Thursday, May 19, 2005

While we're on the subject of science

I don't know if y'all have seen this quote before, but I think it strikes at the heart of the whole issue of faith and science, like no other:

(from Richard Lewontin, "Billions and Billions of Demons," review of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Cradle in the Dark by Carl Sagan, New York Review of Books, January 9,1997, 32.)

We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

It took some courage to come out and acknowledge the metaphysical basis of materialism.


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