Another day, another gross misunderstanding of science & atheism, which leads to several hundred words of pure “duh”.
Some … guy … named Karl Giberson has written a piece in Slate (may they be deprived of the blessed touch of the FSM’s noodly appendages forever more for allowing such trash in their usually decent mag) and it’s rife with the usual, tiresome “science is a religion” bullshit. Fortunately, saving me some precious time, PZ has smushed this tripe as only he can (but as we all should strive to do), and Jason Rosenhouse done the same over at Evolutionblog. However, I felt compelled, as ever, to have a crack of my own.
Some Giberson gems:
Science, it would appear, has the raw material for a new religion. Trust traditionally placed in God can be relocated to science, which is reliable and faithful, as well as ennobling. Life can be oriented in a reverential way around the celebration and protection of the great diversity wrought by the evolutionary epic, a diversity that has produced creatures capable of reflecting on this grand mystery.
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?
Facile, impotent, naive retardedness of the highest order. Is he actually being serious posing these ridiculous questions? Eugenics was quickly smacked down as a ridiculous idea based on old prejudices – and the more biologists learn about “race” and about human history, the clearer it becomes that the whole concept of race itself is no more than the difference between a beagle and a basset; a tabby and a tortoiseshell. His “appreciation for natural selection bring[ing] eugenics back out of the closet” remark is sailing dangerously close to that smug little fuckwit Ben Stein’s “Darwin = Nazis” movie Expelled and his comment on a TV interview that “science leads you to killing people.” Reverence for the cosmos would no more lead to astrology than my love for Pink Floyd leading to an attempt to deify David Gilmour & Roger Waters. Again, is he serious with this shit? Did he proofread it or just hit “send” to his editor? What would make us all better off is a concerted effort from credulous bible-thumpers like Giberson to actually understand what science is, what it isn’t, what it does and how it works. That should then put an end to the ridiculous recycled religious arguments we constantly have to tolerate.
There is also no compelling way to get ethical directives from science.
True! You know why, genius? Because, as I posted here, science is a TOOL (note that I’m resisting the obvious comparison between it and you). A method for investigation & explanation. It’s not a belief system, ethical guide, philosophy, political system or a religion any more than the operating manual for my DVD player is a fucking bible, and you know what else? Science doesn’t want to join your ancient, dark-age superstitious clubhouse. Scientific inquiry, in the guise of the Renaissance and the later Enlightenment, is what rescued the world from centuries of church-inspired intellectual vacuum & despotism (before Gutenberg, it was illegal in many parts of Europe for peasants to own bibles or learn to read!). No scientist worth the term is going to push science as anything other than what it is! Science is an eternal process of questioning what we see, of searching for explanations, of testing claims – not a list of easy, thoughtless answers and appeals to ignorance. I simply can’t believe the lack of understanding Giberson possesses. But then he explains it, and I believe it:
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.
There ya go. He’s a teacher at that old oxymoron, the fundamentalist educational institution. I think the fact that Giberson works at a fundie college (and admits it!) speaks volumes. Of COURSE he’s seeing science as a pretender to the throne of religion! Why? Because fundies can’t comprehend life without a supernaturally-derived behavioural manual and they project that all-consuming need for spiritual surveillance onto everyone that disagrees with them. “You have faith in science? Well, that’s your religion right there!” They can’t imagine a life without worshipping invisible deities, so they project that desperate personal requirement onto those of us in the pro-science world – “if you don’t worship God, you have to worship something.” They describe everything in religious terms as they’ve been marinating in them so long that a life without them – in any form – is utterly inconceivable. They see scientists like PZ Myers et al becoming increasingly more vocal in opposing dogma, wilful misinformation and lackwitted creationist garbage and they label it as atheist/scientific evangelism/fundamentalism/militancy. Well, no, it’s not. That annoying, in-your-face cold-selling is what you fundies do. That’s what scientists are reacting to – your ignorance, your evangelism, your increasing & increasingly sneaky attempts to enter education as valid alternatives to actual science. You fundies and your wilful misunderstandings of reality are the reason there are so many “militant atheists” out there opposing your crap, your half-arguments and your ignorance and you’re worried.
You know who put that “big, abrasive wedge” between science and religion there in the first place? Religious people – masquerading as those interested in academic freedom. The goddam Discovery Institute, who brought you the Dover massacre of 2005. Giberson then implies that science is the unwanted guest who should sit down and shut up. After that gross misrepresentation, Giberson then paints science as some sort of interloper, a snivelling goblin that’s flung open the doors of a temple and demanded equal treatment to the gods. He reprimands science for its ungentlemanly behaviour, for daring to presume to sit at the big table with the grownups. How arse-backwards can you possibly be? It is religion that has been forced, dishonestly, through the cracks of the education system in America; religion which has thrown open the classroom door and demanded equal time and “academic freedom”; religion which is burrowing its way into science curricula with the help of the Discovery Institute’s big, abrasive wedge. Pots & kettles, Giberson. It is the church which has raised the profile of science by constantly attacking it and its practitioners, either directly & publicly with hit-pieces like this garbage or indirectly by subterfuge, such as was seen at Dover.
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. That we can know as much as we do seems rather miraculous, in fact. Is it so dangerous to believe that there is a bit more to the world than meets the scientific eye, that behind the blackboard filled with equations there is a rational, creative and even caring mind breathing fire into those equations?
“Gee, gosh, some of my best friends are scientists but they don’t know ever’thang so don’t worship them.” You know what? Any scientist – or even any layperson who understands science – would agree with you there. Noone with half a brain thinks science will ever “know everything”. Clearly, that’s a job for your god. Every scientific discovery, every answer, even the revolutionary & world-changing, also lead to more questions. If Giberson understands anything about science, it’s that scientists themselves are the first to admit that not only do we not know everything that can be known, we may never know. However, that’s no reason to stop searching!
He asks if it’s really so dangerous to believe there’s something behind the equations of the universe. Well, of course it’s not dangerous. A waste of time perhaps … let me ask a question then: is it really so dangerous to admit that there’s absolutely no evidence for the claim that there is something behind the blackboard?