Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ humility

The “new” Jesus and Mo strip, “pride2,” is actually from 2008, since the artist is on vacation. It’s about a competition between faiths, but it could also be a metaphor about the competition between science and religion to understand the Universe.

“Humility” is, of course, a word much beloved by apologists—the supposed opposite of arrogant “scientism.” If only we scientists were more humble!!  But in fact that gets it precisely backwards. Scientific papers are loaded to the gunwales with caveats, doubts, and reservations, for we know we might be wrong, and it often behooves us—as it did Darwin—to point out the problems with our theories or results before others do. Remember that a chapter in Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is called “Difficulties On Theory,” in which Darwin raises possible objections to his ideas.

In contrast, theology rarely does any such thing. “Difficulties On Theory” for theology would be, for instance, “Why does God allow animals to suffer and little children to die?” If we had no answer for that type of question in science, like “Why are some fossil plant species, like Glossopteris, found in disconnected places like South America, India, southern Africa, Antarctica, and Australia?”, we’d have to start questioning our theory—or trying to find answers. (The answer we found: continental drift.) In contrast, theology, confronted with The Problem of Undeserved Evil, either makes up foolish answers or claims that the mind of God is unfathomable. There is no way to check its claims or arguments.

Now which discipline—science or theology—is humbler?



  1. GBJames
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    I very humbly sub…

    • rickflick
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      There, there now. Submit like a proud scientist.

  2. J. Quinton
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Humility in science is like all of the extra redundancy in your gear when you go rock climbing.

    Humility in religion is like buying an ostentatious yacht to show the world how rich you are.

    Science humility: Assuming you’re fallible and attempting to build safeguards.

    Religion humility: Virtue signaling.

  3. Sastra
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    A lot of this spiritual “humility” I think is based on the idea that one submits to God by renouncing reason, which is prideful. That is, it’s prideful and self-seeking whenever it touches on atheism. Reason which leads one towards God (or just doesn’t lead away from it) is a humble reflection of God’s rational nature.

    Unless the theist believes in a God which is the antithesis of reason — one that’s grounded in mystical intuitions. Then humility is expressed in the refusal to think too hard.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      There’s actually an excellent book entitled “The Arrogance of Faith” focused mainly on the extensive use of Christianity to rationalize slavery in the ante-bellum period of the USA. Much more extensive than most Americans realize or are willing to acknowledge.
      Author: Forrest Wood (sic)

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    The trick in humility is to pay attention to the actions and not the words. How much humility do you see in the tax free zone of the church while constantly begging for your money. Who else but the religious could say they find atheists not true and keep a straight face. How many scientists are out there killing people and saying they are the science of peace & love.

    Nobody can talk humility like religion except maybe Donald Trump.

  5. Mesenchymal
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Some people killed some other people.

    I like the hidden joke of the Guardian not being racist and worrying about these people’s motivations or any ideology that links these people to other recent murders.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    … or claims that the mind of God is unfathomable.</blockquote.

    Odd that those same humble theologians will then turn around and claim to know precisely which days of the year the Lord insists His vassals fast, which sex acts He's deemed verboten.

  7. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    The reason religionists wish that scientists were more humble is because they feel humbled.

    The answer we found: continental drift.

    I am theoretical splitter from physicist habit, so I would say that Wegener’s theory with its centrifugal and/or precession mechanisms were rejected. The lumpers claim “continental drift” – the observation – was subsumed into plate tectonics though. [ ]

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      You choose, I’ll get the opener.

  8. rickflick
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    “Some people killed some other people.”

    The Voldemort effect. Don’t name the source of the problem. It takes a bit of arrogance to kill in the name of a fable.

  9. Kevin
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    “Why does God allow animals to suffer and little children to die?” Because there is no God or It doesn’t give a s**t. But this makes God equivalent to vast majority of the universe…empty, dead, uncaring space. Might be teeming with virtual particles, but none of them give a s**t either.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Good point, Kevin.

      BTW, I know Jerry doesn’t like us to spell out certain words, like d*g and bl*g and tw*tt*r, but I didn’t think that extended to good, old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon epithets. I hope not, anyway, since I crossed that line a long time ago. 🙂

      • Kevin
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        I think society is passed the point where the seven dirty words are universally offensive. It’s my habit only to self-censor. A healthy dose of Hitchens and Carlin will always help cure one who is timid. They were true orators and could genuinely convey intelligence poetically and justly littered with profanity in the most meaningful manner.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted July 27, 2016 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

          Lenny Bruce done his part, too.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Because there is no God or It doesn’t give a s**t.

      You missed the “God is a sadistic psychopath” option. but don’t worry, Sithrak won’t punish you for that slight denigration of his even handedness. You’ll still have an eternity of unimaginable torment, but that’s because you exist, not because of anything you actually did or thought.

      • Kevin
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        But I am covered. I worship Dionysus nightly. He’s got my back (and my liver).

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted July 27, 2016 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

          You don’t have a monkey on your back? Or is Dionysus being a bit of a monkey?

  10. Heather Hastie
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    It’s more arrogant to believe in a god than not imo. Whenever something good happens to you when you’re a believer, you quietly or openly thank your god. At the same time you cannot help but notice that most of the world doesn’t have much of what you do. Just living in a first world English-speaking country is a huge advantage in life. Therefore all the good stuff right down to arranging where you were born is the result of a god paying special attention to you because you deserve special attention. If that’s not arrogance I don’t know what is.

    The whole Rapture thing was invented by the arrogance of the US Evangelical Christians that they don’t deserve to suffer like everyone else. They’ll be taken up to heaven while everyone else suffers because they’re better than the rest of us. Again, it’s just plain entitlement mentality which again is the charge they level against everyone else.

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