Benjamin Rosenbaum

Comments on "On Gervais, "Science", and "Religion""

God, I love your vocabulary.

My answer is a bit more simplistic: Don't equate science and religion with scientists and religious-minded people. Neither science nor religion negate each other; they aren't opposites, though certain zealots seem to think they are.

Posted by Suzanne at October 17, 2012 06:38 PM

Thank you, Suzanne -- that was much shorter and pretty much the same thing I wanted to say. :-)

Posted by Benjamin Rosenbaum at October 17, 2012 07:02 PM

It's kind of funny. I'm young and still find myself choked with inchoate rage at the transition I've had away from being religious and yet I still don't identify as atheist at least in part because I don't like those guys* and don't want to be one of them.

I'm still stuck at the point where I hate organized religion and find almost every religious leader morally repugnant and corrupt but recognize that it's not automatically bad for a given individual to be religious.

Kind of an annoying place to be, really, but I don't really want to join any kind of greater atheist community to ask for advice or other perspectives precisely because of these people and not wanting to make the mistake of going to a wrong group, like one of those that actively embraced misogyny during that whole Skepchick fiasco or that think that pouncing on and abusing those who are weaker or still working out their beliefs is a good thing or helps establish their position in the pack.

*I have had way too many arguments with them when they've claimed that all scientists ever who did anything to contribute to our scientific understanding of the world/"Progress" were secret atheists or else they weren't really scientists. My understanding was that most of the people who worked on the groundwork for what came to be the scientific method were deists when they came the closest to being atheists. So, yes, thank you Suznne.

Posted by Fortun Veritas at October 26, 2012 06:11 PM

Fortun, if you want to really mess with the heads of your opponents in the last paragraph, innocently ask them about Isaac Newton -- whether he ever experienced persecution at the hands of the religious, how he dealt with the religious worldview and whether his thinking about it influenced his science? And then blink prettily while listening to them expound.

Newton was, of course, a religious fanatic who spent the last 10 years of his life focussing not on physics, but on decoding the prophecies he believed were encoded in the Bible. To the extent he was "persecuted by the religious" it was because the establishment, mainline Anglicans running the show were uncomfortable with his crazy-ass Biblical literalism. And there's an interesting argument to be made that this fruitcake side of Newton (he was also an avid alchemist, at a time when that was no longer at all confused with mainstream science -- it was regarded as hokum by Newton's mentors and colleagues) actually contributed to his major discoveries and formalization of science itself. He was willing to believe daring ideas like "action at a distance" which the other scientists of the day regarded as mystical nonsense, until he was able to prove it with math. I mean, how *exactly* does the Sun act on the Earth? By magic? IIRC Hooke ( and others really wanted some more reasonable, less bizarre mechanism where particles would act on each other, all physically adjacent, all the way across the solar system. (There are other crucial moments of It Takes A Fruitcake Weirdo in science, eg Mendeleev, which is one big problem with Movement Atheism's reification of Science as the commonsensical, NSF-funded middle and everything else as scornable wackjobbery).

I wish you luck with your transition and I also want to say there are lots of awesome open-minded atheists out there; you will find your people.

Posted by Benjamin Rosenbaum at October 27, 2012 03:05 PM

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