Homeopathy4health

21 January 2008

Rupert Sheldrake: we need to be skeptical of skeptics

Filed under: bad science,sceptic,scientism — homeopathy4health @ 10:09 pm
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Rupert Sheldrake,  one of the world’s most innovative biologists, is best known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance, which leads to a vision of a living, developing universe with its own inherent memory. He first worked in developmental biology at Cambridge University, and is currently Director of the Perrott-Warrick project.

The skepticism of believers 

I used to think of skepticism as a primary intellectual virtue, whose goal was truth. I have changed my mind. I now see it as a weapon.

Creationists opened my eyes. They use the techniques of critical thinking to expose weaknesses in the evidence for natural selection, gaps in the fossil record and problems with evolutionary theory. Is this because they are seeking truth? No. They believe they already know the truth. Skepticism is a weapon to defend their beliefs by attacking their opponents.

Skepticism is also an important weapon in the defence of commercial self-interest. According to David Michaels, who was assistant secretary for environment, safety and health in the US Department of Energy in the 1990s, the strategy used by the tobacco industry to create doubt about inconvenient evidence has now been adopted by corporations making toxic products such as lead, mercury, vinyl chloride, and benzene. When confronted with evidence that their activities are causing harm, the standard response is to hire researchers to muddy the waters, branding findings that go against the industry’s interests as “junk science.” As Michaels noted, “Their conclusions are almost always the same: the evidence is ambiguous, so regulatory action is unwarranted.” Climate change skeptics use similar techniques.

In a penetrating essay called “The Skepticism of Believers”, Sir Leslie Stephen, a pioneering agnostic (and the father of Virginia Woolf), argued that skepticism is inevitably partial. “In regard to the great bulk of ordinary beliefs, the so-called skeptics are just as much believers as their opponents.” Then as now, those who proclaim themselves skeptics had strong beliefs of their own. As Stephen put it in 1893, ” The thinkers generally charged with skepticism are equally charged with an excessive belief in the constancy and certainty of the so-called ‘laws of nature’. They assign a natural cause to certain phenomena as confidently as their opponents assign a supernatural cause.”

Skepticism has even deeper roots in religion than in science. The Old Testament prophets were withering in their scorn for the rival religions of the Holy Land. Psalm 115 mocks those who make idols of silver and gold: “They have mouths, and speak not: eyes have they, and see not.” At the Reformation, the Protestants deployed the full force of biblical scholarship and critical thinking against the veneration of relics, cults of saints and other “superstitions” of the Catholic Church. Atheists take religious skepticism to its ultimate limits; but they are defending another faith, a faith in science.

In practice, the goal of skepticism is not the discovery of truth, but the exposure of other people’s errors. It plays a useful role in science, religion, scholarship, and common sense. But we need to remember that it is a weapon serving belief or self-interest; we need to be skeptical of skeptics. The more militant the skeptic, the stronger the belief.”

22 December 2007

Fundamentalism – one of the great problems facing the world – leading to extreme scientism?

Homeopaths will recognise some of the themes in Dr Barry Morgan’s speech about how the rise in fundamentalism is polarising the world, in the current negativity about homeopathy from sceptic scientists who claim homeopathy has no scientific proof and should therefore be excluded from the already limited NHS provision despite high levels of reported effectiveness.  Is this homeophobia an indication of how extreme fundamentalist scientism will shape future health care?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/7156783.stm

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, has described a rise in “fundamentalism” as one of the great problems facing the world.

He focused on what he described as “atheistic fundamentalism”.

He said it led to situations such as councils calling Christmas “Winterval”, schools refusing to put on nativity plays and crosses removed from chapels.

In his Christmas message, he said: “Any kind of fundamentalism, be it Biblical, atheistic or Islamic, is dangerous.”

The archbishop said “atheistic fundamentalism” was a new phenomenon.

He said it advocated that religion in general and Christianity in particular have no substance, and that some view the faith as “superstitious nonsense“.

God is not exclusive, he is on the side of the whole of humanity with all its variety
Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan

As well as leading to Christmas being called “Winterval,” the archbishop said “virulent, almost irrational” attacks on Christianity led to hospitals removing all Christian symbols from their chapels, and schools refusing to allow children to send Christmas cards with a Christian message.

He also said it led to things like “airlines refusing staff the freedom to wear a cross round their necks” – a reference to the row in which British Airways (BA) suspended an employee who insisted on wearing a cross necklace.

Dr Morgan said: “All of this is what I would call the new “fundamentalism” of our age. It allows no room for disagreement, for doubt, for debate, for discussion.

Children's nativity play

Only one in five schools perform a traditional nativity, say bishops

“It leads to the language of expulsion and exclusivity, of extremism and polarisation, and the claim that, because God is on our side, he is not on yours.”

He said the nativity story in St Luke’s Gospel, in contrast, had a “message of joy and good news for everyone”.

He said: “God is not exclusive, he is on the side of the whole of humanity with all its variety.”

Dr Morgan said it was “perfectly natural” to have a “coherent and rational debate about the tenets of the Christianity”.

But he said “virulent, almost irrational” attacks on it were “dangerous” because they refused to allow any contrary viewpoint and also affected the public perception of religion.

This month community cohesion minister Parmjit Dhanda said the UK should “celebrate” the role of Christianity in the country’s heritage and culture.

His comments came after Mark Pritchard, Conservative MP for The Wrekin, called a Westminster debate on “Christianophobia“, saying attempts to move Christian traditions to the “margins” of British life had “gone far enough”.

The National Secular Society has said Christians in the UK have “nothing to complain about“.

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