Is the person on the left non-existent or anti–existent? Photo by TheAlieness►GiselaGiardino
I’m not actively looking for people to argue with, however PZ Myers has drawn my attention to an essay by Steve Fuller on Chris Mooney’s book The Republican War on Science, which is eccentric. There are many better criticisms of the article than I have time to write. There’s not a huge desire to think about it further though, because, if Steve Fuller is right, then his own article is over 8000 words of anti-religious polemic.
The reason I come to this conclusion is from this passage:
Just as the ACLU helped to drive a wedge between the teaching of science and theology, the Discovery Institute would now drive a wedge between the teaching of science and anti-theology, or ‘methodological naturalism’ as it is euphemistically called.
When I’m writing a lecture on something like mechanics I leave God out of it because it’s not necessary. I also leave custard out for the same reason. In this sense science is atheistic (and acustardic) because there’s an absence of gods. But I didn’t see it as anti-religious (or anti-custard) because it doesn’t have anything to say on the existence of Gods (or custard). Fuller argues that this isn’t merely an absence of supernatural agency – the action of leaving Gods out of explanations is inherently anti-religious.
It’s a fascinating way to live a life. When I heard Reading drew 1:1 at Leicester the only conclusion I came to was that Reading were going to be promoted to the Premier League. Now, thanks to Steve Fuller, I know I really should have asked what role gods had in all of this. The announcer merely said Leicester one, Reading one. By leaving out gods from story, following Fullerlogic the announcer was clearly attacking the possibility of the existence of supernatural agents.
Similarly in his article, at no point does Steve Fuller credit any supernatural being for the inspiration for this work. I had thought it was simply because it wasn’t relevant to the issue, but it would appear that by omission Steve Fuller is trying to drive a wedge between theology and the social status of science. By refusing to accept gods as the source of his work Fuller is placing it in an entirely atheistic context. It’s the work of a man rather than the divine and thus open to error. At this point I should mention this text is being guided by the spirit of Merlin, the happy pig and presumably is religiously sound by the rules of Fullerlogic.
The obvious error is that Fuller doesn’t understand what atheism is. His wedge analogy only works if you think atheism is a form of belief and as I read at Be Lambic or Green “Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby and bald is a hair colour.” It is an absence of belief. It’s a privative. As a result its often widely applicable. The recipe books in my local book shop are all atheistic. The only time you have to sacrifice a chicken is when you make Chicken en croute. You can then add your own religious meaning to it by serving it at a wedding or funeral. Using the recipe does not commit you to a life of godlessness. Similarly a science without gods as agents does not commit you to a life of godlessness. The Law of Gravity may be atheistic, but it’s still a useful thing to know if you’re planning to build a cathedral. Unless it’s a cathedral dedicated to Saint Wayne, patron saint of rubble.
It’s would be wrong to say all scientists are religiously neutral. That’s clearly not the case. But atheism is a philosophical position and is not synonymous with science. Observational evidence shows this is clearly not the case as there are people like Simon Conway-Morris with deeply held religious convictions. If you’re a fundamentalist you could argue he’s not a proper Christian, but his religious belief clearly shows he’s certainly not an atheist.
There’s more I could say, but people like Dr. Free-Ride say it better. There’s also no real point because the argument simply isn’t relevant. Fuller isn’t going to have much useful to say on how I work and he’s not being taken seriously in the courts, so he’s a not a pressing issue. I thought the essay looked like it could have been interesting, but it’s so poorly based in any evidence and the concepts so woolly and hamfisted “…at least in the US, the ballot box more reliably removes suboptimal politicians than peer review identifies suboptimal science.” that it has no lasting attraction.
The only real note of interest is his belief that omission of religion from reasoning is action against religion and the obvious omission of any religious foundation to his own essay. Steve Fuller would appear to be far more anti-religious than those he would criticise.
Or alternatively he could just be a bit confused about science.Google+