Scientists & Churches (was Re: Evidence . . . .

Gil Hardwick (
Fri, 19 May 1995 10:33:28 GMT

In article <>, Yasha Hartberg ( writes:
>Here, I must disagree with you. While it is true that a vast body of
>evidence followed its initial proposal, Darwin based evolutionary theory
>on an extensive and laborious set of initial observations. As such, it
>was born of all the stuff shared by all other scientific theories,
>developed from preliminary observations, tested against available
>evidence, refined, and tested again.

The idea of evolution had preceeded Darwin, and in fact he had taken
it along with him on his voyage. Darwin DID NOT invent the theory at
all in fact; merely worked out some of the mechanisms by which it was
further substantiated.

> And while some presentations of
>evolutionary theory are tautological, the many individual theories which
>delve into the mechanism of natural selection are not. Some presentations
>of the laws of thermodynamics could be said to be tautological yet they
>are nevertheless extremely useful. I would also add that a posteriori
>evidence is not all as unusual as you suggest. Indeed, the bulk of modern
>theoretical physics is years ahead of the technology necessary to test
>those theories.

Well yes, nowhere have I argued that it is not USEFUL. And as I have
already stated myself the same situation exists with Big Bang Theory,
and I must suppose theoretical physics also.

>And here in the United States at least, the Church seems to be taking back
>some of its own, lobbying heavily to restrict research into areas it deems
>immoral or contradictory to religious dogma. This competition creates an
>adversarial atmosphere so it is hardly any wonder that zealots on both
>sides seem a bit defensive.

Sure. Now we are getting into the nitty gritty of the problem, isn't
that so. Seems to me far more fruitful a course of enquiry to take
by examining facts than berating and abusing presumed enemies as we
have been suffering here for so long.

>Here, I completely agree with you. The vast majority of "unscientific"
>cosmology has been of far greater value to human development and culture.
>I see no reason why people should be asked to give up these aspects of
>their ways of life in the wake of scientific progress. As you say, for
>most people, it is simply irrelevant.

Yes thanks. Perhaps as we begin to rebuild this social model of ideas
and theories we may be able to contain it somewhat and allow those
expert in their interpretation and enunciation some space to sort it

Certainly it would be of tremendous benefit to anthropology to be
allowed to proceed with other priorities funds urgently need to be
directed into in the meantime, than have one side in one issue only
colonise our entire discourses for no better purpose than to attack
their political enemies within their own national boundaries.

>And here, too, I think scientists have failed. On the one hand, we are
>doing a very poor job of explaining ourselves. Few of us, I hope, are out
>to deliberately undermine indigenous cultures or steal away religion, yet
>many feel that is precisely what we are up to. On the other hand, we do
>precious little to ensure that our theories aren't misinterpreted or
>usurped from their original context to serve political and economic
>agendas. Both of these aspects, I'm afraid, could make life very
>difficult for science unless measures are taken. I am at a loss, however,
>just what those measures should be.

Thanks for that. While you are no doubt going to cop some flack from
the peanut gallery too for your "hectares of verbiage", I yet myself
have unfortunately an insufficient mastery of this medium to say what
I want without it.

Let's just hope that for the moment at least, everyone will calm down
and think far more seriously about what the churches might be worrying
about so. Maybe like me, who has also been accused here of a religious
bent, they are actually far more concerned with the wider issues, yet
express themselves within the limits of their own discourses which
do contain such notions as heresy and immorality.

Let's maybe listen to what ELSE they might have to say, yes?

>And this is the heart of the problem, isn't it? While I disagree with
>your assertion that these theories are supported by a paucity of evidence,
>I cannot deny that they have been heavily abused and used to appropriate
>the vast majority of the worlds natural resources for the sole support of
>the affluent few. So where lies the role of the scientist in all this? I
>certainly don't like to think that I am playing an active part in any
>diabolic conspiracy. I have no secret political agenda in mind when I
>propose to do research and I think the same could be said for the
>scientific community as a whole. Yet time and time again, our theories
>have been used to further political causes we never anticipated. But I
>don't think I am deluding myself when I say that a great deal of good has
>come from scientific research as well. So earnestly I ask, how can
>balance be achieved?

Well, as I have argued here often enough, "scientists" are NOT ONLY
"scientists". Surely they are all human beings as well; human beings
FIRST for that matter, who happen merely to deploy a particularly
rigorously disciplined method to their enquiries.

I wonder that some of them don't take a break occasionally; go run
bare foot across a paddock, attend the Opera, pig-out on a Big Mac,
get a life.