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February 07, 2006



"Respect" is a poison to faith. Donklephant had a good discussion on this very point yesterday, discussing the "piss Christ" exhibit of a few years ago. His pooint was that puttinga crucufix into a jar of piss was a perfect representation of the incarnation, although maybe the artist might have added a pile of shit, since we are born between shit and piss. That's our humanity, ritght there.

Which is another point you bring up when you say that this hysteria is not just the fault of a few crazies. Hitchens is still a leftist, and he tends to believe in the dignity of the common man and that people tend towards good and rationality and all that.

The attitude you are attacking is called Phariseeism, and it ironicially is a big problem in Christianity - not to mention a lot of others. Too many old women teaching the faith, of both sexes.

Hinheckle Jones

You are correct that faith does not deserve respect, but often I see 'science fundamentalists' demanding respect for 'science'.

The global warming flap is a nice example. There are those who insist we believe in man made global warming because their prefered science preachers say so.

Real science needs arguement not respect, and faith should be no different.


"The global warming flap is a nice example. There are those who insist we believe in man made global warming because their prefered science preachers say so."

You might as well say that people insist we believe in evolution because "their prefered science preachers say so." It's not a question of "prefered science preachers," it's a question of the overwhelming majority of the scientific community.


Well, I think part of the problem with the global warming debate is that the "preferred science preachers" are often not in fact scientists. It's frustratingly challenging to segregate the scienfically-informed opinions from those that are not.


"It's frustratingly challenging to segregate the scienfically-informed opinions from those that are not."

It's easy enough if you're willing to make the RealClimate blog a regular read.


"but often I see 'science fundamentalists' demanding respect for 'science'. "

There is a supoerstition called scientism, but that is not what is in play here or in various other environmental controversies. Whether it is old growth logging, salmon recovery or deforestation in the Amazon or whatever, what you see is one kind of true believer or another press-ganging "science" into the service of their partisanship, and I use scare quotes because these people don't give a rat's patoot about science, they only care about results of studies that can use and distort.

Hinheckle Jones


[My patience for such rank idiocy from you is wearing thin. If you don't have anything half-intelligent to say, don't bother saying anything. This is not a forum for you to exorcize whatever demons may plague you, and henceforth anymore irrelevant, personal jabs from you will simply be deleted. - A.L.]


What saves science is that it is founded on the principle of "testable knowledge" that is publicly available.

Religion on the other hand is founded on untestable assumptions that demand "faith"(non-provable belief) rather than evidence.

Religion is also more problematic than science because it demands from its adherents a code of conduct that is the direct product of its claims.
So if the claims of religion are shown to be false or at least non-provable then whole cultures or ways of life may be threatened. The result is highly upsetting for many people and may lead to cultural anomie.

Science, on the other hand, is merely interested in establishing testable claims about the world of human sensory experience. So if some claim is shown to be non-proven those who uphold a particular theory usually do 2 things. They run back to their labs to try to defend their theory and if they cannot they feel highly embarassed if their claims are shown to be founded on deliberate fabrications. Witness what happened to that Korean scientist and his cloning claims. But because of the nature of scientific research he couldn't riot against those who proved his findings wrong.

But note that in some areas of science and the social sciences the facts are not that easily cornered so the human penchant for fabrication and obfuscation is usually appealed to, to fill in the gaps.

Funding, careers, etc. are on the line so in the fuzzy areas of science some of the dogmatising and faith posturing that one sees in religion is evident. Witness the theory competition in the softer more pliant areas of research such as sociology, economics and psychology.

Another important aspect of religion is that the founders of the belief system are usually not as dogmatic as those who pick up the faith and seek to proselytyse. Those who promote the dogma tend to sacralise certain objects and practices so as to put them beyond the reach of criticism. Hence the concept of blasphemy--which is rare in science despite the dogmatic proclivities of some theory holders. In the social sciences, however, blasphemy does exist and is usually punished by isolation of ostracism or simply being totally rejected--despite the validity of the ideas in question. Recall what Kuhn said about "normal science" and "revolutionary science".

In sum, it would seem that the problem with religion is a problem that seems to derive from the way humans think or cogitate: humans need "facts" in order to make sense of the world but they simply hate it when their facts are challenged.

The results are not just "hate mail", death threats and being fired from one's job, but also rioting, destruction, ex-communication, fatwas and actual murder.

gene berman

In the justifiable outrage throughout the West over the seeming intractibility of Muslim religious zealotry, a principal fact seems somewhat overlooked by supporters of reason (and reasonableness).

Your principal opponents in this battle--those who would harness and use hatred, calumny, and false propaganda to galvanize Muslim (and other) sentiment in order to attain (or retain) political leadership of this large population--are, literally, as convinced as are you of the supremacy of human reason in the effort to attain knowledge of such matters as are involved.

It is for this very reason--the long-observed tendency for those "forces of reason" as exist to endure, enlarge, and emerge eventually triumphant among ever-greater numbers of the minds of men over
their inferior predecessors--that leaders dependent for their positions on the same must resort, in every instance, to active, violently-coercive suppression of opposing
views. Although the words are not the same, he who says, "You must not say what I (and my compatriots) don't like to hear. If you try to say such things, we will find some way to injure you--very badly" is really saying, "I find no obvious fault in what you say with which to refute and dismiss arguments made by those in your position.
Thus, in order that such arguments not interfere with my own plans, I must, somehow,
prevent such arguments from being made at all." And, further, "I have no argument which must make any sense to you other than that, if you offer any argument against my views which might make sense to my followers, I shall have to kill you. Sorry about that--not!"

Aggressive violence and its threat are ALWAYS included as among the foremost methods of those already inwardly convinced
of the untenability of their own proposals; no higher tribute to the ultimate excellence and effectiveness of reason can be imagined.


"Aggressive violence and its threat are ALWAYS included as among the foremost methods of those already inwardly convinced
of the untenability of their own proposals; no higher tribute to the ultimate excellence and effectiveness of reason can be imagined."

You are quite correct, but the thing is, my words aren't directed to these people, who know full well the danger free speech poses to their ideologies, but to those supposedly on "our side" who think it's somehow "unreasonable" or "fanatical" to insist that the freedom to criticize and lampoon superstition must be sacrificed on the altar of "respect", simply because those we're being asked to "respect" are prone to resorting to violence. The debate here isn't with the extremists chanting "Freedom go to hell!" but with those who think moderation in defense of liberty is a virtue.

gene berman

I wasn't trying to convince you, A--merely to state the very core of the position of both liberalism and science in a manner that might even more clearly jog the rationality (and consciences) of those prone to seeing moral equivalency in such controversies.

Indeed, it is precisely because I am convinced that what the "moderates" of the West insist is true--that the overwhelming majority of those of the Muslim world want, legitimately, to pursue happiness in a manner and with results similar to those they observe of the West--is actually true, that I believe it necessary to point out the manner in which they continually betray any realization of those aspirations by providing, however thin, one or another exculpation for clearly totalitarian-aiming (and barbaric) methods and goals.

Unlike in the natural (empirically-based) sciences, bad ideas in the social sphere never die, as long as capable of providing income maintenance and power bases for their leader-exponents; against these, only reason is effective.

The (Western) forces of reason and peaceful interaction of all peoples would be far ahead in achieving their general aims and hardly troubled by the inevitable arisal of one or another threat were it not for the consistent "aid and comfort" rendered these by the (also Western) left: addressing that diffuse, widespread, and presumably legitmate viewpoint is still the most important task with which liberalism is faced.

Didn't mean to be either strident or superfluous.

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