Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Another reluctant guardian of the enlightenment -- and of a reality-based community

The New York Times > Science > Commentary: When Sentiment and Fear Trump Reason and Reality

Dr. Lawrence M. Krauss is chairman of the physics department at Case Western Reserve University. He writes in the NYT Science edition:
I have recently begun to wonder whether I am completely out of touch with the mainstream, and if so, what that implies.

When I was a young student it became clear to me that the remarkable success of the scientific method, which changed the world beyond belief in the four centuries since Galileo, made the power and efficacy of that method evident. Moreover, scientific ideas are not only powerful but so beautiful that they are on par with the most spectacular legacies of civilization in art, architecture, literature, music and philosophy.

This is what makes the current times so disconcerting...

... Those images came to mind again as I followed recent news of incidents in the United States in which fundamentalist dogma and its fear of the intellectual progress that comes from understanding nature has trumped the scientific method....

The "reality-based community," as one White House insider so poetically referred to it recently, is losing the fight for hearts and minds throughout the country to a well-orchestrated marketing program that plays on sentiment and fear...

...The pillar of our humanity that is most under attack is our remarkable ability to understand nature. We claim that in places like Afghanistan the enemies of truth are the enemies of freedom and democracy. If the scientific method is out of the mainstream in our country it is time to take a stronger stand against the effort to undermine empirical reality in favor of dogma.
The trouble with having sober rationalists as Guardians of the Enlightenment is that what they consider a passionate calls to arms is, in reality, snooze inducing. "Time to take a stronger stand"?. One imagines a sober council of elders about the round table even as the barbarian hordes gallop down from the mountains ...

Still, it's great to have such a noble recruit, even if he has been "out of touch with the mainstream". I do like the use of the phrase "reality-based community"; I'll adopt it too.

PS. Odd experience. I googled on "Guardians of the Enlightenment" and my blog post came up first. I doubt that will last.

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