Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Back to Civilization

How the hell does such unmitigated garbage get published in the New York Times? Here we have yet another idiotic apologia for religion, this time from the director of an entity called "Beyond, a research center at Arizona State University." Check this out:

SCIENCE, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith. The term “doubting Thomas” well illustrates the difference. In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.

The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified. . . .

Over the years I have often asked my physicist colleagues why the laws of physics are what they are. The answers vary from “that’s not a scientific question” to “nobody knows.” The favorite reply is, “There is no reason they are what they are — they just are.” The idea that the laws exist reasonlessly is deeply anti-rational. After all, the very essence of a scientific explanation of some phenomenon is that the world is ordered logically and that there are reasons things are as they are. If one traces these reasons all the way down to the bedrock of reality — the laws of physics — only to find that reason then deserts us, it makes a mockery of science. . . .

It seems to me there is no hope of ever explaining why the physical universe is as it is so long as we are fixated on immutable laws or meta-laws that exist reasonlessly or are imposed by divine providence. The alternative is to regard the laws of physics and the universe they govern as part and parcel of a unitary system, and to be incorporated together within a common explanatory scheme.

In other words, the laws should have an explanation from within the universe and not involve appealing to an external agency. The specifics of that explanation are a matter for future research. But until science comes up with a testable theory of the laws of the universe, its claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus.

This is too easy for a hint, but in case anybody out there needs this spelled out: What the scientists are saying is that they do not know, ultimately, why the reality they discover is the way it is. How is this the same as "faith"? It is the opposite. Yes, there is much we cannot explain. Scientists leave it at that, and keep looking.

To state that because there is a gap in our understanding, the explanation must be God, is an act of faith. Elegant mathematical order is not an article of faith, it is a finding; the expectation that it will continue to be found as we probe deeper is not an article off faith, it is a hypothesis.

This is drivel.

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