Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Thinking Outside the Boxing Ring

The Parting of Ways

This post on Uncommon Descent, along with its links, is interesting; It’s by a contributor called scordova who appears to have YEC sympathies although he says he is a doubting YEC.  Like other UD posters it is probably wrong to put scordova in the unself-critical “heretic burning” fundamentalist category. Scordova seems to be more in the self-critical Paul Nelson mold, and able to work with those who have come to different conclusions. Following one of scordova’s links  on the interpretation of the geologic column we find expressed some of the reasons for his skepticism of the established geological time scales. However, these reasons have more the character of inconsistencies and difficulties in establishment science rather than offering positive support for the fundamentalist’s 6000 year old Earth. As is so often the case with those who attack establishment age-figures, it is done on the basis of simple (and probably simplistic) uniformitarian extrapolations that seldom return ages of around 6000 years but rather durations of hundreds of thousands or even millions of years!  The popular fundamentalist folk logic has a default as follows: Establishment age figures are inconsistent therefore 6000 years!

What I sense to be the backdrop against which scordova proceeds is the North American polarization that acrimoniously  divorces the public and private domains. This general polarization makes itself felt in a variety of more specific ways which particularly include a polarization between the publicly funded academic establishment and the privately funded communities in which we find a broad church of technocrats, industrialists, political right-wingers, independent academics and religious fundamentalists. This in turn manifests itself in specific issue polarization such as the evolution vs. God dichotomy. Another issue dichotomy is anthropogenic climate change vs. non-anthropogenic climate change – the latter point of view tending to be favored by the laissez faire techno-industrialists who help fund independent academies and academics.

I am myself of the opinion that people like scordova and (Paul Nelson) are worth giving a hearing; it helps if one is able to keep two conflicting but tentative conclusions in one’s head at the same time.  However, the rejection of the culture represented by UD posters by mainstream academics makes these posters not only tetchy, but also, in some cases, passionately anti-establishment  – read, for example, some of UD's contributors like Cornelius Hunter and Denise OLeary – they're really mad with the evolution touting establishment! And when they are not mad with it  they, like scordova, are at the very least deeply distrustful of it.

Polarization means that opposing sides tend to assume that “If you are not working with us you are working against us”. In particular the private anti-establishment persuasion are fertile ground for paranoia and conspiracy theory: This makes a dispassionate impartiality difficult if not impossible to implement. In this connection I myself have my limits: although I feel comfortable with YECs like Paul Nelson and scordova I draw the line with the exclusivity of the heretic hunting, fire and brimstone fundamentalists; their paranoia and elite religionism makes trusting relationships all but impossible. 

Addendum 14/07/13
This link,  on PZ Myers' blog may be data relevant to the above: It's about a correspondent who sets "technology" over and against "science": The latter is seen as skeptical and intellectual, whereas the former practical and useful (and, may I add in many cases privately funded!)

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