"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Who wants a Templeton then?

I hate to lay into one of Britain’s most popular science presenters, not to mention one of the country's pre-eminent fertility specialists in this way. But Dr Robert Winston is not the ambassador for scientific rationality we might wish him to be.
In this interview with Sam Harris he nails his accomodationist colours firmly to the wall in such a nauseating post-modern way that any claim that he understands the point of the scientific method goes completely out of the same second floor window he presumably uses (pace Isaac Newton) when he leaves for work in the morning.
Take this exchange:
SH: Religious language is, without question, unscientific in its claims for what is true. We have Christians believing in the holy ghost, the resurrection of Jesus and his possible return – these are claims about biology and physics which, from a scientific point of view in the 21st century, should be unsustainable.

RW: You talk as if science is an absolute, and I don't think it is at all. It isn't the truth either, because I don't believe there is such a thing as "the truth". You rail against the ultimate truth of what some people believe – ie religion, God, Jesus, whatever. I don't, because I don't think it makes any more sense than railing against scientific truths. I say "truths" in inverted commas, because truths have a habit of being altered as we develop our knowledge.
Sure scientific truths are subject to change, or more accurately refinement as new evidence presents itself. But that is completely different from religious “truths” inferred from ancient neolithic tomes and and believed to be unchangeable for eternity, whatever the evidence against them.
It’s embarrassing. This is the kind of idiocy we expect from the U.S on a regular basis, but it’s cringe making from one of the U.K’s most prominent scientists. It matters too, because Dr Winston is an influential person, a popular educator in a country where scientific literacy is not all it should be and it gives succour to the “intelligent design” proponents who would redefine science to suit their creationist agenda.
The bizarre thing is, no matter how much respect Dr Winston has for religion (and that’s entirely a matter for him) I find it hard to understand how a scientist of his stature can really believe there is no difference between the “truths” of science and religion. A cynic might think he was angling for a Templeton prize, and if he keeps this drivel up, he might just get one.

1 comment:

  1. I agree but that cool one million dollars is a hell of an enticement to the credulous believer as well as the unscrupulous non-believer. Just look at Templeton’s latest poster boy Martin Rees.