Wednesday, 14 April 2010

More AC Grayling Critique

I confess that I wrote my previous piece on AC Grayling before I'd heard the whole talk. That was a mistake. It so happens that I found two more points to object to, so perhaps I should have waited and bundled it all together. Nevertheless, let's continue with objection 4.

Remember that Grayling identified that science can help religion, but religion can't help science because religion has nothing useful to say about the Higgs boson? This, apparently, was enough justification to discredit religion; that is, if religion cannot contribute to a single area of science, it is useless. Now let's find out what Grayling has to say about how science gives answers to questions of
those matters of the heart and mind of human beings which concern them most—questions about love and their relationships and their response to beauty. And the answer is no, they don't because that's not what science is about.

You know if you said to the botanist who is examining some dicotyledon somewhere what is the meaning of life, or how should I best love my wife or something, the botanist should properly say well, just let me put my botany to one side and respond to you as another human being. But to think that the natural sciences are somehow going to answer everything would be to be scientistic, and no responsible scientist is scientistic, no responsible scientist thinks that science is going to have all the answers and that is why we have such a rich resource in the arts, in music, in drama, in the novel, in philosophy, in history, in the conversation we have with one another at that dinner party that Mr Hitchens is talking about when the possibilities for these things arise.
Religion and Science, Part 2 of 2

It seems that Grayling has double standards. Religion is flawed because it doesn't provide a complete overlap with science, but science is not flawed when it doesn't provide a complete overlap with the arts.

And lastly (again, I know) Grayling asserts that of all the oppression in the world, the oppression caused by religion should be removed promptly. Again I quote.
It's certainly true that most of our fellow human beings today as throughout history have been impoverished and oppressed in ways that make it very difficult for them even to have a chance to address these questions. A long time ago again Aristotle said the possibility of good lives for people does involve an element of luck: where you were born, when you were born, in what circumstances, whether your family has wealth, whether you can have an education. And it behoves us all I think, as being sensitive to the plight of our fellow human beings around the world, that we should strive to ensure that they do have the chance to think in these terms about what would make a good life, rather than mere survival.

Now of course one of the things that we would have to do is to reduce the oppressive effect of religions on them.
Religion and Science, Part 2 of 2

I contend, however, that to isolate religion here is scapegoating more than it is a solution to the problem. A larger problem is the oppression of capitalism and greed. Multitudes are still enslaved today through the capitalist structures that create Asian sweatshops and the slave camps of Dubai. It isn't religion that led to this, but the love of money. Grayling is right to say that we should work together to remove oppression, but he's wrong to isolate religion and put it at the top of his list.

With these extra two objections, I have to say that my disappointment is bigger than it was before.


djfoobarmatt said...

Some similar themes were discussed in this weeks philosophers zone on intelligent design. The speaker argued as you do that trying to hammer religion using science is missing the mark.

Andrew Smith said...

That's still on my pending list. I'm a few days behind on podcasts.

It seems that there is still a tendency towards scientistic triumphalism rather than actual critical engagement.

Anonymous said...

This one very stark image says all that needs to be said re the relation between christian-ISM and its relation to the Western imperial project and its drive to total power and control.