Have We Abandoned the Enlightenment?
Dawkins kicked off by reminding us that although we live in a global village, we should not forget the presence of global village idiots. He said that the main question behind the assembly of the panel was to ascertain whether, as we dispose of religion, we are not replacing it with ley-lines, homeopathy, astrology, and phenomena like the psychic-sisters?
Steve Jones had a joke about homeopathy: concerning the story of the woman who forgot to take her medicine one day and died of an overdose. We did laugh.
Martin Rees thought that science should forge ties and alliances with the mainstream religions, if nothing else, for the sake of respectability.
The panel was ultimately disappointing, and mainly because these eminent scientists were too pleased with themselves and came to display a defence and belief in their disciplines which sounded little different to a declaration of faith.
In attacking people like the psychic-sisters and the mumbo-jumbo around astrology they seem to be picking on ridiculously small and soft targets, very similar to the countryside sport of shooting rabbits that have already been skinned and are cooking in a pot. Why not pick on the Pope or on the global representatives of the other religions? At least go for someone or something with a degree of power in the world. Stuffing a few astrologers or followers of ley-lines is not really going to change the mindset of many. We already know that these people are looking for a way of escaping reality, and we also know that, generally speaking, they don’t represent a threat to anyone.
Also, there are real questions which such a panel could have approached. In general, people don’t distrust science and scientists because they believe in psychic phenomena. They distrust science and scientists because many scientists seem to be easy to hire as apologists for corporate greed. Who do we believe when one scientist tells us that there is a problem with BSE (mad cow disease) and another tells us there is not? Who do we believe when one scientist tells us the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) immunisation is safe, and another scientist in the same field tells us it is not?
If their fight to promote the scientific method is to be successful, they would have to adopt a more humble guise and recognise their shortcomings in the market-place. The battle for rationality will not be won by arrogance.
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