10/14/2005

PBS Watch: Talking Past Each Other

Red Stater blogger PBS-Watcher has some good points in the evolution versus intelligent design debate. He starts by saying "the two camps [science and religious fundamentalism] have nothing intelligent to say to each other", which I agree. Watcher then goes for the red meat: Religion fans disheartened by the lower status they have in the 20th and 21st century started blaming SCIENCE for their downfall, but they are going after the wrong enemy. Science never went after religion, some scientists and some science fans did, or rather, as Watcher says, SECULAR people, who misread science, went after religion..

He does have a point: No one on either side is trying to conduct a logical, reasoned dialog and debate. But I gotta use the childish "Hey, THEY started it!" here: Science was minding it's own business until fundies started demanding book burning and equal status in public education. Which Watcher correctly points out it is misguided and doomed to failure, as they are going after the wrong enemy.

SCIENCE is not the enemy, the enemy is "secular" reasoning that gives scientists - and baseball players, actors, TV anchors, millionaires, etc... I might add - an almost Godlike status, looking at Einstein and other scientists as a kind of prophets who can dictate morality and thought. And those are truly the "enemy" of people who believe only the Bible can dictate those things.. -- law


I am saddened to see that quite a fuss is underway concerning intelligent design.. The current issue is simply the latest symptom in a long standing chronic dispute between religion and science. The bare fact of the matter is that the two camps have nothing intelligent to say to each other.

In logical terms, the existence of God, and by implication, the non-existence of God are not falsifiable hypotheses. None of us know (in the scientific sense), or will know, or can know the answer to that conundrum in this world. The solution will have to wait for the next world, if such exists. Thus the gathering of "evidence" by science or religion or by any other means for or against either hypothesis is a fool's errand. The deconstruction of the interpretations of such evidence by mortals is a second order waste of time.

Science and religion are fundamentally about different topics. Science is concerned with the concrete, observable, repeatable universe and its characterization, measurement and prediction. Religion treats with philosophy, ethics, morals, the proper conduct of individuals, the proper structure of society. The enterprises are logically disjoint, but each is conducted by human beings who cannot help but confuse the separate matters and cannot help but convince themselves that their expertise in one gives them standing in the other...

Einstein could be forgiven for having missed this call as he did not live to see the Cold War provide the definitive counter example. Rather his alleged words have taken on the aspect of a secular religious truth among anti-war activists. Secular in that conventional religion is typically not popular among such groups, religious in that the statement concerns ethical conduct rather than science and is viewed as not subject to scientific debate.

The "soft" or social sciences were quick to see the merits of this approach. Their results are typically much less clear cut than the traditional sciences and their practitioners are increasingly politically motivated, thus we see the proliferation of curricula that require a belief in "social justice." The term "social justice" is essentially code for a secular religious belief system to which is ascribed scientific truth by the professors of the social science curricula. The incestuous nature of the codification process and the fact that many of the political policies espoused by believers are demonstrably repeated failures in no way diminishes the following or the attractiveness of the program.

Religious leaders correctly see the influence of traditional religion diminishing. Science plays a part in the process but only indirectly through the bastardization of science by secular religion. Traditional religion has been reduced in public life to the point where ethics, morals, philosophy etc. can only be studied in an "unbiased" way. The subject can be examined but values, ethics, morals cannot be taught or inculcated, that function is de facto reserved to the various secular religions. The language of science has been appropriated by pseudo-science for the functions of religion but religion is disqualified from participation because of perceived factual disparities with real science. Rather than go after the pseudo-science of secular religion, religion has gone after real science. The intelligent design controversy is one aspect of this misguided response.

I am not hopeful of any near term solution to the problem. As long as the general population is willing to give scientists and self-appointed scientists influence over topics on which science per se has nothing to say, secular religion will flourish as secular religionists appropriate the mantle of science and continue to perform their sleight of hand. As long as religious leaders continue to mis-identify the enemy, they will continue to flail impotently.

PBS Watch: Talking Past Each Other

1 Comments:

Blogger P-BS-Watcher said...

Thanks for noticing.

10/19/2005 05:00:00 PM  

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