Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Doggerel #47: "Science Made the Bomb!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

Often, when a non-woo waxes poetic about the scientific method and hopeful about a future that it may someday bring, woos retort, "Science made the bomb!" as if that negates anything.

First: Science is the best thing we've got for finding out the truth and dispelling ignorance. Knowledge is, by itself, amoral: Like any tool, it can be used for good or evil. The fact that delving into the secrets of the atom allowed us the capability of producing horrible weapons doesn't change the practical value of science: It's still the best learning tool we have. Magical thinking doesn't exactly have the best track record for uncovering knowledge, helpful or dangerous. At its worst, however, it can fabricate new, irrational reasons to do bad things. Magical thinking, however, doesn't seem at all necessary to come up with reasons to do good.

Second: It speaks of a heavy anti-knowledge sentiment. If we abandoned the scientific method much earlier, we wouldn't have nuclear weaponry. But we wouldn't have vaccines against deadly diseases, vehicle safety, early hurricane warning systems, and so many other things we take for granted that can mean the difference between life and death. Let's keep looking for solutions to our problems, rather than ignore them.

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9 comments:

Icequeen said...

vaccines against deadly diseases, vehicle safety, early hurricane warning systems

See? Science is heretic, by definition!

Anonymous said...

Thank God for science, if it were not for science we would have never heard that our great grandaddies were a bunch of apes.

Bronze Dog said...

Thank FSM for science, if it were not for science, we would never have the pattern recognition skills to notice that Weapon is parroting all of the oldest Cretinist canards out there.

Besides, what's wrong with distant, distant, distant ancestors being ape-like? Heck, we're pretty ape-like right now.

Can you predict what silly, silly straw man Weapon is going to bring out next?

My gut tells me it's this one.

Tom Foss said...

Thank Tony the Tiger for science, if it were not for science, we would still believe that our ancestors were the repeatedly inbred descendants of eight survivors of a worldwide flood, who were the repeatedly inbred descendants of a man who was made out of dirt, and a woman who was made out of a rib.

Mechalith said...

Is it just me, or does it seem like Weapon is more upset by the idea that we're descended from apes of some variety than he is concerned about it's theological implications.

I know a guy who is absolutely terrified of the idea that there is no God, and no divine 'plan'. The thought that he has no special part in the blueprint of some cosmic architect is something he simply can't cope with, because his life would have no purpose. Maybe that's what scares WOMI so badly? The idea that we aren't all that special after all, and we just happen to be the dominant species because of an opposeable thumb and a talent for killing things that try to eat us?

I always had a hard time understanding that. Personally, I'm OK with just being me and living my life with no grand plan involved. Similarly, I'm perfectly alright with the idea that my anscestors bore a resemblance to an ape. It doesn't change who I am, and it's a good deal less depressing than the idea that the Christian God is really out there somewhere.

austinatheist said...

Deepak: But how can anyone seriously defend science as a panacea when it gave us the atomic bomb?

PZ: ...people who whimper about science bringing us bombs (and we've also got a few trolls wandering around scienceblogs damning scientists for that) have got it all wrong. Nuclear reactions are a property of the natural world—they go on in stars, they take place beneath our feet. Science did not invent fission and fusion, it only exposed the nature of the event, explained how it worked, and made this knowledge available to human beings. People chose what to do with it. We don't have any choice in what science reveals. What would you have had 20th century scientists do, intentionally suppress all knowledge of a fundamental property of matter, and all of the unpredictable consequences of that knowledge? And just how would you propose to do that, short of destroying the scientific enterprise all together?

Thank science for PZ, if it were not for PZ we would perhaps never have known that Deepak Chopra is full of it.

Weapon of Mass Instruction said...

Thank you PZ for teaching us all that we came from Monkeys.

Tom Foss said...

Um, PZ isn't here. Or, if he is, he hasn't posted.
And he doesn't teach anyone that we come from monkeys. There's really not much left of that poor abused strawman, is there?

I'd correct your simplistic and probably intentional misconception about evolution, but I have a feeling that it's pretty well-worn territory.

So, remind me again, WoMI, what's your alternative? That we came from the inbreeding of eight castaways from a giant zoo-boat? That we can trace our lineage back to the illustrious beginnings of dirt and a bone? Explain to me how that's an improvement over "monkeys."

Bronze Dog said...

What's worse, is that in Cretinism, we were created for the sole purpose of telling some guy in the sky how oh-so-big he is, and he'll step on us if we don't go along with the plan.

Yeah. Big man.

I'm so glad for the self-determination that comes with atheism and some of the more enlightened (less dark age?) religions. We're free enough to choose purposes higher than eternal adulation of some capricious super-man out of fear.