belief. Science is based on reason, religion is based on blind faith. Science is based on doubting and questioning, religion is based on accepting. Science is based on searching for truth, religion is based on being given falsehoods and being satisfied to accept them. Science and religion have nothing in common.

The deepest roots of science are in philosophy, which, like science, is based on reason, doubt and searching.

Ignorant media

Finally, it must be said that Ms Laurie would not have been able to do anything like so much harm without lazy and sensation-seeking journalists and reporters who were very pleased to publicise her delusion without researching the credibility of her claims. In fact, had Ms Laurie's unsubstantiated and naïve claims been ignored by the media, as they should have been, she would have quite probably soon given up on her campaign.

There are many deluded people in this world; a responsible media would not actively spread their fantasies.

Don't waste your advantages

The human brain is a remarkable instrument; the only thing in the Universe that we know of that is capable of understanding how the Universe works. Science is a remarkable tool; the only tool we know of that is capable of allowing us to understand how the Universe works.

We all use our brains, but if we use tools other than science to try to understand how the world works we can make egregious errors. Don't waste your amazing brain by ignoring science.

Religion and the definition of delusion

The Free (medical) Dictionary starts its definition of delusion with "A delusion is an unshakable belief in something untrue. These irrational beliefs defy normal reasoning, and remain firm even when overwhelming proof is presented to dispute them." It goes on to specifically exclude "culturally or religiously based beliefs that may be seen as untrue by outsiders".

Others, outside of the medical profession, have tried to confine delusion to this narrow definition too, I suspect simply because they do not want to have the term apply to religious beliefs.

Psychiatric delusion and general delusion

The above definition of delusion is suitable for the psychiatric form of delusion, but delusion certainly exists in the wider world too; why should irrational religious "beliefs that defy normal reasoning and remain firm even when overwhelming proof is presented to dispute them" be excluded from being delusional?

I was brought up to believe in god. At the same time I was taught to not be superstitious. It was only later that I realised that religions and superstitions were indistinguishable and that both were delusional.

Religion and superstion might not fit the medical definition of delusion, but they are delusional by any purely rational definition.

Related pages on this site...

Climate change
Divining: another delusion
Greatest crime
Killer coal
Rationality: not a strong trait in humans
Religion and other delusions
Terrorism and coal
An Australian university influenced by a deluded vice-chancellor
Wind energy opposition
Wind power opposition and climate science denial
Wind turbines save lives