I can’t deal with this diatribe at the Chronicle of Higher Education:
If I say my love is a red, red rose, I am saying nothing about her mathematical abilities, and if I say (as today’s scientists do say) that the world is a whacking big machine, I am saying nothing about such questions as why there is something rather than nothing, why morality, or (and this is more controversial) why computers made of meat (aka brains) produce sentience.
I think science leaves these questions open, and if religion wants to try to answer them, it is perfectly legitimate for it to do so. It doesn’t mean that we have to accept the answers of the religious, and it doesn’t mean that religion cannot be criticized – I have said that for me personally the problem of evil is beyond solution – but I don’t think it can be criticized by science.
Science has tentative answers for the “something rather than nothing” question, and we’re working on the evolution or morality (its secular origin is also an empirical question) and the evolutionary and physiological bases of consciousness. The questions may be “open,” but they’re not in principle beyond the purview of science. The “answers” of religious people boil down to this: all these phenomena came from God. End of story. As Anthony Grayling notes, we may as well say that all these phenomena came from Fred. Religion has not, and cannot, provide good explanations for real-world phenomena.
And then there’s this ridiculous alarmism:
This is why, whatever is said about me, I am not about to change my mind – at least not without some arguments. And this is why I think the New Atheists are a disaster, a danger to the wellbeing of America comparable to the Tea Party. It is not so much that their views are wrong – I am not going to fall into the trap of labeling those with whom I disagree immoral because of our disagreements – but because they won’t make any effort to think seriously about why they hold their positions about the conflict between science and religion.
Because, of course, the New Atheists are philosophically unsophisticated:
Perhaps it is just a turf war, but I don’t think philosophy is something to be ignored or done after a day’s work in the lab over a few beers in the faculty club. I think if you want to show that science and religion are inherently in contradiction, then you should show why people like Kuhn (and indeed Foucault) are wrong about the nature of science. That I think is morally wrong, namely taking positions with major political and social implications, without doing your serious homework. Just mentioning Galileo’s troubles with the Church or Thomas Henry Huxley’s debate with the Bishop of Oxford is no true substitute for hard thinking.
No, we don’t have to show that Kuhn and Foucault are wrong about the nature of science. All we have to show—and have shown—is that religion and science use different and incompatible ways to “understand” the universe, and that the religious way isn’t really a way of understanding at all. All we have to show is that there is only one science, which is practiced by researchers of all creeds and nationalities, but that there are elebenty gazillion religions, all of which disagree about their “truths.” All we have to show is that religious “truths”, like resurrection and parthenogenetic humans, violate scientific ones. All we have to show is that we know a lot more about physics and biology than we did 200 years ago, but don’t know a jot and tittle more about the nature of supposed gods. And all we have to show is that faith is considered a virtue in religion, but a vice in science. We’ve already shown these forms of incompatibility. QED.
I love it that Ruse, like Jeremy Stangroom and Jean Kazez, characterizes our philosophical naivité and so-called stridency as “immoral.” Do these philosophers even know what “immorality” is?