Religious bigotry, was Re: SCIENCE CONFUSION IN THE US.

Curtis Clark jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU
Fri Aug 25 13:24:11 CDT 2000

For those of you who believe that the place of science in society has no
bearing on the creationist controversy, or that the creationist controversy
has no bearing on systematics, please hit delete now.

At 05:48 AM 8/24/00, Thomas Lammers wrote:
 >Many of these alternative
 >therapies claim to have an objective, physical, material basis, rather
 >a mystical ethereal basis.

Indeed, and I think this is a symptom of the "sacredization" of science. I
once took my dog to an "alternative" vet hoping to get chiropractic
treatment, and he recommended homeopathic remedies. He explained how the
water used for dilution was "charged" with the "energy" of the substance,
which increased through repeated dilution. I said that seemed like magick
to me, not as an insult, but rather because my religion, Wicca, makes use
of magick as part of its ritual. He was of course insulted; homeopathic
medicine is *scientific*, blessed by the Gods of Objective Inquiry (my own
sarcastic take, not his words). Science has become the Big Kahuna against
which all else must be judged.

 >when folks claim their particular little sideline *does* fit into natural
 >law, and even attempt pseudoscientific explanations of it, well then it
 >fair game for rational analysis of its claims.

Certainly. Religion is the realm of the irrational. That is where its power
lies. I don't think any of us would claim that science is a better way of
dealing with things that are fundamentally irrational.

At 06:04 AM 8/24/00, John Grehan wrote:
 >As for the distinction Curtis Clark draws between science and religion, I
 >am not so sure. It seems to me that philosophers have a difficult time
 >this demarkation also. As Lakatos pointed out, Popperian falsificationism
 >as a criterion of science can also be successfully applied to witchcraft.

IMO, science deals with the general, and religion with the specific.
Science can tell me about life, but it can't tell me anything about *my*
life. "Meaning" in the sense that science uses the word isn't much comfort
to a mortal being facing the reality of his individual existence. So much
of the rhetoric about the creationists seems to put forward Good, Rational
Science as a preferable alternative to Nasty, Irrational Religion. I will
be the first to claim (have done so many times, and in public debate) that
science provides a better set of tools for understanding the diversity of
natural organisms than does the King James version of the Bible. But if I
were to try to convince my Christian students that they *had* to give up a
major part of the meaning in their lives in order to be biologists, I
wouldn't have many takers.

It is said that if your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a
nail. My analogy for science is more of a very sharp knife. It does its job
exceedingly well, even when wielded clumsily, as all of us have at least on
occasion done. But there is no need to empty out the rest of the toolbox;
the knife isn't so big that it needs all the room, and there are subjects
that don't benefit from being sliced. That creationists, homeopaths, and
many others are wielding the knife even more clumsily than we can imagine
is a testament to (1) the high regard in which the public holds science (or
at least "science"), (2) the abysmal ignorance of much of that same public
as to what science really does, and (3) the inability of some scientists to
recognize that the human mind is big enough to hold the rational and the
irrational at the same time.

Curtis Clark        
Biological Sciences Department             Voice: (909) 869-4062
California State Polytechnic University      FAX: (909) 869-4078
Pomona CA 91768-4032  USA                  jcclark at

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