Pharyngula

It’s never going to end

Deepak Chopra is still blathering on. I’m afraid that while he can’t shut up, I can ignore him, and this will be my last response to his drivel; it’s also the last time I’ll be linking to the Huffington Post. Arianna Huffington’s exercise in indiscriminate narcissism is not the direction I want to see liberals taking, and while my voice isn’t a significant one, I can at least deny the kook wing of the Left my tiny bit of support.

This time the obsessive small-minded mystic is still whining against science and reason, still railing against his own idiotic imaginings.

But how can anyone seriously defend science as a panacea when it gave us the atomic bomb?

First of all, no one defends science as a panacea. It’s not leading us to utopia, it’s taking us towards a better understanding of the real world…which, contrary to the quacks who claim reality is what you imagine it to be, is often going to expose uncomfortable truths. There is no paradise. There is no perfection. There’s just a world where we have to struggle and compromise, and in the end we all die.

Secondly, the people who whimper about science bringing us bombs (and we’ve also got a few trolls wandering around scienceblogs damning scientists for that) have got it all wrong. Nuclear reactions are a property of the natural world—they go on in stars, they take place beneath our feet. Science did not invent fission and fusion, it only exposed the nature of the event, explained how it worked, and made this knowledge available to human beings. People chose what to do with it. We don’t have any choice in what science reveals. What would you have had 20th century scientists do, intentionally suppress all knowledge of a fundamental property of matter, and all of the unpredictable consequences of that knowledge? And just how would you propose to do that, short of destroying the scientific enterprise all together?

Reason isn’t the savior of the future. That role belongs to wisdom. With all the threats to human survival that we now face, I resort to a phrase coined by Jonas Salk: the survival of the wisest. Although a great researcher in medicine, Salk had the vision to look beyond materialism. He saw that evolution, as it applies to modern human beings, isn’t Darwinian. We no longer live in a state of nature.

Good grief, the inanity, it burns.

No, reason isn’t the savior of the future. It’s just the absolute bare minimum of what we ought to expect from the people to whom we entrust our futures—it’s the foundation of everything we ought to do. I don’t care what other wonderful virtues Chopra wants to tout, if they are built on irrationality and unreason, they are destructive.

I also don’t know what Chopra means by this fuzzy word “wisdom” he’s throwing out in his little essay, but he writes as if he thinks it is something completely orthogonal to reason, but of course it isn’t—unreasoning people can’t be wise, although they may pretend to it, and other irrational people may believe them. He’s using the word in an utterly meaningless way, the same way his kind of people use the words “spirituality” or “vibrations” or “quantum”, as subliminal tokens for indefinable emotions they might have; it’s shorthand for empty pseudo-profundity. It’s the hook the con artist uses to persuade his mark to fork over his respect, but it’s all a lie.

The rest I have no patience for. Chopra doesn’t know what “evolution” or “Darwinian” means, so trying to dissect the meaning he is reading into them as pointless: he’s just reciting buzz words, stringing them together like pretty beads on a string. It’s all noise from a fool.

Enough.

Comments

  1. #1 Torbj÷rn Larsson
    December 13, 2006

    Well, in the case of the atomic bomb much effort involving scientists was put in to go from basic science to viable technology. Applied science has also more leeway where to go.

    But it isn’t a one-way street and science is codependent on technology amongst other activities. It is as if Chopra asked ‘how can anyone seriously defend society when it gave us the atomic bomb?’ While the real question is how he can seriously defend himself giving us the woo.

  2. #2 Torbj÷rn Larsson
    December 13, 2006

    Science is amoral

    Science is amoral, but has moral implications and is done by humans with morals. Ethical boards and discussions surrounds areas like medicine, animal testing and weapons, for example. So it is not as dangerous in this respect as painted. But all tools can be used for destructive as well as constructive purposes.

    Was it really scientists, outside of being people who wanted an end to the war, that were urging it to be created?

    My impression is that a group of allied scientists realized that a bomb was possible, and started lobbying because they knew the Germans know of the possibility too. They got Einstein to endorse this, something he later regretted as he was a pacifist and anti-authoritarian.

    But if they, or rather the war process, precipitated atomic bombs some years (it was a huge undertaking) it doesn’t much matter. The secret was out and it is futile to speculate in if it never would have been realized.

  3. #3 Sastra
    December 13, 2006

    Chopra wrote:

    But how can anyone seriously defend science as a panacea when it gave us the atomic bomb?

    It wasn’t science which gave us the atom bomb, it was Mathemathics. Everything was written out in formulas! The Math worked, and therefore so did the bomb. And yet we’re supposed to believe and trust in numbers that “add up” the right way. Look where that gets us.

    No, Math isn’t the savior of the future. We need to find a Deep Wisdom which goes beyond the superficial limitations of Math to find more subtle patterns. Deep, deep wisdom from someone like Deep-ak Chopra, who doesn’t reduce everything to arrogant mathematical formulas, but thinks gently and holistically.

    Darn pesky mathematics.

  4. #4 Ichthyic
    December 13, 2006

    Deep-ak Chopra

    you mean Deep-ACK Chopra?

    http://home.earthlink.net/~tjneal/deepACKchopra.jpg

  5. #5 Ichthyic
    December 13, 2006

    Candidates for this new name … ?

    how about just what it’s always been:

    The theory of evolution.

    would you change the name of the theory of relativity because of the introduction of quantum mechanics?

  6. #6 Ichthyic
    December 13, 2006

    Often, money will be wasted, simply because Nature does not comply with our expectations.

    wasted how, exactly? because some preconceived notion was not supported?

    from a scientific perspective, so long as a funded study runs to completion, or even sometimes if they don’t, but for interesting reasons, it certainly isn’t a waste.

    sometimes null hypotheses are not disproven. this is just as valuable of information as that coming studies where they are. Either way, we still learn and our knowledge of the subject under study is increased.

    people often forget this when they wish for “positive” results.

    science is not a search for profitability, as much as some politicians and industries might want it to be.

  7. #7 Ichthyic
    December 13, 2006

    A bureaucrat considers it wasted money, whereas a scientist can see the value. Either way, the real point is unpredictability.

    like i said… people often forget this when they wish for “positive” results.

    a lamentable fact that has caused much reduction in funding for basic research over the last 30 plus years.

    … and exactly why it should be pointed out that the term “waste” is entirely subjective to those who mostly misunderstand the purpose of basic research to begin with.

  8. #8 Torbj÷rn Larsson
    December 14, 2006

    The bomb lobbying was by physicists Leo Szilard and Eugene Wigner. They were not household names, so they made their case to Einstein who lobbied Roosevelt about the dangers of the Nazis building the bomb first.

    I stand corrected.

    But with Germany’s defeat, Szilard used another Einstein letter to reach the White House, argued for international control of the bomb with Truman’s atomic adviser James F. Byrnes, helped draft a Manhattan Project scientists’ report urging the bomb be demonstrated, and finally circulated his petition.

    And here they redeemed any claims on them about bad morals. News to me, but good to know.

    when it comes to weapons pretty much all of that goes out the window.

    Treaty bans on (A)BC & personal mine & blinding weapons use and development constrains this. It is not as if we can in a simplistic view ban wars.

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