The Huffington Post published an article recently entitled, Science and religion quotes: what the world’s greatest scientists say about God. I rarely read HuffPo, despite my having a similar political point-of-view, because of what I perceive to be a high number of anti-science articles. In this case, HuffPo tries to show how some of the great scientists were actually deeply spiritual if not religious. Using quotes as evidence for a history or biography of an individual is pathetic and disingenuous, especially if taken out of context. It would be as if we tried to describe Los Angeles based on a snapshot of one house in San Pedro.
Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True blog posted a critical analysis of the quote mining: HuffPo Science section engages in dishonest quote mining. My favorite is the section about Albert Einstein.
HuffPo’s quote-mining of Einstein: “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.”
Why Evolution is True’s analysis: Once more the old man is co-opted in the cause of God. Einstein clearly didn’t believe in a personal God, and said so many times. He called himself an agnostic, but I think he was, like David Attenborough, just a nonbeliever who didn’t like the term “atheist.” They could, for instance, have used this quote from Einstein: “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text.”
HuffPo focuses on liberal ideology and popular entertainment, both absolutely acceptable editorial directions for an online “newspaper.” My largest concern is that HuffPo focuses on the New Age postmodernism viewpoint, rarely than a strong scientific outlook (though it has tried lately). Although black-white dichotomy will offend the postmodernists, but either you view the world with a critical and scientific analysis or you accept pseudoscience at face value. I do not know if the anti-science appeals to the readers of liberal demagoguery, but I am a liberal and I’m very offended by the quality of science journalism at HuffPo.