Thursday, April 18, 2013

Scientists Against Scientism

"If ideas are just patterns of nerve impulses, then how can one say that any idea (including the idea of materialism itself) is superior to any other? One pattern of nerve impulses cannot be truer or less true than another pattern, any more than a toothache can be truer or less true than another toothache.”--Stephen M. Barr (From here.)

Stephen Barr is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware, and a member of its Bartol Research Institute. He does research in theoretical particle physics and cosmology. He is the author of the article on Grand Unified Theories for the Encyclopedia of Physics.

Since 2000, Dr. Barr has served on the Editorial Advisory Council of the religious intellectual journal First Things. His writing has also appeared in National Review, The Weekly Standard, Modern Age, The Public Interest, and Commonweal. In 2007, he was awarded the Benemerenti Medal by Pope Benedict XVI. In 2010, he was elected a member of the Academy of Catholic Theology.

Dr. Barr is the author of Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (University of Notre Dame Press) and A Student's Guide to Natural Science (ISI Press).

Barr has written, "Anyone interested in the latest pronouncements of Stephen Hawking on God should heed the observations of Martin Rees (now Lord Rees), one of the world’s leading astrophysicists, the Astronomer Royal, and the outgoing head of the Royal Society (one of the world’s oldest scientific societies). It includes this severe but accurate judgment:

"Stephen Hawking is a remarkable person whom I’ve know for 40 years and for that reason any oracular statement he makes gets exaggerated publicity. I know Stephen Hawking well enough to know that he has read very little philosophy and even less theology, so I don’t think we should attach any weight to his views on this topic."

C.S. Lewis warned that twisted science could be used to attack religion, undermine ethics, and limit human freedom. In a recent collection of essays, The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism, scholars explore Lewis's prophetic warnings about the abuse of science.

Related reading: The Folly of Scientism by Austin L. Hughes; The Trouble with Scientism by Philip Kitcher; Science and Scientism in Biology Sy Garte; The Problem with Gould's NOMA: Scientists Behaving Badly; A Pragmatic Approach to Knowledge

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