Saturday, May 19, 2012

Religion and Science

I get three daily quotations via my iGoogle web page.  One quotation last week caused me to stop, re-read it, and copy it for further evaluation:

“Acceptance without proof is the fundamental characteristic of Western religion, rejection without proof is the fundamental characteristic of Western science.”  -Gary Zukav

If we accept this statement as true, and then apply it to his own writings, then “Western religious people” will accept his precepts and “Western scientists” will reject what he says, for his writings are full of assertions without proof.

The Wikipedia article featuring him ( includes the following excerpts describing his Teachings:

Zukav introduces . . . . He asserts . . . . which he defines . . . . He further asserts . . . . According to Zukav, . . . . which he describes as . . . . He asserts . . . . Zukav distinguishes . . . . He calls this . . . . Zukav posits . . . .”

It is good for him that people are not generally consistent.  Both religious people and scientific people like his books, putting his books on the NY Times bestsellers list multiple times.

If you are familiar with analyzing logical fallacies, you will find two glaring examples of fallacies in the iGoogle quotation.  The first fallacy is called “Straw Man.”

He posits that “Western religion” has, as a fundamental characteristic, something for which there is no evidence in any religious writings.  (But I have already pointed out that assertion without evidence, i.e., asservation, is his strong point.)  It would seem to me that, if something were a fundamental characteristic of a religion, there would be some attestation to it in the religious literature.

The other fallacy is called “Composition (or Part for the Whole).”

Suppose Zukav has met one person identified as a Western religious person and that person accepted things without proof.  Then Zukav could have made this statement, supported by evidence, but with the Composition Fallacy.  Picking out one nut from a bucket of small parts does not mean that the whole bucket is full of nuts.  There may be many bolts, washers, screws,  nails and a few nuts.

His quotation is also ambiguous.  What is “Western religion” or “Western science?”  Western religion has a link in Wikipedia (, but no citations.  “Western Christianity,” on the other hand is well defined. (

If Zukav was parodying Western Christianity, then he is caught in a contradiction.  A cursory reading of the New Testament, the defining document of Christianity, reveals that much of the content is the presenting of evidence to support belief claims.  Much of the Gospel writings are a presentation of the evidence that proves that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.  All claims of individuals’ speaking on behalf of God are supported by proofs that the person qualifies as a Prophet, because he performed wonders or accurately foretold the future.  There are no claims or requests to accept ideas without evidence.  The evidence documented in the Bible (i.e., the presentation of the fundamental characteristics of Christianity) contradicts Zukav’s quotation.  Like Wikipedia’s characterization of his teaching demonstrates, he asserts it, i.e., he makes it all up.

It is a cute quotation, but you can now forget it.

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