Tuesday, November 28, 2006
And The Children Shall Lead Us
There is a pretty wise op-ed piece, "Religion, science not incompatible," by Shazia Haq in the Daily Trojan, the student newspaper of USC, concerning the recent conference "Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival."
The author quotes Neil deGrasse Tyson to the effect:
What concerns me now is that even if you're as brilliant as Newton, you reach a point where you start basking in the majesty of God and then your discovery stops - it just stops ...[Considering the fact that Newton did "bask in the majesty of God" one wonders at what point Tyson supposes Newton "just stopped."]
After then quoting Francisco J. Ayala on the futility of missionary attempts to convert the world to a rational life based on scientific knowledge, the author quotes Salman Rushdie, from The Satanic Verses:
Question: What is the opposite of faith?
Not disbelief. Too final, certain, closed. Itself a kind of belief.
Doubt does not constitute a dismissal of religion. Accordingly, faith is not the antonym of curiosity, and religion and science do not have to be contradictory ideals.
Is that what Tyson meant?
Newton did rather better than most, with his work on optics and light, the laws of motion and the Principia all coming after age 30. For that matter, what really "new good stuff" did Darwin come up with after about 1842?
If Tyson was serious, he has more than a little empiric work to do. But, heck, that would be doing real science rather than philosophy.
Looking down on Newton for doing alchemy is an error in understanding of the historic framework of science.