Science Saints

Science Saints May 18, 2015

A while back, Nerdist shared some stained-glass images of scientists. I think the depiction is worth reflecting on. Are scientists the saints of the modern era? In your opinion, is the contribution of scientists greater than, comparable to, or beneath the contribution of people whose lives were characterized not by discoveries about the natural world, but standing firm for justice, self-sacrificially caring for others, or in other ways serving as profound moral examples?

You can see the full collection, and read the rationale behind the depiction of each, on the Bright Minds page on Shutterstock. Here’s one that clearly can span the supposed religion/science divide:

SciStained_Newton-683x1024

Of related interest (since there is a stained glass image of Neil de Grasse Tyson on the site), here is Tyson talking about the compatibility of religion and science.

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  • Ian

    In Year of the Flood, the God’s Gardeners NRM has a saint day on every day of the year, mixing religious saints, scientists, humanitarians and social justice campaigners. I loved that idea, though deciding who gets the priority is a tricky one.

    • Thanks for mentioning that! I can’t believe I didn’t think to incorporate that into the post somehow….

  • Mark

    We’ve had this kind of nonsense forever in Pittsburgh… here’s Newton in the Heinz chapel
    http://travelphotobase.com/i/USPA/PATU229.JPG There’s a bunch more there. It’s actually a sort of regression to 19th c. positivism & optimism. Apocalyptic catastrophism is much closer to the truth than this.

  • Geoff, God of Biscuits

    *In your opinion, is the contribution of scientists greater than, comparable to, or beneath the contribution of people whose lives were characterized not by discoveries about the natural world, but standing firm for justice, self-sacrificially caring for others, or in other ways serving as profound moral examples?*

    Much, much greater. More lives have been saved and improved by medicine, communication, transportation, agriculture and chemistry than have ever been done so by ‘charity’.

    Multiples more people’s have been saved by indoor toilets, water treatment and cheap hand soap than have ever been lost in all the wars ever fought.

    Meanwhile, Ms. Bojaxhiu’s (“Mother” Teresa) ‘hospitals’ couldn’t be bothered to get clean needles for each injection (not that they bothered dispensing many medicines). But when *she* got sick, she was immediately flown on chartered flights to the finest European hospitals for treatments. Almost as if she knew what the score was.

  • Michael Wilson

    Science is about knowledge and not happiness or compassion, the discoveries of science profoundly change the world but only compassionate people can make it worth while.

  • guest

    Scientists aren’t the saints of the modern era. The modern era has no saints. Not for me, at least. There are good and admirable people, but they are human with flaws and limitations. It’s dangerous to forget that.
    I would say scientists are more like prophets- they make predictions about how the world works and they test those predictions. But being a scientist doesn’t make you a moral authority. You could be a great scientist and a terrible human being.
    I think some scientist’s contributions are comparable to people who stood up for justice in terms of making humanity better off. The guy who created smallpox vaccinations, the people who revolutionised farming, the people who produced penicillin- they have all saved thousands of lives. We need scientists. We also need people to fight against injustice. Let’s treasure them both (but not canonize them).