Faith and science

I have very few strong memories of my school days, and fewer still that I treasure, but there is one. It was an RE lesson, given by Mr McCoy (who, in the unkind way of schoolchildren, was known as Crater-face, because of his prominent acne scars). The topic was fundamental human rights, and one of them was freedom of belief.

My mum comes from an Irish Catholic family, two of her aunts had become nuns, and my brother and I had been baptised into the faith and had attended church every Sunday and, distressingly, every Christmas morning (back in the days before priests were trendy, and allow children to bring their new toys along to mass with them) since then.

I had even taken confirmation classes, from which my main learning experience was that nuns hate questions about dinosaurs and whether or not they had souls. Thus the large portion of my classes were spent standing in the corridor, thinking about what I’d done. Which was, invariably, asking questions to which Catholic dogma had no answers.

Up until that day nobody had ever said that I had the fundamental right not to believe the priests and the nuns and my mum and her aunts, who were also nuns, and the Bible. I was free to not believe it.

I didn’t go to church the following Sunday. I haven’t been to a Catholic mass since. I preferred science, which was cool with dinosaurs, soulless or otherwise. As XKCD says, science “…doesn’t ask for your faith, it just asks for your eyes.”

I think back on old Crater-face when I hear people saying that trans-rights do not cause a conflict of rights, because he taught me I have a fundamental right of belief – and I choose to have none – whereas those shouting loudest about trans rights demand that I accept their belief that a woman is defined by something otherworldly and spiritual.

It’s a religion, and it’s not even a good one. Plenty of other religions have the decency to offer you some kind of paradise if you adhere to their teachings. This one just offers you hell if you don’t.

Make no mistake that it is a religion. When trans-rights activist claim that the science is on their side makes me cringe, because science isn’t being able to pack together 800 book-learning words into an article. It’s about developing a hypothesis that fits the data. If you’re telling a story about SRY genes or brain-scans or DSDs, while ignoring primary and secondary sex characteristics, then you’re not doing that. You’re doing the very opposite of that, the antithesis of science; you’ve decided what the result is and are dragging in every piece of data you can find that might support it.

Freedom of belief works both ways, of course. Everyone has the right to believe that men can become women, in just the same way that they have the right to believe a piece of wafer becomes the body of Christ, but when they try to extend that right into demanding that others share their faith, that failure to do so is a reason to throw accusations of bigotry, to demand removal from jobs, to define hate crime, then a line has been crossed.

The freedom to believe what you want must entail the freedom to reject the beliefs of others. Mr McCoy taught me that, and anybody whose only counter-argument is to threaten you with a spell standing in the corridor isn’t worth a damn.

“As foretold in the Book of Rexelations!”

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