I love science, and I will always consider myself to be an active scientist. But there are some things going on in certain scientific areas of enquiry that trouble me. I have seen some people (most of them not actually scientists) claim that “science tells us” things that in fact are speculative, not well established, and sometimes quite wrong. The venerable name of science is being used quite often to persuade people of the truth of assertions that are not based on science but on various agendas.
In some cases, such distortions are clear and evident. Arguments by the powerful anti-vaccination or vegetarian lobbies often quote the scientific literature, usually misunderstanding or misrepresenting the actual findings. The entire anti-GMO movement is based on non-science, although again, the advocates are not shy about quoting (usually misquoting) the literature. Appeals to pseudo-scientific arguments to advance philosophical and political agendas is probably familiar to most, and it is nothing new. From eugenics to Lysenkoism to “scientific” racism, the name of science has been misused to cloak controversial ideas in a mantle of unassailable truth.
Recently an entirely new paradigm of faulty science has made an appearance, but this one is not related to kooks or crazies. It has grown up among a group of scientists and science supporters, many of them quite respectable and worthy scholars. The development of this paradigm, which has made strong inroads in physics, biology, and cosmology is, I believe, related to a noble cause – namely, the defense of science against attack from religious fundamentalism and political expediency. The problem is that, like many movements that started as defending worthy goals, this one has gone too far and seems to be out of control.
When the teaching of creation science, and later Intelligent Design, was being proposed as an alternative to Darwinian evolution, biologists and other scientists were rightly worried and angered. A strong campaign to bolster the teaching of evolution as the only valid scientific explanation for biological diversity was mounted by many popular figures in science and science communication, including Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Bill Nye, Kenneth Miller, and others.
At some point during this effort, things began to get complicated. One group of thinkers, led by Dawkins, Daniel Dennet, Jerry Coyne and Sam Harris — all militant atheists – began to equate all religious belief (and thus all believers) with an anti-science attitude. It didn’t matter to them that many scientists who had always been on the side of evolution and science as the best path to understanding nature were also Christians (Francis Collins, Kenneth Miller, John Polkinghorne, and many others). These atheists began to strongly influence various fields of science, which became hostile not only to the idea of faith, but to any theory, finding or supposition that could possibly be connected with religion.
There are many examples of this throughout science, and I will write about them in coming posts. One of the most prevalent and insidious (to me) is what I call the Theory of Human Mediocrity, which claims that science has found that human beings are not really as special or unusual as we used to think we were. There are many subthemes to this overall meme, including studies in animal behavior, neuroscience and consciousness studies, anthropology and human origins research. Even some areas of astronomy have joined in. I recently saw an internet meme which showed a tiny speck surrounded by an immense sea of stars and objects, with an arrow pointing to the speck labeled “Earth. You are here”. The caption read “Doesn’t this make you feel small?”
Here are some of the scientific and what I consider to be pseudo-scientific ideas that have become popular recently. All of them are based on the same anti-theistic (often specifically anti-Christian) philosophy that has taken strong root thanks to the efforts of the new Anti Theists. I will be posting separate essays on each of these. My goals are to show where the actual science is either nonexistent or misleading, and to trace the objectives and fundamental points of each to the overall paradigm of anti- theism.
Human Mediocrity (and Human Evil)
Intelligent Life on Other Planets
The Sixth Great Extinction
The Upper Paleolithic Revolution Debunked
Atheism and Science
The Logic of Science
I am planning this series as a warning to non-scientists not to believe everything they hear as being “scientific”. Think of it as science myth busting. But please remember: I AM NOT ATTACKING SCIENCE. I would never do that. What I will be attacking are the hidden anti- religious agendas behind the speculations, inferences, hypotheses, and subjective interpretations that too many scientists in too many fields are perpetrating on science and the public. In the long run, such behavior is bound to be counterproductive, because it is absolutely true that in science the truth will always eventually come out.