02/03/2005: Thought for the Day:
So, what keeps most scientists quiet about religion? It's probably something close to that trusty old limbic reflex called "an instinct for self-preservation." For centuries, science has survived quite nicely by cultivating an image of reserve and objectivity, of being above religion, politics, business, table manners. Scientists want to be left alone to do their work, dazzle their peers, and hire grad students to wash the glassware. When it comes to extramural combat, scientists choose their crusades cautiously. Going after Uri Geller or the Raelians is risk-free entertainment, easier than making fun of the sociology department. Battling the creationist camp has been a much harder and nastier fight, but those scientists who have taken it on feel they have a direct stake in the debate and are entitled to wage it, since the creationists, and more recently the promoters of "intelligent design" theory, claim to be as scientific in their methodology as are the scientists.
But when a teenager named Darrell Lambert was chucked out of the Boy Scouts for being an atheist, scientists suddenly remembered all those gels they had to run and dark matter they had to chase, and they kept quiet. Lambert had explained the reason why, despite a childhood spent in Bible classes and church youth groups, he had become an atheist. He took biology in ninth grade, and, rather than devoting himself to studying the bra outline of the girl sitting in front of him, he actually learned some biology. And what he learned in biology persuaded him that the Bible was full of . . . short stories. Some good, some inspiring, some even racy, but fiction nonetheless. For his incisive, reasoned, scientific look at life, and for refusing to cook the data and simply lie to the Boy Scouts about his thoughts on God--as some advised him to do--Darrell Lambert should have earned a standing ovation from the entire scientific community. Instead, he had to settle for an interview with Connie Chung, right after a report on the Gambino family.
Len on 02.03.05 @ 06:36 AM CST