Notes From Babel

Science 1, Leprechauns 0

with 3 comments

Periodically, the secret society of irreverent irreligionists commission a new rehashing of the same old grizzled arguments against religion, and fire off a public service message to remind the rest of us what dolts we are to continue tolerating—let alone practicing—our respective faiths.  After all, don’t we know by now that John Q. Churchgoer is no different from Muhammad Q. Taliban?  That it is only a matter of time before we are swept up by some charismatic zealot and fly ourselves right into the side of a building?

Jerry A. Coyne in the USA Today, for example, updates us that “[w]e now know that the universe did not require a creator.”  Apparently, Stephen Hawking wrote a book on it, and it conclusively settled the matter.  Even better, Coyne happily informs us, “[s]cience is even studying the origin of morality.”  You don’t say?  These are bold new accomplishments indeed!  One might only ask whether, after our Ph.D. clerics have finished grinding these metaphysical questions into pulp, might they work their way back around to some of the medical nuisances that still afflict us?  As placated as we have been with the advances in the causes against hair loss and dysfunctional phalli, many would still like to see cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s and AIDS and Parkinson’s.  Certainly, the drubbing of sappy religionists is the high calling of Science, but one hopes there is time left to devote to these other, albeit perhaps lesser, aims.

Though while science claims to have vanquished its foes, in fact it has not even overcome the devastating blow David Hume (himself an atheist) dealt it when he demonstrated that science has not—and, by its nature, cannot—explain even the basic tenets necessary to do science in the first place—i.e., causation and induction.  So, while science purports to explain life’s great mysteries, it fails to even justify itself by its own method.

Folks like Coyne and Richard Dawkins, however, are too busy equating religion with “leprechauns” or monkeys studying Hegel on Mars to appreciate, let alone offer an explanation for, this all-important question.  Science is useful to certain kinds of knowledge; but it cannot explain all the types of knowledge available to mankind.   Scienceniks scoff at all types of non-empirical knowledge, as if the laws of logic are of the same order as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.  But rejecting the idea that Tony the Tiger exists does not have the same effect as rejecting the basis for causation, induction, the laws of logic, and morality.  The latter sort of rejection is extraordinary, and one which the scienceniks serially omit to account for.


Written by Tim Kowal

October 11, 2010 at 10:55 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Yep.

    What bothers me about science (even more than its lust for statistics, which enrages and confounds me) is its latent Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy regarding faith. Anyone can tell you there’s no conceivable idea which does not have its root in a kind of faith, but scienceniks like to pretend that lab studies present observable fact and universal truth.

    What silliness.

    I indicted science for its latent arrogance in May. I’m more verbose than you are, but if you’re at all interested,


    October 12, 2010 at 8:39 am

    • I’ve only had time to very quickly read your interesting post. I mean to study some of the points closer when I get a respite from work.

      I do find it interesting sometimes how people choose to reconcile (or fail to reconcile, as the case may be) the scientific and the religious. But I honestly don’t see this as much of a problem, for some of the reasons you point out. Why should a religious viewpoint offend or impair the ability to do science? Why has science come to be regarded as something that can populate an entire view of the world? Science, when done right and within its traditionally observed limits, produces a very limited sort of data about the world. If we were to draw Venn diagrams, I suspect the overlap between religion and science would occupy a very small region. It’s like Jews and Arabs scorching the earth in a fight over Jerusalem. The plot of land can’t possibly be that important. There is obviously some deep sentiment and resentment on both sides driving the fight.

      Tim Kowal

      October 13, 2010 at 9:52 pm

      • I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, I fanatically agree, something I don’t do very often.

        Early civilization was capable of navigation and architecture and literature and government and war, trade, art, all manner of human achievement on an enormous scale without transgressing their religious beliefs or their scientific principles. In fact, for a long time, most of those specialists _were_ their hierophants.

        Ah well, anyhow… All Stephen Hawkings aside, I feel certain that they’ll grow entwined again in short order, and I really like that idea.

        Hermetics are really, really fun to study if you ever get time. They’re Egyptian philosophy from thousands of years before Christ (allegedly), and the medical post with entwined serpents is taken from their main saint’s ancient symbol. The Kybalion, in which their few principles are described, is basically a set of the thermodynamic laws in an old-schooly kind of pagan mysticism. The weird thing is, it’s also monotheistic. Figure that one out.

        Time to go. I like this post very much. Rare sentiment.


        October 14, 2010 at 10:18 am

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