Saturday, January 01, 2011


Vox Day in response to a study which finds that religious people are far outbreeding irreligious people (and hence are evolutionarily more fit):
The spandrel explanation for religion has always looked like little more than willful blindness combined with wishful thinking on the part of anti-theists. In the same way that most atheists are reluctant to admit the unavoidably nihilistic conclusion to their material reductionism, (hence the "irrational atheist" appellation), many irreligious evolutionists so dislike religion that they will concoct any number of far-fetched hypotheses to avoid concluding that even from their own godless perspective, religion has great utility and provides a reproductive advantage. As anecdotal evidence, the 12 or so couples who made up our old Bible study in Minnesota and who were all just beginning to have their first children now have between three and six non-adopted children per couple. The average is probably around 3.8; even with the Christmas cards I can never keep them all straight.

But then, as I have repeatedly pointed out, scientists tend to be much worse than one would expect them to be at correctly applying logic. Although I suppose they really should not be expected to do it well; after all, the entire raison d'etre of the proper scientific method is to avoid relying upon logic in favor of reaching conclusions that are based firmly upon experimentation and observation, confirmed by replication. The problem, of course, is that logic is still required with regards to interpreting the significance of the conclusions provided by the scientific method and I have observed that very few scientists, if any, appear to have received any training in logic as part of their professional education.

Now, please feel free to correct me with actual curriculum-related facts if I am wrong about my conclusions here, but based on the many arguments I have seen put forth on various subjects from numerous individuals holding science-related PhDs, I very much doubt that many science majors devote any time to learning either history or logic. A look at the M.I.T. Department of Biology's graduate and undergraduate programs shows no sign of requiring either beyond the standard Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Requirement for all undergraduate majors. While it is entirely possible that MIT science majors are choosing to study history or philosophy as part of their grand total of eight (8!) elective courses, they could just as easily be taking courses in Comparative Media Studies or Theater Arts. And given the astonishing inability of science majors to anticipate the supply and demand curves for PhDs in their chosen fields, one is forced to conclude that very few of them elect to study economics.

What this suggests is that scientists, on average, are at least as ignorant of history, economics, philosophy, religion, and logic as they believe non-scientists to be of science, and for precisely the same reason. Therefore, barring any convincing individual demonstration to the contrary, their opinions outside their professional discipline are ignorant and should be taken no more seriously than they believe the opinions of non-scientists are to be regarded within their field.

1 comment:

Stephen R said...

I'm an atheist who does in fact recognize the utility of religious belief. As I phrase it: "I'm an atheist; but I neither recommend nor endorse atheism." That is: I believe what I believe, but I do not go out of my way to try to convince others to not believe in God.

Somewhat humorously, I've sometimes found myself in situations where I've defended the ideas of the religious against other atheists, (not the actual "is there a God" stance, obviously, but various aspect of morality, for example), to an extent that their argument turned to a determined "You're not really an atheist." A good example is a die-hard pro-choicer thinking that it's not possible for an atheist to be pro-life. You're pro-life? Aha! You can't really be an atheist! My response to that is to pretty much openly laugh at them.