Tuesday 6 August 2013

The Discreet Charm of Scientism

On the train this morning I noticed an unprepossessing young(ish) man, somewhat on the large and lardy side, wearing a belligerent expression and a most unfortunate attempt at a haircut. What he was also wearing - and the reason I noticed him - was a T-shirt that bore, in large block capitals, the word 'SCIENCE' and, underneath, the legend 'It works, bitches.'
 I assume the comma in that is not doing the work of an 'and', as in American headlines (The Onion on Clinton's accession: 'New President feels nation's pain, breasts'). It works and bitches? No, it would appear this unhappy fellow was assuming that those around him were inclined to deny that science works and were therefore 'bitches'. Yet another touching example of the discreet charm of scientism.
 It's hardly worth arguing the point, but religion too 'works' - and has been shown to do so (in terms of mental health and various good outcomes) by what can only be called 'scientific' research. However, I don't feel inclined to wear a T-shirt pointing out the fact. 'RELIGION. It works, chums'? Hardly.


  1. Perhaps he is just a man of few words lobbying for Dawkins's old position as Professor for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford.

  2. Joey Joe Joe Jr.6 August 2013 at 16:09

    If it's the same T-shirt I've seen I think it's based on an old comic on Randall Monroe's xkcd website. On the back there's a graph showing how well the radiation measured by the WMAP satellite agrees with Planck's Law of blackbody radiation. While I'm sure there've been a few xkcd comics gently poking fun at religion, usually it's a gloriously geeky celebration of all things sciencey. As far as topics go you're far more likely to see something about robots or dinosaurs or space-travel or in-jokes for computer-programmers than religion. So in your portly friend's defense, rather than trying to make a theological point, he's more likely just a massive nerd.

  3. Thanks Joey - I tracked down this particular version (in forest green) on the Think Geek website (Stuff for Smart Masses - enuf you sla me!). In this version the back carries a graph expressing data from the COBE mission - maybe the same thing as WMAP? Geeky indeed - but I can't see any of my friends on Big Bang Theory wearing this one...

  4. I wonder, has anyone ever seen a Jehovah's Witness wearing a tee shirt and indeed, what would it say, "next time...just you wait and see" indeed(2) how does one recognise a JW, when not on the doorstep.

  5. Good question Malty. We used to have a JW next door - nice chap - they throw a decent party, the JWs - booze not proscribed, only baccy. Time they had a musical to raise their profile, like the Mormons...

  6. Joey Joe Joe Jr.6 August 2013 at 18:39

    ...The (Not Transfused) Blood Brothers?

  7. Joey Joe Joe Jr.6 August 2013 at 19:02

    How about Irving Berlin's White Yuletide Festival with Pagan Origins, Which We Consider To Be Incompatible With Christianity?

  8. Disappointed of Chopsy Sodbury8 August 2013 at 18:15

    Snideness doesn't suit you, noble heart. Let me defend this lad.

    His t-shirt was at worst an advertisement - and as an advertisement, it seems significantly less obnoxious than the multitude of others inflicted on our commutes which point out how fat we are, or insufficient or unfashionable - but which seem to leave your ire unfondled. But as a mere & passive advert, it's also drastically less obnoxious than - for instance - interfering in total strangers' lives, telling them they will burn in hell, denouncing healthy behaviour as sin, or driving demonstrably false information into young skulls or penises into young rectums. More to the point, his t-shirt is accurate. Remind me, sage catspaw, where the accuracy might be in religion? I'm afraid, Nige, whatever research may or may not have to say about the success of religion in keeping the mattresses of the nervous dry, it has nothing nice to report about its accuracy - and neither has reality.

    So, tut tut, Nige. It would have been more Nigelike to grumble the progress of a slovenly americanism ("bitches") in our culture - than to pick on an unknown young lad for wearing an t-shirt expressing enthusiasm with science.

  9. Er - did you actually read the post? I only ask...