Science Is an Opiate for the Unthinking

Because of the Scottish Enlightenment, we’ve always had a high opinion of Scotland. Alas, not every Scotsman lives up to that splendid tradition.

Consider this article in The Scotsman, published Edinburgh: Science is not the rock some say it is. They have a comments feature. The article was written by Peter Kearney, described as “director of the Catholic Media Office.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and Kearney’s unusual spelling left intact:

Reading a recent magazine article on the celebration of Christmas, I wasn’t surprised to find that the author had a pretty jaundiced view of the Nativity story and felt it was really just a fairy tale used to mislead children. I was, however, surprised by one assertion. He claimed: “Historical truth and scientific method are the rocks on which human reason must be based.” I was surprised because, contrary to the preconceptions of the author, and most secular-minded media commentators, this formulation is utterly compatible with religion and belief.

Is Kearney saying that religion is compatible with historical truth and scientific method? This should be fun. He tells us:

For many in the media and politics, not to mention most other spheres of public life, religion is for those who somehow reject “historical truth and scientific method”. In reality, it isn’t, faith is compatible with science and reason. Whether science is quite the solid “rock” some secularists seem to pine for is another question. Recent research suggests that good science tends to throw up far more questions than it can answer.

Yup — that’s what he’s claiming. Let’s read on:

Light travels at 299,792,458 metres a second. For generations, students of physics have been taught that the speed of light was what’s known as a universal physical constant. It didn’t change, because it couldn’t change; it was always and everywhere the same. In equations and calculations other parts could change but the figure for light speed always stayed the same. Or at least it did until last year.

Oh boy — where is this going? We continue:

In 2015, a team of Scottish scientists from the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance at Glasgow and Heriot-Watt universities made light travel slower than the speed of light. They sent photons – individual particles of light – through a special mask. It changed the photons’ shape – and slowed them to less than light speed. Scientists have long known that light slows down when passing through materials like water or glass but it always goes back to its higher speed as soon as it comes out on the other side. Incredibly, in the Glasgow experiment the photons continued to travel at the lower speed even when they returned to free space. To call this work ground-breaking probably doesn’t do it justice, it was a stunning finding and will likely alter forever how science looks at light.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! This article at the PhysOrg website from last year describes that experiment: Physicists find a new way to slow the speed of light, and explains the result like this:

The researchers explain this result by noting that they were using group velocity to measure the light’s speed — a measurement of the group’s envelope speed. The mask, they explain, caused some of the photons in the group to move at a slight angle to the others causing a slowdown for the group as a whole. Thus, their results are not going to upend one of the basic tenets of modern physics, it is more likely that future researchers will have to make sure lab or astronomical observations are not being impacted by shape changes that occur naturally.

Preachers are always complaining that “scientists are playing God,” but all too often, their confusion is the result of preachers playing scientist. Here’s more from Kearney:

Last month a cosmologist at Arizona State University claimed he had heard from a colleague working on a major project into gravity, that gravitational waves may have been discovered.

We often see news like that. So what? Here’s Kearney’s reaction:

Why do these discoveries matter? Simply because they utterly demolish the false assertions constantly made by atheists and humanists that through science, we can measure and know everything in the universe and thanks to science it can all be neatly and fully explained, leaving no need or place for a creator or deity. In other words, science is a solid rock upon which you can base your philosophy of life or belief system.

In case you’re waiting for Kearney to tell us what the bible says about the speed of light and gravity, which is superior to and far more reliable than the blundering of science, you’ll be disappointed. For some reason, he fails to reveal that to us. But he continues to criticize science:

This creed or belief system, let’s call it “scientism”, has been dealt some serious blows by recent discoveries. Such research, carried out by scientists, who see scientific method as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself, leaves a significant minority of our fellow citizens – who have spent years saying things like “I don’t believe in religion; I believe in science” – looking, frankly, very foolish.

He’s talking about you, dear reader. Moving along:

The cosy simplicity of a fairy-tale theory which says humans can observe, explain and account for everything is, of course, superficially attractive, but in reality it is an opiate for the unthinking.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! That was a cute tu quoque aimed at Marx’s famous claim that religion is the opiate of the masses. But it’s wildly inappropriate because Marx was no scientist — he was a bozo. Here’s Kearney’s thundering conclusion:

What is emerging increasingly from some fascinating and challenging new research in the world of science is the extent to which the “known world” is in fact unknown to us on many levels. In truth, science in all its marvellous wonder, is not a solid rock upon which you can base a philosophy of life or belief system upon. Belief in God on the other hand, is.

There you are, dear reader. Kearney’s thinking is based on a solid rock. Yours isn’t. Now you know.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

16 responses to “Science Is an Opiate for the Unthinking

  1. But it’s wildly inappropriate because Marx was no scientist — he was a bozo.

    And, in that sentence, you put yourself on a par with Kearney. You may disagree with Marx, but he most certainly wasn’t a bozo.

    Kearney’s unusual spelling

    By which you mean his correct UK spelling. It’s worth noting that globally about 2 billion people use UK spelling while the figure for US spelling is likely under 500,000. So Kearney’s spellings of “metre” and “marvellous” are, actually, usual.

  2. We do have an unfortunate number of citizens here in Scotland who have only fragile contact with reality, one at least appears in the comments feature after the article. There may not be many of them, but they are vessels that make much noise

  3. From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs–Karl Marx.

    I think this shows Marx was not only a bozo but a thief at heart.

  4. Belief in God on the other hand, is.

    How about Allah or Vishnu or Zeus or…, you get the idea, your religious beliefs are as rock solid as your imaginary friend.

    As to Marx, I think the Russians have convincingly disproved any value Marx could possibly bring to economics.

  5. The content of the author’s letter may lend support to my theory regarding the negative effects that cheap blended Scotch may have on the subjects cognitive capacity. A good single malt would never lead to such ranting.😉

  6. As to Marx, I think the Russians have convincingly disproved any value Marx could possibly bring to economics.

    On which grounds, Copernicus was a bozo because his tables were less accurate than Ptolemy’s.

  7. A rant from another religionist who has no clue what science is about. I’m pretty sure anyone trained as a scientist knows that new data may lead to new understanding of reality. When some preacher comes up with some data that indicates something related to reality rather than myth, I’ll be happy to look at it and perhaps reconsider my opinion of religion.

  8. Coyote:
    “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”–Karl Marx.

    I think this shows Marx was not only a bozo but a thief at heart.

    Or a True Christian.

  9. The cosy simplicity of a fairy-tale theory which says humans can observe, explain and account for everything is, of course, superficially attractive, but in reality it is an opiate for the unthinking.

    Scientific discoveries inevitably lead to new questions. I don’t know of any actual scientists who believes that we can explain and account for everything. If we could, there would be no science left to do. The mere existence of science attests to the belief that there is much yet to learn.

    Kearney has a book, however, which he undoubtedly believes can explain and account for everything. If he doesn’t believe that, he should talk to Ken Ham, who will set him straight.

  10. “When some preacher comes up with some data
    I’d already be happy when some preacher comes up with some method to separate correct theological claims from incorrect ones – and there can be little doubt our preacher thinks that the examples provided Bert de Jongere belong to the second category.

  11. @mnb0: You, of course, are right. A scientific method would, one hopes, produce data which would indicate something about the reality of sky fairies (the plural is deliberate, since there are so many of them!) I was jumping ahead, assuming that if they had a method, they might eventually produce some data.

  12. the false assertions constantly made by atheists and humanists that through science, we can measure and know everything in the universe and thanks to science it can all be neatly and fully explained, leaving no need or place for a creator or deity.

    Does anyone have an example of where a creator or deity explains some feature of the the universe? How or why such-and-such is the case, rather than some other possibility? What there is about creators or deities leads them to do things this way? “Some vast, eternal plan” that we are most similar to chimps and other apes, among the countless other ways?

  13. Of course there are always new things for scientists to find: science would be finished if this were not so.

    In any case the quoted finding is not exactly new, only the technique is. Most of the early methods for measuring the speed of light, from Fizeau on, chopped light into bunches, and hence measured the group velocity* in air. The proper way to adjust for this was recognised decades ago, and the earliest (erroneous) values suitably corrected.

    *Does anyone know why this is always called the group “velocity”, when “speed” would seem to be more appropriate?

  14. Last month a cosmologist at Arizona State University claimed he had heard from a colleague working on a major project into gravity, that gravitational waves may have been discovered.

    We often see news like that. So what? Here’s Kearney’s reaction:

    do these discoveries matter? Simply because they utterly demolish the false assertions constantly made by atheists and humanists that through science, we can measure and know everything in the universe and thanks to science it can all be neatly and fully explained, leaving no need or place for a creator or deity.

    How does the discovery of gravitational waves disprove science? How does it prove the need for “a creator or deity”? What has Kearney been smoking?

  15. @Eric Lipps
    In his essay, he tells us that the observation of gravity waves would tell us that Newton’s description of gravity would be shown to be inadequate.
    He does realize that gravity waves were predicted by Einstein.
    So I assume that he realizes that there are other predictions of General Relativity which differ from Netonian gravity which have been observed.
    BTW the early morning news says that the LIGO team is going to make an announcement at 10:30 AM EST (3:30 PM London time) today.

  16. “Does anyone know why ….”
    No idea – in Dutch both velocity and speed translate to the same word anyway. Velocity is handier because the symbol of speed is v.