Thursday, November 16, 2006


Between Science and Faith

Robin Burk links to a report in the Washington Post on a recently formed anti-religious think tank, and thereby touches off a great discussion over at Winds of Change.

The Post reports on the new think tank, formed by “a group of prominent scientists and advocates of strict church-state separation,” who attribute a growing lack of scientific awareness and rationality to American religious fundamentalism:
Concerned that the voice of science and secularism is growing ever fainter in the White House, on Capitol Hill and in culture, a group of prominent scientists and advocates of strict church-state separation yesterday announced formation of a Washington think tank designed to promote "rationalism" as the basis of public policy.

The brainchild of Paul Kurtz, founder of the Center for Inquiry-Transnational, the small public policy office will lobby and sometimes litigate on behalf of science-based decision making and against religion in government affairs.

The announcement was accompanied by release of a "Declaration in Defense of Science and Secularism," which bemoans what signers say is a growing lack of understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry and the value of a rational approach to life.

"This disdain for science is aggravated by the excessive influence of religious doctrine on our public policies," the declaration says. "We cannot hope to convince those in other countries of the dangers of religious fundamentalism when religious fundamentalists influence our policies at home."
I’m certainly not surprised that think tank speakers “were highly critical of Bush administration policies regarding stem cell research, global warming, abstinence-only sex education and the teaching of ‘intelligent design’.” They want me to believe they’re “non-partisan,” since “many Democrats were hostile to keeping religion out of public policy.” I’m sure they’re non-partisan, no less so than the ALCU or Planned Parenthood.

In comments to the WoC post, Joe Katzman thinks these scientists and secularists are declaring war on a potential ally:
As it is... they're going to do tremendous harm to their cause, and mine, by working to separate faith and reason at the very moment when both pillars of the Compact of Ages need to be seen as part of one great and overarching framework in the pursuit of different but important aspects of the real goal - truth.

Declaring jihad on religion as your approach to promoting science and rationalism is the act of a moron who has not looked at related experiments and considered the evidence. In other words, a non-rational actor.
In another comment, David Blue amplifies on Katzman, and points out the folly of forcing people to choose between science and faith:
People are all for science, till you till them to choose between science and heaven. Then they reject science.

It's foolish and harmful to make that the choice. It's bad to sour people on science. So this is a foolish and harmful project.

This is just more people trying to get everyone that doesn't think inhibited in participating in public life. It's intimidation by litigation, motivated by bigotry.

Meanwhile I don't see Christians engaged in any similar project to drive out everyone who doesn't think like them. Not at all.
I agree completely with Katzman and Blue. To blame declining math and science fluency in the US on religion, faith, or religionists is bizarre, counterproductive, and just plain wrong.

Liberal ideologies -- socialism, secularism, multiculturalism -- are more responsible for a greatly decreased emphasis on those studies or subject matters that lead naturally to the hard sciences and math.

Those who learn in America have been less and less likely to pursue Math and Science, because they've been spoon-fed, spoiled, and discouraged from hard learning. Rote memorization had a use, as did detailed and specific history.

Reading of great literature, including the classical canon in virtually all areas, exposed students to the great ideas and the legacy of Western Civilization. Latin and Greek fostered an understanding of grammer and linguistics.

As we've become more secular, and politicized the very methods of learning, surprise, we aren't learning anything of permanence, but rather boatloads of platitudes, emotions and attitudes that tell us nothing of importance.

Hence, every liberally educated boob thinks they know what the Constitution says or doesn't say by what "feels right," rather than the logical constructs of the document itself. Ignorant scolds act to remove books like Huck Finn from the library because it includes the word n****r without any awareness that Twain's book speaks eloquently about the condition and humanity of a primary African American character. They likewise want study of Washington or Jefferson diminished and distorted based on valuations that prevail today, but ignore serious discussion of arguments and debates then.

You see all around us what might have once been a shared "common floor" of education obliterated in favor of shared feelings. Almost worthless, and a smokescreen to hide the fact that most children do not learn how to learn, nor learn how to think. Rationality expires, killed with tears and an embrace.

Science needs to reinsert itself into public life, especially as reflected in public (and private) education. Likewise, congregations of faith should be encouraged to do likewise, as there are few aspects more meaningful to the human condition for the eternal questions, that all revolve around: Why? What's our purpose?

Science and Religion are more parallel means to an end, one can inform the other, but each must tend to its own first fruits, rather than waste time throwing brickbats at each other's perceived shortcomings. Funny how essential that perspective proves, no more for the individual, than to the society, or those societal institutions that connect us all.

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