Monday, October 11, 2010

Scientists: The Clergy For A Secular Post-Christendom World

Normally Monday morning brings us a syrupy, ecumenical plea from USA Today’s On Religion column, something about how we can all get along. Not today! Today we get a ham-fisted attack on all sorts of religion from the University of Chicago’s Jerry Coyne, an avowed atheist who by the way has a book cleverly titled Why Evolution is True . No conciliatory talk will be found in his essay Science and religion aren't friends. No way! In the same vein as other authors who find a profitable topic in telling unbelievers that they are right, Mr. Coyne lambastes religion for the cause of every ill in the world and extols the virtue of “scientists” as the calm, cool, rational folks. If only we would all listen to them, things would be so much better (or at least he would sell more books).

What is ironic and sad about this attack is that Mr. Coyne is at the very least as dogmatic and strident as he claims us poor ignert religious folks to be. He makes this bold statement: “We now know that the universe did not require a creator”. Oh, well that settles it, now that “we” know this. Just don’t ask any follow-up questions. Like for example…where did everything in the universe come from? Some “Big Bang” perhaps? But where did the matter that allegedly exploded and randomly turned into croissants and sea turtles come from? It can’t possible have always existed, doesn’t it need some sort of first cause? Matter doesn’t just create itself. Even if you hide behind sweeping claims of billions of years of existence, at some point you have to ask where it all came from and the claim that it has always “just been there” requires far more blind faith than belief in a Creator because scientists are bound by their own rules whereas God makes the rules. There simply is no “first cause” that is plausible other than a Creator God.

Perhaps the most risible of his statements comes late in the essay when he rolls out the old canard of “religious people are violent”:

The religious approach to understanding inevitably results in different faiths holding incompatible "truths" about the world. Many Christians believe that if you don't accept Jesus as savior, you'll burn in hell for eternity. Muslims hold the exact opposite: Those who see Jesus as God's son are the ones who will roast. Jews see Jesus as a prophet, but not the messiah. Which belief, if any, is right? Because there's no way to decide, religions have duked it out for centuries, spawning humanity's miserable history of religious warfare and persecution.

In contrast, scientists don't kill each other over matters such as continental drift. We have better ways to settle our differences. There is no Catholic science, no Hindu science, no Muslim science — just science, a multicultural search for truth. The difference between science and faith, then, can be summed up simply: In religion faith is a virtue; in science it's a vice.

Ah, the “multicultural search for truth” (and grant money of course). Puh-leeze. I guess we are supposed to believe that unlike the hordes of religious people constantly clubbing one another over the head, scientists are always rational folks who gather together in their lab coats, smoke pipes and discuss everything rationally and for a peaceful purpose. As the Climategate emails and subsequent cover-up demonstrate, “scientists” are every bit as ideological and agenda driven as any religious person.

As for this notion that religious folks are violent extremists and scientists are peaceful and concerned with human well-being. Really? Scientists didn’t experiment on black airmen in Tuskegee, Alabama or innocent people in Guantemala and intentionally infect them with diseases just to see what would happen? Scientists didn’t create the atom bomb that incinerated tens of thousands in Hiroshima and Nagasaki not to mention the countless others who died horrible deaths from radiation later? Scientists in the Third Reich didn’t experiment on Jews in ways that are unmentionable? Look back at the horrors of the 20th century and what do we see? You don't see religious wars causing massive death and destruction. Nazi Germany which was not a religious state unless you count National Socialism as a religion, which it sort of is in the same way atheism is a religion. Millions at the hands of that horror. How about Soviet Russia? How many died at the hands of that atheist state? At least a million in the gulags alone. The killing fields in Cambodia? The Korean War? The Vietnam War? Not only are the irreligious at least as violent as the religious, they are far better at killing. Radial Muslims killed 3000 people in one day, their “best shot” on September 11th, 2001. The United States killed 80,000 people at Hiroshima in one day on August 6, 1945 using the new toy created by…scientists. If some wars are started by religious people, we often find scientists right alongside, finding new and better ways to slaughter people: nuclear weapons, incendiary bombs, Agent Orange, tanks, poison gas, machines guns. I would argue that as the world becomes more “civilized” and less religious, we are even more callous about human life.

Can we generalize and say that all scientists are involved in experimenting on Jews and blacks or creating new and better ways to kill people? Of course not, but it is equally dishonest to snidely imply that religious people are responsible for all the ills of the world and that we deal with disagreements by shooting each other at the drop of a hat or flying planes into buildings.

When one makes bold claims about the origins of the universe with what any honest “scientist” would admit are at best infantile understandings of the big picture, you get a free pass as long as you self-identify as a scientist. Sort of like creating all manner of visual garbage and claiming it is “art” because you have declared yourself an “artist”. Some in the academic and scientific establishment, like Mr. Coyne apparently, are seeking to install themselves as the new clerical class, wearing white lab coats as their vestments and demanding that the laity of “non-scientists” bow to their demands.

After all they are smarter than us and it is for our own good.

1 comment:

Eric Holcombe said...

An interesting resignation letter by a physicist this week.