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View Diary: So this Stewart-Dawkins debate (40 comments)

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  •  Well, no. (8+ / 0-)
    The best critiques of hard science often come from non-scientists who don't understand the material--but who are often freer to think about such things in more nebulous ways that can drive discourse forward.
    It has never happened in my field (Biology) and I do not know of any example in other fields. To drive the discourse forward usually requires understanding it.

    But maybe I misunderstand what you wanted to say. Care to give an example?

    He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

    by Sophie Amrain on Wed Sep 25, 2013 at 03:11:33 PM PDT

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    •  sure. And I think you're probably too quick to (0+ / 0-)

      guess that it's never happened anywhere in biology--but my point is that some of the best shifts in thinking can come from people outside the field.  I'm an archaeologist--involved in the hard-science part as much as the social science part (hydrology, geomorphology, etc.)  I will very often run my papers by people who aren't in the field (but who are intelligent and can understand what I'm writing) to help me see things in ways I might not have otherwise.

      Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist--he's not a theologian.  I don't think there is any reason why somebody who also thinks about such things, like Stewart or  you or me or anyone else, would be unqualified to question and challenge certain assumptions.

      But even in the hard sciences themselves--there are sometimes things that get taken for granted, and it sometimes takes someone outside of the field to say 'why'??  to spur new directions of thinking.

      •  I agree with most of that. (0+ / 0-)

        But the effects of the laymen you are mentioning here are indirect: they do not develop new theories etc, but they do make you, the scientist, stop and rethink.

        Theology, of course, is not a science. There is a term for the science of religion in my language, but I do not know the corresponding English term.

        And Stewart was not out of his depth because he does not have a degree, but because his questions did not belie much understanding of either biology or religion. I say that as a Jon Stewart fan, btw.

        He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

        by Sophie Amrain on Thu Sep 26, 2013 at 02:53:33 PM PDT

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