The Other Side

And as long as we’re on the subject, why not add a few words from the Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, as well? Especially since it was his kind of atheism (as well as her husband’s) that Susan Greenfield was taking issue with in that interview.

There is ‘Snake Oil and Holy Water’ for instance, in which he quotes a classic bit of Wool in which a psychiatrist says that traditional African healers

are able to tap that other realm of negative entropy–that superquantum velocity and frequency of electromagnetic energy–and bring them as conduits down to our level. It’s not magic. It’s not mumbo jumbo. You will see the dawn of the 21st century, the new medical quantum physics really distributing these energies and what they are doing.

Or the classic ‘Dolly and the Cloth-Heads’, which gives one cogent answer to this question of whether or not it’s a waste of time to attempt to convince religious believers that they’re wrong: consider all the time that is wasted in public discussions of ethical issues because of the convention of including one or several religious leaders to address subjects in which they have no sort of expertise or knowledge.

This has the incidental effect of multiplying the sheer number of people in the studio, with consequent consumption, if not waste, of time. It also, I believe, often has the effect of lowering the level of expertise and intelligence. This is only to be expected, given that these spokesmen are chosen not because of their own qualifications in the field, or as thinkers, but simply because they represent a particular section of the community.

Or there’s this debate or rather discussion between Dawkins and Steven Pinker, which is more interesting than any religious discussion I’ve ever read or heard (not that I’ve heard many, you’ll have gathered it’s not the kind of occasion I rush to attend). Really, it’s an act of kindness to try to explain to religious people that they’re not only deluded, they’ve cut themselves off from a lot of fascinating material. And kindness is a virtue, after all.

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