By Maggie Koerth-Baker at 8:27 am Tue, Jul 31, 2012
Have I mentioned how much I absolutely love geneticist (and occasional BoingBoing contributor) David Ng? The fact that he designs awesome T-shirts while procrastinating just seals the deal.
You can buy this T-shirt
That’s all? Just a hypothesis? How about testing methodology, repeated result?
Not a very scientific shirt.
Good t-shirt for kids. Math, too. And Spelling, Geography, First-Aid and Woodshop.
Science: After repeated tests against a large sample of questions and problems by a varied group of people it still appears to be the best investigative methodology developed so far.
That is all.
I am immediately reminded of a particularly unsettling bumper sticker.
Because they’re both ideologies and, like all ideologies, are engaged in the project of papering over nuances that are inconvenient for the ideologue.
Science is actually, with rare exception, quite boring. (Ask any postdoc, I would imagine.) Certainly some of the results are interesting and even fun. For the most part, science is really useful. And, by “useful,” I of course mean “useful for things like eradicating polio and, though it’s not ‘science’ per se that does the following but ‘technology’, also useful for the benefits of mass production in the context of a capitalist society.” That is, this shirt deliberately obscures is the boringness of science, it’s difficulty, and our fear that our technical society will collapse because of those things. It’s an ideological cudgel aimed at ‘believer’ and ‘disbeliever’ alike.
Religion is actually, with rare exception, fraught with doubt. Adherents protest otherwise, as your bumper sticker indicates, but the foundational existential fact of religions is that the world proceeds in an ordinary manner, in a manner unlike described in the texts. (We’re here addressing fundamentalism, and not those religions that have some sense of technique and nuance in interpretation.) What’s valuable to the fundamentalist is certainty, and the ability to say that you believe that the world can be reduced to a few “fundamentals” that describe the whole world. That is, the crisis of fundamentalism is the ordinariness of doubt and nuance in the face of the requirement of simple belief–necessary for eternal salvation!–and this bumper sticker tries to paper over with a ‘confession’ of simple belief, in order to salve the fear that the believer’s faith will fall apart and she or he be damned to hell for eternity. It’s an ideological cudgel aimed at ‘believer’ and ‘disbeliever’ alike.
The fun thing is that, in both cases, the violence of the message is the same for both in-group and out-group. That is, sciencey types are just as browbeaten by the tee-shirt as are religious or indifferent types, but the sciencey types actually ask to be beaten into line. There is a similar arrangement for the bumper sticker.
But, clearly, only the bumper sticker is wrong.
Wow, I never knew just saying something was cool was so violent. I’d better get rid of my “D&D is awesome” shirt, because I certainly don’t want to get beaten into line by anything mastercraft.
I’m not sure there is a culturally significant ideological battle surrounding D&D. Right? I mean, you’re not using D&D as a means to paper over existential terror, are you? Is anyone?
It’s part of the pose to pretend that a comment like “Science Is Awesome! That is All” takes place without a context, too. David Ng wasn’t browbeating; He was just saying. Right? Is that actually believable? If so, is it believable that the article on BoingBoing didn’t appropriate it for science-good-religion-bad purposes, given the editorial stance and readership? Is it also actually believable that the fundamentalist literally believes everything “God says”? Or can even plainly identify what God says? Or that the matter is actually settled? (If it were settled, would you even need a bumper sticker to proclaim it settled?)
In short, “just saying something [is] cool” does not “impl[y]” anything at all. My remarks, for example, were about how the remarks operated within an obvious ideological context, not how those remarks operated in some context-free way. Regarding D&D, for example, your hypothetical shirt could function in the way that the other examples do, if you wore it as part of a geek/science-fan pose among an ideologically-minded group of fervent anti-religious pro-science types. You might also just have an intrinsic love for D&D.
I’m sure *that’s* not the case.
If so, is it believable that the article on BoingBoing didn’t appropriate it for science-good-religion-bad purposes, given the editorial stance and readership?
Well, it never would have occurred to me. I don’t assume promoting science necessarily has anything to do with religion at all.
You see, the main alternative to thinking science is awesome is thinking it is uninteresting, boring, or otherwise something best left to the nerds. I run into a lot more people who blindly assume that, apparently including you, than I do fundamentalists.
But what do I know? I pretend to have an intrinsic interest in science, so obviously I’m one of them. Plus I enjoy D&D, which clearly just a statement against Jack Chick.
Cogent and perceptive note.
(Please don’t say ‘existential terror’ anymore. Makes me jumpy.)
Um, hi. I’m the author of this post and I can pretty definitively say that I didn’t mean to imply anything of the sort.
In fact, although I am an atheist, I think that anybody who reads my posts even somewhat frequently would be pretty well aware that I don’t have a problem with religion, think it can do good in the world, and have called out other atheists for ridiculously strident anti-religion positions.
Also: I have also worked to do my best here to help people understand that science is a tool, and an imperfect one. It’s the best system we currently have for answering questions about our world and how reality works–but it has flaws. And the body of knowledge it produces constantly changes (in fact, that’s a good thing).
I’d hoped I’d never given anybody the impression that they should treat science as some sort of religion. Apparently, that point will have to be reiterated a little harder.
…and for people who think otherwise, there is always this: http://www.topatoco.com/graphics/00000001/goat-sciencesatan.png
The fact that folks are picking apart the validity of the statement on the tshirt is totally warming my heart! Going to definitely have to wear this shirt when I lecture to university students on the scientific method, and then bring up the nuances and flaws in its wording as a claim.
One of my greatest regrets about my time as a TA is that I didn’t wear silly t-shirts all the time to try to provoke reactions from the students.
that smile in the photos made me smile! :D
Canadians might prefer this t-shirt:
I rather like the one Dawkins attributed to the editor of New Scientist: ‘Science is interesting, and if you don’t agree, you can fuck off.’
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