straw men in science class

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Sep 20, 2005

George Johnson is easily frightened. Assigned to review a book by the Dalai Lama for the New York Times, Johnson worried about the subtitle: "The Convergence of Science and Spirituality."

Spirituality is about the ineffable and unprovable, science about the physical world of demonstrable fact. Faced with two such contradictory enterprises, divergence would be a better goal.

Wrong. If science and spirituality occupy completely different realms, as Johnson argues, then they can't be "contradictory." If you can't meet, you can't collide.

Despite his grave concerns, Johnson is pleased to find that the Dalai Lama is ready to jettison any Buddhist beliefs that are scientifically proven false, and says that no serious thinker "can ignore the basic insights of theories as key as evolution, relativity and quantum mechanics." Johnson continues:

That is an extraordinary concession compared with the Christian apologias that dominate conferences devoted to reconciling science and religion. The "dialogues" implicitly begin with nonnegotiables - "Given that Jesus died on the cross and was bodily resurrected into heaven. . ." - then seek scientific justification for what is already assumed to be true.

Got that? It is extraordinary for any religious thinker to accept scientific facts and confront scientific theories. It is ordinary for Christians to hold conferences in which they demand that all participants subjugate their scientific knowledge to religious dogma. Naturally, Johnson does not introduce any evidence to back up these sweeping statements, since no such evidence exists.

The Times review is right about one thing, though: It's a terrible thing when someone simply ignores the evidence that does not fit his preconceived notions.

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