so hawking is apparently the new mullah omar…

That's right Baroness Greenfield, not needing a miracle in the lab is the same thing as a holy war against the unbelievers.
no clue

I think we need a new verb in the popular science world: to Greenfield oneself, or to say something so utterly, cartoonishly hyperbolic as to make those who read your words wonder if you actually thought about what you were going to say before letting it fly. Or, as the British may put it, to make a complete twit out of yourself. Just take the example set by the person in whose honor the term should be coined, Baroness Greenfield, who’s publicly comparing Stephen Hawking’s quote about the lack of need for a deity in science to the Taliban’s religious proclamations. Yes, apparently saying that you see no need for a god in your calculus is the same as killing people with different beliefs, declaring that all discussions on the matter be shut down, threatening all who disagree being with death. Or as our ditzy Baroness puts it…

Asked whether she was uncomfortable about scientists making comments about God, she said: “Yes I am. Of course they can make whatever comments they like but when they assume, rather in a Taliban-like way, that they have all the answers then I do feel uncomfortable. I think that doesn’t necessarily do science a service.”

She was also critical of Hawking’s comments about philosophy, saying: “Scientists have a duty, if they want to have people who aren’t scientists to appreciate that value of what they’re doing, if they want to place it into a wider social and moral context, the duty is on the scientist[s] to explain [their work] in words ordinary human being can understand. What is dangerous…is to make sweeping assertions about a whole category of academia.”

Even though she says she doesn’t want to compare Hawking to the Taliban, she still ends up doing it with a blanket condemnation that scientists who publicly say that they see no need for a deity are in effect behaving like the group of religious fundamentalists who were given money, weapons, and power, then allowed to do whatever they wanted and subjugate an entire nation through violence and death threats. It’s utter nonsense, one that speaks in the most unflattering tones about Greenfield. Did Hawking publicly execute scientists who proclaim their belief in a god? Did Dawkins issue a decree that from now on in, all scientists must swear on the first draft of The God Delusion before they’re allowed in a lab? Did they proclaim that we know every last answer to every last question about our existence, and that scientists can retire and pontificate from on high, telling the world how society should be run? No? Really? So how in the hell are they anything like the Taliban or religious fundamentalists? I think Greenfield wanted to use an ad Nazium but thought she’d spice it up for the press and go for the violent radical fundamentalist angle.

And here’s what annoys me most about Greenfield and people like her. The instant someone says what they don’t want to hear, they’ll rush to portray that person as an arrogant, rabid know-it-all, comparing him to just about every historical villain and putting words in his mouth to set up strawmen arguments down the road, preferably really easy ones that focus on the tone and the personality of their target rather than the substance of what he says. It’s funny how Richard Dawkins, who always speaks in a rather subdued voice, even when a point he feels passionately about is being made, was transformed into a snarling, belligerent shock jock via the media’s uncritical quotes of pious demagogues horrified that someone would publicly disagree with their assertions. Looks like Hawking is next in line to be tarred and feathered as one of those nasty atheists who are apparently just like the Taliban if they don’t shut up and say what the Greenfields of the world want them to say; something nice and fuzzy about God and morality as expected from all the good little boys and girls.

# science // mass media / religion / religious beliefs / stephen hawking

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