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The scientist in the garret

Author: joe

Wednesday, 26 April, 2006 - 23:55

Highly enjoyable viewing recently came in the form of Mark Lawson interviewing Sir David Attenborough. Initially I was frustrated and enraged by a particular line taken by Lawson: having established Attenborough as a secular Darwinian, Lawson then framed his following question so as to imply that secularism, and the scientistic methodology / worldview doesn't allow for value. Given that you don't concede any inherent absolutist, religion-driven moral view of the world, he implied, why even bother trying to communicate your enthusiasm? Indeed whence that enthusiasm?

Part of me hopes, and would once have assumed, that this question was a nice rhetorical BBC type question, placed there to allow someone with the privileged knowledge of the universe to share an understanding with us lesser mortals.

Increasingly, however, I suspect a different reason for this kind of question, which isn't simply to allow the exposition of a position in a debate, but stems from an inability for humans from the humanities to conceive of humans engaged in science as anything but inhabiting a Sartrean existential void.

In other words, people grounded in the arts adopt a similar stereotype of science and scientists as the religious faithful adopt towards the secular. This is particularly ironic since it was the artistic types who first set out to occupy the ennui and angst of the existential attic. But they were drinking absinthe and creating synthetic meanings for themselves - whereas now the scientists have truly removed meaning from all facets of living. Perhaps the artists feel shamed that they were not able to go the whole hog. The irony is, of course, that the humanities have shrivelled into a 'cultural relativist' and correspondingly bleak view of life, while the sciences give us far more food for wonder than any small-minded religious fable.

Categories: science, arts and humanities, religion, david-attenborough, existentialism, Darwinism,
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