Monday 23 February 2009

Giving science and secularism a bad name

One of the constant themes of this blog has been the misguided efforts of some religionists to construct a straw man, bearing labels such as 'militant atheism' and 'aggressive secularism', when much of the militancy and aggression in recent controversies has actually come from the faith camp. 

At the same time, I'm an admirer of neurobiologist Colin Blakemore, not only for his pioneering brain research and contributions to the public understanding of science, but also for his bravery in standing up to animal rights extremists. However, his article on science and religion in yesterday's Observer was a rather crude and superficial piece of polemic.

Arguing that religious faith may simply be a false model of reality, implanted in our brains, that has outgrown its evolutionary usefulness, Blakemore foresees a day when science makes religion redundant. He writes:

I'm dubious about those 'why' questions: why are we here? Why do we have a sense of right and wrong? Either they make no sense or they can be recast as the kind of 'how' questions that science answers so well.

Thus, in a couple of sentences, Blakemore not only abolishes religion, but does away with the need for philosophy, ethics, and probably the social sciences and humanities too. This kind of reductionism and determinism gives science - and secularism - a bad name.

More on this from Norm here.

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