I love Bryan Appleyard’s eloquent retorts to the blistering rhetoric coming out of New Atheistland. Here’s Appleyard today on PZ Myers’s scientism:
[M]ention intelligent design and the likes of Myers will be hurling abuse. But I gather from reading John Gribbin’s superb exposition In Search of the Multiverse that ID is, in fact, a perfectly respectable hypothesis among some physicists – the designer would not be a deity but a more technically advanced civilisation. So the world is ‘designed’ then? ‘No!‘ howls Myers; ‘Maybe,’ murmur the physicists. But there’s a bigger reason than that. Treating science as an ideology, an occasion for polemic and abuse, and anathematising those who dissent is profoundly unscientific. It is an attitude that will, in the end, damage not just science itself but science as a public institution. Science is, as Thomas Nagel put it, a ‘view from nowhere‘, it is a method, not a posture towards the world. It assumes – and, indeed, attains – the possibility of a superhuman perspective. As such, it is a profoundly admirable and magnificent achievement of the human intellect. But it is only one such achievement. When science aspires to be anything else – ideology, for example – it is prone to delusion, fantasy and intolerance. That is where we now are, a dangerous place where people set up web sites that abandon mere explanation and promote science as an ideology, as, in effect, an opinion held with such ferocity that all dissent must be crushed. This phase, I hope, will pass. But I am beginning to have my doubts.