Unfair Criticism of PZ Myers and other Secular Scientists

On July 31, 2008 Salon.com posted an articled titled: What's wrong with science as religion, by Karl Giberson. Giberson, who has a PhD in physics and is the author of “Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and believe in Evolution” was responding to a July 24th web posting by PZ Meyers on Meyers’ blog Pharyngula. (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/) In the web posting Meyers stuck a rusty nail in a communion cracker, and then used the nail to impale pages of the Qur’an and Richard Dawkin’s “The God Delusion,” before throwing them all in a garbage can. The exercise was performed in an effort to demonstrate the importance of remaining free from the influence of dogma.

Seeming to shares in “Myers' enthusiasm for fresh eyes, questioning minds and the power of science…” Giberson says he also worries”…about dogmatism and the kind of zealotry that motivates the faithful to blow themselves up, shoot abortion doctors and persecute homosexuals.” Giberson also worries, however, “about narrow exclusiveness that champions the scientific way of knowing to the exclusion of all else. “I don't like to see science turned into a club to bash religious believers…” and he considers “…PZ Meyers a science crusader and true believer with the “singled-minded enthusiasm of a televangelist.”

Giberson admits that “…Myers doesn't seem to like me.” Maybe Myers doesn’t like him because, when interviewed by Salon.com about his new book, “Saving Darwin” Giberson indicated there “might be a reality beyond science, and that religion might be about God and not merely about the human quest for a nonexistent God.” Giberson believes that Christianity and evolution are complementary, not incompatible, and he seeks a “middle way.”

Comparison is made by Giberson between Meyers, and other famous secular scientists and writers, to evangelical preachers of the 1700s, saying “Myers' confident condemnations put me in mind of that great American preacher, Jonathan Edwards, who waxed eloquent in his famous 1741 speech, Sinners at the Hands of an Angry God, about the miserable delusions that lead humans to reject the truth and spend eternity in hell.” He suggests that Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Myers are a new type of preacher, men of the scientific cloth, “Like their traditional counterpart, the new preachers speak with great confidence that their religion -- science -- contains all the truth we need to know and all the truth that can be known. They call us to worship at the altar of science, a summons of which I am skeptical, to say the least.”

The arguments Giberson poses regarding PZ Meyers’ scientific evangelism fall flat, of course, since the very web blog he is criticizing was meant to promote free thought, not dogmatic adherence to a specific school of ideology. PZ Meyers chose the communion wafer, the Qur’an, and the God Delusion for a reason; he wanted to impress upon us the importance for vigilance, for keeping our minds open, free of dogmatic clutter from any source. As for Richard Dawkins, he himself says he ranks himself somewhere between strong agnostic and pure atheist because to say there is no God without evidence equals the zeal with which theists claim there is a God. Christopher Hitchens is extremely respectful of all religious practices, despite his atheistic beliefs. Perhaps, if Dr. Giberson’s perceptions were less obscured by his own dogmatic affinities, he could more clearly see the truth about those he chooses to malign.

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Tags: Creationism, Meyers, PZ, Science, Secular, Theism

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Comment by Terry Osburn-Sharff on August 8, 2008 at 4:32pm
Well said.
Comment by Jude Johnson on August 8, 2008 at 8:51am
I see a huge difference between Myers/Dawkins/Hitchens and evangelical preachers of the 1700s. Yes, they are fired up about their points, but they all encourage critical thought. PZ will tell you clearly that he recommends that you always question everything you believe to be true and I'm sure the others agree. This is very unlike any preacher I've ever seen.

Also, and I think most importantly, PZ offers proof for his claims. Admittedly, science sometimes revises previously accepted scientific concepts -- but this seems much better than basing your most basic beliefs about life on myths which have no proof at all. (Do we ever see evangelists say that they realize what they told you before wasn't correct and offer new evidence?)

In my opinion, most scientists have known the truth for a long time but have not been so vocal until they saw that these delusions most of us humans are under are threatening our civilization. These men clearly love life and science and don't want us to ruin what took billions of years to evolve as a result of sheer human ignorance. (The same kind of ignorance that would cause people to deal out death threats over a tasteless cracker.) The only cure for this ignorance is education -- and that's what they're trying implement.

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