Sunday, May 29, 2005
There's a strong undercurrent of gender roles here as well -- the old duality of male/female, rational/emotional, analytical/intuitive. The implicit storyline is that masculine science wants to take away mysterious female joy.
On the one hand, I can understand feminist writers working to reclaim the value in what have traditionally been considered women's ways of thinking and being. But on the other hand, as a female scientist, I find the acceptance of the traditional male/female duality of science and mysticism deeply troubling. There is always a strong anti-science thrust here, of the kind that upset me terribly when I read The Natural Alien -- the idea that science rapes the world. There is no other word for it, and using that word casts the paradigm in its clearest terms. Science objectifies; science takes apart; science demands control; science observes coldly, the scientist imagining himself to be completely separate. Science abuses and thoughtlessly destroys. The scientist is a rapist.
Of course, I disagree with this premise -- and it wounds me deeply as a woman and a scientist. I, and the working scientists I know, do science because we find ourselves in awe of nature -- not to control nature. In the biomedical field, for example, the research is all towards more "holistic" ways of doing medicine and biology, if I may use that abused word -- towards non-invasiveness, towards healing with as little disturbance of the natural system as possible. The research is towards more "holistic" ways of understanding, too. Researchers (in all fields) are working on ways of understanding very complicated systems that appear in nature. Reducing these systems to their component pieces (e.g., single-cell models) can give some useful information, but when those pieces are put together (e.g. in a tissue) the models don't describe everything. There is a lot of understanding now that "taking things apart" doesn't give the truest picture, and profound insights lie in the study of entire systems.
After a long fight in one of my undergraduate religious studies courses regarding Neil Evernden's attacks on science, the professor suggested that we should use the word "scientism" to describe what Evernden, and the author of the abovelinked article, accuse science of being. I think that word is appropriate. Those traits are not science.
I think bad science education is also to blame -- science education which focuses on "rote, mechanical" methods, which leaves students with the impression that science is about getting the right answer, and discarding and devaluing anything that doesn't fit into that right answer. Science, at heart, is about appreciating and understanding the mysteries of the universe -- the female orgasm among them.
"If you don't have conclusive knowledge, Mr. Cone, you have a theory. You acknowledge that evolution 'does not have conclusive knowledge' but complain that creationists have a 'lack of empirical data.' In other words, neither evolutionists nor creationists have conclusive knowledge. Both have theories." Guess what? Empirical data and conclusive knowledge aren't synonyms. And a theory based on empirical data is a completely different animal than a theory based on whatever someone pulled out of thin air. "Theory" does not mean "hunch." ARGH.
This letter does a piss-poor job of arguing the other side. Memo to this guy: making it about your angry atheism doesn't help.
"If there is enough of a pattern in their world for them to raise legitimate questions about the appearance of design, then those questions fall under the purview of science. And it's no shame for science to reply, 'We can't explain everything.' Science should be able to do this without its walls crumbling to the ground." Guess what? That's precisely what science does. But you guys jump all over that and say "See? See? They admit they don't know everything! That means they must have just made up this whole evolution idea!"
Somehow, I'm not convinced this fellow has a genuine Ph.D in biology as he claims. Best lines: "The issue is not about 'monkeys' becoming 'human'; it's about sex, and it's resolved in the law (not theory) of biogenesis. It states that sex occurs between males and females of a kind through segregation of homologous DNA (i.e., from exactly the same kind of creature); the resulting progeny always differ from either parent but are always the same kind. . . . No known or proposed biological process(es) could ever generate an amphibian from a fish, let alone a man from a single cell." Way to completely miss the point, sir. There are so many things wrong here that I don't even know where to start.
Here's a list of letters about evolution back to February. Read'em and weep.