In an interview with First We Feast’s Sean Evans, comedian Ricky Gervais answered questions while eating progressively spicier (vegan) wings.
At one point, the discussion turned to atheism. Gervais pointed out that if all the holy books and science books were destroyed, the science books would eventually have the same information again because the scientific method is solid. Religious books, on the other hand, would be very different since fictional stories change with each retelling and there’s no objective way to discern what’s true.
… If you took every holy book, every holy book there’s ever been, every religious book, every bit of spirituality, and hid them or destroyed them… then you took every science book and destroyed that, in a thousand years’ time, those science books would be back exactly the same, because the tests would always turn out the same.
Those religious books would either never exist or they’d be totally different, because there’s no test.
To put it another way, if all the knowledge (or fictional knowledge) in the world disappeared, we’d probably still have religion. But the details — the talking snake, the Ark, the walking on water, the rising from the dead after three days — would almost certainly change. But whoever re-discovered Calculus or gravity or atomic theory or DNA would find the same information we know today. Perhaps at a different pace, and perhaps not in the same order, but the details wouldn’t fundamentally change.
Science always points in the direction of a better theory. No matter where you start, if you follow the process correctly, you’ll eventually work your way to the unknown mountaintop.
That’s not how religion works. It’s not self-correcting. That’s why it’s not always a reliable guidebook to life.
Gervais’ comments echo what he said to Stephen Colbert last week.
(Thanks to Prateek for the link)