Thursday, January 21, 2010

Memo to Getting Along with Others: It's Not You, It's Us

Take Sean Carroll, for example. He prizes comity, but he prizes truth more:

If science and religion are truly incompatible, then it would be dishonest and irresponsible to pretend otherwise, even if doing so would soothe a few worried souls. And if you want to argue that science and religion are actually compatible (not just that there exist people who think so), by all means make that argument — it’s a worthy discussion to have. But it’s simply wrong to take the stance that it doesn’t matter whether science and religion are compatible, we still need to pretend they are so as not to hurt people’s feelings. That’s not being honest.
The trouble with getting along with others is that, sooner or later, it demands more from our freighted human condition than it can deliver. If the true nature of things were somehow immediately and unambiguously conspicuous to us -- let's set aside whether that is, even in principle, a possibility coherent enough to bother hypothesizing -- getting along would involve nothing more than taking the time to consider a question.

But that's now how it is, nor will it ever be. We don't even reliably agree on the identity or priority of the questions, let alone the admissible universe of answers, let alone the better of the answers. Scientists like Carroll and their most fervent faith-based opponents agree that truth is the higher priority, but they differ markedly about what the truth is and how it is obtained. No matter how it is phrased or re-phrased, the demand to put truth below 'getting along' is a non-starter.

(via Ophelia Benson)

1 comment:

larryniven said...

"No matter how it is phrased or re-phrased, the demand to put truth below 'getting along' is a non-starter."