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Show Me The Science

Jim Manzi reviews Expelled. He's not impressed.

And John Derbyshire is appropriately dismayed by Jews like David Klinghoffer and Ben Stein latching on to this anti-science schtick:

One of the best reasons to be a philosemite in our time is sheer gratitude at the disproportionate contribution Jews have made to the advance of Western civilization, and to our understanding of the world, this past two hundred years. The U.S.A. dominated the 20th century in culture and technology, to the great benefit of all mankind, in part because of the work done in math and science by the great tranche of pre-WW2 immigrant Jews from Europe.

Now you have joined up with people who want to trash the scientific enterprise and heap insults on one of the greatest names in intellectual history. For reasons unfathomable to me, you and Ben Stein want to sneer and scoff at our understandings, hard-won over centuries of arduous intellectual effort. Don't the two of you know, don't Jews of all people know, where this anti-intellectual agitation, this pandering to a superstitious mob, will lead at last? If you truly don't, I refer you to the fate of Hypatia, which you can read about in my last book (Chapter 3), or in Gibbon (Chapter XLVII). Your new pals at the Discovery Institute no doubt think Hypatia got what she deserved.

Civilization is a thin veneer, David. Reason and science are bulwarks against the dark.

The mistake that these people make is to equate science with atheism. It is true that, as science advances, and more scientific explanations are put forth, much of the need for God, at least insofar as an explanation for natural phenomena, is removed. But then, that's the nature of natural phenomena--if they require the supernatural, they are by definition not natural.

But it doesn't follow that a belief in science in general, or evolution in particular, requires atheism. Many (including Manzi in the link above) have pointed out numerous examples, going back to Aquinas, of the compatibility of rationality and reason, and theism. Stein and Klinghoffer would return us to the dark ages, even if they don't realize it.


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Jim Davis wrote:

But it doesn't follow that a belief in science in general, or evolution in particular, requires atheism.

But belief in science does require one to be able to constantly adjust one's world view to accomodate new data. Most formal religions have a huge problem with that.

wayne wrote:

Are you going to see the movie before you trash it? Not a very scientific approach. Ben Stein is a good guy, and plenty bright, so I'd give him the benefit of the doubt if I were you.

Rand Simberg wrote:

Are you going to see the movie before you trash it? Not a very scientific approach.

I don't have to "trash" the movie. I just linked to a review by someone who has seen it.

Ben Stein is a good guy, and plenty bright, so I'd give him the benefit of the doubt if I were you.

I had always thought that he was, which is why I'm so disappointed in this. I don't need to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who says: "Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people."

That is just nuts. And it makes me think that the movie is similarly wacky.

FC wrote:

What's wrong with killing people?

Jeff Medcalf wrote:

Actually, I shopped for my religion quite deliberately. (After having been turned agnostic by a Southern Baptist sermon as a teenager.) When I decided that there was something Divine in the universe, I made a list of musts, mays, and must nots and then sought a religion that matched. One of the items on that list was that I needed to be able to change my mind about how the world worked without having to change my religion. I ended up Pagan, but I understand that most forms of Christianity can be compatible with that kind of flexibility as well. It's just that the particularly loud and obnoxious evangelicals who get all the press tend to be in the other camp, that of divine revelation about everything being literal and absolute truth. But go ahead and ask them if they bury their crap a certain distance from the town gates (Deuteronomy, I think) and see how literally they really take it.

Ryan wrote:

Jeff: It is sad to think of just how many people the baptist have run off.
I myself am Lutheran with a degree in Physics. I tend to be quite pragmatic in my theology. I figure that there nothing that can be discovered by science that disputes Gods word. In a way God's word is what science is studying. (To paraphrase: "God said let there be and there was" We all know that words are just information, information is just coherent energy, and energy is matter. I doubt God is restrained by 7 days any more then I am with a variable 'x' in a for next loop.) I figure this is much ado about nothing. Fools trying to constrain God into our limited world view of time and space. Unfortunately, history is full of "good guy, and plenty bright" fools.

Jonathan wrote:

Stein is an odd bird. I first learned about him through his American Spectator columns, many years ago, in which he frequently discussed the foolishness of Hollywood people. Yet he was and remains a Hollywood person. In the '80s he became conspicuous for his demagogic and, I think, dishonest attacks on Michael Milken -- who, it turned out, he had previously (and unsuccessfully) solicited for a job. Recently he appeared on Kudlow's TV show, where I thought he demonstrated a very idiosyncratic understanding of economic issues. I don't know how much of his intellectual weirdness is real and how much is an act, but he's the kind of person whose every assertion has to be checked carefully. (And no, I am not planning to see his movie, partly because I trust neither his intellectual judgment nor his good faith, and partly because partisan critiques of natural-selection theory leave me cold.)

Jim Harris wrote:

Stein and Klinghoffer would return us to the dark ages, even if they don't realize it.

At least in regard to Ben Stein, that is rather overheated rhetoric. Yes, Stein's movie is irresponsible. It's also blatantly insincere. Most evolutionary biologists aren't taking the bait. In the first place, they would rather do evolutionary biology than argue against creationists cum "intelligent designers". Most of the few who debate creationists have business in court rather than in movie theaters. They also know that the real militancy comes from Christian evangelists, not from panderers like Ben Stein. So who is left to be disgusted with Stein? To a large extent, science-minded conservatives who are disappointed by Stein's lack of credibility.

David Klinghoffer is a different case. He really does want to return Jews to the "dark ages", which he views as bright ages. He may envision common interests between Orthodox Jews and Christian fundamentalists, including for instance the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. But most American Jews are too secular to listen to him.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on May 2, 2008 10:20 AM.

It's Not Just A Bad Idea, It's The Law was the previous entry in this blog.

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