A car analogy for the science vs church "debate"While I was driving to work today, I came up with an interesting metaphor that I think explains why rational scientific types get so frustrated with religious fundamentalists:
Imagine you and I are trying to fix a car. It won't start. You think that it might be a faulty fuel pump. I say, "Okay, let's test the fuel pump."
So I test the fuel pump, and it works fine. No problems whatsoever. Whatever is keeping the car from starting, it is most definitely NOT the fuel pump.
But you either weren't looking, or weren't paying attention, when I checked the fuel pump, and so you refuse to accept that it's not the problem. You steadfastly cling to your belief that the fault lies with the fuel pump, and you refuse to acknowledge that anything else might be wrong. You write a book documenting a "history" of how the fuel pump came to be faulty, and why the only way to get the car to run is to pay close attention to the fuel pump.
While you're busy doing this, I'm checking out the rest of the car. I check the fuses, test the battery, test the ignition system. One by one I rule out possible causes for the car not starting. When I get to the ignition system, I find something that might be a problem, but it will take me a while longer to find the actual problem. But given enough time, I'll get the car going.
I tell you, "Hey, stop mucking around with the fuel pump. I already checked it. It's fine. Come here; there's something in the ignition system I want to show you."
"No," you tell me. "The problem is the fuel pump. It has always been the fuel pump. I have faith."
Now I'm annoyed. "Leave the damn fuel pump alone! I tested it; it's not the problem. I don't know what the problem is yet, but I have a pretty good idea it's somewhere in the ignition sytstem."
"No," you insist. "I have every right to believe that the fuel pump is faulty." And you DO have that right. But that line of thinking isn't going to get the car fixed.
Time passes, and my followers keep poking around the ignition system, get a tiny spark, get the car to almost start, but not quite... and your followers, still clinging to the notion that the fuel pump is to blame, kill some of my followers for even looking at the ignition system. But I persist, and we chip away at the problem, little by little, making improvements to the rest of the car as we go along.
Then, all of a sudden, you challenge me for the title to the car. You're going to service it, you tell me, based solely on the one book you wrote all those years ago, which discusses nothing but the fuel pump. In doing this, you are willing to throw out volumes of text that I have written, explaining in exacting detail every part of the car from the differential to the hood ornament. Not all of it is 100% correct, but we're still working on it, and with every revision, it gets a little better.
And we've almost got the damn car running, and you want to throw out all that work and make us go back to poking around the fuel pump? And you expect us to respect you for it?
Not bloody likely. Get out of my way and let me fix the fucking car.
I have places to go.