Monday, April 29, 2013

Let the Nonsense Begin: Dawkins and Krauss hit the atheist crusade circuit

If your pomposity detector has been displaying high readings, there's a good reason:

Now that a movie is coming out starring the two ("The Unbelievers") we are apparently going to see a lot more of Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss, two atheist scientists on a mission to rid the world of religion.

Someone be sure to check the pulse of this movement in, oh, about 50 years when churches will still be standing and Dawkins and Krauss (and their movement) won't.

One of the more brazenly pompous claims they apparently make in the movie (at least they're making it as they make the rounds promoting it) is that one of the roles of science is "to get rid of myth and superstition." But as Thomist philosopher James Chastek points out, science is neither necessary nor sufficient to eliminate a myth--nor did science, as a matter of historical fact, as many scientific fundamentalists seem to think, play any necessary historical part in destroying myths.

Here's Chastek, responding to similar claim to that of Dawkins and Krauss:
But given that “destroying a creation myth” means “showing that the myth is not true”, why does one need a science to do this? We don’t need sciences to know that myths are, well, myths. Or is the claim that no one recognized that (the relevant) creation accounts were myths until science told us so? But then the claim is just false: we didn’t need the sciences to know that creation accounts are mythical. Millions of people could recognize creation myths as such before any of the modern sciences.
And ultimately, people like Dawkins and Krauss are not really opposed to myths, but propagators of a new one:
Is “science” the only thing that is allowed to satisfy the intellect now and give us an account of the way the world is? Quite the opposite seems to be the case – far from wanting to do away with myth it seems we’re more interested in advancing a scientific mythology. Science in the popular imagination is idealized (science cannot explain everything or solve all our problems now, but just give it time!); and only its successes are seen as integral to it (i.e. vaccinations, space travel, and computers are seen as the direct and proper work of science while Hiroshima, Tuskegee, Mustard gas, scientific eugenics and sterilization programs, Josef Mengele, climate change, industrial pollution, etc. are never seen as the necessary products of “science”). IOW, this is obviously not a scientific view of science but one that makes it into an exalted, inerrant messiah that will set everything right if we only give it our total devotion. Ultimately, it’s not that we want to destroy creation myths with science but that we want to replace an ancient creation myth with a modern one.
I'll be watching Dawkins and Krauss for amusement, but reading Chastek for actual, you know, wisdom. Read the rest here.

1 comment:

Lee said...

Chastek seems onto something: science is value-neutral. Dr. Schweitzer and Dr. Mengele were both highly educated men of science. Both men can explain a lot (but not everything) about the mechanics of life, but science cannot give us a reason for preserving it.