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"Junk DNA"

Athena Andreadis aka helivoy has a useful blog entry over at the Scientific American Blog Site on separating the wheat from the chaff on the recent media attention on Junk DNA.

I find it curious how, as was often commented upon when I was a child, the tendency towards specialization in all aspects of society has led to these artificial communication campaigns to put forward, in this case, what seems to me to be a correction of an earlier artificial communication campaign. "'Splainin' to venture capitalists" I suspect is at the heart of it, but also there is this narrative about "Big Science" which we accept as fact for the lack of actual knowledge about the basis of deduction.

But outside of that, I feel the need to comment, since I'm seeing this everywhere, and it's one of the forces such PR campaigns must take on. Somewhere, in the heart of things political in N. America, there has been this displacement of understanding of the difference between revealed and evident truth. There has arisen a religious belief in science and a scientific analysis of religion, both of which are fundamentally flawed. The two somehow seemed to exist in relatively peaceful union from, say, St. Aquinas onwards, in most intellectual heads. Why is it that we've lost touch with that not very subtle difference? I don't know. My parents would have blamed the revivalist culture in America, that sort of fundamentalist protestantism that thinks that literality is required of one (if one is not to go to hell). But I find that (very offensive) form of faith nearly as offensive as people declaring (and castigating others as fools for not agreeing) refined scientific explanations with "fact".

Granted, you can build a house on scientific fact much better than faith, but blind trust in the scientist as priest is no better than creationism.

And it occurs to me that I'm wasting my time and yours with this claptrap. See you all later.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 18th, 2012 07:41 am (UTC)
I'm not sure if this comment addresses your concern/observation, but:

I get the sense that when people decide there are two camps, two sides, to something--or rather, when they adopt the mind-set that a given topic can be looked at from a two-sides perspective--they expend a lot of energy trying to figure out the this-side and that-side approach to the topic instead of just looking at the topic for what it is. And that always, always reduces the exploration of the topic.

It's so relaxing to read about things that don't have to be looked at through a bipolar lens. Like the story I linked to on FB about the shrimp with the super-tough shell, which is being studied for applications like body armor and aircraft fuselage. What a relief not to have to think about that from a progressive-conservative or a science-religion or pro-life-pro-choice perspective, you know?

And the problem with those bipolar ways of looking at things is that they reduce even the topic they're relevant to (e.g., politics, philosophy), let alone the topics they worm their way into.
Sep. 18th, 2012 09:14 am (UTC)
Yes, that's precisely what I'm getting at. There really is no logical reason to taint your science with religion, or (if you're so inclined to meditate on the religious implications of shrimp shells), taint your religious outlook with a scientific explanation.
Sep. 18th, 2012 08:34 am (UTC)
Science and religion have never existed in peaceful union. They are just occasionally a tad more civil to each other. Religion has always tried to claim reality and cedes that ground very reluctantly, because real power is involved.

"Blind trust in the scientist as priest" is not only not required but actually actively discouraged (in stark contrast to religion). Science as a non-stop self-correcting process is the key, not the people who practice it. Conflating the two is a mistake at best.

Edited at 2012-09-18 12:48 pm (UTC)
Sep. 18th, 2012 09:35 am (UTC)
Yes, precisely. Although I assume you're talking about scientific versus religious demagogues in the historical context.

The way I see it, science is by necessity an incomplete explanation derived from verifiable facts. To treat it as a universal explanation is an abuse (although where the explanation trails off, generally beyond the points of perception does show it to be a far more practical basis for reality).

As is religion as a traditional explanation for facts, but one that you engage with by the adoption of its axia. Theology, as I understand it, is the development of those axia into a sufficiently complex framework as to have practical answers to most real-life situations (which also trail off at the point of perception, but not because of technical limitations).

The two outlooks can live in the same head with relative ease. Moreso, I think we should expect it of people, and we should expect our media and politics to reflect the context being reported and debated. Otherwise, it's just a clash of sound-bites.

But some of it is a failure in education. It would greatly cut down on the political claptrap if the distinction were elucidated at an earlier point in people's lives. There will always be demagogues, but I think older generations owe younger generations the tools needed to escape the political influence of such demagogues.
Sep. 18th, 2012 11:01 am (UTC)
Um... no.
Sep. 18th, 2012 11:25 am (UTC)
Succinct & engaging, as always. ;)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )