Extraordinary claims require extraordinary research

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary research

Every now and then Richard Dawkins turns up in my Twitter feed. I don’t follow him but people I know retweet him so occasionally I see his words. I think as a scientist he, and scientists like him, have lost their way.

IMG_4554Science is a process, not a position of belief. Results based on evidence provide an insight into how things appear to be based on our current understanding and scientific ability, but holding on to that position as the utter truth ironically makes Dawkins appear closer to a religious zealot, than an open-minded scientist and academic.

I’ve heard him say “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. They might indeed. But extraordinary claims also require extraordinary research and exploration. I love science, but I also despair at its current position. Dawkins and his like have managed to convince many other scientists that we are all just intelligent monkeys spinning pointlessly through space. That life has no meaning other than to live, earn money, get married, have kids, and die. Even Stephen Hawking the other day said that science has now replaced philosophy. I disagree. Philosophers were often the catalyst for scientific research and now these scientists are barracking the doors and digging in their heels in a desperate attempt to prevent any real research being done into the questions that many people look to science to answer. If they will not even look into the subject of consciousness, for instance, don’t be surprised then if people look towards religion and spirituality for the answers that modern science refuses to explore.

There are of course scientists that want to explore these topics, but they are often met with ridicule for not towing the party line and labelled as pseudo-scientists for even considering an open-minded scientific approach to these subjects.

I’ll say again, science is a process, not a position of belief. For instance, not so long ago it was stated categorically that there was no water on the moon. Categorically. No question. Now it appears there is. The scientific process needs to continue. Sadly I think it won’t until the likes of Dawkins remember that.

I have read The God Delusion and The Ancestors Tale. I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about and in truth I loved aspects of the latter book. The God Delusion was ok, but I found many of the arguments quite lame.

I don’t want any of you reading this to think that this post that is in any way anti-Atheism. It isn’t. Someone’s personal belief, or lack of it, is not my concern here. It’s more about how science seems to be holding onto a position and acting more like a religion, and somehow the main protagonists can’t seem to see that. Imagine what we might learn if we returned to the process, with an open mind.

So to lighten the mood, here’s a nice picture of a sleeping  puppy.

11 responses to “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary research”

  1. Dave good blog. I come from a science background and have felt much the same about Dawkins. below is a link to a fellah you may find interesting. He’s a Nobel winner and he raised his head above the parapet a few years ago. I find him a little egotistical but maybe that’s just a culture clash. Please tell me what you think, I find his ideas fascinating.


      • My pleasure Dave. He has written a book of the same title I think. being from a science background I find some aspects a little cursory but I can understand why, he needs to reach as broad an audience as possible.. I think from a spiritual perspective, it actually is very useful. For in his theory, there is no distinguishing the Inner and Outer Worlds. There is only one, Conciousness.

    • I’ve read a bit by Lanza and found him to be like a breath of fresh air….similar in some ways to Lovelock and his Gaia theory. Even if you don’t agree with Lovelock or Lanza it’s refreshing to hear men of science exploring new ideas.

  2. Please don’t despair Damh! Some Scientists like myself often rely on spirituality for inspiration, methodology and enlightenment. I agree, science should be an organic creature evolving, not stagnating. Isn’t evolution the basis of the largest scientific theory this side of the 1700s? Si yes! Exploration and open mindedness. This scientist must spend at least one weekend a year in Glastonbury to recharge, regroup and remember the mystery that got me searching to begin with. Might I also offer encouragement in the young students I see who are more and more against animal testing. Once the fuddy duddys retire a whole new generation of science will emerge, have faith!!! Blessed be!

    • That’s great to know! It’s often the way that the ‘old guard’ have to get out of the way before any progress is restored.

    • Thanks for that Kat, sometimes I think that I’m the only one! My own opinion is the main think that’s holding science back at the moment is Corporate funding. If there is no immediate commercial use or no prospect of a government junket for them – the Corporates – then it just does not get paid for so scientists have to conform or go begging.

  3. Really an inspiring blog. I have been struggling between the atheistic/naturalistic and the occult side of Witchcraft for some time now. As such, this is a good point think about.

    “Science is a process, not a position of belief.” I will most certainly keep that in mind, thanks Damh 🙂

  4. I don’t know why, but this reminds me of a talk Alan Wallace (a fantastic man who writes on Buddhism and has a Ph.D. in physics and philosophy in science) gave at my Buddhist Center yesterday. He said that the scientists who study meditation can’t really study it properly because they’re not actually meditating. They can hook up fancy machines to those who are meditating and *see* the person meditating, but other than the effects of meditation, they don’t know what it *is* without sitting down and actually meditating.

  5. Atheists have a right to their beliefs, as long they don’t become another form of fundamentalism. I have a couple of wonderful atheist friends, and we have great discussions because neither of us is trying to “convert” the other, simply sharing what has led us to our beliefs. Which is how I found out Don is regularly visited by the spirit of his deceased cat.
    I think that’s why I’m so attracted to Quantum Physics. These scientists (for the most part) have a sense of a consciousness interconnecting all things. They approach science with an attitude of “you ain’t seen nothing yet”.
    Have you read “The Field” by Lynn Taggart? Or seen any of the “What the Bleep” movies?
    Blessed Be!

  6. I come from a highly scientific background. It is a mindset that I exist within everyday and in many respects I struggle with when dealing with personal “spiritual” exploration. However, I would argue that Dawkins and his followers in the scientific community, are far more unusual than his insistence would suggest. While it is certain that there are many atheist scientists, there are just as many “religious” or spiritual ones. However, like many of us, we keep such thoughts to ourselves.

    Although, sadly, and here arises the problem, there are a surprising number who seem to be not able to keep their beliefs away from their scientific thought processes. A good example of this is monotheistic medical students who refuse to attend medical classes because the diseases in question – alcohol or STD – offend their religious beliefs. Not as wide an issue as the tabloids not suggest but one that can arise: http://bioethicsdiscussion.blogspot.co.uk/2008/09/muslim-culture-and-practice-of-medicine.html

    And least I seem to be selecting just one monotheistic religion, there are believers in others who are science teachers and due to their religion will not teach evolution: http://phys.org/news/2011-01-high-school-biology-teachers-reluctant.html. In my own experience, I once had a surgeon, who was also a Jehovah Witness, explain why he felt the “end times” were approaching, because of “moral, societal degeneration” within which he included the legalisation of same sex marriage!

    In some respects Dawkins has a point. His campaign, for that is indeed what it is, is a counter one to that of the three main monotheistic religions. You will notice he never mentions any other. Indeed, he is a good friend and supporter of Sam Harris who while categorized with Dawkins, takes a highly spiritual view of existence, as defined by certain forms of Buddhism: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/chapter-one

    He is certainly using a hammer to make his point, and sadly misusing scientific methodology on occasion to do so (Dawkins must surely know that using any sort of scientific thought process, the most he could ever be is an agnostic. Although sadly, in the sort of society we seem to have created for ourselves, an agnostic to one god only. As readers here should be well aware, even in the main religions, it is considered to be intellectually “immature” to believe in more than one god and so Dawkin needs to pay it/us any attention).

    And here I think is the problem, Dawkins is not really being critical of religion, but only of the main three. Re-read his books. His views on religion are entirely informed by the “big three”. Polytheists or “spiritualities” like Druidism, based around nature, are not even considered by him. Indeed, much of his atheist arguments are based around certain creation myths, religious laws or the possible existence of one god, Apart from some of the nonsense he on occasion argues, to me this is the saddest thing about the Dawkins “Atheist Movement”, for in truth he uses many arguments that certain “pagans” use as critique of monotheism.

    Its funny, but sometimes while reading Dawkins I swear I could be reading Crowley.

    The most worrying thing about the “Dawkins movement” is not Dawkins but so many of those that blindly follow him and accept his “message” without argument or more importantly, do not have the necessary skills to critique or even analyse his acquirements. Perhaps why they can seem so like certain religious fundamentalists?

    On a different matter, I really enjoyed your version of Anarchy In The UK on your “As Nature Intended cd” 🙂

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