Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Donohue attacks Hawking, fails hard (plus a new Quote of the Day)

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Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking

It’s the abominable slug versus the T-Rex of science and reason. First, here’s all-around genius Stephen Hawking talking about God and gods from a purely logical point-of-view and the conflicts between science and religion:

"What could define God [is thinking of God] as the embodiment of the laws of nature. However, this is not what most people would think of that God," Hawking told Sawyer. "They made a human-like being with whom one can have a personal relationship. When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible."

When Sawyer asked if there was a way to reconcile religion and science, Hawking said, "There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works."

Spoken like a true scientist. And next, as promised, your obligatory showering of nonsense from Bill “Jackass” Donohue:

Catholic League president Bill Dohonue
Bill Dohonue

How any rational person could belittle the pivotal role that human life plays in the universe is a wonder, but it is just as silly to say that all religions are marked by the absence of reason. While there are some religions which are devoid of reason, there are others, such as Roman Catholicism, which have long assigned it a special place.

How is any of this a response to what Hawking said, much less any sort of refutation? Hawking says that the human concept of God/gods is logically untenable and that science, being a methodology based on pure reason and evidence, can only emerge victoriously over the dark forces of ignorance and thought-crime that is religion. Donohue responds by … saying that humans play an important role in the universe? How is this so, exactly? Do we affect orbits? Temperatures of distant gas clouds, or the velocity of random supernovae? Do we poof asteroids in and out of existence with a snap of our fingers or the psychic powers of our collective brains? How does one single species on one single planet, in one single minute pocket of the universe, affect much of anything at all? The only thing we have an effect on, at least so far, is our own planet, and even then, only to the point of deregulating climate cycles and crushing other life-forms out of existence. We’re barely even able to travel to the Moon, and even Mars, our nearest tenable neighbor, is thus far beyond reach. The notion of anthropocentrism, that humans are a pivotal (or even minutely important) force in the universe, is more than just silly; it’s downright ridiculous.

The rest of Donohue’s post is more of the same, including braying about how religion – specifically, Catholicism – is the originator of things like universities and the scientific method. Yes, this is historically true, but certainly not in the happy, pro-reason and pro-critical thought manner that Donohue makes it seem like. Science as a whole took centuries to drag its feet out of the authoritarian, brainwashing sludge that was continually poured onto its head by the Catholic Church, not to mention how well heretics and the likes were treated. (Burnings, anyone?) All in all, though, I’ll just end with this very apropos quote by PZ Myers and the newest entry in my Random Quotes section:

Sure, science arose out of Catholicism…in the same sense that plumbing, sanitation systems, and public health policies arose out of sewage.

(via Pharyngula)