Saturday, July 26, 2008

Crazy Ads

After posting about some poor rhetoric found in the anti-evolutionary debate, and admitting the view that ID offers little of value to the science curriculum as is offers to cloud rather than to encourage exploration of natural forces that might be discovered to govern the physical world (and thus may be subject to manipulation to advance quality of life), I started noticing Google posting some interesting adverts on this site.

Google picks ads on the basis of content, but also on the basis of what amounts to an auction.  Guess who turned up as the high-bidders for the post discussing evolution?  Have a look:

I'm naturally curious who would bankroll adverts soliciting requests for free booklets touting Creationism.  Anyone with an interest in the subject can have a look at Genesis, free of charge, without waiting for a pamphlet in the mail.  Indeed, those hoping for spiritual enlightenment are likely much better looking at the . . . well, admittedly not the original, but one of the numerousdifferent, but well-intended translations of copies accessible to would-be translators.  Such translations have at least a colorable claim to derivation from originals, whereas pamphlets published originally by mortals hoping to sell specific explanations of how holy works are meant to be interpreted in light of presently-accepted facts about the natural history of the planet are frankly as suspect as can possibly be.  

Those guys are just selling something.

The above advertisement is an even more transparent effort to harmonize current views of the evidence with religious thought in ways that appear to discourage serious effort to view the world about one.  The thesis that the observed facts are consistent with divine will and not with the happenstance of nature, and that scientific efforts to discover physical laws by examining Creation are somehow undermining the dignity of the Creator, requires one to accept a number of interesting axioms regarding the Creator, Creation, and their relationship.

Consider for a moment the position of Henry David Thoreau, who seemingly believed escaping nature to spend the Sabbath indoors an affront to the work placed before Man for his enjoyment and study.  If there is a manual set forth by the divine to instruct human beings in the way in which to live their lives, why should that manual not be the very universe itself?  Where Genesis recounts the first divine instructions given humans, it is interesting that these early requirements did not include a command that each should abase one's self as beneath the contempt of the Creator, and to hide one's eyes from the world as it it, too, were beneath notice, and to accept learning only by memorizing texts distributed by a priesthood.  Genesis 2:19 seems to suggest very strongly that it was an approved project of our species to inspect and name everything that can be found.  How shall we undertake such lofty work if we fail to investigate what's been laid before us?

Someone should examine these pamphlets to see what they contain.  Google's rules prevent me from clicking the links.  I have some doubts about the depth of their theological analysis, and I suspect strongly that they represent an effort to preach religion as contrary to the study of the world in which we live.  Such a strange idea, that we should not learn from the world the rules laid out to govern those within it.  

Whatever else ought one to do?

The folks who view science as opposite to their religion must have a very weak grasp of their religion, or little power to reason.  The scientific method is nothing more (or less) than a system of rigorously subjecting hypotheses about the world (its contents and the rules that govern them) to tests intended to reveal flaws in the hypotheses.  Without the method we'd have little confidence in things like the charge on an electron, the gravitational constant of the universe, or the speed of light through vacuum.  The scientific method has allowed its practitioners, over time, to develop a considerable heap of hypotheses that have survived substantial abuse, to the point that (regardless their poor initial reception) they are regarded as if unbreakable laws.

Consider ideas like the universal theory of gravitation, and the principles of conservation.  For millennia, humans continued to observe that objects (a) tended, when not otherwise supported, to fall down, except birds, which somehow pushed the air, and (b) tended to come to a halt when no longer pushed.  Far from representing obvious truths, these ideas needed some experimental validation.  Objects dropped outside a gravity well don't fall to Earth.  Objects released under zero-resistance conditions don't come to a halt.  Programs to study other planets would hardly be plausible without understanding like this.  Programs to provide energy and food to a planet of finite resources will depend on proven principles in which careful people will be able to risk huge sums with confidence.

People who believe religion is contrary to experimental discovery of the principles that govern the behavior of the things found in the universe where they live have developed a shocking religion indeed.  The idea that people would expend scarce resources advertising to convince people to turn their backs on science as a religious requirement is curious and disturbing, but given the range of people on this world, entirely unsurprising.

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