Creationist Wisdom #582: Reason Is Dangerous

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Rapid City Journal of Rapid City, South Dakota. It’s titled Scientists should not make public policy, and it’s the second letter at that link. The newspaper doesn’t have a comments section.

Because the writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. His first name is Neal. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

I’d like to comment on a letter published on Saturday, May 23: “Science, not religion, should guide thoughts.” The letter states religious beliefs and practices originated in human minds when ignorant man attributed natural events such as thunder, lightning, eclipses etc. to unknown spirits or gods.

This is the letter Neal is complaining about. It’s the fourth one at that link. Neal cleverly rebuts its claim about the origin of religion by saying:

Thankfully, the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth, and revealed himself to Abraham whose descendants became the Hebrew nation which gave us King David whose descendants brought forth Jesus Christ, God incarnate. One can read all about it in the Bible.

All right! Neal demolishes that earlier letter’s claim by citing the bible to declare that religion didn’t originate because “fear led people to develop religions: fear of death, nature, crop failures, etc.” Let’s read on:

My second comment has to do with the idea, with the help of the paper’s editorial editor crafting the headline, that science and reason, not religion, should guide our thoughts. This is a dangerous idea.

Ooooooooooh — it’s dangerous to let science and reason guide our thoughts. Neal continues:

Basic science is the study of the natural world around us.

Yes, but what’s wrong with that? Neal says:

What is dangerous is when scientists advocate for public policy.

Scientists know their science, but they’re not necessarily experts on public policy. Neither are politicians, as we all know. But why does Neal want scientists to stay out of public policy? He explains:

This brings us 19th century racist ideas from Charles Darwin; early 20th century eugenics ideas that gave us lobotomies and abortion; and 21st century global warming tyranny, to name a few.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Racism and eugenics pre-date science by millennia. See Racism, Eugenics, and Darwin. As for what Neal calls the “global warming tyranny,” that makes us uncomfortable because in a very limited way your Curmudgeon agrees. In NCSE Expands into Climate Change, we said:

Science must stand or fall on its own merits, not on the way it may be misused. … But we don’t oppose the science of climatology, or its conclusions about global warming — man-made or otherwise. Science gives us useful information for the conduct of our affairs, which we should be free to pursue without governmental coercion.

Your Curmudgeon’s political sentiments always upset our readers, but that’s how it goes. And now we come to the end of Neal’s letter:

Scientists should learn to do science and not mix public policy with their work.

If Neal would apply that same thinking to religion and public policy, his letter wouldn’t be worth writing about. But like all creationists, he’s essentially a theocrat, and he’d like nothing better than a religious dictatorship — run by his religion, of course. Anyway, it was an interesting letter.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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11 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #582: Reason Is Dangerous

  1. … religious beliefs and practices originated in human minds when ignorant man attributed natural events such as thunder, lightning, eclipses etc. to unknown spirits or gods.

    Seems a preponderance of conservatives still subscribe to this way of thinking, if one can call it thinking.

  2. Why would the Curm’s political sentiments upset us readers, we aren’t that thin skinned.

    The letter writers theocratic desires are however offensive and dangerous.

  3. “Science gives us useful information for the conduct of our affairs, which we should be free to pursue without governmental coercion.”
    SC, one little question. Isn’t it part of your political views to add “as long as this pursuit doesn’t harm the freedom of other people”? Isn’t this caveat the justification for governmental coercion?
    The reason I ask is of course that American pursuit of American affairs (I’m talking individuals here) harms the freedom of for instance the inhabitants of Kiribati more than me stealing your wallet on payday …..
    That’s the information science provides.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/islands-threatened-by-climate-change-2012-10?op=1

  4. Seems a preponderance of conservatives still subscribe to this way of thinking, if one can call it thinking.

    I’m baffled by that statement because it appears to be a response to “…when ignorant man attributed natural events such as thunder, lightning, eclipses etc. to unknown spirits or gods.”

    I have known a lot of “conservatives” in the USA and not a single one of them attributes natural events like thunder, lightning, and eclipses to “unknown spirits or gods”. Most of them at least have a grade-school knowledge of what causes those phenomena and, if pushed to do so, could probably explain the role of electrons and light in those natural events, even if only very generally. None of them are animists so they wouldn’t explain them in terms of lightning and thunder spirits.

    However, I spent enough time in Africa to recall a great many “conservatives” in countries like Nigeria and the Central African Republic where that label along with explanations of natural phenomena in terms of animist-spirits would indeed be very common. Sometimes they even exhibit a lot of syncretistic thinking, combining various Christian concepts with their own native folk traditions and religions. So the aforementioned post has me quite curious as to the commenter’s cultural background and experiences.

  5. Hm, some Evil Force prevents my comment from showing up, so I call for the help of the Great Benevolent Hand from Above. Who will win this epic battle? Stay tuned!

    [*Voice from above*] It wasn’t the blog’s filters, so it must have been the internet, which is beyond all understanding.

  6. Ah, the GBHfA won. That was a quicky.

  7. mnb0 says:

    SC, one little question. Isn’t it part of your political views to add “as long as this pursuit doesn’t harm the freedom of other people”? Isn’t this caveat the justification for governmental coercion?

    Yes. That’s why I oppose the government’s refusal to allow building more nuclear power plants.

  8. michaelfugate

    Prof T, then why all the attribution to God’s saving hand from earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornados and the like? or why attribute such natural events to God’s wrath?

  9. That’s why I oppose the government’s refusal to allow building more nuclear power plants.

    I can’t help but shout a rousing Amen! to that idea.

    Considering the great improvements in nuclear power plant safety designs and the fact that nuclear power is the only realistic alternative to carbon-based power generation, one wonders how long we can afford to ignore the power generation strategies of France. Young Earth Creationists don’t have a monopoly on using emotions and obfuscations of science to manipulate public opinion and work against wise public policy.

  10. Doctor Stochastic

    The Justice Department seems to think Reason is dangerous too. They’re trying to find out who criticized a judge on Reason’s blog.

  11. michaelfugate

    If only nuclear power were economically viable – yes let the market work, but don’t let them externalize costs. Taxpayers will ultimately bail out every accident – like they do for every oil spill. No company would ever invest in these if they had to pay the actual costs. Not mention that after an accident, no amount of money can fix the damage. Look at the fisheries devastation in Alaska or the Gulf of Mexico.