For those who missed it last year, on Tuesday, Feb.10 PBS is repeating NOVA's documentary "Judgment Day, Intelligent Design on Trial" (see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/ , actually, one can also watch this online).
I wonder what people on this forum think about this documentary and related issues. In particular, do you think the Intelligent Design deserves some room in public schools or not? Is there any difference between "creationism" and "intelligent design"? Are Church and State separated in the United States and should they be or not? Is there a room for religion in public schools? Sorry about asking so many naive questions, but these issues, in my opinion, are very relevant to the system of public education (at least in the US they seem to be).
Kiki - the no reply thing is a nesting issue. Ning will only allow comments nested so for. Which is why, for example, this reply is not to your comment, as it is nested as far as it will go.
No need to take a swipe at Laura over that.
Kiki, nobody is forbidding you to do anything. When you get to a certain number of indents in a discussion, the reply button goes away (it's a width thing, NOTHING PERSONAL... very mathematical, in fact - although I've never counted the number of replies to replies that fixes the limit).
So, I've replied to the main discussion here, which pulls it out to the far left, and you can reply all you want.
But if all you can do is make an ad hominem attack on the author of the Salon.com article, while not commenting on any of the substantive content, there is really nothing to discuss.
Here is what I think there is to discuss in this article. Giberson outlines the religious-like quality of the stories that scientists end up telling, even needing to tell (just look at "the way" and "the light" in the quote from Wilson you used). If, as Weinberg, notes, '"The more the universe is comprehensible, the more it seems pointless," then - Giberson contends - scientists end up needing to turn their pointless data into something more meaningful, and they paradoxically grasp at the language of the religious traditions to do that: So there it is -- a brand-new religion, courtesy of modern science. We have a creation myth, ethical directives and a meaningful place for humankind within the grand scheme of things. These are the ingredients that "constructive theologians" like Gordon Kaufman of Harvard Divinity School tell us are common to all religions. As a bonus, we have science to guide us into truth and assure us that we can find solutions to our problems. And we have inquisitors like Myers to ferret out heretics and martyr them on his Web site when they appear.
There are other problems that might appear on the horizon - problems even worse than the new inquisitors, such as: Could we be sure, for example, that this new scientific religion would not give rise to the extremism and aberrant behavior that plague conventional religions? Would concern for the diversity of life, for example, inspire vegetarians to blow up slaughterhouses, and run the local butcher through his or her own meat grinder? Would reverence for the cosmos reinvigorate astrology? Would appreciation for natural selection bring eugenics back out of the closet? In other words, if science dismantles the traditional religious content that people use to satisfy their impulses -- many of which are quite passionate -- will we really be better off?
Giberson contends that ethics has to be part of the discussion, and There is also no compelling way to get ethical directives from science. To be sure, religion has a version of the same problem, but that simply points up the challenges they both face, not the superiority of science over religion. Even Stephen Jay Gould, the peacemaking agnostic, suggested that religion should make the ethical calls.
Although he does not go into details, the "knowability" question comes up again and again in science, even by the scientists' own admission (does Godel ring a bell?). Here is what Gilberson concludes: I am incredibly impressed with the achievements of science. But I don't think science is omniscient and I am not convinced that science will ever know everything. I am not convinced that science is even capable of knowing everything.
I thought I would provide this summary since you dismissed the article on purely ad hominem grounds, which don't seem to me like very good grounds at all. Not grounds for discussion, anyway.
Ed and Laura, thanks for explaining the nesting problem. Sorry, I did not realize that.
Laura, I did not "dismiss the article on purely ad hominem grounds"; I just pointed out that the author is obviously biased against Myers, so I would take his comments about Myers with a grain of salt.
And in fact I did read the whole thing and was just about to reply when you posted. I am trying to get some science done in between, you know :-)
I find the main premise of the article completely off base. Science in not "a new religion"; nor are Dawkins, Atkins, Myers et al making it one, as Giberson contends. I find this argument ridiculous. And since science is not, and never will be, a religion, there is no need to get ethical directives from science. People do not need religion for that, either, by the way. Further, he writes:
On a practical level -- and I write as someone who works in the trenches at an evangelical college -- I am worried that attempts to treat science as if it is a religion will only drive the big, abrasive wedge currently between science and religion even further into the chasm of misunderstanding. What we should hope, instead, is that science can become a more congenial guest in the house -- church, temple, mosque -- of religion and not be so determined to proselytize or even evict all of the current occupants. There is much in religion that need not trouble the scientist and much that the scientist can value. Scientists must learn to live with that.
Well, I am not advocating any "evictions" or "proselytizing", either, and scientists have already been "living with that", for all these years. I just don't think that being a quiet "congenial" guest in the house of religion, especially in the face of religious zealots we deal with in the US today, will result in any progress for the humankind. Quite the opposite.
My hope is that with advancement of science the religion will play a smaller role, as is already the case in many European countries, for example.
Hi Kiki, since your stock response to everything I've contributed to this discussion is - as you say here - that you "find this argument ridiculous," I'm not going to try to add anything more. You have not explained WHY it is ridiculous, and it would not make sense for me to try to guess just what it is that causes you to think so.
Giberson was able to present a variety of different narratives from different scientific writers that exhibited the qualities of religious writing - of course, there are different ways to interpret those findings: is it just rhetoric, a way to appeal to an audience in a superficial way, unlike the more serious intentions that Giberson attributes to them? or, just the opposite, are the scientific writers being satirical, nothing more than that?
Giberson presented an analysis, but you have offered no counter-analysis, leaving me with nothing to say except that I learned some new things from Giberson, so at least for me this was not a wasted excursion... but this dialogue with you is clearly not going anywhere since it is not much of a dialogue - although maybe I have made this much progress: today you consider my perspective just ridiculous, not mentally ill, as you contended yesterday...
Anyway, I'm not sorry I tried, but I think I will be sorry if I keep trying. :-)
You have an interesting way of twisting my words, Laura. It's not even funny. Clearly, I never called your perspective mentally ill or ridiculous. I already explained yesterday that I used mental illness as an analogy, rather common, actually, and I called Giberson's main premise that some people try to present science as a "new religion" ridiculous. Did not know it was your premise as well. I find it amusing that religious people see everything in the religious framework, hence his need to frame atheism espoused by these scientists as a "new religion". I am sorry, it is just so obvious to me that it is ridiculous and that he misinterprets their writings that I did not feel it needed to be explained.
I guess you would only consider it a dialogue if I accepted your premise that there is a way to reconcile modern science and religion. So, for what it's worth, here is one scientist's perspective: I don't think this will ever be possible, nor do I think it is good for scientific progress. If you choose to dismiss it because in your opinion I am not sufficiently familiar with, or have enough respect for, religion, this is fine with me. I am not out there to convert anyone, and there are enough people (including my husband Vladimir who started this thread) who share my perspective on this issue.
Mary Midgley has a couple of very interesting books out (well they're all interesting). And she's grinding no religious axe, be assured: Science as Salvation and The Religion of Science.
For those of an enquiring disposition, she is an incredibly lucid, sharp and entertaining writer - and a very careful philosopher.
Hi Ian, thank you so much for expanding my booklist throughout the course of this discussion! I think after reading about Mary Midgley in this Guardian article she has gone to the top of the reading list - only 11 weeks until summer, when my education can, at last, resume. Nothing like school to get in the way of an education, ha ha! :-)
Remember that online journal started by my former student, Journey to the Sea, where I've been publishing some little articles on various things mythological (from Aesop to Orson Scott Card!) ... ? Well, he wants a piece on religion and science (imagine that!) for April if possible, and I had proposed doing something on Madelaine L'Engle in general, and in particular her book Many Waters which I read last summer. For all that this discussion has been kind of enervating, I'm more motivated to do that article now!
There are authors you meet who are just so clear - G E Moore in Ethics, for example, Gilbert Highet in The Classical Tradition, E T Bell in Men of Mathematics. And G H Hardy, P A M Dirac, Claude Shannon, John Moore, Science as a Way of Knowing. M J S Rudwick on the history of geology... But, for each of us, I think there's just a few. Midgley is one of them for me. I think, why didn't I know about her before.
Off-topic, she has a penetrating article on cultural relativism "On trying out one's new sword" about the reported Samurai tradition for testing a new sword. (You can probably guess it.) If we adhere to proper cultural relativism, it's not a blameworthy or censurable practice, any more than other traits may be praiseworthy or laudable. They just are - end of story.
Back to this topic, every year there are about 40 books added to the Oxford University library under a Science and Religion tag. (It's been so for the last 20 years!) It's at least a publishing explosion - I strongly doubt it's a knowledge explosion! When I was studying Hitory and Philosophy of Science one of our units was titled "Lavoisier: More heat than enlightenment" The subtitle may be very applicable!
Anther for your reading list? In the UK Michael Poole is perhaps the most long-lived worker on Science and Religion in the classroom (His most useful work for teachers is Beliefs and Values in the Science Classroom.) There's plenty more, some in the anti-library!
Someday, Ian, you really do need to be magically transported to Norman Oklahoma to meet Kerry Magruder, the History of Science Librarian. I guarantee the two of you would have a grand time!!! I might even have to come back to Norman just to eavesdrop on such a meeting! :-)
Yes, Laura, I remember reading this very Guardian article some time ago. Feisty seems an apt word! Now I've read the article again, I can correct my memory - The book I called The Religion of Science is really Evolution as a Religion. The article mentions a third book of relevance: Poetry and Science. She has also very recently written her autobiography The Owl of Minerva. And to cap it all, there's a Best of... The Essential Mary Midgley.
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