Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Science Vs. Religion

As Laura noted last week, "Obviously, there shouldn't even be a "vs" in there..." because science and religion have the same goals: explaining our world and our place in it.

And of course most scientists and most religious people aren't arguing about it, because they recognize that the two disciplines offer unique and irreplaceable ways of doing that.

Also, not coincidentally, most scientists and most religious people are busy doing their own work and don't have any agenda to push. It seems to me like the arguing comes mostly from misunderstandings and insecurity about perceptions, and sometimes from a desire to make money, or a reputation, from the conflict.

Case in point: Michael Shermer has taken advantage of a recent opportunity to push his book sales by hanging onto the coattails of a hateful little talk-show wanna-be comedian.

Other examples? There are too many to cite here. But to avoid a firestorm of dissent and invective, I'll just go all the way back to Thomas Henry Huxley, AKA Darwin's Bulldog, who (according to Wikipedia, and, yes, I know, I know) wasn't even all that sure about the validity of Darwin's theory of natural selection --- but supported him because he was so opposed to "the more extreme versions of religious tradition.."

I recommend the entire Wikipedia article to anyone who is interested in Huxley's work and his support of Darwinism. I admit that this article is as deep as I have dug into his life and work, so I don't know as much about him as others do. But that one phrase from the article seems like it could apply to other people, on both sides of the debate: In reacting strongly to ignorance, extreme opinions, and mischaracterizations, he swings so hard to the other side as to miss the whole part in the middle.

It's understandable, isn't it. But what is harder for me to understand is when people arguing on either side deliberately mischaracterize the other side's arguments in order to strike them down. Equally hard for me to understand is when all religious people are represented as unintelligent and irrational, and all scientists as scheming godless corrupters of America's youth. 

I note that Huxley is the one who coined the phrase "Darwin's Bulldog" to refer to himself; and I'd like to think that Darwin didn't NEED a bulldog; no one needs a bulldog in the long run, if the only issue is the approach toward true understanding. 

So I wish all these self-anointed bulldogs on both sides would just chain themselves back up, de-fang themselves, or whatever, and let the honest discussion continue.

1 comment:

AskTheGeologist said...

Somehow I think the Bulldogs and Rottweilers will NOT "just chain themselves up" but will instead continue barking and barking and barking - and keeping us up at night if we let 'em.

No, I think instead they will go the way of all these sorts of things: they will sell their books, make some money they think they need but can't really use... and eventually die of cancer.

There's an ancient precedent for this. It took place over 40 years in a desert called Sinai.