Still The Same Score

Science is still winning. God is losing. The score differential just keeps getting bigger.

For those of you who have been following the comments in my previous post, Ormond advanced an energetic argument that this was a stupid blog, and that my observations were an embarrassment to doubters.

Basically my whole contention is that the inquisitor is wrong to use the Ivin’s story as an example of the superiority of science over “God”. This story is actually a better example of the dangers of science or the potential dangers of its application. I kindly ask the inquisitor to remove the tags “critical thinking” and “reason”. I see none of those things here.

Of course, I feel he was tilting at windmills, windmills that seemed to be working just fine, thank you, with no threat to anyone. He (I assume the male gender for sake of argument) seemed to be under the impression that I was making an argument that I didn’t feel I was making, and that was not present in my post – that science was inherently good, and that we should all abandon the worship of gods in favor of a certain respectful worship of science. As I said, I don’t believe that, and I don’t believe that was the point of the last post. If you found that in what I wrote, then consider it retracted, and explained as inelegant rhetoric.

My point was that science, which has a long unbroken history of explaining various aspects of the real world (i.e reality), is dismissed by people who claim they are intelligent, yet continue to rely on magical thinking to explain reality. With regard to the Ivins/anthrax case, I used that as an example of people turning not to religion and faith to help them solve a real-world problem, but to Science. Yes, the science they turned to is just a tool used by critical thinkers, but it is the only tool that has been used by mankind that has ever produced consistent results. Religion can’t make that claim.

Sure, you will get “mad scientists” who will misuse science, but those people are few and far between. For the most part, science is used to increase human knowledge for the ultimate betterment of mankind. Even when you have people who misuse science for evil, like an antibody on a virus, good scientists swarm to destroy it.

Ormond should enjoy this follow-up story to the anthrax case. Especially this quote:

“Science is a wonderful thing but it is, at the end of the day, a tool,” said Dr. Gigi Gronvall of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Biosecurity. “The question is how that was used.”

It’s not the science that is bad, and it’s not science we should fear. It’s people who close their minds to science, instead relying on belief in what amounts to silly superstition and misplaced magic that should concern us. Don’t forget, science done correctly will almost always work, even if it is applied to nefarious purposes. If everybody understood that science is neutral, and has no purpose, either good or evil, we would have a better educated populace that would be able to recognize the misuse of science, and better able to counteract it quickly. For instance, a person well grounded in science would easily recognize that man and dinosaurs did not live together at the same time.

The newly created field of microbial forensics, spurred past its own infancy by the urgency of the Ivins case, is just another example of the potential application of science for bettering mankind and increasing human knowledge.

Don’t forget. Even mad scientists who misuse science get the correct results when they apply the science correctly. You may not like those results, but you can rely on them.

Can you say that about god?

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11 thoughts on “Still The Same Score

  1. Science is morally neutral. It’s about the search for knowledge. Individual humans, not being morally neutral, may apply that knowledge for good or for ill.

    Religion is morally repugnant. The god or gods in all so-called “sacred” books are reprehensible; they’d be recognized as such if they were humans. Religion isn’t about searching for anything except one’s own navel. Knowledge of any kind is contradictory to “scriptural” teachings.

    So there’s no contest between science and religion, is there? Unless you’re either a fool or a scoundrel.

  2. SI declared: that science was inherently good, and that we should all abandon the worship of gods in favor of a certain respectful worship of science.

    I certainly hope I’m not just reading in to this, because I want you to sign me up. 🙂

    SI, you didn’t need to go through all the trouble of writing ths post. Didn’t you notice that Ormand disappeared immediately after I replied to his last comment? I took care of your light work.

    Science rocks. It can’t disprove god(s). All it can do is continue to make them an unnecessary hypothesis. Every new scientific discovery strips god of yet another “accomplishment”.

    Has everyone heard the latest edition of Another Goddamned Podcast? It rocks alomst as much as science. And there is Another Goddamned Podcast Group over at Between science and AGP, life just gets better and better.

  3. Everything can be used negatively. You can kill someone with a ballpoint pen. Does that make ballpoint pens evil?

    As a member of the reality based community, I have no choice but to embrace the scientific method for there’s no better way to understand and function in reality. Believing in supernatural forces does nothing in the way of understanding or learning how to function in reality. Take Katrina. Would belief in the supernatural provide answers to protecting New Orleans against another hurricane, or would scientific investigation into the nature of hurricanes, examinations of flood patterns and geography and investigations into the failures of levees better arm you? A levee of prayer ain’t gonna stop the next hurricane, nor is stopping the “gay agenda”.

  4. Hey guys,

    I agree that Christianity is an enormous obstacle to progress in the US. Social progress. Political progress. Scientific progress. Because of America’s importance in the world, the Jesus problem is now the world’s. I’m not an American…I can tell you, as an outsider looking in, that I shudder when I hear some of your fellow countrymen say things like “God told me…” “Jesus this” and “Cross that”.

    Moreover, some countries follow America’s lead. Christian conservatism has a funny way of crossing borders. I’m shocked at how much my country has changed in the last 8 years…

    As for science as a basis of knowledge of the physical world/universe, of course, I entirely agree “… there is no contest between science and religion.”

    I do think religion can provide other sorts of knowledge (scientific knowledge is but one form). I don’t say that to be contentious. I know we will disagree on this point. I’m just saying it for the record.

    To be frank, what got under my skin in your previous post (and this one seems to have the same flavour) is that you have gone too far in the other direction. You trust in science too much without any of that all important ironic distance.

    But I own that perhaps I was reading too much into your post and the accompanying comments. If so, I apologize. I also apologize for calling your blog “stupid” (I was venting. I meant to edit that out but forgot to before I pressed “submit”).

    I do maintain, however, that this polarity between religion and science/atheism is first and foremost a political/social issue, not a theological or philosophical one. I “pray” that America reaches a resolution or some acceptable synthesis. To me, this struggle seems more urgent than debates between science and God. The debate is abstract and little new is being said here; the struggle is very real and may have consequences painful to US and the rest of the world.

    I had completely personal reasons for disappearing from the previous comment thread. It had nothing to do with Evo’s rebuttal. Now, like God in the deist model, I will disappear again.

  5. Well, for one thing, it provides some insight into the ability of the human brain to compartmentalize rationality and fantasy , so that it can use the former while believing in the latter simultaneously. Of course, I fully expect that it will be science, not religion, that will eventually explain the mechanics and the reason behind that process.

  6. I was going to follow up after he made that statement. Then his ending made it sound like he was just dropping his 2 cents and leaving. But if he is coming back, yeah, please answer Philly’s question in light of SI’s answer.

  7. I do think religion can provide other sorts of knowledge (scientific knowledge is but one form).

    As per PhillyChief above, what knowledge?

    What religion does provide is a prism through which to view one’s relationship to the cosmos. “I live in a universe created by god and this god wants me to live by a certain set of rules.” But such a belief does not reveal any knowledge about the universe itself, such as “how old is it?”, “how big is it?”, “is there life on other planets?” and so forth.

    While I have no problem with people using religion as a guide to leading their own lives, the problem that does arise is when people use their religious beliefs as a justification for restricting the choices and freedoms of others. “You are not married, therefore you should not be allowed to purchase a condom, because sex outside of marriage is a sin in the eyes of god.”

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