So, my philosophy course has taken a rather unexpected twist. My Philosophy of Religion lecturer (who is apparently a Catholic priest) has so far been a paragon of objectivity, while my Introduction to Philosophy lecturer has made some very disparaging and downright annoying comments about scientists. I’d love to know where people get the idea that scientists view the world in a cold, clinical light. Certainly they do that while in the lab, but its not as if that kind of mindset cannot co-exist with a more aesthetic way of looking at nature.
I discovered that science doesn’t destroy the beauty of things in secondary school, when I learned that trees aren’t just collections of attractively arranged leaves on sticks. Learning of their complexity and the slow-motion fight for survival that they go through does not in any way diminish my enjoyment of of them – if anything, it makes me appreciate them all the more. Nature takes on a new dimension when you stop looking at it as an elaborate display for your benefit.
The same is undoubtedly true of astronomy. The Universe is larger than we could ever comprehend and has existed for a length of time that makes the lifespan of our entire species seem insignificant by comparison. How anyone can claim that knowing this detracts from our appreciation of its splenour is beyond me.
In other college news, the NUIM library is a fascinating place. There’s an entire shelf dedicated to evolution, including Stephen Jay Gould’s enormous The Structure of Evolution Theory. It’s refreshing to see evolution presented in a way completely unlike the following:
The theory of evolution is regarded as one of the greatest glimmerings of understanding humans have ever had. It is an idea of science, not of belief, and therefore undergoes constant scrutiny and testing by argumentative evolutionary biologists. But while Darwinists may disagree on a great many things, they all operate within a (thus far) successful framework of thought first set down in The Origin of Species in 1859.
That’s from the Amazon.com reviw of Gould’s book, and it unfortunately mimicks the tone that a lot of writers, both scientist and non-scientist, feel that they must adopt when they talk about evolution. The part about evolution being an issue of science rather than belief is particularly cring-worthy in how much it panders to the morons out there. It’s a sad indicator of how forcefully Creationists have penetrated the public consciousness, and I have a feeling that it will only get worse as time goes by. Thankfully, institutions of third-level education, long the prime target for anti-intellectual nuts everywhere, don’t seem to be budging from their insistence that the evidence for evolution is solid.
(If you’re curious, quite a bit of The Structure of Evolutionary Theory is available for free on Google Books. The contents section is fun, if only for how intimidating it is.)