For best results, begin with Part 1.
One of my car group came across a “trained scientist” in the ministry. Alas, I was not with her. Had I been, I would have probed the meaning of “trained.” Time was when a scientists would just introduce him/herself as a scientist. Is the “trained” preface just there to lend prestige? Or does it really mean something? How is a trained scientist different from a regular scientist? Has he (my sneaking suspicion, though I could be wrong) been “trained” that atheism is required to be a real scientist, whereas it once was that scientists saw no inherent conflict with belief in God—some did and some didn’t, but it was not a requirement for the job? The ones who saw no conflict kept the two disciplines on separate realms, with the conviction that each provides unique tools for interpreting life and neither negates the other. Pew Research says (in 2009) that about half of American scientists believe in God or a higher power, and half do not
Who are these origin-of-life scientists whose experiments have verified a few islands, so they are confident that enough others will emerge for a shore-to-shore waltz across the ocean? I breezily suggested in Part 1 that they were motivated by a desire to disprove God? Can that really be?
No, probably not. That was just poetic license on my part. Maybe a few here and there do it, but for the most part, disproving God would be a consequence were they to strike pay dirt; it’s not their motivation. They just do science because it’s their discipline. Don’t take any cheap shots at them. Don’t for instance, play the Psalm 14:1 card: “The fool says in his heart, “there is no God.” The fool may say it, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who says it is a fool. Besides, he says it in his heart. He may well believe it, but acts as though he does not.
Science fixated on the origin of life has soared in importance. (or is it just the atheists trying to convince me that has happened?) Nobody gets their articles into Science or Nature more quickly than the origin-of-life scientists—Robert Hazen said so in his first lecture. That doesn’t show ascendancy? Whereas James Watson (co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix structure) wrote in 1968 that botanists and zoologists of his day couldn’t even be depended upon to do “clean science [italics mine]; some actually wasted their efforts on useless polemics about the origin of life.”* It's not a condemnation so much as a witticism; Watson writes in snappy, tongue-in-cheek style. Still, it indicates that origin-of-life science had not the respectability it enjoys today. It was not then “clean science.”
Nor is it “clean” now, in my estimation. It is rife with speculation (see previous post) that will convince few beyond true believers--fueled by the assumption that one need not look elsewhere. It presents with almost as much wishful thinking as does evolutionary psychology (see next post), which turns Darwin inside out in its mission to present every aspect of human nature, be it mundane or bizarre, as stemming from our cavemen ancestors beating out the competition with whatever quirk is under consideration.
So, they’re neither hypocrites nor fools, those origin-of-life scientists. Even though you might think they are upon reading what they release, they’re not. They are no more hypocrites and fools than can be found in general society; probably less. They live in a world of their own, I suspect, and are largely oblivious to implications their work may prove or disprove God. One may take at face value Hazen’s explanation for why he doesn’t even consider what is common sense to most others: that God created all things, even if by incorporating the ability to adapt over time through genetic mutation. Why doesn’t he go there? Because he is neither theologian nor a philosopher, he says in Lecture 1. Okay? He’s not trying to bamboozle us. That’s just how it is with him and his crowd. One may accept his explanation as genuine.
But that doesn’t mean it makes any sense. Why am I reminded of the G K Chesterton line, “The first effect of not believing in God is that you lose your common sense?" What is it with a society in which people are expert in their chosen field, but if you nudge them even a tiny bit outside it, they are clueless? Of course he should incorporate those two other disciplines! But science has evolved in recent decades to convince him he doesn’t have to. ‘I don’t do theology or philosophy,’ he says, just as the cleaning woman says, ‘I don’t do windows.’ Alas, just as not doing windows results in a restricted view, so does not doing theology or philosophy. In the hands of atheists, that’s what science has become.
To test my hypothesis that scientists live in a world of their own, I read The Code Breakers: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race to see how often Anthony Fauci was mentioned. (Okay, so I didn’t read it with that intent. I just noticed it as I was reading.) Though it is not the starting point, an end point is how newly-discovered CRISPR technology** led to COVID-19 research and a resultant vaccination campaign. To the layman, Anthony Fauci is the top name encountered, the government superstar who night after night appeared on TV next to the president to urge what must be done to beat the virus. Anthony Fauci—the touchstone for all things COVID--spun by some a saint, by others a villain. How large a role does he play in Isaacson’s book on the scientific development of CRISPR technology? He gets two single-sentence mentions!
To the great unwashed, Fauci IS Covid-19 science! In fact, he even said so when opponents were trying to make it hot for him: “Attacks on me, quite frankly, are attacks on science.” To the scientists who actually do the research, he barely appears on their radar! He thus represents the great divide.
They live in a world of their own, these scientists. Hazen tells us: “Most scientists take a pretty straight path from high school to college to grad school to postdoc to tenure-track job; if you make it through, you're pretty much guaranteed a satisfying life in science,” (22nd lecture). Insulated much? one might ask. Most of them have never done anything else!
Read the words of scientists. Events that have all the world abuzz barely register with them. Watson writes in The Double Helix of how his mock-super-villain, Linus Pauling, so presented for his competition to discover the DNA structure, continually breathing down Watson’s neck (and that of co-discoverer, Crick), presented much the way I present Vic Vomodog, as a sort of ever-scheming but ever-frustrated Wily E Coyote—this Pauling was denied passport to England due to American suspicion of anyone who would speak too ‘subversively’ about peace during the McCarthy era. It’s all foolishness to Watson, as though it only exists to thwart science. Even though Cold War tensions captivated the rank and file, he is beyond it. Continue reading narratives on science, Isaacson’s Einstein, for instance, and you get the impression that they regard even world wars as little more than nettlesome interruptions to their research.
They are their own class, entirely separate from the philosopher/scientism/ philosophers/atheists who troll the internet, ever eager to call someone who doesn’t fall into line stupid. There may be a few losers among these real scientists who lead double lives, mixing test tubes by day and scouring social media by night, but for the most part, I am convinced they are two separate groups with little interaction.
It's a good gig to be a scientist. You don’t see poverty. You don’t see dirt. You get to hang out with smart people at the university. Everyone you meet likes to read. To be sure, you do see plenty of proud and stubborn people, but as a fellow scientist, they admit you into the club. What’s not to like? You get to hang up in your lab Far Side cartoons, such as the one of the scientists fleeing the lab like kids in frock coats upon hearing the ting-a-ling of the ice cream man—nobody enjoys those cartoons more than scientists, I am told.
I’m envious—make no mistake. But I still prefer my present life. “A physical man does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually. However, the spiritual man examines all things, but he himself is not examined by any man.” It works for me. Like the time, just after the Columbine school shooting, before school shootings became the new normal, that I commented to a woman at the door about how “grief counselors” had been summoned to the school, with the air of calling the fire department to put out the fire—the term was new, then, not common-place, as it is today. “I’d love to hear what they have to say,” I commented. Her eyes widened. “You have an interesting job!” she exclaimed.
*The Double Helix, Jas D Watson, 1968, p72
**Sean B. Carrol thought CRISPR represented “fossil DNA” in his 2007 book, The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution, just garbage that might have been useful at one time but no longer was—whereas it has since been revealed to be the central mechanism of the immune system. Sean B. Carroll is not to be confused with Sean M. Carroll, and easily might be, since they are both active figures in contemporary science. You really not should confuse either with Sean Carroll, the area broadcaster however, to whom I introduced the two luminaries and they hit it off, talking baseball.
to be continued: here
****** The bookstore