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Monday, May 2, 2005

Weekend reading.

Bless you, Boston Globe Ideas section! This weekend's good reads include:

  • Peter Dizikes's "Evolutionary War," about philosopher of science Michael Ruse's new book that argues that some advocates of evolutionary biology Richard Dawkins, for example are making unnecessary enemies among religious people:

    Ruse asserts that popular contemporary biologists like Edward O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins have also exacerbated the divisions between evolutionists and creationists by directly challenging the validity of religious belief - Dawkins by repeatedly declaring his atheism ("faith," he once wrote, "is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate"), and Wilson by describing his "search for objective reality" as a replacement for religious seeking.

    All told, Ruse claims, loading values onto the platform of evolutionary science constitutes "evolutionism," an outlook that goes far beyond the scientific acceptance of evolution as a means of explaining the origins and development of species. Provocatively, Ruse argues that evolutionism has often constituted a "religion" itself by offering "a world picture, a story of origins, and a special place for humans," while its proponents have been "trying deliberately to do better than Christianity."

    I've examined scientism in a Unitarian Universalist context in "Science and Its Metaphors" (UU World, Sept/Oct 2003).

  • Celia Ween's "Peering Into the Darkness," an article about a conference on the psychology, theology, and philosophy of evil.

  • And especially Katharine Dunn's "The Art of (Un)uselessness," about the Japanese art of chindogu. You must learn about the hay fever hat.

    Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 2 May 2005 at 8:51 AM

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    May 2, 2005 09:24 PM | Permalink for this comment

    I must admit that I am mildly annoyed about atheists who claim that science supports atheism. I think it neither supports nor disproves God or atheism -- science is completely neutral on the issue of whether there is or is not a God and what sort of God it might be. Science just doesn't deal with that part of existence. And by the same token, religion should butt out of the scientific realm. Religion should be about meaning, not scientific details.
    end rant.

    A Progressive Christian:

    May 2, 2005 10:43 PM | Permalink for this comment

    I agree scientists are poor theologians, particularly because the ones making the biggest pronouncements fail to realize how much they are taking on faith, and how far they have deviated from science. A true appreciation for the scientific method should leave one humbled with the limits of our knowledge, and hence leave some room for mystery and faith.

    I have not read anything by Wilson or Dawkins, but Stephen Jay Gould used to ruin many an otherwise good essay by marching right past the point where he should have acknowledged "we don't really know, but . . ." And I found Stephen Hawking's attempt in A Brief History of Time to explain why the Big Bang theory precluded God from intervening in the world to be somewhat ludicrous (which is surprising since his IQ must have exceeded mine by about 200 points). In fairness, I read later that he recanted that part of his theories (if I recall correctly).

    Kensho Godchaser:

    May 3, 2005 03:46 PM | Permalink for this comment

    I responded on my blog. In short, I think Dawkins has a point - he's just making it poorly.


    May 3, 2005 04:02 PM | Permalink for this comment

    Kensho, you're back! Hooray!

    Barbara W. Klaser:

    May 3, 2005 05:27 PM | Permalink for this comment

    Dawkins used the term "faith" when perhaps he should have simply mentioned that certain extremely dogmatic religions have harbored the kinds of zealots who caused all that trouble. Faith itself harms no one.

    I'm always perplexed when people use science to argue against faith, since science itself can't possibly disprove the existence of spirit and is continually discovering things previously unseen by the human eye. Science is about potential and possibility, about asking questions and seeking answers. It's about how and why we and everything else exists, and how things work. Very closely aligned with spiritual seeking, if you ask me.

    Einstein was a spiritual man.

    Kensho Godchaser:

    May 3, 2005 05:40 PM | Permalink for this comment

    Philo - damn, it's good to be remembered! :)

    Yep, back and trying to recoup my audience. It's a slow, shameful process.

    Barbara: good observation. And you're correct - science and religion can't disprove one another, because they deal with different domains of knowledge. There may be the tiniest of overlap between the two, and they share a common method, but they're in pursuit of different answers to different questions. (Of course, it didn't help in the end of the 20th century when many spiritualists began using quantum mechanics for spiritual metaphors.)


    May 3, 2005 09:04 PM | Permalink for this comment

    (Of course, it didn't help in the end of the 20th century when many spiritualists began using quantum mechanics for spiritual metaphors.

    At the end of the 20th century!? You'll surely be interested in a DVD called "What the Bleep Do we Know?" More info:

    Quantum physics and religion are merged in this film as never before. Hmmmm...

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