I have always been fascinated by science. I was introduced to it by my penchant for reading. My nanay kept lying around the house some college papers that I was able to read --- Greek mythology, geology, paleontology, and astronomy and astrophysics. I also loved to read her college physics book, and an old popular science magazine. In fact, I was in a hurry to understand how the physics math worked but there was no book in the house on at least algebra and trigonometry. All of that before I turned 12 or 13. Of course, I did not learn advanced math to had understood much of the physics but I understood that it was supported by math. And I knew math was reliable because I loved math too. I contented myself with the color pictures, diagrams, and the descriptions, and skipped the math with letters and symbols (instead of just numbers). I also loved to read science journals. I noticed that they never mention anything about prayers in explaining how things work. So somehow, I knew or thought I knew that prayers just don't work or at least unreliable. I even tried praying to the devil to experiment. :) Eventually I stopped believing there is ever a devil, just as there is no Santa.
I grew up in the province in Laguna. We had an old man neighbour, a hilot, who would always tell enkanto stories that I really enjoyed since I was six til eight or nine when I grew tired of it. Often times, I'd ask my mother if such stories were true and she'd say it's just myths. My nanay is also a non-believer in the mystical. I know this for sure and have seen her show it many times. Both my parents don't go to church but my sister and brothers do. My parents is what they call themselves KBL or kasal, binyag, libing. Nanay doesn't believe in usog (balis as it's called where I grew up in), for example. She doesn't believe in aswangs or kapres and all of those stuffs my summer nights of pangangapitbahay were made of. It had a great influence in my thinking as a child. For her, all things can be explained without resorting to superstition or what is beyond nature - the supernatural. Of course people can argue that our senses may not be enough to discover the existence of non-material entities. But as far as I am concerned, if it is not supported by evidence or the claim violates natural law, I will not believe existential claims. I also began to suspect that there were no American kapre or a British manananggal, as well as Filipino banshees. I thought mystical truths must also have some universality in them first to be acceptable.
In high school, my science teacher (I had only one science teacher until my senior year) was mediocre. Imagine someone with more than a decade of teaching experience in chemistry, using chalks for counterweight of a platform balance! Duh, what for are those metals with engraving on them telling us how much matter they contained? I wondered how she managed to continue doing that year after year after year. I wondered how un-questioning, un-critical, un-thinking all of her previous students had been! Were they all grade conscious? Luckily, I had some common sense in me and a little science as well. So I answered my experiment paper with a strong "philosophical" essay. I expounded on the virtue and wisdom of using the provided for counterweights and the evil of using chalks. I was rewarded handsomely, a good investment I'd say. ROI was only a year. I got grades only I could ever be proud of. I was proud of it as soon as I received it. Because of it, I never trusted my teachers again, so did my classmates. I told myself, I'd manage myself just like before. I needed to verify by myself what they were talking about if it really bothered me, or if I thought it mattered at all.
I attended a Catholic high school so that religion was a yearly and year-round boredom. My first day of school, we were forced to buy an illustrated bible at an exorbitant price. The pictures were not really cool and I thought they were drawn by religion teachers. I grew up in Paete and lots of kids there can draw better. I was told that god is benevolent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. I don't know how they managed to ram that big concept down our throat while good god himself did nothing to stop famine in Africa, a war engulfing the Middle East and elsewhere children suffer; all these however hard Jimmy Swaggart prayed. I don't know now how I managed to not always ask my usual pilosopo questions in the religion classes. Maybe I got tired of being excommunicated from the class for one hour. My religion teachers were what you would call marginal, one of them could not even spell Pentateuch (tama ba?) correctly and kept mistaking it with Antioch (<---how about this one?). Sila yung isinusuka ng seminaryo. Bro. Noli is now a baranggay captain. Good for him, he found his real calling. If science teachers can teach wrong science which is supposed to be based on observable facts or demonstrable, repetitive, and universal concepts, but not know they taught wrong, how much more if the subject does not admit evidence as the basis of truth? How much wrong could I be forced to believe or accept without question? One way to find out was to read the only evidence they rely on, the Catholic bible. I loved reading the bible. My favourite is the King James version. It's like reading Shakespeare, only better. The stories were true, er, supposed to be true. I loved the story of Joseph. Lotsa miracles then and mostly in the Middle East. I kept hoping I'd read Manila or Luzon somehow. Cool, the Philippines is part of god's plan after all. I thought the Philippians were Filipinos. I turned to Grolier's and I was deeply upset but I never told my parents or teachers afterwards. If Christianity can save us from hell, I was glad Magellan discovered the Philippines. The rest they say is history. Wait a minute, that was 1521! So the earlier Filipinos, not by choice but by birth and death, are now in hell? But I could not care less, I was glad the Spaniards came and subjugated our pagan forefathers for 300 years. Why, more than 90% of us are Christians. We are indeed lucky god is with us. Look at our progress now! We know we can improve the economy by praying, we can choose good presidents in prayer rallies, we heal the sick by prayers. I think in the next millenneum, we can totally eradicate diseases, and usher in world peace if we each light a candle and pray just a little bit harder.
Stay cool and, God less.
I posted this message in the now-defunct Yahoo e-groups Pinoy Defenders of Faith and Pinoy Atheist. Now both lists are gone, so I am re-posting it here to serve as introduction.
Date: Thu, 27 Nov 2003 18:38:59 -0000
Subject: [Pinoy_Atheist] Science and Religion