Thursday, March 14, 2002

DREAD PRIEST OF THE HARD LEFT: Here's Charlie Murtaugh on the latent religiosity of Noam Chomsky. In the absence of any overt religious beliefs, Charlie thinks the Noamster has created private and unstated religious beliefs for himself that in essence justify terrorist attacks as punishment for sin:

Why not commit evil acts, when it's so obvious that so much evil goes unpunished? If we accept the existence of God, and of an afterlife, we can at least fall back on the threat of Hell, but if like much of the Left we take for granted that God is dead, we are faced with limited options: we can revel in absolute amoralism, a stance too rigorous for most human beings; or we can look for a morality that arises as an "emergent property" of society itself, in which impersonal forces take the part of God in punishing evildoers. What else but religious fervor can explain the dream of a self-organized proletarian revolution, slowly building force to sweep away the wickedness of capitalism?

Charlie goes on to speculate that Chomsky in an unconscious way sees the 9/11 terrorists as the Furies of Greek myth. Not that there's anything wrong with Chomsky having a bit of a vision of the cosmos for himself, but if you broke bread with him and told him you were interested in joining his church and asked if he had any pamphlets or anything --and you put it to him in those terms-- he'd probably look at you like you were crazy, unless he's got a sense of humor about it. Which I haven't really detected from the minimal writings of his I've read. I must admit I find the unstated religiousity of political or scientific movements (as in the Darwin Wars) pretty fascinating, since atheism seems to be the most logical choice as far as religion goes for modern intellectual people but most people don't pull a Dawkins and out-and-out say "I am an atheist" and brag about their atheism. So in Chomsky's case we can probably speculate that he as a scientist is trying to rationalize his unmentionable and embarassing religious beliefs that evil is always punished by always finding just one more "fact" to prove his case. Whereas if he just started calling himself Highfather Noam of the Neo Manicheans or something we'd all be better off.

Not that you have to start your own church to have religious beliefs. But I think Charlie's point means that there still isn't a lot of room for religious impulses in science today, which is a pity considering how hardwired for religion we are. Science still has to come to terms with religion, even though religion hasn't done so hot a job coming to terms with science either. But that doesn't mean science can wish religion away.

Hey, in Peircian terms the neurobiology of religion proves the existence of God. If I remember his speculations on why people discover the right answers to questions more often than they should if they were just randomly guessing at things. Don't ask me to explain any more than that.

No comments: