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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

When bad skeptics became good skeptics

What I find most interesting is how the negative attributes of folks in the past became positive attributes when the scientific method took root. The doubters and the skeptics of the past, all the attributes that the church frowned upon, became the lifeblood of science -- organized skepticism. Rome would never reward the doubting bishop, yet the scientific community embraces the doubters, that is, as long as the doubters and skeptics can prove their doubts. Doubts and rewards, the driving force of science. Present your theory, and you have just invited all your colleagues to punch holes in it, yet if they can't, then you're the hero of the day! And this is why traditional organized religion has been left behind, those that yield not to challenge and debate, those that still scorn doubt and skepticism, must either retreat to their sheltered enclaves, or prepare themselves for many bloody noses in the days ahead.

3 comments:

David said...

well said old friend...well said

Lifewish said...

I guess the question is: good for what? Bad for what? Skepticism and free enquiry have always been bad for maintaining the strength of a monolithic organisation - in a free society, people pull in all different ways. However, skepticism has always been good for keeping the society as a whole moving forwards. Traditional religion, then, attempts to take a larger slice of a smaller pie - at the expense of all other participants.

I guess the question is: how do we show the weakness of old-school religions without unnecessarily undermining the more modern ones? As far as I can tell, they use many of the same rhetorical tricks to avoid or bypass debate; the only difference is that traditional religion also directly attacks the debaters and their rationalist/scientific methodology.

Maybe the best way to approach this is not as a comparison of dogmatic religion with relaxed religion. After all, many groups exhibit the same sort of authoritarianism - religion just seems to be a particularly attractive velvet glove, dealing as it does with things that are nigh-on impossible to disprove. Maybe we should be working to understand dogma in all its forms, rather than just in a religious context. On that note, you might be interested in a series of posts on this subject that I came across, entitled cracks in the wall.

Bro. Bartleby said...

Wonder what other folks think ...