Friday, February 24, 2012

TEDx talk: When Evidence is Powerless...

by Salman Hameed

Last month I had a chance to give a talk as part of TEDx Pioneer Valley program: How Learning Happens. It was actually a fantastic experience and had a chance to sit through some fascinating talks and interact with some very interesting people. I will be posting some other talks in the coming days. In the mean time, here is the video of my talk When Evidence is Powerless... (about 19 minutes). Here is a brief description:
Millions of individuals in the United States believe in UFOs and ghosts; yet we know that there is no credible evidence for any visitation from outer space or for dead souls hanging out in abandoned houses. In contrast, there is now overwhelming evidence that humans and other species on the planet have evolved over the past 4.5 billion years; yet 40 percent of Americans reject evolution. It seems that for many there is no connection between belief and evidence. If evidence is powerless, what are some other factors that shape their beliefs, and what are the implications for science education?


9 comments:

AnotherAnonymous said...

Excellent presentation Salman!

Billions of individuals worldwide believe in religion. Yet there is no credible evidence for that either. The concept of an afterlife also makes this life less valuable.

While religion may never disappear, I hope religions will evolve so that religious people are more understanding and accepting of the non-religious people. They also need to stop forcing their religion on their children.

Seeing the Islamic world the way it is right now is so disheartening. Who knew that a 7th century man could influence 1.6 billion people around the world today and brainwash them with his ideology.

Salman Hameed said...

Thanks Another Anonymous. However, I would also point out that in most instances religion is not about evidence or even a search for evidence. And that is okay. The point of my talk was to identify places where this can be a problem, and yet to appreciate other places where evidence plays no role.

As for your point about tolerance for the non-religious, of course, that should happen and has happened in many instances. Remember, Islam is also practiced many different ways and has always been practiced in many different ways. Some strands have been more tolerant. But it is also true that a globalized world is now demanding more space for a personal religion (or lack thereof). I think the evolution towards that space is inevitable - but invariably with some bumps.

AnotherAnonymous said...

Of course there is tolerance in secular countries such as in USA but not as much in the Islamic countries like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia where they have insane blasphemy laws and death penalty for simply insulting the Prophet Muhammad. I know my relatives would kill me if I go back to Pakistan simply because they know I'm not Muslim anymore.

I believe that parents should raise their children to think for themselves, rather than forcing their children to follow their own religion or indoctrinating them from an early age. They should allow their children to make up their own minds on religion once they're an adult and have done their own research.

PS We can't afford to have aliens abduct you Salman! Actually, well...they can have you, but only as long as they come in peace and release you afterwards and allow you to take photos and videos while chilling with them.

Anonymous said...

@AnotherAnonymous:
I am afraid bro you have quite an extremist outlook against religion. Salman's approach is more subtle and full of reason.
You seem to lack the basic knowledge on religion that explains your naive outlook. As for example you mentioned:
"The concept of an afterlife also makes this life less valuable."
In fact it is exactly the other way round. According to Islamic concept of afterlife, its outcome entirely depends on this life itself. This concept makes life more valuable and purposeful. And no, the religion does not stop you from studying and observing the universe...in fact, more verses are related to the inquiry into nature and universe than for the salat (namaz). This is contrary to the notion forwarded by individuals who portray themselves as former practicing Muslim yet expose their naivity about the religion when they talk too much. I think your knowledge of Quran and Islam are mostly based upon presupposed aka brainwashed ideas.

Anonymous said...

Great presentation.

AnotherAnonymous said...

@Anonymous My knowledge of Islam comes directly from Quran and Hadith and years of going to my local Mosque in USA. I won't argue with you because I would of said similar things if I were still a Muslim. It's not easy to criticize your religion without being biased and seeing the flaws. I don't mind the Islam Salman's following at all. Peace.

Anonymous said...

@AnotherAnonymous:
I don't mean to start an argument here on religion too as I admit I have meager knowledge on this subject. I respect your views on religion as long as there is an element of respect in it too. I never had studied Quran with translation myself and I am still not a properly practicing muslim by any definition. I only started reading Quran with translation after visiting Ali Sina's website only to scrutinize his views, and I found how much half-truths and lies were being propagated by the group of people writing under that alias. And thanks for mentioning the mosques and clerics in USA. There was a good reason for me to stop going to mosques in UK (where I was residing for a long time before moving to Aus). Most of these are Saudi-funded wahhabi institutions busy in spreading their most twisted and worst interpretations of Islam.

N.H. said...

Congratulations on the TEDx talk!

Unknown said...

Salman, i totally agree with the approach. Years later i can still recall how you showed me to question the answers. Many thanks indeed!