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Science vs. God
Topic: Science vs. God (Read 10963 times)
Re: Science vs. God
Reply #50 on:
February 09, 2011, 08:04:01 PM »
Just teasin' a little for fun. I am very appreciative of fact corrections (as well as other opinions). I remember a pass around email about Oliver North in the 1980s needing security because of threat from Osama bin Laden that was false and I hated that I had retold that false story. This format is great for the opportunity to get a quick correction before we get headed too far in the wrong direction. Crafty's story stands fine on its own as a story without the name drop at the end.
Regarding the Science v.God question, if God as a concept is a being far beyond our intelligence or comprehension, why do both sides keep claiming knowledge or definition. To the most intelligent of the disbelieving scientists I would like to hand them a bucket or basket of molecules and say make me a mammal or a reptile or an ecosystem if it's so easy.
Science at any point IMO is a very, very primitive human attempt to understand very, very little about God's creation. But our curiosity and intelligence came from our Creator so we keep on trying.
Re: Science vs. God
Reply #51 on:
February 09, 2011, 08:10:21 PM »
The Lakota word for god is (from memory) "Wakan wiskasa", meaning "The great sacred mystery".
Re: Science vs. God
Reply #52 on:
February 09, 2011, 09:06:18 PM »
God is a dsylexic's dog.
Reply #53 on:
June 21, 2012, 09:25:41 PM »
Humans need a belief in something higher. If there is no belief in a Creator, then the higher being tends to be some variant of State worship. So, Religion is in a tough spot. As Richard Feynman has written “The Meaning of It All”:
“(T)he great accumulation of understanding as to how the physical world behaves only convinces one that this behavior has a kind meaninglessness about it. , , ,
“I would like to emphasize three aspects (of religion).
“The first is that it tells us what things are and where they came from and what man is and what God is and what properties God has and so on. I’d like, for the purposes of this discussion, to call those the metaphysical aspects of religion.
“And then it says how to behave. I don’t mean in terms of ceremonies or rituals or things like that, but I mean how to behave in general, in a moral way. This we could call the ethical aspect of religion.
“And finally, people are weak. It takes more than the right conscience to produce right behavior. , , , One of the most powerful aspects of religion is its inspirational aspects. Religion gives inspiration to act well. , , ,
“It usually goes something like this: moral values are the word of God. Being the word of God connects the ethical and metaphysical aspects of religion.. And finally, that also inspires the inspiration, because if you are working for God and obeying God’s will, you in some way are connected to the universe, your actions have a meaning in the greater world, and that is a very inspiring aspect. So these three aspects are very well integrated and interconnected. The difficulty is that science occasionally conflicts with the first two categories, that is with the ethical and the metaphysical aspects of religion.”
Kraus vs. Colbert
Reply #54 on:
June 22, 2012, 08:00:16 PM »
The interview with physics professor Krauss by Colbert beginning at 13:25 is something special.
Prager: The God-Particle and God
Reply #55 on:
July 10, 2012, 03:22:35 PM »
The "God-Particle" and God
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
They found the "God-Particle."
That was the headline in many of America's news media. It turns out that the name actually derives from substituting "God-particle" for "goddamn particle," the original name some scientists had given the elusive particle. But the media adopted the former nomenclature.
Because otherwise, the bulk of humanity would not pay attention. Physicists went nuts. And no one can blame them. For decades, they have searched for the particle that may explain why there is any mass in the universe. And ten billion dollars were spent on the machine that probably proved its existence.
It is therefore not meant in any disrespectful way to the enormous intellectual achievement of these scientists when I say that I identify with the mass of humanity that doesn't really care about the existence of the Higgs boson.
Those scientists and science writers who have likened this discovery to the discovery of DNA are wrong. If significance means relevance to the human condition, the discovery of DNA merited a ten out of ten and the Higgs boson might merit a two.
This does not mean that the search was either a waste of time or money. Both the time and money invested were necessary because satiating human curiosity about the natural world is one of the noblest ambitions of the human race.
But scientific discovery and meaning are not necessarily related. As one of the leading physicists of our time, Steven Weinberg, has written, "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless."
And pointlessness is the point. The discovery of the Higgs boson brings us no closer to understanding why there is a universe, not to mention whether life has meaning. In fact, no scientific discovery that will ever be made will explain why there is existence, render good and evil anything more than subjective opinion, or explain why human beings have consciousness or anything else that truly matters.
The only thing that can explain existence and answer these other questions is God or some other similar metaphysical belief. This angers those scientists and others who are emotionally as well as intellectually committed to atheism. But many honest atheists recognize that a godless world means a meaningless one, and admit that science can only explain what, not why.
In a recent interview in the Wall Street Journal, Woody Allen, an honest atheist, made this point in his inimitable way. Allen told the interviewer that, being a big sports fan, and especially a New York Knicks fan, he is often asked whether it's important if the Knicks beat the Celtics. His answer is, "Well, it's just as important as human existence." If there is no God, Allen is right.
One must have a great deal of respect for the atheist who recognizes the consequences of atheism: no meaning, no purpose, no good and evil beyond subjective opinion, and recognition of the limits of what science can explain.
But the atheist -- scientist, philosophy professor, or your brother-in-law who sells insurance -- who denies the consequences of atheism is as worthy of the same intellectual respect atheists have for those who believe in a six thousand-year-old universe.
Not only is science incapable of discovering why there is existence but scientists also confront the equally frustrating fact that the more they discover about the universe, the more they realize they do not know.
I happen to think that this was God's built-in way of limiting man's hubris and compelling humans to acknowledge His existence. Admittedly, however, this doesn't always have these two effects on scientists and especially on those who believe that science will explain everything.
So, sincere congratulations to the physicists and other scientists who discovered the Higgs boson. We now think we have uncovered the force or the matter that gives us the four percent of the universe that we can observe (96 percent of the universe consists of "dark matter," about which scientists know almost nothing).
Ironic as it may seem to many of these physicists, however, only if there is a God does their discovery matter. Otherwise, it is no more important than whether the Knicks beat the Celtics.
Reply #56 on:
September 06, 2012, 01:17:43 PM »
Scientists in the United States have announced they have developed the world's first synthetic living cell.
Led by Dr Craig Venter, the Maryland-based research team says it is the first time synthetic DNA has been in complete control of a cell.
Venter says the first self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell could unlock countless possibilities to produce new fuels or vaccines.
"Wouldn't it be nice to have something that actually blocked common colds or more importantly HIV, where the virus evolves so quickly the vaccines that are made today can't keep up with those evolutionary changes," he says.
The creation of the synthetic cell began on a computer. Venter says his team assembled it and transplanted it into a recipient cell and converted that to a new species.
"We built the DNA chromosome from scratch from four bottles of chemicals, chromosomes over 1 million letters long. We did the final assembly in yeast that people are familiar with [from] making beer and bread," he says.
Venter says the new bacteria replicated over 1 billion times and researchers say the cells cannot survive independently.
Maryland biophysicist Dr David Thirumalai says it could be used to create synthetic cells to heal particular parts of the body or to create synthetics bugs to clean up an oil spill.
"Let's use it in an oil spill for example. You could create synthetic bugs that will just consume this oil at a rapid rate."
Venter's institute is already talking to pharmaceutical companies about designing new vaccines, but ethicists and critics of genetic engineering warn the risks are unparalleled.
The researchers acknowledge the technology could be used by bioterrorists to make dangerous new pathogens.
Thirumalai says it is impossible to predict all the consequences, but he is also in awe of what the Venter team has achieved.
"It is a marriage of minds, imagination and God's creation of life itself," he says.
Venter says this was only a proof-of-concept cell; the next stage is to create synthetic algae.
And he is not shying away from the philosophical debates this also unlocks.
His research team inserted watermarks in the synthetic DNA to be decoded, including a James Joyce quotation: "To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life."
Marco Rubio and how old is the earth?
Reply #57 on:
November 21, 2012, 03:40:27 PM »
Politics: The stupid, very dumb 'how old is the Earth' idiocy
Published by: Dan Calabrese on Wednesday November 21st, 2012
By DAN CALABRESE - God is smart. Idiots are dumb.
I know my Bible. While I write for a political site, my devotion is much more to God than to whatever it is that we talk about here. So most of the theological debates that find their way into politics make my skin crawl, because much of the time the conservatives are misapplying Scripture to suit their partisan purposes, and liberals who treat all expressions of faith as absurd by definition merely use these issues as traps for conservative politicians.
That's why this business about Marco Rubio, and his answer to GQ about how old the Earth is, represent such extreme idiocy all around.
First of all, Rubio's actual answer to the stupid question was not so bad. Here it is in full:
"I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute among theologians and I think it has nothing to do with gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I'm not a scientist. I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the earth was created in seven days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries."
Right up front, by mentioning its irrelevance to anything a U.S. senator actually deals with, he essentially says, "Why are you asking me such a stupid question?"
As to his actual answer, he doesn't claim the Earth is only 10,000 years old. He doesn't even outwardly say he believes the account of Genesis, although he seems to imply that he does, and he leaves open the question of just what the seven days of creation might have encompassed in terms of the passage of time as we understand it.
But here's why this whole thing is so stupid. First of all, it's a left-wing fiction that Bible-believing Christians everywhere believe the Earth is only 10,000 years old, and are obsessed with perpetuating this belief. I'm sure there are those who believe it and teach it, but the notion that this doctrine is a key tenet of American Christianity can only be believed by those who have never spent much time in churches. In my lifetime, I have been a member of Catholic, Baptist (two of them), non-denominational and Pentecostal Christian churches. I've never heard the age-of-the-Earth doctrine taught anywhere. Not a single time.
Genesis, sure. We believe the creation account of Genesis. But the 10,000-year notion is the calculation of a few people who apparently added up the years associated with biblical geneaologies and came up with an age-of-the-Earth theory. To them, if you think they're wrong, you deny everything up to and including the Genesis account and therefore the very Word of God, and you are a heretic.
Here's the problem with that. First, let's take a look at Genesis 1:1-2:
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Let me ask you a question. How much time passes between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2? Study the text carefully. Look for evidence to support your answer. OK, now go ahead and answer. How much time?
You don't know. You can't. It doesn't say. It could be an instant. It could be billions of years. You have no idea and neither do I. Neither does anyone. The way the narrative is written might cause you to infer the transition was instantaneous, but it doesn't say that. Now let's move on to Genesis 1:3-5:
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
This is where we start getting into the passage of days. The cycle of light/day and darkness/night certainly seems to suggest that these were literal 24-hour days, and there's no reason to think God couldn't have done everything Genesis describes in six 24-hour periods (remember, He rested on the seventh day), because God can do whatever He wants.
Now, you ask, if God did all this in six days, then what's with the evidence that the process took billions of years? There are any number of ways to square the two, if you accept the supernatural powers of God. (If you don't, we really don't have anything to talk about so you might as well start tweeting about how Herman Cain has crazy people working for him.) It is not God's typical modus operandi to snap His fingers and perpetrate disruptions of nature. Rather, He uses nature to achieve what he wants to achieve. Genesis 1:11-13:
11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
Seed-bearing plants and trees need roots, right? Vegetation grows from soil. Seed has to develop within fruit. If God did all this in one day, it stands to reason that He created the plants and the trees roots and all. That He tilled the soil. It could be that He just snapped His fingers and it was all there, in an instant. But given the way God usually deals with nature, my guess would be that He actually planted the seeds and let them grow. If they grew to maturity - to the point where they actually bore fruit - in a single day, then it would stand to reason that God sped up the process dramatically, sort of like time-lapse photography, and that he did the same with everything from rock formations to the development of continents and oceans.
Anyone examining the evidence would certainly find scientific backing to support the notion that they are billions of years old, and it's very likely that anything or anyone on Earth at the time (remember, mankind was not created until the sixth day) would have experienced it as if it was a passage of billions of years.
Am I arguing for the young-Earth theory? Not really. We know from 2 Peter 3:8:
"With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day."
However long the passage of time was for anyone or anything on Earth, what matters is that it was a seven-day expanse of time as God experienced it.
Christian fundamentalists who get this wrong simply make too many assumptions about the passages of time described in Genesis, and forget the lesson of 2 Peter 3:8. The creation story is written from God's perspective, not from ours. It doesn't matter how long it took for us to live through it. God can create a billions-years-old planet in a day if He wants to. God can speed up time for us while slowing it down for Himself.
That's why this argument is so stupid. It's stupid for theologians because we don't need to explain all these details to have faith in God's Word. His power transcends the limits of the natural world so it's no problem at all to accept all scientific evidence and understand that it merely gives us insight into how God did what we know He did. And it's incredibly stupid for politicians because, unless they are biblical scholars, they have no idea what they're talking about and they're dealing with an issue that is completely irrelevant to their jobs.
But I suppose the dumbest people in all this are the Christians who demand politicians accept their ill-conceived young-Earth doctrine. (After all, a government full of young-Earth believers will facilitate the accomplishment of . . . what, exactly?) And the most loathesome people in all this are the secular leftists - especially those in the media - who scorn all notions of faith, and simply use these dumb questions as a trap to take down anyone they can.
Question: "How old is the Earth, Senator?"
Answer: "That's a stupid, irrelevant question."
Quantum scientists offer proof soul exists
Reply #58 on:
December 07, 2012, 10:47:16 AM »
A pair of world-renowned quantum scientists say they can prove the existence of the soul.
American Dr Stuart Hameroff and British physicist Sir Roger Penrose developed a quantum theory of consciousness asserting that our souls are contained inside structures called microtubules which live within our brain cells.
Their idea stems from the notion of the brain as a biological computer, "with 100 billion neurons and their axonal firings and synaptic connections acting as information networks".
Dr Hameroff, Professor Emeritus at the Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychology and Director of the Centre of Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, and Sir Roger have been working on the theory since 1996.
They argue that our experience of consciousness is the result of quantum gravity effects inside these microtubules - a process they call orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR).
In a near-death experience the microtubules lose their quantum state but the information within them is not destroyed. Or in layman's terms, the soul does not die but returns to the universe.
Dr Hameroff explained the theory at length in the Morgan Freeman-narrated documentary Through the Wormhole, which was recently aired in the US by the Science Channel.
The quantum soul theory is now trending worldwide, thanks to stories published this week by The Huffington Post and the Daily Mail, which have generated thousands of readers comments and social media shares.
"Let's say the heart stops beating, the blood stops flowing, the microtubules lose their quantum state," Dr Hameroff said.
"The quantum information within the microtubules is not destroyed, it can't be destroyed, it just distributes and dissipates to the universe at large.
"If the patient is resuscitated, revived, this quantum information can go back into the microtubules and the patient says 'I had a near death experience'."
In the event of the patient's death, it was "possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body indefinitely - as a soul".
Dr Hameroff believes new findings about the role quantum physics plays in biological processes, such as the navigation of birds, adds weight to the theory.
Sacks: The Moral Animal
Reply #59 on:
December 24, 2012, 09:03:44 PM »
The Moral Animal
By JONATHAN SACKS
Published: December 23, 2012 105 Comments
IT is the religious time of the year. Step into any city in America or Britain and you will see the night sky lit by religious symbols, Christmas decorations certainly and probably also a giant menorah. Religion in the West seems alive and well.
But is it really? Or have these symbols been emptied of content, no more than a glittering backdrop to the West’s newest faith, consumerism, and its secular cathedrals, shopping malls?
At first glance, religion is in decline. In Britain, the results of the 2011 national census have just been published. They show that a quarter of the population claims to have no religion, almost double the figure 10 years ago. And though the United States remains the most religious country in the West, 20 percent declare themselves without religious affiliation — double the number a generation ago.
Looked at another way, though, the figures tell a different story. Since the 18th century, many Western intellectuals have predicted religion’s imminent demise. Yet after a series of withering attacks, most recently by the new atheists, including Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, still in Britain three in four people, and in America four in five, declare allegiance to a religious faith. That, in an age of science, is what is truly surprising.
The irony is that many of the new atheists are followers of Charles Darwin. We are what we are, they say, because it has allowed us to survive and pass on our genes to the next generation. Our biological and cultural makeup constitutes our “adaptive fitness.” Yet religion is the greatest survivor of them all. Superpowers tend to last a century; the great faiths last millenniums. The question is why.
Darwin himself suggested what is almost certainly the correct answer. He was puzzled by a phenomenon that seemed to contradict his most basic thesis, that natural selection should favor the ruthless. Altruists, who risk their lives for others, should therefore usually die before passing on their genes to the next generation. Yet all societies value altruism, and something similar can be found among social animals, from chimpanzees to dolphins to leafcutter ants.
Neuroscientists have shown how this works. We have mirror neurons that lead us to feel pain when we see others suffering. We are hard-wired for empathy. We are moral animals.
The precise implications of Darwin’s answer are still being debated by his disciples — Harvard’s E. O. Wilson in one corner, Oxford’s Richard Dawkins in the other. To put it at its simplest, we hand on our genes as individuals but we survive as members of groups, and groups can exist only when individuals act not solely for their own advantage but for the sake of the group as a whole. Our unique advantage is that we form larger and more complex groups than any other life-form.
A result is that we have two patterns of reaction in the brain, one focusing on potential danger to us as individuals, the other, located in the prefrontal cortex, taking a more considered view of the consequences of our actions for us and others. The first is immediate, instinctive and emotive. The second is reflective and rational. We are caught, in the psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s phrase, between thinking fast and slow.
The fast track helps us survive, but it can also lead us to acts that are impulsive and destructive. The slow track leads us to more considered behavior, but it is often overridden in the heat of the moment. We are sinners and saints, egotists and altruists, exactly as the prophets and philosophers have long maintained.
If this is so, we are in a position to understand why religion helped us survive in the past — and why we will need it in the future. It strengthens and speeds up the slow track. It reconfigures our neural pathways, turning altruism into instinct, through the rituals we perform, the texts we read and the prayers we pray. It remains the most powerful community builder the world has known. Religion binds individuals into groups through habits of altruism, creating relationships of trust strong enough to defeat destructive emotions. Far from refuting religion, the Neo-Darwinists have helped us understand why it matters.
No one has shown this more elegantly than the political scientist Robert D. Putnam. In the 1990s he became famous for the phrase “bowling alone”: more people were going bowling, but fewer were joining bowling teams. Individualism was slowly destroying our capacity to form groups. A decade later, in his book “American Grace,” he showed that there was one place where social capital could still be found: religious communities.
Mr. Putnam’s research showed that frequent church- or synagogue-goers were more likely to give money to charity, do volunteer work, help the homeless, donate blood, help a neighbor with housework, spend time with someone who was feeling depressed, offer a seat to a stranger or help someone find a job. Religiosity as measured by church or synagogue attendance is, he found, a better predictor of altruism than education, age, income, gender or race.
Religion is the best antidote to the individualism of the consumer age. The idea that society can do without it flies in the face of history and, now, evolutionary biology. This may go to show that God has a sense of humor. It certainly shows that the free societies of the West must never lose their sense of God.
Jonathan Sacks is the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth and a member of the House of Lords.
JG West: Exposing Scientism
Reply #60 on:
January 29, 2013, 07:13:35 AM »
John G. West | 29 January 2013
More than a half century ago, the British literary critic and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis warned that science could be twisted in order to attack religion, undermine ethics, and limit human freedom. In a recent collection of essays, The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism, a number of scholars explore Lewis's prophetic warnings about the abuse of science. MercatorNet interviewed its editor, John G. West.
MercatorNet: “The Magician’s Twin” is an unusual title. How is science related to magic? Magic seems like a demented cousin, not a twin.
John G. West: The title comes from a comment made by Lewis himself in his book The Abolition of Man. There Lewis claimed that “the serious magical endeavor and the serious scientific endeavor are twins.” I think Lewis may have been trying to be intentionally provocative, because you are right that at first glance the idea that magic and science are twins would appear to be rather odd. After all, science is supposed to be the realm of the rational, the skeptical, and the objective. Magic, on the other hand, brings up connotations of superstition, credulity, and dogmatism.
But if we think about it some more, I think we can see that Lewis was very perceptive in drawing the link. First, Lewis saw that science, like magic, can function almost like a religion for some people. We certainly see this today. Take biologist Richard Dawkins’s comment that “Darwin made it possible to be anintellectually fulfilled atheist,” or the annual celebrations of Darwin’s birthday as if it were a sacred holiday. Second, Lewis saw that science, like magic, can dull the general public’s critical faculties when they begin to accept any claim if it is made in the name of science.
Finally, Lewis saw that science, like magic, can be a quest for power over nature and our fellow human beings. Many times that power will be used for good, but if modern science is cut off from traditional ethical norms, its power may be increasingly misused. During Lewis’s own lifetime, he saw the horrific results of the misuse of science in the eugenics movement and its effort to breed a master race by applying the principles of Darwinian biology.
MercatorNet: Tell us a bit about the book and its main themes.
West: The Magician’s Twin uses the writings of C.S. Lewis to explore how science, a very good thing, can be misused, and how this misuse of science can have serious consequences for every area of our culture: ethics, religion, medicine, politics, education, and science itself. In the process of exploring this main theme, the book delves into such issues as genetic engineering, eugenics, the misuse of science to debunk religion and traditional ethics, the misuse of science to curtail personal freedom, reductionist views of personal responsibility, the education of our children, and the debate over unguided Darwinian evolution and intelligent design.
MercatorNet: Lewis was a literary scholar and a Christian apologist who died in 1963. How relevant are his ideas about science in 2013?
West: Although Lewis was a literary scholar, he was intrigued by the impact of science on culture from his days as an atheist. And so he thought deeply about the interactions between science and the rest of society, and many of the issues he explored we are still dealing with today in various forms. Science is still misused by some to debunk religion (think of all the so-called “New Atheists”). Science is, if anything, still used as a trump card in public policy debates (think of the current debates over climate change).
Scientific reductionism is still used to debunk traditional ethics and personal responsibility. And modern genetics has opened the door to the resurrection of eugenics. So I’d say that Lewis’s ideas are very relevant. Indeed, I’d argue that he was prophetic in warning about some of the things we are experiencing today.
MercatorNet: You and your fellow authors are strong critics of scientism. Does that mean that you are anti-science and anti-progress?
West: I actually regard myself as pro-science. Scientism is the abuse of science by claiming that science is the only way we can know the truth about anything. By extension, it’s also the claim that scientists should have the right to rule over society by virtue of their superior technical expertise. Just like being a critic of theocracy doesn’t make one anti-religious, being a critic of scientism doesn’t make one anti-science. If anything, it’s those who are trying to challenge scientism who are the defenders of science, because they are trying to rescue science from being applied outside its proper boundaries.
As for progress, no, I’m not against “progress” either. But, as Lewis liked to point out, progress by definition is progress towards some goal, and I think we need to make sure that the goal we are progressing towards is a worthy one. Debunking traditional ethics or restricting personal liberties in the name of science would not be “progress” in my view.
MercatorNet: His novel That Hideous Strength, in which scientists have the reins of power and culture, is one of the great dystopian novels. What was the point he was making?
West: That Hideous Strength was Lewis’s searing indictment of what he sometimes called technocracy or even scientocracy, rule by experts claiming to speak in the name of science. As Lewis’s novel shows, handing over unchecked power to unelected experts who promise to create a heaven on earth is a recipe for creating hell on earth. Lewis thought technocracy was one of the gravest threats to a free society in the modern world.
Readers who want a short distillation of Lewis’s views here should read an essay he wrote in the 1950s titled “Is Progress Possible? Willing Slaves of the Welfare State.” In that essay, Lewis explains why scientific expertise may be helpful for public policy, but it is hardly sufficient. Good public policy requires a lot more than simply technical expertise. As Lewis points out, “government involves questions about the good for man, and justice, and what things are worth having at what price; and on these a scientific training gives a man’s opinion no added value.”
MercatorNet: I’ve always been amused by the fact that the evil scientists in the novel work in NICE – the National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments – and that the acronym for British government’s healthcare advisory body is also NICE. Is scientism alive and well today?
West: Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep up with all of the manifestations of scientism in our own era. Just a few days ago there was an article in The New Scientisttitled “Time for science to seize political power.” A few days later, celebrated wildlife documentary-maker Sir David Attenborough was invoking science to claim that human beings “are a plague on the Earth” and therefore worldwide population control is required. In America, meanwhile, New York City has banned the sale of large sugary drinks the name of science, and the administration of President Obama is trying to compel religious employers to pay for contraceptives and abortion drugs in the name of science.
Now, my wife and I don’t let our children drink lots of sugary drinks, but banning certain kinds of soda pop in the name of science is going down the path of being micromanaged by a bunch of busy-bodies. Similarly, I’m not against contraception, but the idea that government in the name of science should trample the rights of conscience of religious believers is truly offensive. Then there is the whole debate about climate change and what should be done about it. Whatever one thinks about climate change and its causes, I would hope that all thoughtful people would be concerned when certain scientists claim that we need to suspend democracy in order to impose the public policies they want.
MercatorNet: C.S. Lewis claimed that science has made us more gullible. But how can this happen if science is based on empirical facts?
West: Lewis observed that many non-scientists simply checked their critical faculties at the door when they heard claims made in the name of science. People who didn’t think we could know anything with confidence about historical figures like Julius Caesar or Napoleon because they lived such a long time ago had no problem accepting the most outlandish claims made about “pre-historic” man, because the latter claims were dressed up as science. Lewis was concerned that this kind of blind deference to scientific authority opened the door to tyranny. That’s one of the reasons it’s so concerning today when people are routinely attacked as “anti-science” just for raising thoughtful questions about claims made in the name of science. If we want to avoid the abuse of science, we need to encourage that kind of questioning, not suppress it.
MercatorNet: I suppose that you would describe a writer like Richard Dawkins as a proponent of scientism. But are there prominent scientists who would support your critique and acknowledge that scientists can oversell their expertise?
West: There are a few. Biologist Austin Hughes recently wrote a perceptive article on “The Folly of Scientism” for The New Atlantis. The late Phil Skell, a member of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, was a persistent critic of some of the overstated claims of Darwinian theory. But it can be hard for scientists to criticize the limits of their own disciplines when so much research funding and prestige is at stake.
Scientists have a powerful incentive to oversell their expertise in the public arena. Embryonic stem cell research is a tragic example. Ethics aside, the real scandal of embryonic stem cell research is that so many scientists hyped the usefulness of the research based on paltry evidence. As a result, we’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars on research that thus far has proved to be a massive failure.
Not only were those funds wasted, but they prevented adequate funding for adult stem cell research, which has shown much greater promise without the ethical baggage of embryonic stem cells. Ironically, those who raised questions about all the funds being steered toward embryonic stem cell research were branded “anti-science.” But if we had followed their advice, we would have been further along in developing adult stem cell therapies that actually work.
John G. West co-edited the award-winning C.S. Lewis Readers’ Encyclopedia and is the author of several other books, including Darwin Day in America and The Politics of Revelation and Reason.
An interesting talk from a Catholic POV
Reply #61 on:
April 02, 2013, 01:32:28 PM »
Atheist and a Little Girl
Reply #62 on:
May 05, 2013, 08:35:45 PM »
An atheist was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned
to her and said, "Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike
up a conversation with your fellow passenger."
The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total
stranger, "What would you want to talk about?"
"Oh, I don't know," said the atheist. "How about why there is no God,
or no Heaven or Hell, or no life after death?" as he smiled smugly.
"Okay," she said. "Those could be interesting topics but let me ask
you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same
stuff - grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns
out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?"
The atheist, visibly surprised by the little girl's intelligence,
thinks about it and says, "Hmmm, I have no idea." To which
the little girl replies, "Do you really feel qualified to discuss
God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don't know shit?"
And then she went back to reading her book.
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