July 28, 2006

Marx, Smith, Keynes, and Melanie Klein

Jul 27, 2006 Lawrence Krauss: Don't Pit Science Against Religion
THE popular debate about intelligent design has, I am happy to say, discredited fundamentalists who want to censor science for religious reasons. It has also exposed pseudo-scientific organisations such as the Discovery Institute for what they are. Nevertheless, in pitching misguided evangelicals against the scientific community, it has had one negative effect: it has encouraged scientists to counter-attack by criticising religious faith in general.
Such attacks are nothing new. One of the more outspoken scientific opponents of religion, physicist Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas at Austin, has said: "There are good people, and bad people. Good people do good things, and bad people do bad things. When good people do bad things, it is religion." It was a brilliant sound bite, but one of Weinberg's less vituperative statements is more instructive: "Science does not make it impossible to believe in God. It just makes it possible to not believe in God." His point is that before the advent of modern science, all natural phenomena were viewed as miraculous, for want of any better explanation...

I know from experience that the great successes of our scientific exploration of the universe can tempt us to dismiss anything other than scientific understanding as of secondary importance. But spirituality, and with it religious faith, is deeply ingrained in human culture, and many people rely on their religious convictions to make sense of life. Whatever one's personal views about religion, it is undeniable that scientific understanding alone does not encompass the range of the human intellectual experience.

Scientists who fail to appreciate this, and who attack religious beliefs for being unscientific, do their discipline a disservice, not least because such attacks are themselves unscientific. This is why, while I am sympathetic with many of the points he raises, I disagree with Richard Dawkins's unfettered attack on God. Not only is it inappropriate to try to convince people of the validity of scientific theories by first arguing that their deeply held beliefs are silly, it is also clear that the existence of God is a metaphysical question which is, for the most part, outside the domain of science.

Now more than ever it is important to understand the limits of science. The phrase often used to defend aspects of evolution has particular significance here: the absence of evidence is not evidence for absence. This is not to say that all theological interpretations are beyond scientific criticism. A fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible is in clear violation of physical evidence. Continue reading "Lawrence Krauss: Don't Pit Science Against Religion" » Jul 27, 2006 in Religion Comments (5) TrackBack (0)

Jul 26, 2006 Harding Points us to Polanyi
Leander Harding directs us to Polanyi, although after reading the article I continue to wonder if the reasserters truly understand the reappraising position. Why not Paul Feyerabend? Levinas? Charles Peirce? Rauschenbusch? Are Kierkegaard and Schleiermacher, truly nihilisitic? Isn't Zizek dealing with these sorts of questions? And has anyone read Bernard William's article "The Truth in Relativism"? Sadly, no. I, for one, gave up on post-modern thought several years ago because I think the issues are still about Marx, Smith and Keynes. And to some extent, Melanie Klein. Harding demonstrates, alas, that there are few people who have philosophical skill in the reasserting camp but, perhaps, it is because there are so few among the reappraisers, who do not use the slow steady logic necessary to render the various controversies comprehensible. Jul 26, 2006 in Theology Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

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