June 10, 2006

ON SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS

While we’re at it (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, First Things, March, 2006–SCROLL DOWN)

Egregious displays of arrogance are setting what is aptly called the science establishment upon a self-destructive course. This is again made evident in a national survey conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). There is, of course, the continuing conflict over the teaching of evolution in the schools. Even some adamant opponents of Intelligent Design and other proposals recognize that the derision heaped upon them by Judge John E. Jones III in the Dover, Pennsylvania, trial was a pyrrhic victory. The controversy is composed of a complex mix of science, culture, religion, and politics and is not likely to be resolved by blunderbuss verdicts from the bench on what is and what is not rational. The VCU survey indicates that only 15 percent of the public thinks that only evolution should be taught in public schools, while 73 percent favor teaching also the controversy about evolution. One may be encouraged or depressed by that finding, but in a society in which every establishment must pay its respects to democracy, it is manifest that the scientific elite is failing to persuade. Or consider the fact that for years that establishment, backed almost unanimously by the mainstream media, have insisted on the necessity of embryonic stem cell research, meaning the creation and destruction of human embryos for research purposes. The survey indicates that only 14 percent of Americans think that embryonic stem cell research “holds the greatest promise” for new treatments of diseases. More generally, while 85 percent say developments in science have helped make society better, 56 percent say that “scientific research doesn’t pay enough attention to the moral values of society,” and 52 percent agree with the statement that “scientific research has created as many problems for society as solutions.” We are told that scientists are the gods and goddesses of our culture. Newspapers run stories every day announcing that “Scientific Study Shows _____,” “Experts say that _____.” It seems an increasing number of the declining number of Americans who still read papers smile a skeptical smile. Since the dawn of the Enlightenment, the solution proposed is that an ignorant populace must be educated. But it has become increasingly evident that much that is called education in science is, in fact, indoctrination in philosophical, moral, and ontological assumptions that most people do not share, and with good reason. Huge enterprises such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, along with science programs in the universities, depend upon public support. It is not good news that so many Americans are suspicious of the scientific enterprise itself. In the Christian perspective, science is a gift of God and the discovery of truth is welcomed and not threatening, since we are confident that all truth is one. All too often, however, what is called science is an admixture of science and alien agendas that reinforces skepticism. Those who command the heights of the scientific establishment must learn to engage the public with a greater measure of humility and candor, recognizing that their credibility depends upon acknowledging that they do not know much more than they do know. People are ready to be taught by teachers they trust. The apparently growing climate of distrust serves neither science nor the public good.
Posted by Peter Burnet at June 10, 2006 9:07 AM
Comments

Father Neuhaus makes a very important point.

The notion that all our the institutions of communication are to be wielded by the intelligencia to further the revolution has been part of game plan of the left since there has been a left.

The weakness in the plan is that the weapons are soon blunted. Every lie told strengthens the perception that the speakers are not to be trusted.

It is not good that science, law, education, medicine, and the rest have squandered their credibility. By grasping for power they do not have, they have lost much of their proper influence.

Posted by: Lou Gots at June 10, 2006 11:42 AM

We are told that scientists are the gods and goddesses of our culture.

Where does he get his news? This is hysterical overreach.

Since the dawn of the Enlightenment, the solution proposed is that an ignorant populace must be educated. But it has become increasingly evident that much that is called education in science is, in fact, indoctrination in philosophical, moral, and ontological assumptions that most people do not share, and with good reason.

I'd like to understand where he's finding this indoctrination. What exactly are those philosophical, moral and ontological assumptions that science educators are guilty of propagating? Neuhaus is just ranting.

In the Christian perspective, science is a gift of God and the discovery of truth is welcomed and not threatening, since we are confident that all truth is one.

Speak for yourself, Catholic boy! If Christians really agreed with this statement, there would be no need for the ID movement.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at June 10, 2006 10:17 PM
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