Reflecting on the context raised several unanswered questions. Are the organisers
trying to promote serious discussion? If so why use an approach that smacks more of
a TV debate for entertainment ("who are more intelligent - Californians or New
Yorkers?") than serious discussion? The organisers would appear to happy with
either outcome "region has done more harm than science" or "science has done more
harm than religion". This suggests either the the organisers don't care, or they
are equally hostile to both science and faith and therefore see them as suitable
objects for entertaining derision.
I find it truly tragic that "America's greatest thinker" will be either be someone
who is anti-science or anti faith and, will be celebrated as such This sort of
"thinking" trivialises the issues. Either people who care should leave this well
alone or write essays that step right outside the box and address the real issues.
Issues like how science and faith (specifically Christianity) are complementary, not
contradictory world views. Indeed, that they can be integrated at a metaphysical
level. That the worst abuses of science occur when application science occurs in a
moral vacuum caused by the exclusion of religion. That although many evils have
been done in the name of religion, these fade into insignificance compared to those
inflicted on humanity by ideology (communism, nazism, nationalism, imperialism,
Keith B Miller wrote:
> To all:
> I thought that some ASA members might want to jump in on this.
> >Below is a press release from the "Great American Think-Off" with an essay
> >contest on the subject of "Which is More Dangerous: Science or Religion?" The
> >question is so terribly flawed that I was tempted to ignore this press
> >release. Both science and religion are ambivalent enterprises with good and
> >bad manifestations. What is troubling, of course, is that the call assumes
> >some fundamental conflict between science and religion and promotes a plague on
> >both our houses. So rather than curse the darkness, let's light a candle.
> >Meta is offering a $500 award to any winning essays that undermine the premise
> >of the question. The essays will have to conform with the guidelines below,
> >and of course, I'll also want to post winning essays on Meta.
> >-- Billy Grassie
> >Dangers of Science and Religion debated in Great American Think-Off
> >New York Mills, MN - "Which Is More Dangerous: Science or Religion?"
> >That's the question of the seventh Great American Think-Off, the annual
> >philosophy contest held in New York Mills, Minnesota (population 972). This
> >year's question probes the dark-side of two of mankind's great intellectual
> >institutions: Science (which has given civilization medical and technological
> >advancements, but has also yielded nuclear weapons) and Religion (which has
> >provided civilization with it's moral and ethnical foundation, but has also
> >invoked genocide and ethnic cleansing). Armchair philosophers from across the
> >nation will use their pens and wits to battle-it-out, ultimately deciding which
> >is more harmful to humankind. The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center,
> >host of the Great American Think-Off, is sending over 2000 flyers to schools,
> >factories, past participants, and politicians throughout the nation. Past
> >contestants have ranged from age 7 to 89 covering a broad spectrum of
> >backgrounds, occupations, and geographic locations--last year's contest drew
> >over 825 entries from 45 states and also featured a live national broadcast on
> >C-SPAN, with additional coverage by the New York Times, Today Show, and
> >National Public Radio.
> >The Great American Think-Off is based on the premise that philosophical
> >thinking is not exclusively for the ivory towers of academia, and that there
> >are current social concerns which require an honest dialogue between thinking
> >citizens. The Think-Off, which has covered topics ranging from the nature of
> >humankind, the meaning of life, and the death penalty, gives nonprofessional
> >philosophers an opportunity to wrestle with meaningful questions in a
> >straightforward, accessible format.
> >The Great American Think-Off is open to everyone. To enter, simply write a 750
> >word essay addressing the question "Which Is More Dangerous: Science or
> >Religion?" Essays should be based on personal experience and observations,
> >rather than on philosophical technicalities. Contestants should include their
> >name, address, occupation, and age on the front page of the essay. Entries will
> >be judged more on the strength of the argument than on spelling or grammar.
> >Mail essays to: Think-Off '99, Box 246, New York Mills, Minnesota , 56567.
> >Entries must be postmarked by April 5, 1999.
> >Essays can also be electronically mailed to the Regional Cultural Center at:
> >firstname.lastname@example.org. By entering, contestants agree that their essays may be
> >reprinted for promotional purposes by the Great American Think-Off. Finalists
> >must be able to attend the final debate on June 12. Travel and lodging stipends
> >will be provided by the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center.
> >A panel of professional and armchair philosophers will judge the entries and
> >announce the four finalists on May 17, 1999. These contestants will meet at the
> >New York Mills Sports Center on June 12 at 7 PM to battle for the Gold, Silver,
> >and Bronze medals. The winner will be designated "American's Greatest Thinker"
> >and will be offered a book publishing and promotion contract with Book
> >Tech--sponsor of the Great American Think-Off. The four finalists will share
> >$2,000 in prize money.
> >About the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center
> >The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center is an innovative not-for-profit
> >organization dedicated to expanding the cultural and creative opportunities of
> >rural Americans. Located in a small town in rural Minnesota , the New York
> >Mills Regional Cultural Center offers a variety of programs including artist
> >residencies, music concerts, literary events, gallery exhibits, classes, and an
> >outdoor music festival. The Regional Cultural Center has achieved national
> >recognition for quality and innovation in the arts. For more information call
> >(218) 385-3339.
> >Footer information below last updated: 1/1/1999.
> >Meta is an edited and moderated listserver and news service dedicated to
> >promoting the constructive engagement of science and religion. Subscriptions
> >are free. For more information, including archives and submission guidelines,
> >go to <http://www.meta-list.org>.
> >Please feel free to forward all Meta postings in their entirety including this
> >notice. It is the intention of the editor that each posting be protected by
> >copyright as a compilation. Permission is granted only for duplication and
> >transmission of each message complete and intact including this paragraph.
> >Otherwise, duplication and/or transmission of any portion should be guided by
> >"fair use" principles, and explicit permission should be obtained when needed.
> >Except when permitted by "fair use," permission to duplicate or transmit any
> >portion written by a contributor must be obtained from that author. - Copyright
> >1997, 1998, 1999. William Grassie <http://www.voicenet.com/~grassie>.
> Keith B. Miller
> Department of Geology
> Kansas State University
> Manhattan, KS 66506