Monday, September 25, 2006

Is it all or nothing?

While reading a fellow blogger's post about a documentary on bible focused children's camps I came across a statement that made me think.

In one interview a camp mother shares her thoughts about science and evolution. She explains how science really doesn’t explain anything and is a big waste of time. She was doing this on tape, in a house powered by electricity, with a television and the comforts of modern life in the background. If science is so fucking bad, go back and live in a cave. These people often forget that the people they are throwing stones at usually are the people either saving their life or at least making it more entertaining.

Let me first say that I've not seen this movie, but I plan to. For that reason, for the time being, I will have to accept Lady M's description of the scene as being accurate. With that out of the way, Lady M's statement got me thinking. Is science an all or nothing thing? Can someone reasonably at the same time accept the fruits of science while rejecting the basis under which they were developed? Having said that let me pose this question: Is it right to deny the fruits of science to those that actively work to destroy its basis? Yes, yes, I know that Ayn Rand's ghost is jumping for joy. (Ayn Rand was a fool. Not because she was wrong for wanting the kind of society that she wanted, but because she thought that sort of society is possible. But I digress.) Rand's idea was for the human engines of society should not be coerced into supporting those individuals who are unwilling to work for themselves. Her story "Atlas Shrugged" portrays the near collapse of society when these engines decline to participate anymore. Since they were the ones holding things together for so long, without their efforts society begins to collapse. Can and should a similar principle be used in relation to the anti-intellectual movements afoot in the world today? Is it morally wrong to turn the lights off on someone who actively tries to destroy the basis for scientific research in society? Some might say that the point is a bit too obscure and that those that are affected would fail to see the point. I can concede that. I realize that this is all really just ridiculous, but it is fun to run the gedankenexperiment and imagine the anti-intellectual religious zealot attempting to pray the lights back on. So to answer my own question, "Is it all or nothing?" probably not, but I can dream can't I?

Update: To make the thought experiment more relevant I'll change the conditions. Rather than turning off the lights let's deny access to the fruits of modern genetics. Since the field of genetics (by way of neo-darwinism) is dependent upon the principles that many of these anti-intellectuals rail against it makes a more appropriate target for denial. This would include the field of molecular biology and the advances that are likely to be seen in disease control and prevention. Advances in the treatment of Diabetes, Alzheimers disease, Cancer, Haemophilia, Leukemia and a number of other disease that have a genetic component. How would people react if they were told that they couldn't have access to these lifesaving advances? Most of those advances are still hypothetical but will be available in the very short term. Even closer would be the genetically created products like human insulin and human growth hormone and the hepatitus B vaccine. OK. I'm done.


Shirley said...


Anonymous said...

I just saw Jesus Camp. The fact that religious groups, especially staunchly conservative evangelicals, have so much influence in or control over politics is terrifying, but even more terrifying is that most U.S. citizens have no idea it happens (kinda like our freedoms being stripped away one by one. who knew?).

Bush's Monday morning evanlegical meetings aside, the kids in this movie are bright, articulate and energetic. If anything, they are a nod to homeschooling efforts... except for one mother's insistence that global warming "isn't really a problem." *Sigh*

Favorite scene:
Little Evangelical Girl (LEG) [speaking to three old black men in a park]: When you die, where will you go?

Old Black Man (OBM): To Heaven.

LEG: Are you sure?

OBM: Yes.

LEG: [pause] OK.
[she walks away and whispers]
I think they are Muslim.