PEEK

The Anti-Dawkins

In which Stephen Jay Gould is risen...
Lakshmi's excellent article on today's front page is sure to draw oodles of criticism. Richard Dawkins has filled the testtube-size hole in the hearts of many, particularly those frustrated by bullying and bigoted religious hucksters.

The pendulum swings and we cling to an equal and opposite reaction.

But, if we get past the current mask of an ideology but fail to unmask it and refute it, what have we done? Nothing, that's what.

Science and religion, while being different methods for apprehending an unapprehendable reality, have several things in common. One of them is humanity, with all its frailty, propensity for error, and deep desire for affirmation.

Science, far from being an objective, culture transcending discipline, is dependent on the predispositions of its practitioners. If it weren't, how to explain the racism -- and the racist science -- of the 19th century's greatest minds? Did they all practice "bad" science? Have we finally found the "good" science?

No. And to help us with this, we call the eminent -- if deceased -- Stephen Jay Gould to the stand. Gould was a lover and believer in the ability for science to "[overturn] the assumptions that nurture" prevailing culture (like racism), although, he warned, in The Mismeasure of Man:
"science's potential as an instrument for identifying the cultural constraints upon it cannot be fully realized until scientists give up the twin myths of objectivity and inexorable march toward truth. One must, indeed, locate the beam in one's own eye before interpreting correctly the pervasive motes in everybody else's. The beams can then become facilitators, rather than impediments."
I'm gambling (mostly because the dead have trouble refuting you) that Gould's use of the Bible to gently admonish science was not entirely accidental. Gould himself was an agnostic Jew, but rather than stomp over religion to proffer science as the Truth, Gould chose, as with the greatest theologians, to strengthen his preferred lens by making sure it was as clean as possible to begin with, while always acknowledging that the human eye can never be...

Thus concludes part I.
Evan Derkacz is an AlterNet editor. He writes and edits PEEK, the blog of blogs.
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