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Friday, February 13, 2009

Science: Somewhere between Spock and a soul.

I opened the Scientific American website today and saw this article title:
Would Your Clone Have Its Own Soul, or Be a Soulless Version of You?
I gave it a quick scan and the author basically explores the idea of what makes us 'us'and how what we believe the essence of being human to be informs our ideas on the ethics of cloning, stem cell research and the like.
What I found interesting were some of the reactions to the article:
Sigh. Why do philosophy questions keep being brought into science? This is more appropriately a discussion of dualism, which makes me wonder what its doing in Scientific American. However, in the last decade they do seem to have dumb downed the magazine so I guess this should be no surprise.


Are you editors finished asking asinine questions that have nothing to do with science? ...You guys run a SCIENCE magazine. Or at least you used to. What a waste of electrons.

not to be outdone by...

Why would Scientific American have "Would Your Clone Have Its Own Soul, or Be a Soulless Version of You?" for the title of an article?...I know this magazine dumbed down to appeal to the non-scientist, but this is conscionable.

So, science is science and philosophy is philosophy and soul is soul and never the three shall meet.
The end.

Um, not so fast.

Yes, the article is what I would consider 'light' on actual science however it is an important article because it poses the very questions that need to be asked as science- particularly medical science- progresses. You can't divorce the unknown human element from scientific research involving humans simply because it can't be defined. It defeats the purpose. I mean, if we don't really acknowledge or even care about the 'essence', why bother?
It cannot be denied that science got its street cred during the Renaissance. How we understood the universe was changed forever by the scientific exploration of the Renaissance. One of the driving ideas of the Renaissance was that if we could understand the world around us as completely as possible- we would be closer to god. In effect,science- as well as art- was a means to a spiritual end.
In that regard, modern science owes a lot to questions of the soul.

On the flip side of this is this story I heard on NPR this week. It is about religious leaders embracing Darwin- to the dismay of the church. A sample:
Henry Green is a rarity among Southern Baptists. The pastor of Heritage Baptist church in Annapolis, Md., is openly skeptical that the Bible is the literal word of God, that the Earth was created in a few thousand years, and that Adam and Eve were created from dirt.

He says that for too long, conservatives have tried to reconcile faith and science by throwing out science.

This weekend, nearly 1,000 clerics worldwide will proclaim their belief that science and religion can coexist as they celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin during events on what has become known as Evolution Weekend.
"Fundamentalists want to take people away from real science and put on some sort of bogus discussion about intelligent design or creationism," Green says. "Well, guess what? I believe God created. But I just happen to believe that the scientists have it right in understanding that creation."
Tim Bagwell, pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in Macon, Ga., says that even in the Bible Belt there's a quiet shift away from literalism. When he preaches about the compatibility of science and faith, he says, members of his congregation often come to him with this question: "Why didn't you tell me about this before? I've had all of these questions for all of these years and no one's ever talked with me, no one's ever given me permission to ask the questions that have been deep down inside of my soul."

So, science-philes eschewing talk of 'souls' while religious leaders are embracing Darwin.
I know, responses to one article on a web site does not a trend make. But I do find it an interesting comparison.

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