I saw a positively silly article (written by a Yale professor, David Gelernter, sadly) in Commentary Magazine this morning. It can pretty much be summed up with this quote:
[W]hen scientists use this locker-room braggadocio to belittle the human viewpoint, to belittle human life and values and virtues and civilization and moral, spiritual, and religious discoveries, which is all we human beings possess or ever will, they have outrun their own empiricism. They are abusing their cultural standing. Science has become an international bully.
“To belittle the human viewpoint” …there is not a single human viewpoint, there are several. Many of them are wrong – they simply make no sense whatsoever and therefore deserve to be belittled especially in the face of better ideas. If you think giant hamsters on ethereal wheels power the sun and want that taught alongside the mechanics of hydrogen fusion, guess what, your view gets belittled and rightly so.
“…to belittle human life…” …human life kicks considerably more ass nowadays courtesy of science. Try going without the basic scientific innovations found within a modern grocery store. Have fun hunting and farming while you sneer at science belittling human life. Or try going without medicine. That’ll really show those scientists. Compare that to countless people’s religious beliefs that insist human life is worth nothing without Jesus or whatever other doctrinal bullshit they have on offer. Do we really need Jesus more than a produce aisle or sterilization procedures for medical instruments? (Answer: no)
‘…and values and virtues and civilization and moral…” …some values suck. Faith, for instance, is a means to believe things other than what science has revealed. Many people value it, but it’s no different from dedicated gullibility and that fact does not change just because people value it. But so long as you value maximizing human well-being, science will tell you how to get it. And what’s more, what some people call moral values aren’t actually moral values. If you’re a bigot and try to label your bigotry “morality”, we shouldn’t buy into that. Many scientists don’t, since knowledge has a tendency to dissolve bigotry in a person’s mind (which is why bigotry thrives to a greater degree as education decreases). There are many commandments in our holy books which aren’t about kindness or happiness (in fact, some of them are outright cruel), which many people who prioritize obedience over compassion call moral. Many scientists reject those commandments in deference to compassion, and they should (so should the believers).
“…spiritual, and religious discoveries…” …name one. It is somewhat lacking in academic rigor to call beliefs “discoveries”.
“…which is all we human beings possess or ever will…” …this is wrong on its face. We possess lots of things regardless of what we believe of god or what we value ethically. For instance, you can still have vaccinations regardless of whether or not you believe in evolution.
“…they have outrun their own empiricism.” …to the contrary, empiricism is what allows us to say that people do not rise from the dead, do not walk on water, and do not turn into pillars of salt. It’s also what gives us vaccines even if a bunch of people don’t believe the science used to create them is sound. Contrary to being abandoned by saying people are wrong, empiricism is what allows us to say that people are wrong. Faith is what allows us to ignore empiricism.
“They are abusing their cultural standing. Science has become an international bully. ” …tell that to every HIV patient who is still alive. Recite that odious statement to yourself as you sit down to a meal that you did not have to kill or harvest. Curse science as a bully as you drive, not walk, to work. If you think scientists are bullies because they do not allow fantasies to supplant the methods that make our lives a Utopia compared to every generation before us, then you have lost all sense of perspective.
Yale should be ashamed of this clown.