Frustrations Of the Academic Life

After writing yesterday's post, I found I was still muttering about Michael Ruse's paper. So I thought to myself, why should I just rant here at the blog? How about I get down to business and write a proper journal article about it?

Mentally I started doing just that. To my surprise, I found the article practically writing itself. I quickly had an outline of what I wanted to say, started composing paragraphs, and thought about various books and articles I would want to cite. I started to get excited. Figured I could toss it off in a week, and then get back to my various other unfinished projects.

Of course, upon having decided to write a paper it behooves you to go prowling through the literature, to see what everyone else has been saying. So I spent part of this afternoon browsing through back issues of Zygon, which published the paper I discussed yesterday. Zygon is a journal about science and religion, you see.

Well, it wasn't long before I came across the article, “Michael Ruse On Science and Faith: Seeking Mutual Understanding,” by philosopher David Wisdo, from the September 2011 issue of the journal. The abstract made it clear that Wisdo was not impressed with Ruse's attempt at science/religion reconciliation. Wisdo was addressing Ruse's then recent book Science and Spirituality. The Ruse paper I addressed yesterday was basically an abbreviated version of the argument from the book.

I started to get nervous. Had Wisdo anticipated me? So I read the article. And the nervousness turned to defeat. The two main points I made in yesterday's post: that Ruse was essentially making a God of the gaps argument, and that he was putting religion in a highly subordinate position relative to science, were discussed at length in Wisdo's paper. Discussed in almost precisely the terms I had in mind.


Ruse replied to Wisdo in the same issue of the journal, and I'm sure you'll be shocked to learn that for the most part I found his replies inadequate. I can think of other articles that could be written around this issue, that would use Ruse's views as just one part of a larger argument. So I may yet write a paper about this. (Whether I could get it published is a separate issue!) But it will definitely take longer than a week, which means it has to get in line behind a bunch of other partially-formed projects.

Oh well! Maybe I should just stick to math.

More like this

This also shows that no real communication is taking place - it does not appear as if Ruse is impressed with counter-arguments or he wouldn't have repeated the same refuted stuff again, nor are others impressed with Ruse's arguments. Nobody who has entered the discussion will ever ever move. One hopes that it is at least influencing people on the fence.

And before anybody says that this is typical of philosophy and would not happen in the empirical sciences: I have seen the same in my area. People are the same everywhere.

F*ck Math! My (non-Emily) cat sitting (leashed) on my deck demands long form articles on why Ruse is both wrong and patronising.

(Don't f*ck math. First, its hard to have sex with noncorporeal ideas. Second, Math is awesome.)

Next time you're in Baltimore, I hope to buy you a drink and expound upon philosophy and math... or force you to adopt a local cat.


Thanks for the sentiment, I think, but please lay off the profanity. This is a family blog!

tgt wrote: "I hope to buy you a drink and expound upon philosophy and math"

Hmmm, if I were Jason, I would probably welcome an opportunity to discuss philosophy and math, but listening to someone else "expound" on those subjects doesn't sound appealing at all.

By Greg Esres (not verified) on 31 May 2015 #permalink

Sorry you've been scooped. But actually, I doubt that anything new has been published on the conflict between science and religion for many many years.

@ 6 : Exactly. These matters have long since been cut and dried. There is really nothing new ( i.e. interesting) to add to what was clearly exposed generations ago. All that remains is to take up and read those sources. My personal favorite: Bertrand Russell's treatments.

Science has much yet to reveal about the brain and its manifestation, consciousness and "higher" states of consciousness--what we feel to be spiritual experiences which, I believe, shall be found to all have completely natural neuronal sources which can be examined and from which we'll learn new things but none of it shall have the slightest things to do with either God, gods or organized religions.

By proximity1 (not verified) on 01 Jun 2015 #permalink

Regarding, “These matters have long since been cut and dried.

I find myself thinking of Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 essay The End of History. Written about the time the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact collapsed, it asserted the triumph of the West because Communism had failed and fascism and religious extremeism had already been discredited.

Oh how naïve we were.

Although the relationship between science and religion may seem settled, it is more like deadlocked; like trench warfare: neither side is able to gain advantage. The supporters of science seem to believe time is on their side, that by attrition they will ultimately prevail. This may even be correct, but the advocates for religion have not given up, and will not give up. If supporters of science take their eyes off the ball, things could quickly go wrong.

Rudeness and boorish behavior are not particularly helpful, but complacency would be catastrophic. If rational people keep up the fight, the religious side will eventually choke on its inherent inconsistencies.

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 01 Jun 2015 #permalink