If there is a religious dimension to biotechnology, it is one which should
be approached very carefully and thoughtfully, because religion is
dangerous stuff when made an element of controversy...any controversy
Religious and scientific faith are quite different things, so it may not
be fair to compare them. Religious faith is belief independent of proof.
As such, religious truths are not falsifiable in terms of facts.
Scientific faith is dependent on proof, so much so that the prime test of
any scientific statement is whether or not it is falsifiable. That being
the case, the best scientific faith can offer is a kind of agnosticism; it
is a belief that X is true and will remain so until evidence to the
contrary shows up.
Accordingly, de Lange's insinuation that science demands the same sort of
belief which people accord religions has no factual basis nor any
Belief in scientists, as opposed to belief in science, is another thing
entirely, and has nothing whatsoever to do with religious faith. It is a
common phenomenon, related to trust. For instance, when the photocopier
breaks down, we call on the photocopier technician to fix it, trusting
that he or she not only has expertise beyond our own, but also expertise
more relevant to the task, than, say, a poet or a plumber.
In the case of agricultural and food biotechnology, we have to trust
molecular biologists because they know more about molecular biology than
those who are not molecular biologists. There is, quite literally, no one
else who knows more about that topic than they do, and therefore, nobody
truly capable of ruling them unworthy of trust than other molecular
To suggest anything different is to suggest paranoia, or perhaps anarchy;
the former, because it is distrustful in spite of logic; the latter,
because it denies the authority which is inherent in expertise. Paranoia
and anarchy, I might point out, are prominent features of the modern
The notion of treating biotechnology as a branch of science which touches
"on the Divine and Sacred" also needs to be untangled. Since the time of
Aquinas, Western culture and tradition has to varying degrees treated the
scientific enterprise as one dedicated to uncovering the ingenuity of the
To equate this with "arrogance" is quite novel. It is not based on theory,
tradition, logic or experience.
What it does suggest, however, is something far worse, something deviously
dangerous. If we decide that a particular branch of science touches on
"the Divine and Sacred" in a special and unique way, that would mean that
priests and adherents of religion, who also claim a special handle on "the
Divine and Sacred," will be tempted to stand up and claim to be just as
credible as scientists on the topic.
This is the standpoint one must assume in order to call scientists
"arrogant," just as Charles of Wales felt justified in denouncing science
in the name of God. It is as though scientists are improperly trespassing
on the Church's real estate, perhaps even poaching (with patents).
This is a grave mistake, because as I pointed out above, scientific and
religious faith are quite different things. Furthermore, attacking a
discipline shackled with a dependence on facts and proof, using a
discipline which has little need for facts, is disingenuous. This is also
a dangerous mistake, because mixing religious fervor into a controversy
can lead to all manner of wretched excess.
For all of these reasons, de Lange's observations about faith, scientists
and the Divine are not only wrong, they are dangerously wrong.
Wytze de Lange (email@example.com) wrote:
Subject: Most Divine and Sacred
In the presentation of the Human Genome Mapping, US Pres. Clinton . . .
points out to and apparently acknowledges a much
ignored aspect of this matter: the religious dimension.
Date: Jul 02 2000 06:58:25 EDT
From: Rick Roush
Subject: Most Divine and Sacred, archive 3134
Most if biologists I know have a reverence for nature, enough so that they
are willing to consider all options to preserve biodoversity and what sites
remain of a natural world, including the use of genetic engineering.
Your message suggests a religious intolerance (eg., "At the same time many
of these new Priests deny the very existence of a Creator"). The Church of
England and the Vatican have both issued statements that there is nothing
inherently unacceptable about genetic engineering. We should your views be
seen as more right than those of others?
I doubt that you can change your views, but I still hope that you can one
day understand that many of us see the world differently than you, and are
not wrong or corrupt simply for doing so.
Date: Jul 03 2000 03:02:30 EDT
Subject: Re: Most Divine and Sacred, archive 3134
Exploring the religious dimension of a matter is not exactly the
same as intolerance. When I entered this debate some years ago
religious arguments were refused on the grounds that this debate
"was strictly scientific" so who is intolerant here?
I have no problem that people have a different worldview but to try to
impose it on others without giving proof of its validity and without
giving the freedom to make another choice IS corrupt and wrong.
Date: Jul 02 2000 13:53:08 EDT
From: "Antonio Cordeiro"
Subject: Would you ask your God to help ?
Mr.Wytze de Lange
Do you believe your God needs that you be His vociferous defender? If,
there is a supreme Creator you do not need to worry. He obviously created
the Scientists as well as all others that are incapable of learning about
the purpose of His works. In my opinion there are unfortunately no one
proof of God existence. The killing fights between Jews and Palestinians,
Islamics and Christians, and Christians x Christians in North Ireland,
the genocide of Jews by Hitler, the two atomic bombs over Japan, and now
the people starving to dead in Africa, are all good opportunities for God
to show himself or send another Messias.
You have to think more before showing of your believes as if they are the
only good interpretation of the world we live in.
Prof. Dr. Antonio R. Cordeiro
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
R.J., R.J. Brazil
Date: Jul 03 2000 09:00:07 EDT
Subject: Re: Would you ask your God to help ?
Are you saying that every scientist is in line with the purpose of
God's works because He created him? I nowhere said that I have
the only good interpretation of the world we live in. I do not see how
you got that impression. I was referring to pres. Clinton's remark on
the genome mapping, invoking the religious dimension. What if we
are indeed dealing with the Most Divine and Sacred here? What
would the right attitude and behaviour be and do you see it in your
fellow-scientists? Would it be right to call 95% of the Most Divine
and Sacred "Junk"?
Wytze de Lange