Honorable mention — High school essay contest: Benjamin Ash
In skepticism I trust
By Benjamin Ash
Science unarguably changes. Theories are forged by a thousand different voices, evolving in the wake of new research. The scientific method demands incessant alteration and perfection because all objective study is based on the same principle: skepticism, the relentless (and often tiresome) acquisition of the truth.
Scripture also unarguably changes, or, rather, the interpretation of scripture changes. However, these interpretations do not work to lift one another to a common truth, but rather compete for mass conversion. Religion must defeat skepticism and demand unquestioning faith from its believers or else it will eventually cease to exist. For this reason, faith is prioritized over scientific thought often because it seems to promise immovable certainty and celestial security.
Further, the interpretation of institutionalized religious doctrine is passed down from very specific, limited pools of people, while scientific theory — though often operated by professionals — is available to have its claims tested by anyone.
For instance, citizen science programs encourage the public’s involvement in experimentation and analysis of experts’ findings. Yes, the priest may disguise his ignorance with a friendly disposition toward skeptical questions, but faith is altogether destroyed by an embrace of the analytical and the critical.
As academia pushes onward, the church must either bow its head and give ground or dig in its heels. It often being the latter. Faith has historically hindered the advance of scientific progress. One famous examination of this conflict occurred in U.S. schools in the early 20th century, when Christian institutions resisted the teaching of evolution and insisted instead upon biblical literalism. Evangelical lawyer William Jennings Bryan defended his absolutism during the 1925 Scopes trial, swearing by geocentrism and the truth of the story of Jonah and the whale, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Faith cannot coexist with skepticism: when one admits that the whale didn’t swallow Jonah, it is a slippery slope to the church’s irrelevance.
Skepticism’s importance rises beyond the realms of science and study to the mechanisms of a fair and equitable society. Operating on intangible, unobservable truths, society regresses to the days of arbitrary medievalism, censorship, and hostile conservatism, quaintly wrapped under the claim of a benevolent God.
I find myself more comfortable in skeptical limbo and would rather continue to admit that I know very little about the world and evolve my own beliefs in the aftermath of scientific discovery, and live in a society that does the same.
My trust does not lie in those who say they are correct, but admit that th
ey may be wrong.
Benjamin, 17, is from Gilbert, Ariz., and attends Arizona State University.
“I am an aspiring writer, having won an honorable mention at the National Scholastic Writing Competition and a second-place award in the National Youth Classical League essay contest,” Benjamin writes. “I aim to be a university history professor, with an undergraduate double major in history and political science and a minor in East Asian studies.”