On the great value of science, and the many challenges it faces

February 17, 2012 | By | Reply More

This is a long but excellent discussion centering on the value of science. D.J. Grothe leads the panel discussion; the panel includes Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ann Druyan and Victor Stenger. The values of science go well beyond the practical benefits of understanding how the world works. Those benefits include the following: Science keeps us from pretending that we are the center of the universe. It keeps us from fooling and misleading ourselves. Neil deGrasse Tyson argues that science shouldn’t be considered as a specialized endeavor; it should be considered the study of reality. The challenges to science include pop culture, post-modernism, religion and fear of death. At the 40-minute mark Richard Dawkins argues that a huge challenge is helping students to understand the vast scale of the universe-he gives a terrific illustration.

Note the exchange between Dawkins and Druyan at the 45-minute mark. The question is how vigorously should one push back against people who attack science because it conflicts with their religion. Dawkins, as is clear from his books and many media appearances, has little patience with religious people attacking science. Druyan insists that no progress can be made by calling religious people “stupid.” She advocates taking the time to cultivate a relationship, because this is more likely to result in a believer who starts to listen. She adds that the fact that there are religious scientists demonstrates that religion is not amenable to logic. Tyson indicates that he strenuously avoids discussing religious dogma; instead, he works hard to keep nonsense of all types out of science discussions and science classrooms, and to make scientific discussions only about science. If people want to talk religion on their own time, that’s their prerogative, and he doesn’t have a stake in that.

Moderated by D.J. Grothe (of Point of Inquiry), this conference took place at the New York Academy of Sciences at a Center for Inquiry conference titled “Secular Society and its Enemies.”


Category: Films and Videos, Science, scientific method

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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