Monday, June 04, 2007

Conversation with a materialist

This weekend I had a somewhat involved e-mail correspondence with the author of the article cited in the previous post. I told him about my concerns, and he was very cordial and generally gracious. However, he would not go so far as to concede any point. He felt that a rejection of dualism (any distinction between body/mind or soul) was uncontroversial, and was the consensus opinion of all the scholars he knew.

Maybe that's true. Maybe nobody he knows or respects thinks there is an immaterial aspect to a human being. So, I told him of several I knew of, but this did not seem to impress him. He was, however, very nice about it all, and said he considered my concerns "reasonable."

At one level, this was a humanizing discussion. I was reminded that someone I disagree with is a human being, just doing the best he can, and so I should avoid making him into a target for attack. However, it also validated all my concerns. He basically said science only concedes the existence and relevance of things that can be tested and proved, but that he also was not going to limit his statements to that jurisdiction - even though science can only deal with the testable, he was still going to use science to justify his value judgments (which are not testable). Yet, he didn't seem to acknowledge that this decision itself does not flow from something proveable, but rather is pragmatic and even dogmatic.

What's so dangerous about this type of scientist is that many people believe he is being objective, and he allows them to think this, but then speaks on his own beliefs, while still wearing his scientist hat, and fools people into thinking that his beliefs are objectively true. This is an abuse of trust; there are foxes in the hen house.

This type of scientist, unfortunately, appears to be the rule rather than the exception.

Bottom line: science can never tell you whether something is right or wrong, good or bad. Anyone who says otherwise is a heretic to both Science and Christianity.


Ben said...

This sounds similar to the debate that happened over at my blog on what to do when something is beyond the realm of science. Those who insisted that science is basically the only real form of knowledge lambasted me for believing in something that is scientifically unprovable. They seemed to feel that if it is scientifically unproveable, one should at least be highly skeptical of its existence.

I wonder weather they would approve of this guy or not.

jose said...

It'd be helpful if there was a scientific equivalent of speaking ex cathedra.

Kenny said...

"Ex cathedra" is meant a formal infallible decision of the pope, obligatory on all the faithful.

Science can tell us much less than Google.