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Saturday, August 02, 2008

So what has atheism done for science lately?

Indeed, what has atheism done for science?, agnostic Warwick U sociologist Steve Fuller asks, and the answer is, apparently, not much:
The most popular non-answers usually involve some vague appeal to “innate animal curiosity”. But this hardly distinguishes science from, say, gossip or sheer nosiness – let alone religion. It also doesn’t explain why we persist in doing science even when trails grow cold or, worse, dangerous. Most evolutionary explanations account for a trait’s persistence in one of two ways: it either increases our chances for survival or it is the by-product of something that increases our chances for survival. But does science fit either description?
and worse,
More generally, atheism has not figured as a force in the history of science not because it has been suppressed but because whenever it has been expressed, it has not encouraged the pursuit of science. The general metaphysical idea underlying Darwinism – that a morally indifferent nature selects from among a variety of organic possibilities – has many secular and religious precedents across the world. In each case, it has led to an ethic of equanimity and even resignation, certainly not a drive to remake the planet, if not the universe, to our own purposes. Yet, so far we have got pretty far on that drive. The longer we continue successfully, the stronger the evidence that at least human life cannot be fully explained in Darwinian terms.
Actually, never mind human life, I don't think even animal life can be fully explained - or even reasonably explained - in Darwinian terms. And plant life - definitely not! Lamarck and Mendel could tell you far more about plants than Darwin ever did.

What atheism has done for science is sold a lot of popular atheist books that use the word "science" every few sentences. Wow.

See also The god they don't believe in certainly isn't great.

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