The Hubris of (Some) Scientists

If you happened to read this article in Tuesday’s NY Times, you would have found some pretty shocking statements.

The idea that human minds are the product of evolution is “unassailable fact,” the journal Nature said this month in an editorial on new findings on the physical basis of moral thought. A headline on the editorial drove the point home: “With all deference to the sensibilities of religious people, the idea that man was created in the image of God can surely be put aside.”

With all deference, the NY Times quotes Nature as stating, Jews and Christians are ignorant bumpkins.  Why should that trouble my sensibilities?

The article goes on:

Or as V. S. Ramachandran, a brain scientist at the University of California, San Diego, put it in an interview, there may be soul in the sense of “the universal spirit of the cosmos,” but the soul as it is usually spoken of, “an immaterial spirit that occupies individual brains and that only evolved in humans — all that is complete nonsense.” Belief in that kind of soul “is basically superstition,” he said.

Let’s be exactly clear with what V. S. Ramachandran, who is Indian, is saying here. I don’t know what Dr. Ramachandran’s personal religious beliefs are, but he here argues that the Hindu-Buddhist religious concept of “the universal spirit of the cosmos” is scientifically acceptable.  Meanwhile, the Jewish-Christian concept of personal souls is “superstition.”  (Though I’m not aware of any theologians who would consider the soul “occupying” the brain or having evolved.)

If Dr. Ramachandran wishes to believe that, then that’s between him and God (or the universal spirit of the cosmos, as the case may be).  But how, exactly, is this science?  Further, how would Dr. Ramachandran counsel a Christian working as graduate assistant under him?  “Superstition” is a strong word, especially from a professional scientist.

We have heard from scientists, such as Stephen Jay Gould, that science and religion can peacefully coexist.  Science, we have been told, discusses the “what” and “how” of the world, while religion examines the “why.” Here is at least one group of scientists who expose that as a false paradigm.  For them, science – understood materialistically, with no room for anything that can’t be measured – determines the whole of truth.

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