[lbo-talk] Christopher Hitchens dead

Nathan S n.crazeddoberman at gmail.com
Fri Dec 16 08:47:06 PST 2011

On Fri, Dec 16, 2011 at 10:13 AM, // ravi <ravi at platosbeard.org> wrote:

> On Dec 16, 2011, at 10:07 AM, John Gulick wrote:
> >
> > John:
> >
> > The Youtube comments section is of course an infamous wasteland, but why
> is it that these infantile, retro-18th Century "science vs religion"
> debates take up such disproportionate residence there? I suppose it's
> because these are interesting issues to the 12-year-olds who populate
> Youtube, the youths who believe that because they are arriving at answers
> to these questions for the first time, the world must have never debated
> them before?
> >
> Yes, I think that’s what it is. Though, I suspect the 12 year olds are 25
> year old techies fresh off of Ayn Rand and/or Obama and/or Steven Levitt.
> —ravi
> ___________________________________
> http://mailman.lbo-talk.org/mailman/listinfo/lbo-talk

Something about the "Science" vs. "Religion" debates has always irked me. I suspect it's the irrelevance and the continued appeal, or just the naivety of them. But then again, I read so many damn pop-science books as a kid, and it was always bizarre. Like I remember a book my folks had, that they'd bought, probably at my request, from a library sale for a few dollars. It had diagrams of antimatter engines and ion drives in it, from the 1960s. I remember the narrative tone being serious but that could be fabrication. Ion drive? Like a hair dryer but with a passenger plane on the other end? There's something so fanciful about what passes for "science" in the public mind that I don't get it, at all.

Personal experience suggests to me that Ravi is correct. Something about the relative tweenage mental state of people (i.e., men) with an intellectual predisposition but who by the grace of god mercifully avoided the whip-hand of graduate education really indicates something is deeply amiss. I would like to connect this to Corey Robin's thesis by suggesting that the sheer will-to-power in much of the "evolution" debates manifested more visibly, recently, in the attempt to ban chemical contraception in Mississippi, and that the "science over religion" stance is a way to adopt an ideological position that allows one to embrace familiar bourgeois values while ignoring, quite wittingly I would suggest, any possible underlying structure. I'd suggest that partly the "science" stance--which ultimately boils down to a fondness for the jargon of the hard sciences but often goes on multiplying entities needlessly in a way that would make Karl Popper turn in his grave every time one of these people quoted him, not that Popper having post-mortem discomfort is a bad thing--is simply an apologetic for the way things are. Which in turn shows that the will-to-rule is actually the creative force, and that it almost unseats the popular ability to generate knowledge.

More obviously, David Koch's bizarre interest in paleoanthropology on PBS is pretty damn telling. It's also telling that Dawkins really abandoned any political commitment to push "New Atheism", or whatever. I suppose an invisible man in the sky and a zombie throwing bad people into a volcano are easier targets than, say, Margaret Thatcher, and more importantly, an effort like that requires minimal commitment. Combine all this with dependency issues revolving around the need to have one's opinion not only be right but also admired and it's a nightmare. Gramsci said that the proles were denied the ability to form a coherent ideology. J.G. Ballard called these people the children of newspapers and the installment-plan encyclopedia.

But that is a $5 way of my two-bit opinion that wannabe-science-nerds who are not scientists need to STFU and go back to Star Trek reruns. Speaking of 'science', if gmail correctly gets this to the listserv I will be amazed.

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