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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Science Flies You To The Moon. Religion Flies You Into Buildings.

The graphic above has been circulating around the internet for some time now, but I saw it recently and started really thinking of the implications of it and how ridiculous the thought process behind it is.

First of all, it's a logical fallacy. It's an appeal to emotion. It asks you to suspend the thinking part of your brain and just focus on an emotion (anger or sorrow over 9/11) rather than an actual idea. Then it ties the scapegoat, religion, to that emotion.

Second, it's too simplistic. It equates "science" with space travel, and "religion" with 9/11. It completely ignores all the terrible things science has done (Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Napalm, Chem Warfare, the invention of firearms.) Even the automobile kills more than what this graphic calls "religion". In the United States alone, 35,000 to 40,000 people are killed by automotive accidents every year. That means that since 9/11, cars have killed about 385,000 people. Thank you, Science.

In addition, it ignores the good done by religion. The LDS church alone, in 2008, provided aid to 3.3 million people in 122 countries, and since 1985 help has been given to 23 million people in 163 nations. From 1985 - 2009, $327.6 million in cash and $884.6 million in commodities of aid was given throughout 178 countries. These services include, Emergency response, wheelchair distribution, The Clean Water Service, the Neonatal Resuscitation Program, and the Vision Treatment Training program.

2011 was also a big year for LDS disaster relief and humanitarian aid.

In addition to these efforts, the LDS Church also has over 300 job development and placement centers around the world. In 2001, the LDS Church began the Perpetual Education Fund which provides money to cover tuition and other school expenses to people in developing nations. As of 2007, tens of thousands of individuals had been given assistance. So far this program has operated primarily in South America and Oceana. The LDS Church has also begun producing a nutrition-rich porridge named Atmit to help during acute famines. The LDS Church Welfare program owns farms, ranches, canneries, and other food producing facilities to provide temporary food relief for families and individuals. LDS Humanitarian Services frequently works with other charities and NGOs such as the Red Cross, Catholic charities and even various Islamic charities for which the LDS Church has produced halaal food.

Clearly, there's more to consider than aviation.

Third, even if we were to equate "science" with spaceflight and "religion" with commercial airline disasters, then Science's record still wouldn't be too good compared to Religion.

For example, there about 15 million commercial flights annually, worldwide. That means that since 9/11, there have been about 165,000,000 flights. How many of these has religion flown into buildings? Four. Two into the WTC, one into the Pentagon, and I'm counting the failed attempt that ended up in a Pennsylvania field.

That means that your odds of having "religion" fly your plane into a building is 0.000000024%.

"Science" has flown 291 manned spaceflights since 1961. As of November 2004, 439 individuals had flown on spaceflights, and 22 astronauts had died.

That means that your odds of having "science" kill you and your entire crew is about 5%.

That means that "science" is 208,333,333.33 times more likely to blow you up in the air than "religion."

"One of these days, Alice! One of these days!
 BANG! Straight to the moon!!"
 - Ralph Kramden on Space Travel

And that's not counting non-astronaut fatalities during spaceflights. 305 civilians have been killed as the result of spaceflight accidents, including up to 100 dead in Xichang, China, where the Intelsat 708 Satellite, a Long March rocket, veered off course immediately after launch, crashing into a nearby village only 22 seconds later, destroying 80 houses.

So even if religion flies you into buildings, science flies you into whole villages.

We've killed 327 people to get 439 into space. That means that every time a shuttle launches, there's a 74% chance that someone will die for each crew member on board.

Some may be thinking, that's only true because you're looking at percentages, not death tolls. 9/11 killed more than 3,000 people, spaceflight has only killed 327.

That may be true, but I still don't think you want to take that route, because as pointed out earlier, science is responsible for a lot more than our few trips to the moon. But even if we were confined to aviation, we could also say that shoddy engineering, maintenance and design (Mechanical Failure) has killed more in commercial airliners than religion.

According to ACRO, between 1999 and 2010, there were about 2,000 airplane accidents, resulting in around  15,000 deaths.

But look on the bright side,
at least they're making money off you.


Tams said...

Extremely valid points.
I disagree with the motto of the shirt, but I believe it is all product of human nature.
People have to have something to blame and that blame shifts dependent upon the situation at hand.
I've never seen the photo before and it saddens me that I have now. I did enjoy reading your points of view and agree.

Cristofer Urlaub said...

Thank you for commenting! I agree that people just need something to blame. It's part of finding closure, but we should be careful that we place the blame where it lies.

Sure, religion may have been a factor in 9/11, but there were dozens of factors. To say that it was "religion" that flew those planes into the towers is just absurd.

jenheadjen said...

I wasn't that thrilled to fly before, and the last stat you shared makes me even more reluctant. But wait... you already gave the car accident statistic. Not leaving the house now. (Please don't share any stats on indoor air pollution. j/k)

Cristofer Urlaub said...

Heh, yeah. Keep in mind though that that's 2,000 airplane accidents out of almost 200 million. You would have to fly every day for almost 200 years before you could expect an accident.

Sidney said...

I just found your site. I love your thinking.

Cristofer Urlaub said...

Thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

You make a great point; the slogan should specify "fundamentalist religions" as this specifies extremists that reject rationality.

Christian Provstgaard said...

Thank you from Denmark for some very valid and very good points.

You could add that probably no human project has ever been more soaked in Christanity than the Apollo-project:
JFK asking for Gods blessing in his initial project declaration
The first-orbiters in Apollo 8 reading the book of genesis (catch it on tube)
Buzz Aldrin taking the communion - becomming one with Christ on the moon - just prior to Neils first steps.
And several more points could be made to the case - not forget the millions and millions of prayers for the project from christians around the world.

Flying to the moon sure was a true joint-venture between Science and Christianity!

Cristofer Urlaub said...

Very good point. Thank you very much for your comment!

Anonymous said...

Religion has a pretty high body count that you seem to be ignoring, I would bet that religion has been responsible for more deaths throughout our short time on this planet than science. For example the vaccine for Malaria, cholesterol lowering drugs that sort of thing all save innumerable lives while religion has been used and continues to be used as the validation of genocides all over the world. Religious warriors use the tools of science as implements of war to kill each other in the name of their fictitious gods...you need a better argument that is a little fuller.

Cristofer Urlaub said...

That may be true, but that doesn't make the graphic make any more sense. The point of this post is just that the graphic doesn't make sense.

Also, the same can be said about science. For example, humanitarian efforts and charitable donations "that sort of thing all save innumerable lives while [science] has been used and continues to be used as the validation of genocides all over the world."

Anyway, I believe I admitted above that the stats were incomplete (3rd paragraph until "Clearly, there's more to consider than aviation." Everything after that if simply hypothetical, as indicated by the phrase "even if we were" at the beginning of the next paragraph).

Please read more carefully. Thanks for commenting, though.

Anonymous said...

I think you miss the point of the shirt. Religion is based on ignorance and as such can be used to justify pretty much anything. It should therefore be of little surprise that some people in the name of religion fly into buildings with the intent to kill as many people as possible. Science on the other hand is based on shared and verifiable knowledge that humanity can use to achieve great things such as landing on the moon. That science can be misused is a given, but the misuse is never in the name of science. Religion, with its faith based epistemology however almost guarantees that the most vile of acts will be done in its name. That's what the shirt is saying. Religion is superstition, superstition is ignorance, ignorance kills.

Cristofer Urlaub said...

I don't think that's the point of the shirt. I think the point of the shirt is to push a certain perspective on the viewer of it, as described above. It's propaganda. But hey, you're welcome to your interpretation.

I also don't think the "religion" is based on ignorance. Certainly, certain religions are, but not religion as a whole. For example, I joined the denomination I did specifically because they never tried to feed me that tripe about how "some things we are just not meant to understand." Education and the eternal quest for knowledge are vitally important. I'm sure I'm not alone. I'm sure there are many denominations that encourage their members to learn and gain as much knowledge as possible. I agree, though, that are some pretty ridiculous theists who seem to view stubborn ignorance as a badge of honor.

I also agree that science is based on shared and verifiable knowledge that humanity can use to achieve great things, but that's the best case scenario. You're taking the worst of religion and the best of science in order to show that science is superior. Your comparison shows your bias. If you do that, you can make anything seem better or worse than anything else. For example, I can say that religion is based on unconditional love for your neighbor, humanitarianism and the eternal search for knowledge and truth, no mater where it leads you. Science on the other hand is based on finding bigger, better ways for people to kill each other. See how easy that is? You can't just compare the worst of one thing to the best of another and call it fair, or even objective.

I think you do understand this, because you admit that science has also been misused, but you say that the tragedies which science has caused are somehow better because they were not in the name of science. In response to this, I invite you to look into eugenics. Eugenics was considered a legitamate science and was widely popular in the early 1900s. Eugenics was a widely accepted scientific idea, but was it not based on ignorance? And did that ignorance not kill many, many people?

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