Muggles for Harry Potter

Philip.Belben at Philip.Belben at
Thu Jun 22 13:46:40 EDT 2000

Jennifer has already replied to this, but I think there are things that also
need to be said.  I think that Chris has gone rather over the top in expressing
his views.

Chris wrote:

> Dear Jennifer
> I disagree deeply with what you have written but I do not want to upset you
> so I am going to put in a space so that, if you don't want to know why I
> heartily disagree with you , you can delete this post quickly, OK?

>> I think the problem would be that innocent
>>(non-science-background) readers might take them seriously,
> So, only well educated people who already believe in evolution can take part
> in the scientific debate about  how the world was made? Everyone else must
> be protected for their own good?

No, any scientific journal should take care to publish only articles that are
properly researched.  End of story.  Evolution not involved.  It's because of
the (deliberately) poor research that Jennifer is justified in objecting.

>> not realising that they were arguing from a
>> religious and not scientific viewpoint, because they use
>> scientific-sounding words.
> You could equally well argue that feminists or communists cannot publish
> scientific papers because they have ways of looking at the world which must
> affect the way they draw conclusions from the evidence they accumulate and
> even the way in which they design the sorts of evidence that they go looking
> for.

Eh?  Everyone has views that affect the way they see the world.  Such views are
no excuse for poor research.  Plenty of rationalist-materialist scientists do
poor research for exactly analogous reasons, and they are equally guilty.

>> The creationists misrepresent their position, and try to make fools
>> of other people.
> If I inserted the word jew in the above sentence I would be called a racist
> and slung me out of the discussion group.

You would also be telling an untruth, where Jennifer is merely guilty of a
sweeping generalisation.  If Jennifer were to have said "Creationists whose work
I have encountered misrepresent...." there would have been nothing objectionable
about her remark.

>> 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.
> and the atheistic Soviet Union was a model of tolerance because it dispensed
> with religion? We have to face the fact that the human race is basically
> intolerant and we have to rise above it.

I agree with Chris here, but only up to a point.  In particular, the Soviet
union did _not_ dispense with religion.  Marxism is as much of a religion as
Christianity in this context.  And many of the people of the USSR venerated
Lenin just as the Church of Rome venerates her saints.

>> 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.
> It is impossible to seperate life into chunks like this - you can't go into
> a research lab and see things through impartial eyes. A person's views about
> life must influence the things they are interested in, the things they
> choose to research, what they will and won't do to further their career


> ( scientists are just as keen on fame and fortune as the rest of us), etc,
> etc. Up to a certain level it may be possible to say 1+2 =3, after that
> we are all listening to witnesses to a traffic accident - the differing
> viewpoints will shed light on the truth of what really happened.

Also agreed, but I don't think this has any bearing on Jennifer's point.  As a
Christian, I believe there exist absolutes in terms of right and wrong.  Is it
therefore wrong (absolutely?) of me to believe that there are absolutes in
scientific ethics?  One's beliefs are inevitably going to colour one's research,
but if one oversteps the bounds of scientific ethics, one should not be allowed
to continue to claim a "scientific" basis for one's theories.

>>  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.

Er, Jennifer... You are making a big leap here.  It may be that creationists are
distorting their research in order to recruit people to their particular cults,
but... where's the evidence?

My view - and it is only an oppinion - is that the creationists are afraid of
evolutionary theory because it is better supported than their own, and conflicts
with their world-view.  This is bad science - they are trying to force their
world-view on people in the teeth of the evidence.  But they would rather do
this than re-examine their own opinions.

> We all worship something  - I don't think science quite does it for me

Nor for me, but what's that got to do with this issue?

Again speaking as a Christian, I believe that if the Christian message is true,
it should be powerful enough to stand up for itself without having to be forced
on people.  Which is really quite close to Jennifer's statement, even if she did
make it for the wrong reason.

Philip. (Who seems to have strayed a long way off topic)

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