Table 1

Returning to this question of the political nature of the conflict (or non-conflict) between religion and science, in Thomas Dixon’s reply to Eric –

I stand by my emphasis on the political aspects of all of this. Claims about the nature of reality and who has the authority to discover and describe it, and by what methods, are questions about power, and thus political. I don’t say that the Scopes or Galileo cases were nothing but politics, but I do say they were political.

They were, but speaking broadly (as we are, because the subject is religion and science as such, not just particular incidents touching on religion and science), science is not inherently political in the way that religion is.

Science is of course contingently political, and the politics in question can be very interesting and significant and worth researching. Science as an institution and as a career is often very political. But science itself, science as such – the methodology, the epistemology, the actual work – isn’t and can’t be.

That’s not true of religion. Religion is inherently political in a way that science isn’t.

That’s because science has to check itself against the way the world is, and religion doesn’t. Science is about what is there whether humans can figure it out or not, and religion isn’t. (It claims to be, but it isn’t.)

Remember Carl Zimmer’s collection of scientists commenting on the NASA research? And Jerry Coyne’s post and the comments?

Now imagine that happening with a religious…assertion.

Nothing, right? The mind goes blank. There couldn’t be such a thing. There could be controversy and fuss, but it would all be just people disagreeing. It would be political. It wouldn’t be

1) Figure S2 shows that the -As/+P cells have an As/C ratio of about 1.5 x 10-5, while +As/-P cells have an As/C ratio of about 3 x10-5. -As/+P cells have a P/C ratio of about 0.005, while +As/-P cells have a P/C ratio of about 0.002. These are not very big differences. Furthermore, these data suggest that the cells actually contain more P than As under both growth conditions. However, Table 1 shows that -As/+P cells contain 0.19% As and 0.02% P by dry weight. These data are not consistent with the data shown in Figure S2. (By the way, since the atomic weight of As is 2.4x that of P, the molar ratio is actually 4 rather than 10. But the data are still not consistent with Figure S2.)

See? “Table 1 shows that -As/+P cells contain 0.19% As and 0.02% P by dry weight” isn’t political. Religious disagreements don’t have any “Table 1 shows that -As/+P cells contain 0.19% As and 0.02% P by dry weight.” Religion has a lot of time for politics because it spends no time on what Table 1 shows.

So both are political in some sense, but science isn’t ultimately political. With so many scientists watching each other’s every move, sooner or later the politics is going to be shoved aside by what Table 1 shows.

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