Friday, 26 August 2011

Science and secularism

Christianity (especially the fundamentalist variety) is the domain of superstition while secularism is the pure child of Science.  According to Robert Weissberg, not quite:
Ironically, liberal attackers are guilty of far greater unscientific dogmatism, sloppy thinking, and mind-boggling confusion but fail to notice it thanks to a manufactured respectability that deters -- if not forbids -- close inspection. Worse, judged by the unforgiving standards of science, the liberal creed may be far wackier (and factually incorrect) than any assertion about God creating the world in seven days. The war between secular liberalism and evangelical fundamentalism is a battle between competing dogmas, not science versus religious hokum.
What people tend to forget is that many of the crimes of Christianity were really committed by those who merely usurped its mantle of authority.  The same holds true with science, which is a much smaller and threadbare garment.  As to Christian fundamentalism, that's a much more recent phenomenon than the secularism it rose in reaction too and has its own problems, but at least it doesn't shoot itself so squarely in the foot.


eon said...

Hunter S. Thompson, in writing about the "Jesus Freaks" for Scanlan's in 1971, didn't like them very much. In fact, he observed (quite correctly) that "entire empires have been done in by vengeful freaks claiming a special relationship with God".

He forgot to mention the deadly corollary; that an even greater number of polities have been destroyed by even more vengeful freaks who believed that they, themselves, were in fact gods.

This is the "mote-beam syndrome" in the "progressive" mind. And it is potentially apocalyptic.



Sergej said...

Apparently, people need something to believe in. And "nothing is certain, there are no absolutes!" does not cut it.

I would raise a "um, but..." to the article's willingness to accept major mental differences among human populations (its first point, so it thought it significant). On two grounds. First, that as intelligence is only the potential for making good decisions, and needs information to work on, big brains are tribal property: intelligence in a group means that the old mans (around my age, which is several different kinds of depressing) can give better advice to their friends and nephews and sons, but they are already beyond their own reproductive age. A physical trait like fair or dark skin, or strong arms, on the other hand, kills or benefits immediately, and inside the reproductive years. If an Aleutian Eskimo couldn't paddle well, he starved. And then his family starved. But a better kayak or harpoon could be observed and adapted if the local community wasn't clever enough to invent it. Second, that unlike dogs, whose temperaments seem to be pretty plastic for the breeder, humans are well, humans. Humans can learn to live in a variety of ways, and there are plenty of examples, say, of Chinese families becoming quite Americanized in a few generations. So yes, I've heard the arguments, and even though they have flattering things to say about Ashkenazi Jews and intelligence, I have my doubts. I'd say that the human mind evolves much less rapidly than the human body, and especially given the long human generation, a beneficial genetic innovation in the brain should diffuse rapidly into the species.

Not that any of this matters to me. If I'm interviewing a Swedish pygmy, as the article mentions, I am going to ask him questions about language and data structures, design, algorithms, etc. If he has good answers, I'll recommend that he be hired, and if I need to I'll learn to make new sounds with my mouth to say his name. And if he's not a good candidate, otherwise.

David said...

Sergej: I agree with your point and I expect that Weissberg does, too. His point is that the secularist creed on the matter isn't the result of science, as they claim, but of making a paradigm shift without a clutch. At least Christians justify racial equality on the grounds of the brotherhood of man and the intrinsic worth of the individual.

Ironmistress said...

The problem with Fundamentalist Christianity is that Christians do not have their own Talmud.

How do we know what G-d did at 11:30 on the fourth day? All that has been recorded in Talmud Bavli. Likewise, the Bible has been written in Hebrew, not in English, and the Rabbinic scholars read the Bible in Hebrew while Christians read it in English. A lot is lost in the translation, and those who read it in the original language do have an edge in the debate.

Rabbinic scholars are far better suited on defending Fundamentalism than Christians.

That is why Christians fall as easy prey on Secularism, but not Jews.