If, like me, you are a mortal human being living at this point in history, you face an important decision: science or religion? This is perhaps the most fundamental choice of modern life, affecting every aspect of your daily existence, from the smell of your house to whether you would ever buy a book with Chicken Soup in the title.
And yet, few people have looked at this decision from a practical angle. Most prefer instead to focus on such ephemera as evidence versus faith, or the likelihood of everlasting life.
When you're looking to buy a car stereo -- a device beloved of religious folk and rationalists alike -- do you get into long musings on the nature of stereoness, or consider whether you'll be able to plug your iPod into it after you're dead? No, of course you do not. You turn to the most powerful epistemological tool available: the checklist.
Here, then, is a checklist to help you decide between the warm embrace of heartfelt faith or the cool reassurance of the scientific method.
Religion has brought us the Easter ham and the Passover brisket. When religious people gather, they bring Pyrex dishes full of handmade dishes invented back when the term fat-free didn't exist and the closest equivalent word was bland. Sure, many of these dishes rely a little too heavily on canned green beans and Coca-Cola as ingredients, but their power as comfort food cannot be denied. When scientific people get together at staff meetings and symposia, they get cold sandwiches catered by companies with a strange and dispirited definition of French roll. Advantage: religion.
Religion gave us Bach, gospel and rock 'n' roll. (Hey, Satan is part of religion.) Science gave us Switched-On Bach, Kraftwerk and house music. Clearly religion is fastest out of the gate here. However, religion's recent contributions to music have been much more dubious, and most can be characterized as sitting comfortably in a Venn diagram hammock between treacle and tripe. Plus, science provided the technology that allows you to actually listen to music without having to dress up nice first. Tie.
Science, taken as a whole, is remarkably silent on the question of whom you should sleep with, when you should sleep with them and how guilty you should feel afterward. I've heard it said that the best sex comes from abstaining completely until you commit to doing it with just one person until you die and probably after that too. How do they know? On the other hand, how do I know? It seems to me it's like saying, "Spaghetti is the best food in the universe, provided you eat nothing but spaghetti." At any rate, science has no problem with awkward wedding-night ignorance if that's what you're into. Just stick it on the pile with the rest of the fetishes. Advantage: science.