Sean Carroll says goodbye

Over at Cosmic Variance, Sean Carroll wants to get back to research, and so is taking a break from blogging of undetermined length.  I, for one, will miss his posts on physics and his cool-headed, reasoned analysis of the faith/science question.  Appropriately, his last substantive post bears the double-entendre title “Reluctance to let go”: it’s about how faith impedes understanding of the world.

. . . the public discourse is so badly distorted that it has little relationship to the real issues. Instead of taking the natural world seriously, we have discussions about “Faith.” We pretend that questions of meaning and purpose and value must be the domain of religion. We are saddled with bizarre, antiquated attitudes toward sex and love, which have terrible consequences for real human beings.

I understand the reluctance to let go of religion as the lens through which we view questions of meaning and morality. For thousands of years it was the best we could do; it provided social structures and a framework for thinking about our place in the world. But that framework turns out not to be right, and it’s time to move on.

Rather than opening our eyes and having the courage and clarity to accept the world as it is, and to tackle some of the real challenges it presents, as a society we insist on clinging to ideas that were once perfectly reasonable, but have long since outlived their usefulness. Nature obeys laws, we are part of nature, and our job is to understand our lives in the context of reality as it really is. Once that attitude goes from being “extremist” to being mainstream, we might start seeing some real progress.

Can anyone claim posts like this are strident or uncivil? Come back soon, Sean; we’ll miss you.

12 Comments

  1. Eric MacDonald
    Posted June 18, 2010 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    This parting statement by Sean Carroll is really quite understatedly brilliant. I especially like the second paragraph that you quote, so I’ll quote it again.

    I understand the reluctance to let go of religion as the lens through which we view questions of meaning and morality. For thousands of years it was the best we could do; it provided social structures and a framework for thinking about our place in the world. But that framework turns out not to be right, and it’s time to move on.

    This is exactly right, and it is, as you say, not strident or uncivil, but it will, I hazard a guess, be thought to be. This is a very polite rubbishing of the whole religious project, and as Sean notes, this position is still thought to be extremist. It will therefore be seen not only as uncivil, but as strident. I think that’s a safe bet.

    • artikcat
      Posted June 19, 2010 at 5:45 am | Permalink

      “…But that framework turns out not to be right, and it’s time to move on…..”..: to where?? Brilliant? I would say rather obscure.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted June 19, 2010 at 8:01 am | Permalink

        Why obscure? It’s in the title: “let go” and move on with pure facts, pure science.

        It _is_ a brilliant piece IMO.

  2. Posted June 18, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I have a reluctance to let go of his blog updates.

    It was great to see him in the top 50 list: http://brainz.org/50-most-brilliant-atheists-all-time/

    …although, it should have been titled “the most high profile.”

  3. Kevin
    Posted June 18, 2010 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Well said.

    It exactly explains why, when someone asks me why I disbelieve, I say that when I became a man I put aside childish things. I was reluctant to let go but now I don’t miss it.

    I used to think that what is possible for one person is possible for everyone but now I’m not so sure.

  4. Darrell E
    Posted June 18, 2010 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Can anyone claim posts like this are strident or uncivil?

    Come on, you know better than that. Of COURSE there are people that could claim that Sean’s post is both strident AND uncivil. I can just about guarantee that someone will make those claims.

    As you well know there is no shortage of people that could care less about reality and who don’t recognize it when it bites them right on the ass.

  5. Squiddhartha
    Posted June 18, 2010 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Well, of *course* it’s strident and uncivil — it says right there in black and white that religion isn’t right! That’s all that’s necessary to provoke accusations of stridency and incivility.

  6. Posted June 18, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Oh dang, I didn’t realize that was a bye for now post. Comebacksoon!

  7. Posted June 18, 2010 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    there is no shortage of people that could care less about reality and who don’t recognize it when it bites them right on the ass.

    Fer sher. But the real irony here, the real irony behind the fact that Sean’s post will “be seen not only as uncivil, but as strident” (or at least will be portrayed, I mean framed, that way), is that many of the people doing the seeing or rather the framing are people who otherwise do care about reality. The real irony is that it’s not just theist zealots who frame statements like Sean’s as “extreme” – it’s also atheists who try to appease the theist zealots by deferring to their beliefs and by joining them in trashing statements like Sean’s.

  8. Michael Fugate
    Posted June 18, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Someone in the comments claims that “mind” is immaterial and not a product of or explained by the 3 particles and 3 forces Sean mentions. Others are convinced religion has some role understanding the universe, but they can’t articulate clearly what that role is. Just to say science doesn’t have an answer for every question, doesn’t mean religion does.

    • poke
      Posted June 18, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      Sean’s long been one of my favourite writers on this subject. He really gets it. But the comments on his blog are typically awful. Not sure why.

  9. randyextry
    Posted June 18, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Wait, it’s not as bad as it sounds. He’s only taking a break “from blogging of undetermined length.” So he can keep blogging as long as he determines the length of the post beforehand. Sorry. I couldn’t help myself. I’m the a**hole. Now I’ll try to make up for it by saying something nice. I visit this blog almost every day, and I am almost never disappointed – and NEVER on Caturday. Keep up the good work.


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. [...] June 21, 2010 · Leave a Comment Cosmologist Sean Carroll has announced a break from blogging on Cosmic Variance. I picked up this news from Jerry Coyne‘s blog Why Evolution is True! (also the title of his book) (see Sean Carroll says goodbye). [...]

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