Monday, February 12, 2007

how NOT to do it

Those of you interested in the religion and science stuff, don't miss this article from the New York Times (thanks to Brent who always leaves up the interesting articles in our browser for me to read).

So, this dude writes a dissertation that's "good science, great science" in paleontology, a dissertation that accepts completely and works within the current paradigm of millions of years of evolution in the fossil record...and yet personally is a young-earth creationist who sees no problem with juggling two completely incompatible paradigms in his academic and personal life.

Or should I say lives? Because, in the end, whatever this guy has, it's not a life. To be completely honest, perhaps he should have adopted a pseudonym for the dissertation and all academic work; then no one would have to deal with the utter confusion I feel when trying to apply the same nominal designation to the two lives this one bifurcated person is attempting to lead. What kind of intellectual integrity can you have, when you've only avoided lying to yourself and others by a strategy of self-induced religio-academic schizophrenia? How can what he produces be "good science," and how can what he professes be real faith?

See, people, this is just not how to do science and religion. I don't know what this guy is afraid of, but this non-solution he's adopted and trying to live with can, in my opinion, only be the result of fear. Maybe he's afraid of going to hell. Maybe he's afraid of his father and of disappointing his family. Maybe he's afraid there is no hell, and no God, and a fossil record millions of years old is a poor substitute for the security blanket of his faith, and he's not ready to give it up. Maybe he's afraid to realize that what he's got, in the end, is no kind of faith at all, really. Because if dead stuff in the ground can poof your faith away...well...what exactly is it that you think you're holding on to anyhow?

All these concerned professors interviewed in the article, with their varying opinions of this dude Marcus Ross, and their investment in "academic integrity" and institutional reputations, even the ones who know him and seem to like him and granted him a degree--none of these people see the real problem and underlying tragedy in this situation, and that is, someday this piss-poor strategy of living with contradiction is going to fail Marcus Ross, and he will be shattered, and someone is going to need to help him pick up the pieces. And what help with all these people be then? Even if they care enough about this guy to be around, none of them seem to have thought through the real issue of how religious belief intersects with science; the only ones who even address the issue seem to endorse the separatist strategy that's doomed to fail, because their only concern is that he produce "good science," despite his kooky religious convictions, regardless of the personal cost. He's gone further than I would have thought possible with this lamentable coping strategy--all the way to a Ph.D.--and the further he goes, the harder he'll fall.

May I ever so humbly recommend something for Marcus Ross' reading list? Give this a try: The Shaping of Rationality by J. Wentzel van Huyssteen, and follow it up with Alone in the World: Human Uniqueness in Science and Theology. Not that I'm partial or anything, but there's a guy who gets it right. And takes paleontology a hell of a lot more seriously than does Marcus Ross.


JTB said...

See what the hermits have to say on this.

Anonymous said...

JTB's link

JTB said...

Also this one, and since Greg has shamed me by pointing out my html laziness I'll do this one properly:

Jeff Sharlet's blog

Anonymous said...

Ugh. Did you have to do that? He puts my own stabs at reviewing to shame. (One shame, I guess, deserves another...)

Sharlet and Manseau both are ridiculously good writers.

JTB said...

Oops, that should have been on the Children of Men I guess Greg wins anyhow.

hermit greg said...

Alas, it was inevitable.