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November 21, 2006


Free-for-all on science and religion

A recent conference at the Salk Institute in La Jolla brought together internationally famous scientists to talk about how to advance scientific thought in a world increasingly full of religious nutcases. But proving that Nobel Prize winners might not have the greatest social skills, it descended, after a day or two, into what one scientist called a "den of vipers"--looks like even the science side of this increasingly messy and circular debate can't agree on what to do.

The Times covered the conference, and included tons of snippy little comments and smackdowns. Here are a few of the better ones:

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics: “Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.” Whew.

Francisco J. Ayala, evolutionary biologist at UC Irvine: “There are six billion people in the world. If we think that we are going to persuade them to live a rational life based on scientific knowledge, we are not only dreaming — it is like believing in the fairy godmother.” Snap!

Champion blood-vessel burster Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion: “I am utterly fed up with the respect that we — all of us, including the secular among us — are brainwashed into bestowing on religion. Children are systematically taught that there is a higher kind of knowledge which comes from faith, which comes from revelation, which comes from scripture, which comes from tradition, and that it is the equal if not the superior of knowledge that comes from real evidence.” Stamp those little feet, Dawkins!

Then Melvin Konner, an anthropologist at Emory, called Richard Dawkins “a remarkably apt mirror image of the extremists on the other side,” and said views like his “generate more fear and hatred of science.” Is he calling Dawkins a snake-handler?

Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University: “I think we need to respect people’s philosophical notions unless those notions are wrong. Science does not make it impossible to believe in God. We should recognize that fact and live with it and stop being so pompous about it.” Meow!

But Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of NYC's own Hayden Planetarium, may have been the only one there to take a communications class as an undergrad. He advised, "Persuasion isn’t always 'Here are the facts — you’re an idiot or you're not.'"

Sounds like they have their marketing jingle.

categories: Religion, Science
posted by amy at 4:49 PM | #

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