Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Atheism and pop culture: Religious commitment as mild dementia?

I had computer problems last week, hence no blogging.

In "God vs. Science Isn't the Issue", William McGurn (Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2009) notes,
In contrast to the majority of scientists whose wondrous discoveries seem to inspire humility, today's advocates of scientism can be every bit as dogmatic as the William Jennings Bryans of yesteryear. We saw an example a week ago, when the New York Times reported that many scientists view "outspoken religious commitment as a sign of mild dementia."
The reporter was Gardiner Harris, and the object of his snark was Francis Collins—the new director of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Collins is perhaps best noted for his leadership on the Human Genome Project, an effort to map the genetic makeup of man. But he is also well known for his unapologetic talk about his Christian faith and how he came to it.

Mr. Harris's aside about dementia, of course, is less a proposition open to debate than the kind of putdown you tell at a private cocktail party where you know everyone in the room shares your orthodoxies. In this room, there are those who hold that God cannot be reconciled with what science has discovered about the human body, the origin of the species, and the beginnings of the universe. The more honest ones do not flinch before the implications of their materialist principles on our understanding of human dignity and human rights and human freedom—as well as on religion.
A couple of thoughts:

- Whoever said God vs. science was an issue? The whole idea was invented and is kept alive by materialist atheists, whose comments about "dementia" tell you something worth knowing.

- I have noticed that working scientists tend to be humble in the face of the facts, which is a good place to begin any type of true knowledge. The practitioners of scientism, by contrast, behave like cult members.* Recently, I was listening to one of them hold forth as an after-dinner speaker, proclaiming that on many science stories there is only one side. Well, that's all right then; we can all just mindlessly shout in unison. Oh wait. Cue the pop science press on any subject to do with neuroscience. It is genuinely hard to imagine a neuroscience story so stupid they wouldn't run with it.

- Francis Collins is, in my view, one confused puppy about some issues about which Christians generally have not been confused. So if even Collins is being attacked - when he agrees with the materialists that there can be human lives that don't matter, that humans can do whatever they want with - what does it tell you?: A materialist elite will attack theists even when they are trying to make nice by throwing away key reasons for being a theist.

- Lastly, William Jennings Bryan was not a dogmatist. He had been secretary of state for the US in World War I, and he knew that Darwinism played a role in the notion, prevalent among Germans of the day, that they were born to rule, due to "evolution". He did not want similar ideas taught in publicly funded schools in Tennessee. However, the textbook used there featured eugenics quite openly. As a once textbook editor myself, I can assure you that statements made in the text Scopes taught from (Hunter's Civic Biology) would just never appear in any textbook in Canada today. Lawsuits, and probably hearings as well, would follow.

Bryan's approach was unwise, in my view, because it would be better to just edit that garbage out of the textbooks than make a law or try a teacher over it. But Bryan has been unfairly caricatured, as above, as a foolish fellow, when he was in fact concerned about a legitimate problem. One that - it should be admitted - few others were even trying to address.

Most important, al this tells you what governance by a materialist elite is like (= reasons for not voting for them and not cutting them any slack).

*Not to be confused with religious people generally, who often have the good sense to be confused, divided, or uncertain until they have had an opportunity to weigh the matter in the light of a long tradition - millennia, maybe - of difficult problems.

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