March 26, 2009

Contrary to Reason...

Charlene recommends this post from ShrinkWrapped: Scientists and Morality. I started to blog my agreement, but was sidetracked by this paragraph...

...Scientists spend their working lives pursuing a rational understanding of the world around them. They are often both ignorant of, and intolerant of, the irrational. Because they pursue a rational understanding of the world they typically do not recognize their own irrationalities. This can be a problem when scientists venture into discussions of politics and morality....

Christians do NOT think that morality or faith in God are irrational. Not one little bit. (Well, actually, there is a modern splinter-movement, calling itself "Protestant," that has abandoned reason for a make-stuff-up-as-you-go approach. Perhaps the author is influenced by them. But the result of that experiment is that there are 30,000+ different Protestant groups--all claiming to have "the truth!" Nuh uh.)

I can't really blame people for not understanding this, since I am only starting to discover it myself. I'd heard the general idea of our catholic faith being based on reason, but, as a former Protestant I assumed that it meant that there was a glaze of philosophical justification painted over the totem pole. Turns out, not so. Christian faith is based on deductive reason in exactly the same way a proof in geometry is. Reason can prove to even a pagan like Aristotle that there must be one all-good and all-powerful god, and also the basics of traditional morality. (In addition to this other things are revealed. We are given additional information by God such as the Trinity or the Incarnation.)

That's why I've been recommending [link, link] the book The Last Superstition by Feser. He refutes the "new atheists" with a clear explanation of the metaphysics of Aristotle and Aquinas, which has been a huge "ah ah" moment for me. (And no one has ever refuted their logic, by the way. Modern philosophers have just tagged it "Medieval," laughed at Aristotle's mistakes in physics—which his metaphysics is not based on—and moved on.)

Scientists today have no philosophy that ties their work into the wider world, or helps them even think about such things. The result is that scientists are vulnerable when they try to extend their discipline into realms like politics or morality. They don't even notice that AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) has become a quasi-religion, and they excommunicate heretics and take things on faith, all the while telling themselves that are just "doing science," and are being hindered by "irrational" people.

And they don't understand that Secularism and Materialism are "faiths" just as much as the conventional religions. They can make "scientific judgements" on, say, the value of human lives compared to endangered species...and not realize they've left the realm of things that natural science can speak about.

Mr Shrinkwrapped also writes something that I've tried to get at before:

...Note the assumption that the greatest danger now resides in the alliance between science and business, ie the profit motive. Many, perhaps most, scientists are liberal by temperament and intellectual insularity. They have generally focused far more on their areas of expertise than on the political and moral dimensions of their work. Since liberalism has gained a monopoly (in the popular press and especially in academia) on morality, the assumption is that government run programs will be protected form the dangers of avarice. Government research is therefore, somehow more pure than business supported research. (We see this all the time when research supported by business is always reported in ways conducive to accepting that such research is tainted by its funding whereas government supported research is never considered tainted by the analogous human desires that determine its course and contents.)...

One can be avaricious for all sorts of things besides money. I suspect that many a scientist would kill (if there was an easy fool-proof way to do it) to be known for a significant discovery. Or to have a big lab full of top-notch post-docs. Or to be invited to important conferences. This is just as much greed and covetousness as wanting to earn millions of dollars. And it can corrupt people in just the same way. Actually, one could live like St Francis, and give the clothes off your back to the shivering poor... and still be a greedy miser. If, for example, what you coveted most was being considered "saintly."

And of course even in government-funded science there are potential big monetary-equivalent rewards. A "science star" might be flown first-class to a posh resort to mingle with rock-stars and shake hands with Al Gore or Prince Charles. That's worth enough money to corrupt almost anyone.

Posted by John Weidner at March 26, 2009 11:38 AM
Weblog by John Weidner