1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

The New Republic: 'Science Is Not Your Enemy: A plea for an intellectual truce'

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by Dick Whitman, Aug 14, 2013.

  1. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Psychologist/author/thinker Steven Pinker has a great piece up online and in the print magazine that excoriates the left and right equally for treating science as an enemy. He's particularly tough on the humanities, which is being encroached on by science as the popular academic field for smart young people and, in Pinker's estimation, has reacted entirely the wrong way, by rejecting scientific gains rather than embracing and integrating them.


    Pinker is an incredibly gifted writer, but here are a couple passages that I thought this board would enjoy chewing over.

    Pinker on dogma, generally:

    "[T]he acquisition of knowledge is hard. The world does not go out of its way to reveal its workings, and even if it did, our minds are prone to illusions, fallacies, and superstitions. ... Any movement that calls itself 'scientific' but fails to nurture opportunities for the falsification of its own beliefs ... is not a scientific movement."

    Pinker on religion:

    "There is no such thing as fate, providence, karma, spells, curses, augury, divine retribution, or answered prayers[.] ... [T]he worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science. ... By stripping ecclesiastical authority of its credibility on factual matters, they cast doubt on its claims to certitude in matters of morality. ... The facts of science, by exposing the absence of purpose in the laws governing the universe, force us to take responsbility for the welfare of ourselves, our species, and our planet."

    Pinker on the humanities:

    "Students can graduate from elite colleges with a trifling exposure to science. ... The humanities are the domain in which the intrusion of science has produced the strongest recoil. Yet it is just that domain that woudl seem to be most in need of an infusion of new ideas. ... No thinking person should be indifferent to our society's disinvestment from the humanities, which are indispensable to a civilized democracy. ... But an honest appraisal would have to acknowledge that some of the damage is self-inflicted. ... Several university presidents and provosts have lamented to me that when a scientist comes into their office, it's to announce some exciting new research opportunity and demand the resources to pursue it. When a humanities scholar drops by, it's to plead for respect for the way things have always been done."

    He quotes passages from both The Nation and from a speech by George W. Bush's bioethics advisor to demonstrate that the moral panic over scientific advancement is non-partisan.

    Good reading, if anyone has some time over the next few days. And, even if you aren't particularly interested in the topic, it's very useful for columnists or to see how a really deft writer and thinker is able to advance a point of view.
  2. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    The religion graf is very good though some might demand proof. Where's the link to prooooove it!?

    "I prayed on it last night ... and (insert the MIRACULOUS event that comes to fruition the next day)."

    Sure, honey, you prayed on it.
  3. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Oh, for sure. And I'm sure that if Pinker had more space to work with, he would be able to defend every word in that sentence with citations stacked upon citations. Passages like that are why academics typically look down on reporting and commentary in the popular press. Pinker - like Cass Sunstein and Joseph Stiglitz - clearly has embraced the opportunity to cross over and take his message to the masses, even if it means sacrificing some of the rigor that academic work would demand.

    I actually really like how unequivocally he states that passage, particularly in the context of the piece. It's like: OK, let's get this out of the way, right now. That prayers do not get answered, I imagine, is as established a fact at this point to Pinker as 2 plus 2 equals 4. He doesn't feel compelled to prove it. Not in 2013.
  4. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I don't like the guy based on these excerpts.

    1. I don't see any reason science and religion cannot coexist.

    2. Tough shit if students graduate with trifling exposure to science. They can also graduate with trifling exposure to economics and business, for example, which will affect their lives as much or more.

    3. Why the whiny attitude toward humanities? These days math and science are the golden tracks and the humanities are under attack.

    4. Quit being a bitch.
  5. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Sure, they can, depending on how much work you need each to do within your worldview. A literal interpretation of Genesis, however, cannot co-exist with science. A literal interpretation of the Resurrection cannot co-exist with science. A literal interpretation of the story of Jonah and the whale cannot co-exist with science.

    My view on religion, that there was a First Cause that we might loosely call "God" but who as far as I can tell is owed no deference or fealty in this day and age, can more comfortably co-exist with science. (Some physicists might disagree, but they haven't convinced me yet - perhaps because I just don't understand theoretical physics enough.)

    Pinker was reacting to the notion, even advanced by some scientists, either self-loathing or accomodationist, that science gets the physical world while religion gets the questions of meaning and morals.
  6. doctorquant

    doctorquant Well-Known Member

    Twill ever thus be. Meaning and morals are not addressable via the scientific method.
  7. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Science is great until it starts costing someone money or alters their beliefs.

    I think science can work with religion. Science actually explains how amazing whoever or whatever created us or everything around us works.

    If our world was a cake for example, scientists are the people who ask the baker how was it made and what did you use to make it. They are not questioning the baker, they just want to understand the process. And maybe the baker wants us to understand the process so we can create different and better things.

    And until science can answer where everything came from, matter and energy do not come from a vacuum, then I am not ready to have them tell me what happens to me when I stop living or when this world stops living.
  8. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    What Pinker argues is that at least what the scientific method reveals - for example, that there is no purpose to the laws of the universe - gives us a better framework for thinking about a "defensible morality.'

    From the article:

    "Though the scientific facts do not by themselves dictate values, they certainly hem in the possibilities. ... The facts of science, by exposing the absence of purpose in the laws governing the universe, force us to take responsibility for the welfare of ourselves, our species, and our planet. For the same reason, they undercut any moral or political system based on mystical forces, quests, destinies, dialectics, struggles. or messianic ages. ... [T]he scientific facts militate toward a defensible morality, namely adhering to principles that maximize the flourishing of humans and other sentient beings. This humanism, which is inextricable from a scientific understanding of the world, is becoming the de facto morality of modern democracies, international organizations, and liberalizing religions, and its unfulfilled promises define the moral imperatives we face today."
  9. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    I guess, in a way, this is my approach.

    It's not that I don't believe in God. It's just that he/she plays no role in my life or the development of my moral code. He's on the sidelines, completely. For practical purposes, I'm indifferent to God.
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I am not a literalist.

    Jesus taught in parables. Stories to illustrate his point. They were not meant to be taken literally.

    If you believe Jesus is God in human form, then why not assume that the Old Testament stories are not meant to be taken literally but to illustrate a point?
  11. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    The atheist writer Sam Harris answers this by saying that Jesus endorses Old Testament viewpoints many times throughout the New Testament.

    I don't trust Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins. I think they cherry-pick and oversimplify to the point of dishonesty. But this is what he says.
  12. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    I'm against to the notion of one correct God.

    I'm will to go along with this, rather than pick one religion so I can fight the others.

Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page