Well, this topic has really run away on its own at this point. I can no longer keep track of all the things that have been said. I find Chad Orzel’s thread the best, because it really gets into a lot of the baffling reactions, many of which amount to saying, “this oped omits X” — even though X is to be found in the longer paper, or in the American Academy’s lengthy transcripts which I was asked to summarize.
So I really feel that the people who are making this argument about omissions, without even mentioning the longer work, are being unfair. An example would be Evil Monkey–here criticizing the Post piece without mentioning the longer paper, and yet nevertheless saying “I’ve already done more than Mooney. I’ve made a couple concrete suggestions for how the problem needs to be addressed”; here glossing over that omission by saying the prior post “was directed at the Op-ed, which was pedantic and useless, if not counterproductive.”
Look: Everybody knows that one has to pare a topic down in order to write shorter articles, especially for mass media outlets rather than specialized ones. I’ve really seen nothing raised as an alleged omission in my Washington Post outlook piece that I haven’t written on extensively elsewhere–denialist attacks on science, poor media treatment of science, academic disincentives to being a better communicator, etc. In many cases I literally wrote the book on these things, or have been writing about them for more than half a decade. In other cases, alleged omissions are to be found in the longer American Academy paper, rather than the Outlook essay, or in the academy’s workshops.
Believe me, folks, it has been covered. Read More
I haven’t blogged on this subject in a while, due to the kinds of comments/blitzkrieg it always evokes. And I’m sure I’ll be accused of “arguing from authority” here, simply because I’m quoting someone I find particularly eloquent and persuasive.
But so be it: When I saw Chad Orzel’s post last week explaining why it is that science and religion can be compatible, I couldn’t help linking, as it so perfectly summarizes my own view, and in better terms than I myself can probably put it:
OK, fine, as a formal philosophical matter, I agree that it’s basically impossible to reconcile the religious worldview with the scientific worldview. Of course, as a formal philosophical matter, it’s kind of difficult to show that motion is possible.
We don’t live in a formal philosophical world, though, and the vast majority of humans are not philosophers (and that’s a good thing, because if we did, it would take forever to get to work in the morning). Humans in the real world happily accept all sorts of logical contradictions that would drive philosophers batty. And that includes accepting both science and religion at the same time.
So, in my view, it is not in any way an “unconscionable” political statement for professional scientific organizations to state that science and religion are compatible. It’s a statement of fact, an acknowledgment that in the real world, there are numerous examples of people who are both personally religious and successful, even prominent scientists. Guy Consolmagno, George Coyne, Bill Phillips, Francis Collins, and many more.
How do these people deal with the philosophical contradiction inherent in there beliefs? I have no idea. I don’t really care, either, any more than I care how philosophers resolve Zeno’s paradox. Religious scientists exist, and I can move from one side of the room to the other in finite time. End of debate, let’s talk about something that actually matters.
There is nothing unconscionable, in my view, in professional organizations stating publicly that these people exist. What would be unconscionable is the reverse–a public statement that science and religion can never be compatible amounts to a denial of the existence of the many men and women who find some way to reconcile science and religion in their own lives. I find that sort of rhetoric deeply insulting even on blogs, let alone from a professional organization.
Amen amen amen….and now, let the wild ruckus begin.