Thursday, January 17, 2008

Faith, Science and Cryptozoology

I'm consistently fascinated by extremists on both sides of the "faith vs. science" debate. One side says that there is a deity or deities ultimately in charge of everything, from the movement of galaxies to whether or not my dog gets cancer. The other says that there is a cause for every effect and that once we know (and control) every cause then there will be no effects we do not consciously bring into reality.
The fun thing about this debate is that, stripping aside the methods (prayer or scientific research) or the justifications (in the name of the deity of your choice or "Science!" itself), the debate is really about who gets to tell whom what is right. The religious folk want to be (back) on top of the heap, like when people could be horribly executed for not publicly professing allegiance to the proper faith. The scientific folk want to be the ones who say what is and is not correct, like how the 'elite' decide who may and may not participate in discussions about extraterrestrial life. All it seems to do is just reiterate that humans still like rigid hierarchies of "I am above you, but he is above me" as we have since the dawn of time. Negotiation and compromise remain difficult practices because "dammit, I want what I want, and I don't want you to have what you want, and if I can't get what I want, then I'll make damned sure that you don't get what you want, no matter who else may suffer."
Bringing it down a few notches from the eternial mysteries to issues somewhat closer to home, how about cryptozoology? Skeptics say that there is no evidence that Bigfoot or the chupacabra exist. Believers say that the evidence is incomplete. Me, I just point to scientific documentation proving that new species are being discovered every day, and that the coelecanth still swims. For those of you in my audience who don't wish to look up 'coelecanth' in Wikipedia, all you need to know for the purpose of this discussion is that scientific opinion held that these fish had been extinct for millions of years... until they were discovered in South America. Apparently, they taste awful; a challenge for you culinary explorers out there. But my point is that if a fish can survive for millions of years (and we KNOW that sharks and cocroaches have changed not a whit for at least that long), who's to say that something else has not?

No comments: