Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Trusting science to save us?

Jacques Monod was a very distinguished French biologist who shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. In some ways he was a predecessor to Richard Dawkins. He was a very gifted writer who wrote a popular book arguing that science necessarily led to atheism. Here is a widely cited quotation from the conclusion of his popular book:
``Where then shall we find the source of truth and the moral inspiration for a really scientific socialist humanism? Only, we suggest, in the sources of science itself,..... it is the conclusion to which the search for authenticity necessarily leads. The ancient covenant is in pieces; man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immmensity of the universe, out of which he emerged only by chance. Neither his destiny nor his duty have been written down. The kingdom above or the darkness below: it is for him to choose.''
Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modem Biology, trans. Austryn Wainhouse (New York: Knopf, 1971), p. 167

In response, I quote another atheist Nobel Prize winning scientist, Phil Anderson, who wrote in a very famous anti-reductionist article, More is Different:
``we have yet to recover from that [arrogance] of some molecular biologists, who seem determined to try to reduce everything about the human organism to ``only'' chemistry, from the common cold and all mental disease to the religious instinct.''

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