29 November 2006

Irrational Rationalists.

Maggie Gallagher reports on a recent gathering of scientists and their enlightened opinions of religion and the religious:

This original tension between Athens and Jerusalem (reason and faith) -- out of which much of Western civilization, but most especially America, was formed -- is still very much with us. Case in point: This month the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., held a forum on science and religion, which (according to The New York Times) "began to resemble the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: In a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told." (See it at www.tsntv.org).

The scientists at this conference were almost all atheists or agnostics. They pose as strong men of Athens, but in the intense, lively, fascinating anger at religious influence, their clay feet keep peeping out: in the deep discontent some displayed with merely doing science as a rational activity, in their need to find a greater meaning and purpose, and in their strong human desire not only to proclaim the truth, but to suppress people and ideas that they feel threaten their founding truths.

On the one hand, Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium, displayed heartbreaking pictures of deformed newborns to disabuse the audience of any idea that an intelligent, loving creator could be behind our existence. On the other hand, Carolyn Porco of Colorado's Space Science Institute displayed a photo of Saturn and its rings as evidence of the universe's grandeur: "Let's teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome -- even comforting -- than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know." The fact that these are contradictory responses to nature seemed not to make a dent in the faith of those present that they are moved only by their profound commitment to reason.



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