Saturday, October 26, 2002

Vain expression

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" - Arthur C. Clarke

The Gene Expression crowd seems to be incapable of taking any religiosity seriously - a typical reference is to "magical thinking". And of course this would all imply that religious people just aren't too smart. Thus from Razib we get this:
This is a rough measure, but I think my point holds, the further you go up the bell curve the less reliance there is on magical thinking, ergo the variations of Creationism.
An alternate interpretation is that the farther you go right on the bell curve (ie toward higher intelligence), the vainer the thinkers are. They don't want to be told answers or have to accept any divine authority - they figured it out themselves.

What is the point of teaching evolution in schools? It depends on how it is presented. If it is presented as preempting or disproving religious faith, it has overstepped its bounds. Or rather replaced existing religion with one that denies it is a religion - atheism.

Well, what will they teach in biology classes instead? Ecology. Anatomy. Epidemiology. Public health. Agriculture. Genetics. More health-related topics that are directly related to citizenship, as opposed to some intellectual exercise in figuring out which critter allegedly descended from what by blind chance. Just what value does evolution have to offer the average citizen?

Or maybe they can teach some real science. They certainly can show that it evolves. When I took high school biology, the taxonomy of the time had only two kingdoms, the animals and the plants. Nowadays we have the same critters as before, but at last count there were 5 kingdoms.

Here's some more vanity, from the same post:
Now, the fact remains that a large minority continue to accept Biblical literalism, but let's keep going up the bell curve. A 1996 study by Witham & Larson showed that 40% of scientists with doctorates were theists.
I suppose possession of a doctorate is solely a function of intelligence? Hardly. But it does show that they have been hazed by higher-ups in their faculty, and if they deviate too much they won't get their tickets punched.

Want to hear a story about magic? One day there was nothing at all, and then the next there was a universe! It doesn't sound any the less improbable IMO if you throw in deities. But scientists cut out the deities with Occam's Razor and place their faith in things as error-prone as objective observation and reason. They have faith that they'll find the answer eventually, and in the meantime would everyone please renounce their religious faith?

Can't predict the positions and momenta of subatomic particles simultaneously? Don't confess eternal ignorance, postulate an Uncertainty Principle.

You can't predict something's behavior? Don't admit you don't know - call it "random" or "chaotic" to cover the failure.

Your physics theory upon which you built theories of the beginning and the end of the universe is failing? Postulate the existence of new phenomena like "dark matter", hold out your hand for a few $millions more, and buy time to conjure up the next story.

Science has many wonderful achievements. But it will remain useful only so long as it remains humble. Don't let anyone make it into a religion, or displace existing religions.

UPDATE: And don't...well, we'll let Quana tell it.

No comments: