Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Dear Religion... Yours, Science: Gervais Tweet

@rickygervais "Dear Religion, This week I safely dropped a human being from space while you shot a child in the head for wanting to go to school. Yours, Science."
For those who have missed the news, this tweet related to Felix Baumgautner jumping from a helium balloon in the stratosphere and falling approximately 128,176 feet to earth, landing safely in New Mexico and  a young woman named Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for campaigning for female education rights. Thankfully she survived and is recovering in a British hospital.
Essentially the joke itself is at a level of ignorance "as damaging as that which so many religious people are accused of. It's a sweeping, fundamentalist statement equal to 'money is the root of all evil' or 'religion caused every major war.'" suggests Phillip Ellis of the Huffington Post.
He goes on to claim that to make "Felix Baumgautner and science the "winners" of the joke, Gervais (or whoever actually wrote it) only succeeded in trivializing the acts of the Taliban and the fact that a young woman very nearly died."
It is fair to claim that some very bad thing have been done in the name of religion. However is it right to include every single religious person in such a sweeping statement? Is it not fundamentalist in its own right, albeit athesit fundamentalism?
How would scientists react if religious people started to claim that they were  all responsible for the atom bomb and gas chamber? People would be ridiculed and discredited.
Ellis says that it is madness to even be choosing these two events to align, "One is a tragedy perpetrated by a totalitarian regime which uses religion to justify its own agenda. The other was a Red Bull publicity stunt."
In strong concluesion he finishes: "Shouldn't our super-modern society be a little bit too evolved and open-minded for the either/or religion vs. science argument? Why must one be superior to the other? Science is essential to the development of technology and medicine and the advancement of our society -- and religion has been a cornerstone of civilisation for millennia. It is incredibly unimaginative to believe that we can only reap the benefits of one at the expense of the other."
Do you agree with Ellis? Does Gervais have a point, but just made it badly? Is the crusade of the new athesits, who border on the fundamentalism they despise, helpful in modern society? Is it dangerously divisive?

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