A Dialog between a Senator and a Scientist on Themes of Government Power, Science, Faith, Morality, and the Origin and Evolution of Life: Helen Astartian
Edward H. Sisson
affiliation not provided to SSRN
December 25, 2008
Plato, in his dialog Charmides, presents the question of how society can determine whether a person who claims superior expertise in a particular field of knowledge does, in fact, possess superior expertise. In the modern era, society tends to answer this question by funding institutions (universities) that award credentials to certain individuals, asserting that those individuals possess a particular expertise; and then other institutions (the journalistic media and government) are expected to defer to the credentials.
When, however, the sequential reasoning and theorizing and conclusion-stating of generation after generation of credential-bearing experts (i.e., scientists) leads to the assertion of the truth of statements that large segments of society find to be in conflict with the statements of persons who have earned credentials of expertise bestowed by an alternative institutional structure (i.e., religious teachers), representatives of the people are put to a choice. And when the conflicting statements present substantial implications for the moral and sexual behavior of people in the society, addressing the conflict brings into play not only the highest intellectual speculations and analyses, but also the most animal emotions and motivations.
This paper, taking the form of a dialog, presents a scientist (Avram Codosia) named after an ancient Jewish patriarch and makes him a supplicant to a U.S. Senator (Helen Astartian) named after a pagan goddess. The stakes turn out to be not merely financial and intellectual, but personal and moral, involving the scientist's son (Isaac), an art student, and the senator's niece (Halia), a philosophy student. In a four-phase encounter, the paper hopes to offer some innovative observations on age-old issues and to stimulate productive new thinking on questions that too often seem to be debated by means of repetitions of the same old points.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 110
Keywords: government power, policy, faith, science, morality, evolution, intelligent design
JEL Classification: H11, H41, H50, H52, I28, L32, L89, O31, O38working papers series
Date posted: December 26, 2008
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