Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Distinction

"Accusing a scientist of playing God is obviously stupid," (biologist Richard) Dawkins said, "but what is not obviously stupid is accusing a scientist of endangering the future of the planet by doing something that could be irreversible."


Other than illustrating Dawkins' well-known dislike of the word "God," what would be the difference between the two?

5 comments:

TomG said...

Night and day, really. There is a bumper sticker that reads: "Don't believe all that you think" ... which aptly applies to warning anyone that his/her set of assumptions and likely actions may end up down the wrong path, or cause some dire side effect - even to irreversibility. To the contrary, being like God connotes having His usual attributes of omniscience and omnipotence - which wouldn't put one in dire straits to begin with (never mind that God could reverse any adverse impact at will too). Their therefore night and day, really. One is an admonishment of what a scientist isn't realizing to be a potential threat of unforseen, negative outcomes (ie. "working in the dark"); the other is a judgement that the person is delving into areas he/she hasn't a right to go - regardless of the good-vs.-bad consequence of any actions taken (ie. being a torch-bearer" who's "shedding light on the subject").

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Point taken, but carry it a bit further and you will see my point. Humans are warned not to play God precisely because they cannot see all ends and will inadvertently screw up. Humans who were actually good at "playing God" would presumably suffer less objection from their peers. All the complaints over the generations about scientists, or anyone, actually, playing God are actually only Dawkins' second statement put in religious form.

TomG said...

You're totally right - given an existence of imperfect information and, therefore at best, rational ignorance - the manifestations of both become, de facto, one and the same criticism. My only point was, going back to their respective impulses, the first is a utilitarian-based warning (ie. negative potentialities outweighing any rendered good) while the other is Deontological (ie. belonging only to the theistic realm). But I now understand your point, thank you.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Whoa, even I'm seldom totally right.

TomG said...

Relax - only meant within the very thin parameters of your defined argument (any extrapolation of that micro-correctness may be found unwarranted ;) Cheers!