Semi-scientists

One reason why evolutionary biologists are inordinately disposed to be snarlingly contemptuous of religion is that they are rightfully insecure about their standing as genuine scientists:

I prefaced my first question to them by a little imaginative scenario: three biologists discussing the properties of the black hole in the middle of our galaxy. It was very clear that the astronomers really believed that they could discuss ‘life’ professionally, whereas everyone saw biologists talking about black holes as absurd….

Biology questions don’t seem professional to the people who design these scenarios; it’s like folk psychology or philosophy – everyone has “a right to” an opinion.

The reason people have more respect for physicists, even the sort of physicists who are engaging in unscientific speculation such as string theory, is that physicists are capable of answering difficult questions without trying to change the subject, resorting to evasive maneuvers and archly proclaiming that the subject is just too difficult to understand by anyone outside of the evolutionary priesthood. Here’s an excellent example, Sean Carroll criticizing Larry Michael Behe’s new book:

“Unfortunately, [Behe’s] errors are of a technical nature and will be difficult for lay readers, and even some scientists (those unfamiliar with molecular biology and evolutionary genetics), to detect. Some people will be hoodwinked. My goal here is to point out the critical flaws in Behe’s key arguments and to guide readers toward some references.”

I’ve never read Behe. Perhaps Carroll is correct, I am not sufficiently informed to judge. But to the intelligent reader, Carroll is giving a warning that he isn’t capable of providing an adequate explanation anyone who isn’t already convinced will find convincing. And we see this sort of thing all the time, whether it is biologists like Carroll or professional propagandists like Dawkins, even though biology is much easier than physics.

One seldom sees an economist frothing at the mouth at yet another attempt to deny the iron Law of Supply and Demand. We will see fish-squirrels breeding humans out of monkeys in the lab before we see prices rise with an increasing supply and static demand, and yet economists are capable of listening to morons advocating health care nationalization and other nonsense doomed to failure with equanimity. Meanwhile, evolutionary biologists are wetting themselves at the thought that evolution might not be taught as Holy Scripture in schools that can’t manage to teach math or basic reading.

Read a Christian theologian and then read a site like Pharyngula. Which one strikes you as more insecure, more terrified that at any moment, they will be revealed to be intellectually naked? Religion has not only survived its “inevitable” demise at the hands of the Enlightenment for 200 years, it is growing explosively throughout the world.

The inability of these semi-scientific biologists to make accurate observations and conclusions regarding relative meme growth demonstrates how shaky their capacity for genuine scientody is. If one meme is growing in a shrinking population and the other meme is growing even faster in an expanding one, then how in the name of Natural Selection can anyone possibly conclude that the first meme is in the process of becoming the dominant one?

That being said, I do agree that is is bizarre how many SF writers are concerned about getting the science right, while showing no interest in getting either the biology or the religion right. This is a real failure on the part of the genre, as it is the artful use of psychological truths, not scientific ones, that make great literature.

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