THIS IS A TRICKY ONE to blog about. The neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids) have put out this article: Cancer Research, Prayer, and St. Jude, criticizing something PZ Myers wrote in his blog, Pharyngula.
We have no doubt that PZ Myers can take very good care of himself regarding the pretext of the Discoveroid article, so we’ll confine ourselves to dealing with some other issues (although PZ may very likely deal with them too).
Essentially, the Discoveroids claim that (bold added for emphasis):
The remarkable progress in the treatment of cancer in the past several decades had a lot to do with faith and prayer. Myers misunderstands the origins of modern medical science and the history and nature of cancer treatment.
What’s going on here? Are the Discoveroids finally admitting that their allegedly scientific enterprise of promoting Intelligent Design is really just the work of a pack of frenzied faith healers? So it would appear. The Discoveroid article continues:
Advances in science and cancer treatment emerged, not from science in isolation, but from a culture that made science possible and that directed the fruits of scientific work toward good and compassionate goals. The culture from which science has emerged is Judeo-Christian culture, and modern science has arisen only in Judeo-Christian culture.
Can you spot a little post hoc ergo propter hoc in there? Two can play that game. The truth is that science began well before the year 1AD. It should be necessary to name to name only a few of the most prominent pagan scientists.
Galen lived two centuries BC, and his work dominated Western medical science for centuries. He got a lot wrong (like bloodletting), but he got a lot right too, which is remarkable in an age that knew so little about biology. But do the Discoveroids give any credit to the culture that worshiped Zeus and the Olympian gods? Apparently not.
Then, of course, there were Greeks like Aristotle, who lived about three centuries BC, about whom Wikipedia says:
Aristotle’s views on the physical sciences profoundly shaped medieval scholarship, and their influence extended well into the Renaissance, although they were ultimately replaced by modern physics. In the biological sciences, some of his observations were only confirmed to be accurate in the nineteenth century. His works contain the earliest known formal study of logic …
And let’s not leave out Archimedes, who lived at least two centuries BC, about whom Wikipedia says that he was:
… a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. … Among his advances in physics are the foundations of hydrostatics, statics and the explanation of the principle of the lever. … Archimedes is generally considered to be the greatest mathematician of antiquity and one of the greatest of all time.
We’ll mention one more: Eratosthenes, from 2 centuries BC, who used geometry to correctly calculate the circumference of the earth.
Again we ask: why don’t the Discoveroids give some credit to Zeus?
Hey, have the Discoveroids ever heard of the Dark Ages? From the fall of Rome to the Renaissance, the dominant intellectual force in Europe was Judeo-Christian culture. Yet there were virtually no medical or other scientific advances in Europe during that time. The Black Death killed from a third to maybe half of the population of Europe in the 1300s. Judeo-Christian culture offered little but spiritual comfort, along with some misguided accusations of blame and persecutions.
Yet the Discoveroids claim:
Modern science arose in Judeo-Christian culture — a milieu of faith and prayer. It arose from Judeo-Christian culture — and nowhere else — for a reason.
Medical science is particularly in debt to a culture of piety.
We like to keep our writing on a relatively elevated level, but when confronted with such historical ignorance and flat-out idiocy there is only one response that seems appropriate — Barf-o-ramma!
The sad history of the science-religion conflict is too long to catalog here. It includes Galileo’s heresy conviction arising from his teaching of the solar system, along with religious opposition to Ben Franklin’s lightning rod, to obstetric anesthesia, and of course to the theory of evolution. It’s not a pretty picture.
The truth is that science exists independently of religion. It began in pagan times, continued in the Islamic world, and it now continues (although with considerable opposition) in our Judeo-Christian culture. Science and religion are entirely different phenomena; either can exist without the other, and neither can claim credit for the other.
Unless the Discoveroids want our religion to share the credit with Islam and the Olympian gods, they’d best remain silent about claiming credit for science — which they oppose so mightily.