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Science, Religion, and Ignorance

The NYTimes has published an essay by Lawrence Krauss on the Kansas School Board elections, the anti-science religious right, and religious faith. Krauss argues that scientific ignorance is not the same thing as religious belief. There are some fundamentalists whose faith prevent them from acknowledging strongly supported scientific consensus. But there are also a lot of scientists who attack the religious beliefs of others, and Krauss doesn’t like that either. Krauss concludes his essay thusly:

But when we win minor skirmishes, as we did in Kansas, we must remember that the issue is far deeper than this. We must hold our elected school officials to certain basic standards of knowledge about the world. The battle is not against faith, but against ignorance.

I agree with his first two sentences — in fact, we need to hold all elected officials accountable for what goes on in the real world. But faith is willful ignorance. We’ve seen what happens when Frances Collins blathers about his faith. Ditch the religion; it’s loaded with hypocrisy.

Comments

  1. #1 James Hrynyshyn
    August 15, 2006

    True. Faith is willful ignorance. But the more I consider the question of how to replace faith with reason, the more I’m coming to embrace an approach that avoids attacking religion. Don’t get me wrong. I am no friend to religion in any form. But people get their backs up when you attack their core beliefs.

    A more successful strategy should involve introducing the faithful to the merits of sciences and allowing/hoping that they eventually dispense with their religious beliefs at their own speed. I suspect that Krauss is pursuing that strategy, rather than a full-frontal assault on religion. It requires more patience, sure, but if you try to force something down another’s throat, the most likely scenario will involve regurgitation at the earliest opportunity. I’ve got a post on early educational efforts at the Island of Doubt. Nothing profound, just a musing on science in the classroom.

  2. #2 DragonScholar
    August 15, 2006

    James,

    I find the attack-religion idea pretty non-functional. It produces backlash, it makes you look bad, and it’s an invitation to loosing perspective.

    Instead, I think teaching critical thinking, the benefits of science, exposing untruths, etc. is the way to go.

    We can load a patient with antibiotics in a full-out assault and risk ending up with an even more virulent strain of the disease (or one sick patient whose had too much medication). Or we can work to inocculate them and teach them healthy habits.

  3. #3 somnilista, FCD
    August 15, 2006

    A more successful strategy should involve introducing the faithful to the merits of sciences and allowing/hoping that they eventually dispense with their religious beliefs at their own speed.

    Not working. People have been heaped with benefits of science for centuries now: vaccinations and other medical technology, electronics, etc etc etc, and the religious belief doesn’t seem to be going away, at least here in the USA.

  4. #4 somnilista, FCD
    August 15, 2006

    Discover magazine, Sept 2006. The Discover Interview. Susan Kruglinski interviews David Baltimore, p. 53:

    q. You are unafraid to say what you feel. What motivates you?

    If we scientists want our community to have the respect that it’s due, we have to be open and honest. And if we start playing games and being politicians, then we lose one of the most valuable things that we have, which is our honesty. It doesn’t mean that we’re always right. but it does mean that we’re willing to stand by what we believe.

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