Science is Weird

John Derbyshire’s cuts to the chase in his commentary on D’Souza’s new book.

To judge from the extracts — and of course, if this is the kind of thing that interests you, you should read the whole book — D’Souza seems to lean heavily on arguments of the type:

  • Science currently has no explanation for X. (In the extracts, X = moral behavior).
  • Therefore we must go to religion for explanations.

The overall schema there is contrary to an empirical style of thinking, which would prefer:

  • Science currently has no explanation for X.
  • Therefore we must press on with our investigations in hope of finding an explanation.

The empirical style is, though, a minority taste.

Quoting from his own book

The ordinary modes of human thinking are magical, religious, social, and personal. We want our wishes to come true; we want the universe to care about us; we want the approval of those around us; we want to get even with that s.o.b who insulted us at the last tribal council. For most people, wanting to know the cold truth about the world is way, way down the list.

Scientific objectivity is a freakish, unnatural, and unpopular mode of thought, restricted to small cliques whom the generality of citizens regard with dislike and mistrust. Just as religious thinking emerges naturally and effortlessly from the everyday workings of the human brain, so scientific thinking has to struggle against the grain of our mental natures.

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Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

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