I’ve just met a straw-man called “Spocking”; it’s shocking,
But some might believe it’s how atheists act!
Where logic is king, not emotion—the notion
That every decision is based upon fact
These atheists put their reliance in science
Forgetting illusory “feelings” or “dreams”
Eschewing all base superstition; their mission
Is reason, perfected… or that’s how it seems.
What all people need, to be working, is “Kirking”,
Humanity’s hero—with all of his flaws
Kirk’s quirks are not bugs with space creatures—they’re features!
And Spock’s an affront to humanity’s cause!
It’s Kirkish to strive, boldly going—no knowing
The odds, cos what counts is emotion, not thought
The godless feel nothing, quite clearly (or nearly)
They’re cold, heartless bastards… except that they’re not.
Ok, really, this is irksome. I really try to like Alva Noë–he has a lot of really great ideas, but then he writes something like this.
Scientists, and cultural defenders of science, like to think of themselves as free of prejudice and superstition, as moved by reason alone and a clear-eyed commitment to fact and the scientific method. They reject religion as an irrational and ungrounded burden of tradition. They see religion the way Europeans (and some Americans) see Americans. As somehow backward.
Some do, probably. Others don’t.
I’m pro-science, but I’m against what I’ll call “Spock-ism,” after the character from the TV show Star Trek. I reject the idea that science is logical, purely rational, that it is detached and value-free, and that it is, for all these reasons, morally superior.
Yes. Yes, I am against straw-man versions of science too.
Wait, that wasn’t your point?
Spockians like to pretend that science has proved that there is no God, or that fundamental reality consists only of matter. But both of these claims are untrue. The first is untrue because science doesn’t concern itself with God one way or they other. As for the second: Science has no more proved that only matter is real than it has proved that there is no such thing as love, humor, sunsets or knuckleballs.
I’ve actually read scientific papers on love, humor, sunsets, and knuckleballs. I’m weird like that. So, yeah, it’s strange that Noë would say science proves they don’t exist. Noë is a bit of an odd bird.
Spockians give science a bad name. If you think of science as being in the business of figuring out how atoms spinning noiselessly in the void give rise to the illusion that there are such things as love, humor, sunsets and knuckleballs, then it isn’t surprising that people might come to think that the inner life of a scientist would be barren.
Wait… aren’t “Spockians” Noë’s rhetorical device? Now they give science a bad name?
For in a Spockian universe there is no such thing as nature, there is just material process, particles and fields, in the void. Nor, for the Spockian, is there any such thing as wonder, not really; for what is an emotion, but a conjury of particles in the nervous system?
So… Spockians are clearly reductionists, and clearly reject, say, the entire science of psychology (cos, you see, emotion has been a scientific subject of psychology for roughly a century).
Wait. Sorry. I have been responding to “Spockians” as if they were a thing. They are a rhetorical device, and not a good one. There may well be atheists who fit Noë’s description of a Spockian… but who actually cares? You are reading an atheist blog that is written in verse. Clearly, any long-time reader of The Digital Cuttlefish knows that Noë’s Spockians are a convenient fiction. It may well be that there are Spockians. I don’t know. I do know that there is at least one Digital Cuttlefish. Dr. Noë, take a look through my archives–am I a Spockian? Hell, take a look through all of Freethought Blogs! Not a single post from anyone–small samples are subject to bias–take a look at the last 50 posts from *anyone* at FtB. Anyone. Everyone. Go ahead.
Freethought Blogs are a real thing. We are real atheists, not hypothetical constructs. You want to see if atheists are Spockians? Look around! There’s a lot of us here, and we are growing. I, myself, don’t see a Spock among us.
Where do they think Kirk and MCoy and the others came from?
The Creator of this particular universe was Gene Roddenberry, a devout Humanist.
In practice, that means atheist.
Dana Hunter says
*inspects ears* Nope. No Spock here. *inspects Cuttlefish’s – well, there aren’t any ears on a cuttlefish, so nevermind* No Spock there, either. That being said… I have a sneaking suspicion Spock would find that article highly illogical.
If only I could raise a single eyebrow at it!
I’d hope not. Scientists, the good ones anyway, know they are not “free of prejudice and superstition” so they adhere to the scientific method to get reliable results despite that. That’s kind of the whole point of the scientific method.
John Morales says
Spock: “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
Comradde PhysioProffe says
What the everloving what?? “Spockian” scientists claim there is no such thing as knuckleballs?? This is about as goddamn motherfucken pigge ignorant as fuckebagge piece of garbage O’Reilly and the fucken tides. Jeezus motherfucke, we know exactly why knuckleballs move unpredictably on the basis of scientific understanding of fluid dynamics: cause there’s no goddamn spin on the motherfucker. Jeezus motherfucke, you can read all about it on the goddamn “knuckleball” Wikipedia page. I don’t even.
Rainbows are wonderful, beautiful things, but if you unweave them, you spoil th… Er no, that’s even more awesome, right?
I mean, does any one know of a scientist without a considerable sense of awe of her subject of study?
David Chapman says
Umm…..he didn’t. It’s strange that you would say that he did when he said the opposite:
Right–that was his knocking down of a strawman of science. Why would you say it has not done X, if not for the implication that people believe it has done X?
I never understood the idea that knowing about a complex entity`s parts and how they are structured make it less “real.” Same for its history. Blah blah blah..If we used to be apes it means we aren’t quite human now….If everything is made of atoms, there is no difference between life or death, love or hate….
This is obviously some kind of category error, though I can’t think of its proper name (though “utter idiocy” will do) . It’s would be like saying you just found out you don’t have a house because you saw a show on how houses are made and now realize that it’s just a bunch of meaningless parts. A person couldn’t live in a brick so how could they live in a house made of bricks?
This type of “reasoning” is so stunningly stupid that NO ONE EVER engages in it regarding practical matters that are easy to test. But when applied to commenting on the ultimate nature of the universe or the human experience some consider it profound for some reason.
Disclaimer: The above statement does not exist. It is merely a bunch of letters, punctuation and spaces.
John Horstman says
Seconding CatMat @3. Alva Noë apparantly understands neither atheists nor science.
A few years ago, there was a talk arguing that Spock was actually not particularlu logical or rational, but was a strawman version of such
Even Spock wasn’t a Spock.
Who Cares says
You do know the reply you get if you explain that to him, right?
if not here is a reminder: sneaky link
John Horstman@3, thanks!
The things which I know not
I try not to claim
It’s mostly in vain anyway
The ways that I use got
A much sharper aim
There’s more than just my name in play
With science, I might plot
My pathway to fame
I’m out, but the results will stay!
Jerry E. Beuterbaugh says
“The Digital Cuttlefish” has been included in our A Sunday Drive for this week. Be assured that we hope this helps to point even more new visitors in your direction.
That XKCD inspired this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2011/03/26/w-s-gilbert-meets-randall-monroe/
Well, Spock was on all counts half human,
His logic a Vulcanized trait
His brain had to integrate two men,
And sometimes they opened the gate.
He loved Kirk, and all the fans knew it,
His honor an absolute fact.
He died for the crew, had to do it;
It was the most logical act.
Now Data’s another whole story.
He wanted to learn how to feel.
His robot brain did even more: he
Was the sexiest android for real.
Thirding CatMat @3. The whole basis of the scientific method is that it is so very easy to fool ourselves.
I was going through my old online records and came across this half-verse I had spuriously added two years ago to this Cuttlefish poem. I had posted my little addition over at the NPR 13.7 blog site linked above, but now that NPR has deleted all their comment history, I’m posting it here for the record:
Let’s make this straw group more annoying with “McCoying”,
Unfettered emotions worn out on one’s sleeve.
Or worse use Uhura, or Takei, or that guy
In red who dies first with no story to leave.