Thursday, November 16, 2006

Think Tank sells itself as "How to Think". False advertising.

Via Robin Burk at Winds of Change, I see that there is a think tank whose design is to oppose religion as antithetical to scientific inquiry. I have to admit, I think they're right about that. Religion is, by its very nature, based on faith. Scientific inquiry is supposed to take nothing on faith.

Sadly, when an organization starts out with statements like
"We cannot hope to convince those in other countries of the dangers of religious fundamentalism when religious fundamentalists influence our policies at home"
they're showing themselves to be fundamentalists, as well, of another religion -- that being what we around here like to call scientism. Theirs is the only path to truth and enlightenment, theirs is the only wisdom, theirs is the only and the all. Its priests dress in lab coats and wear safety goggles, operate waldoes, and can calculate π to the nth place past the decimal. But they show no more understanding of the human condition than did the Inquisitors.

"This disdain for science is aggravated by the excessive influence of religious doctrine on our public policies,"
The group targets religion as though it were the fundamental flaw in our social/political structure.

And, yet, the influence of religious doctrine is what initially drove the drafters of the Constitution of the United States to sign the Bill of Rights. The influence of religious doctrine is what drove the Emancipation movement and freed the slaves in America, and still works toward that goal in the rest of the world. The influence of religious doctrine -- like it or not -- is what involved us in the European theater in WWI and WWII. And there were those, in every case, who argued that both the influence and the actions were excessive.

They need to take into account the religious fanaticism within their own ranks, and how that damages the credibility of the rest of the world's scientists and sciences in general. When a mob in white lab coats calls "heresy!" if a handful of scientists say they have evidence running counter to popular scientific consensus (global warming, e.g.), theirs is a religion. When some members suggest prosecution for those who speak against the consensus, theirs is an intolerant, fundamentalist religion.

Scientism also lacks a root in something absolutely crucial to human survival, as well: it lacks morality. Or, if you will, it needs a more clearly delineated set of ethics. When scientific inquiry has been used as an excuse in modern history for torture and wholesale murder, they cannot claim to hold any such moral high ground over other religions. When a lack of scientific evidence is cited as an evidence of legal right, instead of asking, "What's the harm in waiting a little more?", that religion has no future, and would deny it to others, as well.

John Stuart Mill suggested questioning the orthodoxy, questioning what your leaders teach you, questioning your own beliefs, and finding your own path to enlightenment, as it were. Are those who join the Center for Inquiry Transnational willing to question their own views concerning others' faith and the right to apply it in making law? Physician, heal thyself!

As I've said before, ethics and morals are not based on logic. They're based on emotion, on the animal need for justice, fairness, kindness, compassion, and a multitude of other senses not entirely rational but certainly within reason in a healthy society. If we were a purely scientific, rational species, we would likely never have flinched at the films from Auschwitz, we'd have felt nothing over the killing fields in Cambodia, we'd have no qualms with Stalin's purges. One death or a billion, makes no difference to those who have no emotional attachment to life. Heck, it means more for the rest of us, doesn't it?

But then, if we were purely scientific animals, we'd never have had Mozart's Requiem or Michelangelo's Pietà.

And that would be a pity.

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