Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How to spot a concealed religious agenda

Amanda Gefter composes a perceptive checklist of disingenuous techniques used by religious authors writing about science:

Red flag number one: the term "scientific materialism". "Materialism" is most often used in contrast to something else - something non-material, or supernatural. Proponents of ID frequently lament the scientific claim that humans are the product of purely material forces. At the same time, they never define how non-material forces might work. I have yet to find a definition that characterises non-materialism by what it is, rather than by what it is not.

The invocation of Cartesian dualism - where the brain and mind are viewed as two distinct entities, one material and the other immaterial - is also a red flag. And if an author describes the mind, or any biological system for that matter, as "irreducibly complex", let the alarm bells ring.

Misguided interpretations of quantum physics are a classic hallmark of pseudoscience, usually of the New Age variety, but some religious groups are now appealing to aspects of quantum weirdness to account for free will. Beware: this is nonsense.

When you come across the terms "Darwinism" or "Darwinists", take heed. True scientists rarely use these terms, and instead opt for "evolution" and "biologists", respectively.


Far be it from me, of course, to suggest any recent articles in The Sunday Times to which this checklist may be applied...

5 comments:

Robert Iddiols said...

I'm quite tempted to do so, as I think I know exactly what you're talking about...

Gordon McCabe said...

If it were Bingo, you'd have to shout 'House'.

Mark Vernon said...

On the other hand, if some phenomena do seem to be irreducible within a materialist frame - as some philosopher and physicists, with no religious affiliation, do suggest might be the case with, say, consciousness - it'd be a mistake to shy from that just for fear of appearing religious.

The Dandy Highwayman said...

Try reading that article now... it seems to have been pulled from the New Scientist website after "legal threats"...

Gordon McCabe said...

Fascinating! It's suggested here that Amanda mentioned someone by name, who might well be behind the legal action.