Thursday, August 30, 2018

Where You Start Really Does Determine Where You Go or Hey, Bud. Wanna Buy Yourself A Scientist?

Don't say that he's hypocritical
Say rather that he's apolitical
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
That's not my department!" says Wernher von Braun

Tom Lehrer

The Nazis in promoting and planning and carrying out their genocidal programs, at no time gave their motivation in religious terms, certainly not in Christian terms, rather they promoted it through the scientific idea of natural selection and some pseudo-scientific theories of ethnicity based in 19th century pseudo-scientific linguistics.  As I said, reading the Wannsee documents, the actual planning documents for carrying out their "final solution of the Jewish question" forced the issue of why it was the very thing which the Nazis hated and which was one of their major targets for destruction, religion, has taken pretty close to the entire fall for it instead of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics which were what the "final solution" the Shoah was made out of. 

Even if the atheist-scientistic-mostly Christian haters hadn't assigned that blame to religion, especially Christianity but, in the most bitter of all ironies, Judaism, as well, it is an absolute certainty that religious figures, clergy, theologians, commentators would have sought long and hard to understand any guilt that religion shared in creating the conditions that led to the Shoah, self-examination is that most vital of human activities which finds its highest form in the Judaic monotheist religious tradition.  As Marilynne Robinson pointed out, all of the ammunition in the Bible which its enemies aim at that tradition is known to us only because the Jews who wrote the Bible practiced that high level of self-criticism and confession.   Christian theologians and intellectuals aren't exactly shabby in their practice of that, either.

As I pointed out, while religion has taken pretty much all of the blame for the Nazi's genocides done in the name of science, science has hardly even allowed the questioning of itself to begin.   As I've noted to stunned silence, when human beings invented science they, by mutual consent, exempted science from considering the morality of its actions and its ideas, that was done in the name of the quest for pure knowledge about physical objects and forces, even as, from the start, scientists sold their knowledge and skill to kings and emperors to make war and mount conquests and to kill lots and lots of people more effectively and more powerfully.  That is and has been as much a part of science as the legendary quest for knowledge, many of the adulated, idolized, even, occasionally, admirable figures in the history of science provided some of the deadliest products of science.  They produced the knowledge of how to make those while being the most informed people on the planet as to the possible ultimate consequences of what they were doing, all of them have more than a little of the Werner von Braun about them, including such figures as Einstein.

Science is dangerous because it works, it is more dangerous because it produces power and all the more so through of that exemption given to science by scientists in their invention of what would be considered to be science.   That exemption from questions of morality, good and evil is one of the most insane of unmentionable sources of danger in the world in the history of our species.  Science is whatever scientists say it is, its definition is entirely in their control.

Science's reputation as producing reliable knowledge, it's sometimes seeming omniscience can make it extremely dangerous when it doesn't work, when it works partially or poorly, especially in the over-extension of what is put under the artificial umbrella of science, not least of all when science impinges on questions of human minds, behavior, and it makes up genetic myths about human beings on the basis of ethnicity and gender.   From the pseudo-sciences of the 18th and 19th century, along with such scenario making science as is encapsulated in natural selection, all of the enormous genocides of the 20th-21st centuries got their start. And actual science, physics, chemistry, exempted from questions of morality, provided the pseudo-scientific regimes so much of what they used to kill tens of millions, to oppress hundreds of millions and numbers into the billions.  The Orwellian nightmare of the surveillance regime of the Chinese and other billionaire mafia governments is provided to them by science, for money right now, even as those have dropped the pseudo-scientific trappings of 19th century origins of those regimes.

Of course once you realize this situation one of the most aggravating things is the aura of moral authority granted to science and scientists when they would be the first to eschew those categories as having any right to impinge on their work or the work of their colleagues.   As with the trappings of corrupt figures of religion, especially those who exercise or aspire to political power and influence, the aroma of sanctity about it is a stench of artificial fragrance and poisonous synthetic chemistry. 

When it comes to a guy like Steven Weinberg (the atheist "bad religion" guru) it would be funny if it wasn't so disgustingly hypocritical.  I mean, I have documented that even as he is a critic of religion, blaming religion for the Nazi's in fact science based murders, his claim that it was all the fault of religion, even as he declares he - on the basis of his logical, scientific analysis of the question of morality - will admit to no moral obligations except to his family and his university department.  Considering the role that his science has played in doing things like making nuclear weapons, not to mention its role in conventional armaments design and construction, he's got no moral authority to make any kind of criticism.  None of that leads to anyone questioning him on it, for he is a scientist.

I wonder if Tom Leherer ever thought of writing something about that kind of hypocrisy but I'm not guessing hard.   My guess is even he couldn't recognize the issues involved.  He'd be too busy entertaining his audience with snark about Popes, I doubt he would even have read what they had to say about the culpability of Christians in the Shoah.  I'll bet Weinberg knows nothing about that nor the enormous examination of that in post-war theology, asking questions that religion started examining even before the Nazis started killing people in large numbers, even as religious opposition to Hitler was some of the little opposition that was mounted.  I would suspect that the man who would become Pope John XXIII did more to risk his neck to save Jews, I'll bet Pius XII did, than any Nobel Prize winning scientist.  It's not their department.

It matters, entirely, that religion takes on the work of questioning itself over issues of morality, of right and wrong and it matters entirely that science rejects even the idea that science should be impinged on by such questions.  And it is an insane difference, considering how much more powerful science is than religion, how it gets its goals accomplished, or the goals of those paying scientists.

Update:  I should have pointed out that when I use the term "pseudo-science" in this context I mean that the claims, made as having the nature of science, don't follow scientific method.  Though I'm sure physicists and chemists and even some biologists would have derisively rejected the nature of those linguistic theories as scientific, there were plenty of even very highly placed scientists in the 19th and 20th century who considered them science and based scientific claims on them.  The Darwinists certainly did.  You can read them either explicitly or implicitly using those ideas starting with Darwin, though he may have been copying Haeckel's use of them.  As I said, science is whatever scientists say it is.  Any scientists who objected to that pseudo-scientific linguistics being passed off as having the reliability of science should have spoken up with enough force to get it and any of the more official science that it was based on kicked out of the club house.  If they have the privilege of defining science, they have the responsibility of saying what doesn't measure up and they should have to live with their choices in that.  I'm not willing to cut them any slack at all.

1 comment:

  1. "Religion is responsibility, or it is nothing at all."

    Science, on the other hand, doesn't even have the stereotype of the "mad scientist" to plague it anymore; and all responsibility is on others for what they do. Oppenheimer reportedly quoted the Bhagad Vita, "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds," when the first A-Bomb worked. Edmund Teller happily promoted the H-Bomb, heedless of its consequences, happy only to provide a powerful weapon to powerful people.

    Some TV evangelists (especially; but church members as well) practice Christianity on the basis of 'What's in it for me?' That is a corruption, and can be shown to be such, of Christianity. Where is the fundamental corruption in science that is used to kill, pollute, ravage communities, etc.? Somehow the blame falls on the community, or the corporation; but never on science itself. If only religion could enjoy that free pass.....