Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's a PZ Myers Fan Post!

PZ Myers is a scholar and a gentleman. Well, he's a scholar, but opinions differ about the other part. I say he's better than a gentleman: he's a thoughtful contributor to the contemporary American scene. I think I'm going to stop using the word gentleman because it brings its archaic qualities into sharp, disquieting relief.

  • This is an interesting point:
    Many of the evidences proposed rely for their power on their unexplainability by natural mechanisms. There isn't much power there: the vast majority of the phenomena that exist are not completely explained by science. For instance, I don't understand every detail of Hox gene regulation (no one does), and I don't understand all of the nuclear reactions going on inside a star (maybe someone does), and pointing at an elegantly patterned embryo or at our Sun will get me to happily admit my ignorance, but my ignorance is not evidence for a god.
    Indeed so. We don't know everything, and that applies beyond the bland, trivially true observation that any given human being doesn't know everything. Even if we were somehow to sum up the knowledge of every person, past and present, in serial fashion, there would still remain a large number of unanswered questions, unsolved puzzles, and intractable mysteries. Human ignorance doesn't count for or against the proposition that god exists -- it wasn't a cogent argument for the existence of god the month before Newton finalized his laws of motion, and it got neither stronger or weaker a month later. Yet even now, it somehow gets shunted forth as a reason to believe in god. Nonsense.
  • The point cited above came up, directly and indirectly, in PZ Myers's appearance on the most recent Point of Inquiry podcast, in which he ran argumentative circles around the tag-team of Chris Mooney and Jennifer Hecht on the question of confrontation versus accommodation. I admire Jennifer Hecht, but she would do well to re-think whether waving around the word "poetic" constitutes science-bane. More to the point, she would do well to realize that science need not be hostile to the "poetic" -- the "poetic" and science can, if done thoughtfully, be complimentary avenues to finding the truth.

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