Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Intolerance Isn't Awesome.

Some of you might have seen posts I share from the page "Science is Awesome" on Facebook.  Many of their posts are entertaining and interesting.

Like the best protest sign anywhere, ever.

However, there is an awful tendency on their posts for people to intelligence-shame and mock Christians and religious people in general.  As many of you have probably realized if you read through previous blog entries, including one posted earlier this year about the TV show Bones, I have no problem with people who choose not to believe in God.  Over the years, I have developed an intensely personal and life-and-love-affirming interpretation of the Bible, but I don't mind if an individual has a different interpretation or even has decided, "Hey, I don't think I like the Bible much."  I don't take it as an affront if someone is a non-believer or believer in a different faith.

What I do take issue with is a page called "Science is Awesome " actively encouraging knee-jerk reactions and judgment over rational, calm scientific debate.  People spout statistics* without citing sources or get their information from a single source and don't acknowledge that bias.  They don't distinguish between opinion and fact.  (Some of them would probably just have to pipe up here and go "Yes, you're right!  The religious crazy people do those things!"... Sure, some do.  But I'm seeing it from both sides, and actually far, far more on this page from the people who claim to despise religion's "aversion to science.")  Some are compelled to bring up religion on completely innocuous pictures of cakes, animals, trees, you name it.

"Speaking of cookies, do you know how cheap eggs are at Costco?  
They jack up the prices at groceries.  It's the economy.  It's all (president)'s fault."

Don't be That Guy ^.

Some of you might not know that starting a blog was completely out of character for me.  Sharing my thoughts had never before been one of my aspirations.  In the past, I've actually wanted to be devoid of opinions so that I never had to disagree with anyone, ever.  I was a serial people-pleaser.  When I thought that someone was offended by something I said or did, I felt anxious and guilty.  But while reading through some of the less snarky and more reasonable posts on "Science is Awesome," I had a revelation:

I love science, and I love Jesus.  I majored in psychology (some debate whether it is a "hard" or "soft" science, but no one will ever convince me that physiological psych wasn't a "hard" science course), minored in chemistry, and fell in love with a math and physics nerd.  My beliefs and opinions about science and religion have worth and merit.  They've been carefully considered and thought through.  I don't have to care what other people think of them.  If other people don't agree with them, 


But people need to realize that you can be accepting of others' opinions and values while holding your own.  Being tolerant doesn't mean being wishy-washy and without convictions.  Just as you don't have to meet everyone's definition of physical perfection, you don't have to meet everyone's definition of emotional and/or intellectual perfection.  

Would I love to get along with everyone?  Of course.  Is that possible?  Of course not.  That doesn't mean I won't try my darndest to be kind and respectful, but, well,

I happen to think that disagreeing without backing it up is unscientific.  I believe that name calling and intolerance clouds judgment and inhibits quality interactions and so has no place in a supposedly scientific community.**  Besides being rude, it accomplishes nothing.  Let's do some observational research (I imagine a "true" experiment would reach the same conclusions, but observation is what we have to work with): how many times have you seen someone change his/her thought process or behavior because another person called him/her an ignorant [insert curse word here]? If a comment was made without thinking, perhaps, but otherwise, most likely never.  I'm not saying don't bother thinking people can change.  I am suggesting that there might be a better way to present an argument than with the subtlety, tact, and pleasantness of a foghorn.

Science is indeed awesome.  Calling entire groups of people dumb?  Treating science like an exclusive club?  Alienating people from a fascinating discipline by treating other human beings who don't agree with everything you believe like dirt?

Not awesome.

*Often truly worse than lies and d*** lies.
**I do think that there are some things that it is understandable to be upset about without "backing up" an opinion, of course.  Murder, rape, lying, physical and emotional abuse, sexism, racism, ableism, bigotry... I don't think being horrified by those is wrong.  I don't think calling someone out on those is wrong.  Fighting hate with hate, though, is still unlikely to help.


  1. Loved this post. I am an athiest, and I absolutely love science, and I cannot stand when scientists/athiests slight religion in such a petty fashion. I think there is a place for criticism of religion of course, but that's completely different than blatantly offensive images, quotes and statistics from questionable sources, that only apply to a small percentage of religious peoples. Good on you for talking about it :) People often also forget that there's a place for scientific criticism as well, and that scientists aren't infallible beings capable of no wrong (even if the scientific method is pretty darn sweet).

    1. Agreed! I have absolutely no problems when people discuss why they aren't religious or why they think something is wrong in a calm, rational manner. But I'm not a fan of posting things that shame religious people, and this page did a lot of "intelligence shaming." I don't actually agree with a lot of the groups they would target and might even have enjoyed discussion about some of it, but the actual discussions were always mean-spirited and unnecessary. It felt almost like the entire page was set up to troll people.