Monday, December 19, 2005

Ecrasez l'infame!

I have slightly misread Prof. Holliday- his goal is not the advancement of science, but the downfall of religion, which he sees as the fountainhead of countless evils. Thus I stand somewhat in the same relation to him as a representative of 'Catholics for Choice' would stand to me, and he is probably right that there is not much point in us talking.

I fear he will be greatly disappointed should religion ever be effaced from the Earth. My observations lead me to predict that such a void will not be occupied by humanist scientific rationalism, but by New Age hokum, aimless hedonism, and endless re-runs of 'Survivor: Dinosaur Planet'.

I will accede to Prof Holliday's wish to have the last word:

At least we can agree about what Max Planck said. There is only one method of obtaining new information and that is by the scientific method, which a large number of people certainly do not realise.
However, in terms of social evolution, we have to add technology to science.

You wrote:

Secondly, if I did believe in a fundamental incompatibility between science and religion, I would keep it to myself. Claiming such a thing cannot do science any good.
There are vastly more people in the world with a religious world view than a scientific world view. In various parts of the world they are voters, legislators, or unelected rulers with power to determine science policy. They will not just go away. A great many of them do not need encouragement to think that science is godless and evil. What good can it do science to confirm them in their prejudices? About 30% of our first year students come from schools affiliated with religious institutions. Do I want to send their parents and teachers the message that science is fundamentally incompatible with their values? How would that help the long-term viability of science in Australia

Here we part company, because I could not disagree with you more. It is religions that are evil, not science. You only have to look around the world to see how much suffering is caused by religion: the ongoing conflict in the middle east. The ingrained hostility betweeen India and Pakistan, which has lead to three wars, and the even greater violence following partition. Years of conflict between catholics and protestants in Northern Ireland. And now the religious right in America, with its associated militarism. Almost all religions sanction war, and the killing of human beings. I have not the slightest respect for politicians and other members
of the establishment who regularly attend church and believe in the efficacy
of prayer.

Quite apart from all that, I think it is simply feeble to just follow a majority view. Would you believe that one should not have opposed the killing of supposed witches, because in the past the majority of people believed in their activities? Many people believe in astrology, would you therefore go along with that belief as well? Fortunately, human history is full of examples of a minority view triumphing over a mistaken majority. The abolition of slavery in the west is a very good example, or the abolition of child labour. With regard to the students you mention, it is not your job to send their parents any message about religion, but if students
enquire about religion and science, then I think they should be invited to participate in informed discussion.

I suggest we end our dialogue as it leads nowhere.

Regards, Robin Holliday

1 comment:

Marco said...

This reminds me so much of conversations that I have with my father. Any aspect of religion or a religious person that he may find positive, becomes by his transformed definition of religion : non-religious aspects.