For some time now, Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba has been wrestling with something. You would think, wouldn’t you, that with all those pseudopods, an Amoeba would win any wrestling match, hands down. OK, maybe not “hands” …
That “something” is science. YFNA practices science, don’t’cha know, and on rare occasions, he practices it long and hard enough to get it right. He is convinced that there is no better way to figure out stuff on planet Earth that actually works, that we are surrounded, minute by minute, by the evidence that science does work, and that We the People benefit from it. Think you can communicate this blog post to the world via druidic incantation? Good luck with that.
So how come science is such a hard sell?
Divine creation of the universe, and of the life in it, continues to be taught to distressingly large numbers of children in these Untied States, in both private and public schools, despite overwhelming, working evidence that no Deity is required to explain these events. American domestic and foreign politics, to say nothing of business practices, ignore or dismiss global climate change despite overwhelming, working evidence that it exists, and that human activities are causing it. Prurient misrepresentation of scientific research threatens the continued existence of funding for science in many fields, despite overwhelming, working evidence that the results of such studies will contribute to improving the quality of human life.
Then, the pastor at the church that YFNA attends (and, for what it’s worth, for which he performs music) began a series of sermons on the biblical book of Psalms, under the general premise that “God has a rich emotional life.”
Of course, “God” has a rich emotional life. What else is a religion but a means of capturing human emotions and channelling them in ways that will prosper the group of people that shares those emotions? Religions have been doing this for thousands of years, and so successfully that, in the face of overwhelming, working evidence that the universe functions perfectly well in the absence of any Divine King, religious faiths are not declining, they are propagating. “Communities of faith?” How about “communities of feeling?”
How does one properly practice science?
By checking one’s emotions at the door. Scientific inquiry is – must be, YFNA argues – UNemotional, DISpassionate. Otherwise, emotions (“dammit, I want this to be the answer!”) cloud judgement. Feelings, political expediencies, personal relationships, they don’t rule. Data do.
Practically every writer in the world castigates scientists for writing in the passive voice. “Yo, science dude. Why the hell are you writing the flask was boiled for 30 minutes. Huh? Didn’t you do that! Well then, be strong and say so. I boiled the flask for 30 minutes. Yeah?”
No. Because the use of the passive voice in science writing ensures that the data come first, and the generator of the data second.
No wonder scientists generally lose evolution vs. creation debates! What possible hope has actual data got against a direct emotional appeal! By the world’s experts at direct emotional appeal!
Consider how many (to name one of many possible examples) “Bible believers” have actually read, never mind understood, the Bible (one of the most complex and difficult bodies of literature now in ‘print’)? If they haven’t, what do they actually believe? In their ability to feel what they feel about the thing they think is the Bible. So YFNA thinks. And in their right to have those feelings validated. In the extreme case, to have them validated to the exclusion of all other feelings. One can ask what these folk are actually worshiping. God? The Bible? Or their own emotions, i.e., themselves?
Know, if you didn’t before, that many scientists, including some in the scientific subdiscipline that YFNA practices, were ardent Nazis. Their scientific discipline evaporated in the face of a direct emotional appeal by one of the world’s most accomplished secular experts at direct emotional appeal.
Indeed, there are many scientists, and other “proponents of reason”, who appear to YFNA to have given up the fight. YFNA has wandered through such places as Pharyngula blog, which purport to champion science and reason, and found that they depended on direct emotional appeal no less than their religious opponents. Except they were less good at it, and why wouldn’t they be, because they’re inexperienced lightweights up against the world champs?
YFNA made himself unpopular at a scientific meeting, when he spoke against a proposal adopting direct emotional appeal as a strategy to promote science, calling it what he thought it was – propaganda – and saying he wished no part of it. The speaker’s retort was perhaps to be expected. “Get with the program or face extinction.”
YFNA argues that, if this be the case, science faces extinction regardless of whether its practitioners adopt or reject propaganda – direct emotional appeal – to sell itself. By adopting it, it abandons the very unemotional objectivity without which science has nothing to offer society. By rejecting it, it abandons the initiative, perhaps fatally, to those who, being governed by emotions rather than data, have no qualms about using direct emotional appeal, and have no prospects of losing arguments based on such appeals.
YFNA thinks that the only hope for science – apart from being the only community of humans to survive the global catastrophes that result from willful disregard of scientific data – is to educate people away from basing their lives on emotional responses and towards the recognition of data-driven, dispassionately-evaluated information and conclusions.
Away, indeed, from the worship of human emotions.
Maybe the Puritans did have the right idea after all.