Page 96 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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Man 2:
I wanted to go back to the question about how you deal with these issues. You
mentioned pragmatic examples like superbugs and global warming, and the point I want to
make is that scientists often take science as a pragmatic phenomenon, and using science we
can reveal degrees of freedom that allow us to be in our context in more sophisticated ways.
Believing that and working that way does not necessitate a metaphysical assumption about
science,
and one of the problems with the political argument in science versus religion is that
religion is inherently metaphysical, and it’s an isolating metaphysics in that its foundational
belief is that it is right and everything else is absolutely wrong. So attacking it with a
metaphysical view of science – “We’re absolutely right and you’re absolutely wrong” – can
be nothing but antagonistic. Perhaps the way to deal with this is through the pragmatic
approach, showing the degrees of freedom we can reveal with science that we cannot reveal
with religion. I don’t know that that would necessarily persuade the religious types, but it
may be a way to present science to culture that is not as antagonistic to any metaphysical
religious beliefs.
Zack Kopplin:
That’s what we try to do. The fascinating thing to understand, though, is that
the main creationist group is the Discovery Institute. That’s an intelligent design/creationism
think tank based in Seattle, Washington, and about 20 to 25 years ago they created intelligent
design after losing in court with creationism. They wrote an internal document called the
Wedge Document that accidentally got revealed, and Dr. Forth, my mentor, got hold of it and
wrote a book about it. In it, they revealed that their goal with intelligent design is basically to
defeat materialism in science and to make science supernatural. It may seem to be about
evolution, but intelligent design attacking evolution is their wedge to changing all of science
into something supernatural. So right now they’re on separate planes, and the creationists
don’t actually like that.
Man 3:
I’m going to touch on an area which is decidedly problematic. One of the interesting
things in the last two years in terms of political movements is the way the anti-abortion
groups in Canada changed their language, brilliantly in fact, because they’ve co-opted the
positive language of the pro-choice, and essentially they’ve redefined what pro-choice means.
I’m not putting myself out as a supporter of either side; it’s clearly a contentious issue and a
fundamental moral issue. But, for instance, now the embryo is the unborn child, so basically
when you abort you’re aborting a child. It may be unborn, but it’s an unborn child. Also they
make such statements as “Scientists have proven that life begins at conception.” It’s not clear
that it’s been proven as a fact, and if life doesn’t begin at conception there’s nothing to argue
about in terms of aborting a dead fetus. But it’s interesting, because in a sense the anti-
abortionists run like the creationists. They’ve perverted and co-opted science and rational
argument to their own ends. In a sense you could argue that there is fundamentally a moral
argument rather than a scientific argument, but they have co-opted both the science and a lot
of the central terms. So again, they are pro-choice for the rights of the child, and since the
child exists from conception they are supporting choice, but they have this lovely story that
they tell high school kids about having a right to control your body. What happens if you’re
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