Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Religion, Science & Humanity

Dr. PZ Myers is to science blogging what Michael Savage is to conservative talk radio. He runs a blog called Pharyngula: Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal and though his science is often sound, his thinking seldom is. Case in point, his recent manifesto titled I'm Proud to be non-human.

What worked Dr. Myers into a foaming lather was that science historian Dr. Ronald Numbers (who wrote a fascinating and fair history of creationism) had done an interview on PBS in which he suggested not merely that science and religion need not be enemies, but also that while science may gain us knowledge, religion is what makes us human. Numbers had quoted Einstein as saying "Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind." In response to which Myers shouts:
Albert Einstein could be such an asshole. Why should I, or anybody, accept such a silly assertion? Religion adds nothing to science, let alone sight....

Of course, Einstein's arrogance has nothing on the author's, who believes that religion is the source of our humanity, and that we need absolute certainty to find satisfaction in life. If that's the case, I gladly renounce humanity, if humanity means ignorance and the dumb acceptance of superstition. I'll happily embrace uncertainty, provisional truth, and a method that guarantees a lifelong search for new knowledge over the false certainty given by the liars for gods.
Queue the Alberich theme as background for this renunciation -- though I doubt Valhalla will burn because of Myers renouncing humanity.

Sadly, there are all too many people who follow Myer's credo, and believe that the only true knowledge is to be had through science. Though Einstein's own ideas on religion were hardly in the mainstream of Judeo-Christian thought, he understood that there was more to the world than can be found through the telescope and microscope. Myers (and many of his commenters) seem quite unaware of this, with many pointing out: "Yeah, and where did Einstein's beliefs get him? Late to the QM game, that's where."

Perhaps is the sheer breadth of knowledge out there in this day and age, but it seems that fewer and fewer people have anything like a wide ranging education. A great number of science writers (even those with greater mental and educational maturity than PZ Myers) have only the most basic notions about history and philosophy, much less religion. And few who have made it their lives work to study theology, philosophy or history have a clear understanding of modern science. I suppose one approach would simply be to throw up one's arms and say that the modern world does not admit to the renaissance man model. Or perhaps we just need to try harder. If people would just show a little basic interest we'd get farther.

Modern science is indeed a powerful and fascinating tool, and I think far to many people either don't understand it or simply have no interest in it. And yet the idea that the only things worth knowing about the world can be discerned by science is so misguided as to be scarcely comprehensible to me.

1 comment:

Zachriel said...

Ah, but if you want to know anything about Danio rerio or the pharyngeal period of embryonoic development, then Dr. Myer is your the one to ask.

Which just goes to show how personal foibles, religious and philosophical concepts, and general orneriness, are irrelevant to the validity of the science.