I’ve always been puzzled by the division of people into a group on the right and another on the left; This division was initially based on the French house of assembly where those to the right of the speaker or president, or King were the ruling government, and those to the left, the opposition in all its variety; The British parliament or House of Commons is similarly organised, government to the right of the speaker, and opposition to the left. Today its use produces confusion since those on the left, usually dominated by the view of totalitarian control of the people by government and state, are balanced by the right who also often adopt totalitarian policies no less extreme than their counterparts on the left, each labelling the other as extreme. Yet people remain divided into those who emphasise state control of human behaviour, and those who emphasise individual responsibility and freedom to act or non-state controlled behaviour.
However It’s when we describe the divisions of people on the basis of obeisance to authority that matters become clearer. Humanity can be thus initially divided into those who act on the basis of one or other authorities, whether ideological or theological, (conceptually there can’t be any others since even theology has to be a subset of ideology), and those who don’t. Expressing it even more simply is that those who act in response to an authority tend to see what they believe, which logically then leaves the rest as those who don’t, and who then believe what they see. The first group is thus conditioned to see only what they have been inculcated with, and to be trained to react to contradiction of their beliefs by removing those contradictions by coercion and force because they have no option within their belief system to do anything else, that is to change their minds. And the means by which individuals are retained in authoritarian belief systems is by fear; of death in the here and now, or the slightly more sophisticated version of death in a metaphysical future; fear of death whether physical or metaphysical. Adherence to a religion is thus based on fear and not on freedom.
People can thus be divided into two groups – the religious and irreligious or areligious, the former acting in deference to their authority that pro and prescribes their behaviour, and the latter those who don’t. However the last group also acts, but as all human action is also wilfully directed, (because what distinguishes the human from the animal is the human’s ability to abstain from instinctive behaviour), this group then acts on the basis of their own understanding of the situation in which action is required. That is the areligious adapt their actions to circumstances in the here and now, rather than assessing their behaviour in terms of whether it is permitted by their authority.
(This reminds me of an interesting interlocution some decades ago when I proposed a particular geological research project to a mining company whose chief scientist, reacting most politely, mentioned that they were not allowed to think along the lines of what I was proposing. That comment stunned me somewhat as that company actually trained me as a geologist in the first place. In any case that experience also confirmed other observations that this particular company had been “taken over” by the HR set and political correctness, a fate which seems to have affected all of academia).
The activity of the religious is thus predictable and essentially robotic since human action in this case is predetermined by rules and laws as set out by an authority, whether theological or ideological. It is also positivist in that any physical novelty has to be described in terms of what is known and permitted, which is invariably codified into some authoritarian book or scripture or tradition, whether oral or written.
In contrast the activity of the irreligious is by definition unpredictable, since their decisions to act are not based on rigid adherence to authority, but on the contingencies of the situation itself, best summarised by the English economist John Maynard Keynes’ aphorism that “If the facts change, he, Keynes, changes his mind; what do you do, Sir”. The religious cannot change their minds otherwise their belief(s) becomes nonsensical, but the irreligious, because they have no entrenched beliefs, are thus freer to act according to the circumstances.
(I should add we all have beliefs but the difference is that some are willing to change their beliefs, while others not, and since religion was the primary organisational or political system applied by humans to manage large populations based on the economic system of the division of labour, humanity can be divided into the religious and the irreligious/areligious).
The problem the religious face is that when they apply science to their activities, that science has to be compatible with their religious beliefs. The developed world is based primarily on the Judaean-Christian (JC) world-view and a Creation-free cosmology is therefore simply not an option, nor would it be for any other mainstream religion such as Islam or the Hindu religion etc. As for the secular humanists, pseudo creation remains incorporated into their cosmology as the Big Bang event some 14 billions of years ago. Both camps assume an initial creation of an inanimate physical universe to which “life” is a late addition, but both seem to be comfortable with an initial created event. While the conventional “in the beginning 14.8 billion years ago….”, version of Creation is accepted by some 4-5 billion people, the secular humanistic version is in contrast absurd since it assumes a causeless event while at the same time accepting the rest of the liberal cosmology of the religious that remains caused.
Our present day understanding of the Earth’s geological evolution is founded on the liberal creationist world-view involving a quasi mechanistic university cum metaphysical/spiritual domain in which humanity evolved as the pinnacle of creation either by edict or Darwinian evolution which is creationism in slow motion. Hence the biosphere is a recent development on the Earth, and by definition finite. The geological timescale is also engineered to fit this world view but no where, as the engineer/author Richard Milton wrote decades ago, can one find a complete stratigraphic column anywhere on the Earth. Bits here and there, which are concatenated to produce the mainstream geological chronology. As this construction is basically ideological and imaginative, (since there are no physical examples of it anywhere in one location), it remains a fabrication of history as understood by the religious, whether of the mainstream religions or their flip-side secular humanists.
A specific feature of this cosmology, and hence its explanatory power, is that life is regarded as an addition to an inanimate physical universe, and that consciousness itself is additional, or epiphenomenon, of this inanimate universe. This is a logical conclusion if and only if the JC world view is accepted as a useful starting point. It is obvious that any science this culture practices has also to be compatible with its core assumptions, that the biosphere is a very recent development of a much older inanimate geological evolution as described by academia that is, unsurprisingly also lists to the political left, or in this writing, the religious.
The situation is that if the data show this world-view as erroneous, which they do, then expecting academia to change its collective mind in light of changed facts, is not going to happen. It is as the physicist Pauli wrote last century, that scientific progress only happens on the death of the adherents of the prevailing paradigm with the new paradigm entrenching itself by default and not from conversion by reasoning and debate. (In fact it’s a bit of an oxymoron having a debatable scientific fact in the first place).
The problem is that entrenched beliefs are more or less the intellectual analogs of chemical drug addiction or habituation. Thinking is, after all, a biochemical process and as susceptible to habituation as any mind altering drug. One could say that the religious minded are humans afflicted with belief-habituations that they are totally captive to and when challenged resort the only way they know, violently, either intellectually or physically, in order to remove the disturbing influence from their belief bounded mental cage.
As I’m areligious I assume, in the scientific sense, the simplest of cosmologies, that the electric/plasma universe always existed and that it’s being continually formed by an underlying spirit or consciousness appearing or unfolding from an implicate order as life-forms into an explicate order compatible with the specific physical environments in which it’s found. Well, that’s what I think now, but I reserve the right to change my mind when the facts change. It means, unlike my chief scientist interlocutor mentioned above, I have no difficulty accepting the tribal aboriginal observation that their ancestors witnessed a geological event conventionally dated to 1,150 millions of years ago. My thinking is not restricted by adherence to a particular ‘scientific’ dogma that my peers are subject to.