Is everyone on this site more scientific than me?

Growing up, I didn't like science. It's not that I didn't believe in it, it's just that it was hard to learn. Some concepts I had trouble grasping, others I would have trouble remembering, and then there was the math...

I was much more interested in the humanities because they came easier to me. I'm a good writer, and majored in English in college. As I got a little older, I developed a passing interest in science, particularly as it pertained to new technology, astronomy, and evolutionary biology. But, I never invested in real study of science-- just Discovery Channel documentaries, popular science articles and such.

Since getting involved in the atheist community, primarily on blogs and this site, I've come to desire a deeper understanding of science and critical thinking. Studying literature does help teach you critical thinking, but not in the same way as science. I see just how intelligent and knowledgeable many of you are, and feel that maybe my years ignoring math and science were wasted. I'm still fairly young, at 27, but the years where knowledge is best absorbed are behind me.

Currently I'm reading Massimo Pigliucci's book "Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science From Bunk." It's a good read, and fairly accessible so far, to a novice like me (mostly, I suspect because its content is the philosophy of science rather than hard science), but from there, I'm at a loss as to where to go next. I want to learn more simply to become a more rounded person. Also, I want this knowledge to help develop my debating skills.

I'm not sure of my motivation for writing this, except maybe to whine. Is there anyone else out there like me? Atheists and skeptics with little science background?

Views: 42

Comment by CJoe on December 10, 2010 at 2:17pm

...the years where knowledge is best absorbed are behind me.

Oh come now, you don't really believe that, do you? :) I'm 27 and don't have a science background. I wasn't particularly interested in any of this until I was about 25. I've found that I'm much better able to absorb information now than I ever was able to in high school or my early twenties. People generally retain info about what they are [or have a vested] interested in.

I totally relate about feeling like I wasted valuable time. Sometimes, life just feels like one big IF ONLY. But nothing is stopping me from brushing up my dusty brain now! And who cares if I can't recite every detail of what I'm reading? It's still fascinating and rewarding to learn about things that never even occurred to me (as a Christian, or just a young person).

It may not seem like it, but most of us are novices. It doesn't take long to pick up the lingo and sound like an expert ;)

Comment by Meghan V! on December 10, 2010 at 3:10pm

Oh, yes, I had zero science background.  My whole life I had prepared to major in theatre, but at the last minute changed my mind, in fact, to pursue science.

I understand feeling dwarfed by others who are much more knowledgeable than you are.  However, I think it is incredibly admirable that you are taking an initiative to delve into a new way of thinking.  I must add that in a short amount of time, I have learned a vast amount of information.  But there's always room for improvement, which is very exciting.

I suppose my bottom line is that I think you can learn about anything you want, be it biology or physics or chemistry.  You will have to start from scratch like I did, but if you have the desire, I assure you it will be done.  In fact, I think a background in humanities may give you an extra edge, because of the range of experiences you have under your belt.

Comment by Rick on December 10, 2010 at 3:24pm

Best learning years behind you!!? No way -- you're only 27 ... Hell, I'm 46 and going back to ASU for a Masters in Astrophysics: something I've been thinking I should've done 15 years ago!


Anyway, its never to late to learn... And I think you're actually better prepared to learn 'hard science' in your mid-to-late 20's than you were as a 'kid' ... Think how much more focused you are now. ... I know I am.

Comment by Matt Peters on December 10, 2010 at 3:28pm

Jean Marie:


No,  of course you don't have to be a scientist to be an atheist, and thank you for saying so! If I had absolutely zero interest in science, I would not fret about my lack of knowledge.


My interest in science will NEVER replace my love for the art of the written word. However, I've recently realized that I really have largely ignored science in my 27 years, and I don't wish to close my mind to a huge section of human knowledge. It's a growing interest, and one I will explore selectively, and at my leisure.


Now engineering is something I've never had an interest in, but think I should probably learn at least a little about. I'm a Librarian at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center for the TDRSS project (a communication satellite network) and understand next to nothing about the documents I find for the engineers...  you'd think I would have absorbed a little more than I have in a year and a half...

Comment by Atlas on December 10, 2010 at 3:59pm

Life is learning. Remember that.

And i don't believe anyone can be bad at science. You can be bad at equations or bad at remembering what causes the electromagnetic field around the Earth, but that doesn't make one bad at science. To be bad at science, one would have to reject science. You mentioned you like Humanities. Try applying what you learned in Humanities to other fields of science. You'd be surprised to discover that the methods used to learn one subject can also be used to learn a completely different subject. For example, imagine a tall skyscraper. It seems simple in that it is just a tall building with lots of glass, but it's more than that. Much more. A skyscraper is the unification of many different parts. Steel, Cement, Glass, Aluminum, and countless other items must be put in an order that makes it highly unlikely for such an order to fail. We call it Structural Integrity. Now apply this to the planet Earth: It seems simple, composing of land, water, and atmosphere, but, like the skyscraper it is so much more. Like the particles that make up water, incredibly hot magma core, all the different, yet related, animal species that cover every corner of this planet, the bacteria that keep us healthy and the ones that kill us, the effect temperature has on the planet, human achievements, and a seemingly infinite supply of completely amazing things.

So, you can either just look at the plants, the moon, the mountains, and all the wonderful forms of life and think "How pretty, this must have been made just for me."

Or you can understand why we have plants, why the moon is there, why the mountains touch the sky, and why we have so much deep variety of lifeforms and instead think "Wow, how amazing that I am a part of this!"

Comment by Matt Peters on December 10, 2010 at 4:01pm

Well said. Thank you Rob!

Comment by Chadia on December 10, 2010 at 5:29pm

hi, just like you, I don't have a scientific background.  But always loved math, so I studied accountancy.  When I was 25 I read a book called 'Fantastic, the univers inside your brain'(by Chris Verburgh, but I think it was only published in Belgium).  It explain a few theories of the origin of life. After that I picked up the God delusion, the sefish gene.  Now, I'm 28, and I want to go to college again.  The problem is, that I don't know how to choose a the perfect study... I'm intrested in history, math, (almost every kind of)fysics and biochemestry. So, what do you think I should do?

Comment by Angela Moore Long on December 10, 2010 at 9:01pm

Not all atheists are so out of reason of science( evolution specific) - some debate historical or archeological, and those are the main premise they base Atheism. Some don't have an exact academia at all - rather they rely on their own knowledge, logic and reason. I agree that often -all to often, people assume we all base our Atheism on science and start spewing counter intelligent design nonsense to claims you never made...More often than any other subject- you'll see more scientific blogs on Atheism than comparative religions, history and linguistics - showing patterns and passed down systems of beliefs, tribalism and etc. I enjoy reading the science based blogs - however my Atheism is not based solely on evolution and defense thereof - I'm more into other subjects which I find the majority of other Atheists to be lacking- mostly focused instead on physics and etc. Recently I shared links on archeology and history of semitic languages/African-Asiatic  dialects and etc - no interest. I posted some on science- plenty. However, I'm glad they have interest and defend science - some brilliantly, I've learned a lot. 


I do enjoy battle of th brains the youngin's get into :))))

Comment by Angela Moore Long on December 10, 2010 at 9:12pm

I get bored, and I also believe you shouldn't just have one reason -instead hit them with several :)

Love ya Jenn! So, you liking think atheist ? 

Comment by Toby Cooper on December 10, 2010 at 9:24pm

There are a number of great courses available for free online. Many colleges offer video and audio lectures of many of their science courses for free as well as course notes and other materials. Here is the link to MIT's open courseware.


I am 33 and I've found myself much better at learning new things now than I ever was when I was young. If you have the funds I highly recommend the teaching company as well.


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