Need a platform for uninformed opinions?

Then try the Guardian’s comment is free on for size. Just read Jonathan Jones’ article on religion, science and nouveau atheism. I’m not going to say much (this turns out to be a slight lie) here, other than to direct your attention to this paragraph:

[…] the Dawkins view encourages a caricature of the history of science. It dramatises a clash between scientific reason and religious superstition that is supposedly as intense today as it was in the age of Galileo. But this is a schoolchild’s version of the history of science. It is simplistic and inaccurate to imagine that scientific discovery has ever been either the fruit, or the seed, of pure reason. Science, like art, is imaginative. And the imaginative pictures of the universe created by the great scientists have rarely been free of ideas that in the nouveau atheist view are irrational.

I can’t speak for Dawkins personally, and I neither have the time nor interest to go searching for a particular quote, but his brand of atheism is hardly stating Galileo lacked any irrational beliefs. Furthermore, I think most atheists would accept that religion convictions have been instrumental in scientific investigation. The major point is science no longer needs a religious basis, and this is almost certainly for the better. One particular reason why scientific breakthroughs often share a history with religious thought is because both were considered intellectual endeavours; and unlike today (in the western world at least), those from poor backgrounds were unable to pursue a life in academia. Take Galileo and Darwin, classic examples of men from relatively wealthy backgrounds, whose money allowed them to wonder about the universe, life and anything else that took their fancy.

Interestingly, Jones also mentions Einstein’s reputed phrase God does not play dice as some poor attempt in making a vague point about religion and science. Einstein was not religious, and we’re not disputing the use of religious metaphor in science, I mean, just look at Dawkins’ own book River Out of Eden. What annoys me even more, however, is that the Guardian continually provides web space for the opinions of writers who know little about the subject on which they write. Jones is not a scientist nor a theologian, the two subjects that take up the bulk of the article, and he clearly doesn’t know much about new (or noveau if you want to get in the Guardian) atheism — even if the man in question professes to be an atheist (of the old skool variety no doubt). In fact, Jonathan Jones’ subject of interest is art. And yes, you can take these topics and make some convoluted and tenuous connection with culture, but does it really warrant an opinion piece? Not in the slightest, especially when you’re website hosts an abundance of far more qualified writers — see: Tristam Hunt, Madeleine Bunting, Jim Al-Khalili, Polly Toynbee, Ed Husain etc — tackling these various nuances of the debate.

Still, atheism + religion + science is a sure bet to gather numerous comments and page hits.

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