Muggles for Harry Potter

Rowland, Jennifer jennifer.rowland at ic.ac.uk
Wed Jun 21 06:42:20 EDT 2000


 
>> science is a process. _New Scientist_ erred in giving a platform to
>the
>> creationists because the creationists deride and abjure the process.
>They
>> are absolutists, plain and fixed and they manipulate selected oddments
>of
>> data ("cherry picking" is the term). While the periodic table may be
>> massively useful in grouping elements according to their properties
>and
>> nuclear size, and the same with many of the "facts" used as a basis
>for
>> science, they are only the best models we have at this time. Were you
>of
>> a mind, you could pick out and selectively exploit inconsistencies,
>explain
>> how the transuranics are the devil's elements because they don't fit
>into
>> the divinely ordered pattern (some scientist made it up? nah, god's
>>puppet)
>> *and* they're terribly bad for people &c &c.
>

>I am genuinely puzzled about the above comment and I would like some
>light
>thrown on it, please. If the creationists are so patently wrong why
>aren't
>you feeling sorry for them rather than protesting about them being given
>the
>right to make fools of themselves?

I think the problem would be that innocent (non-science-background)readers
might take them seriously, not realising that they were arguing from a
religious and not scientific viewpoint, because they use scientific-sounding
words. The creationists misrepresent their position, and try to make fools
of other people. They are too powerful, especially in America, to feel sorry
for them. The consequences of their ideas being bolstered up and taken more
seriously in any society could be very repressive and unpleasant. When a
religion is in power it does not tend to be tolerant of dissenters.

I agree very much with the seperate spheres idea, that religion is about
spirituality and morals, which are internal decisions for people, and
science is about how the physical world works. Of course moral decisions
have to be made about what technologies are acceptable, etc, but the
religious (or any other) position of the researcher should not lead them to
misrepresent what really happens. This is falsifying data, lying in order to
convince people of your ideas, and is seriously wrong. I would say that the
example given above, of cherrypicking inconsistencies and using them to
argue against science as a whole rather than to create a better model, fits
very neatly into this slot. 
 The idea of a God watching over us is very seductive and many people want
to believe it, so evangelisers do well enough without stealing scientists'
clothes. I don't think they should be allowed to get away with distorting
science for their own reasons.

Jennifer
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