Friday, April 27, 2012

Bad faith

I have a new Muse piece up on Nature news – very little done in editing, so I’ll just give the link. I fear that there will be more griping about my being soft on religion, but I don’t see it that way at all. The fact that so many religious people have so little interest in the intellectual tradition of religion should cause far more concern among religious leaders than it does. Of course, maybe some of them like it that way, their followers passive and unquestioning. Anyway, the point is that you can disagree with Aquinas et al., but it is absurd to suggest that they were just deluded or lacking in analytical acumen. That isn’t in any way the implication of the Science paper discussed here, but I imagine some interpretations will take that angle.


JimmyGiro said...

"...a hefty dose of analytical sobriety."

I read that as 'lefty dose'! So I guess that means I'll not be going to Guardian reader's heaven.

For me, the problem is all about liberty; I hold the bigoted and extreme view, that people must have the right to be wrong in their own thoughts.

As for this experiment on 'religion', couldn't they have swapped the test subject with 'AGW', and still got the same results?

And surely an even easier, and more generally useful experiment, could have been made regarding 'conceit'; such as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Since being wrong is bread and butter for all scientists that engage in hypothesising, prior to the parring away via 'scientific analysis', until you are left with a 'theory', if you're lucky. The economic pressures, and academic prestige, of some scientists, would push their theories towards premature publication of inadequately vetted results.

Badly wrong clerics, will lose followers, hence no big deal; but badly wrong science can result in social and economic calamity.

I suspect this government sponsored twaddle, is in keeping with government inspired New Atheism; as modern states look for ever more excuses to rid themselves of their turbulent democracies. By ridding all forms of competition, such as religion, and cultural identity, the people will be left with no other opinion other than the states opinion.

Nancy McGuire said...

I was unable to leave a comment on the Nature site (even with a valid login), so I will leave it here.

People whose knowledge of religion is limited to rigid dogma and literal adherence to pre-scientific mythology tend either to embrace these concepts to the exclusion of any others, or reject religion outright. A god-in-the-gaps religion whose faith relies on ignorance of naturalistic phenomena likewise invites either blind adherence or sneering ridicule.

There is, however a more nuanced approach to religious thought, as you stated toward the end of your article. Many who embrace this type of religion are reluctant to describe it as "religion" because of all the supernatural baggage associated with that word.

This nuanced religious thought acknowledges the limits of our understanding and marvels at the human mind's ability to experience wonder and awe, even for phenomena that we can explain by physical laws. This way of being devotes itself to applying abstract concepts such as love, goodness, and creativity, without the need to first understand their neurological mechanics.

Even if we eventually explain these things in terms of biology and physics, the sense of wonder and appreciation is more likely to grow than to evaporate. Just as every question that science answers begets ten new questions, every discovery begets a new sense of wonder at the immensity and complexity at the universe -- and a sense of awe for the mind that that yearns to explore itself.