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Archaea discoverer Carl Woese’s theological reflections in old age

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Carl Woese.jpg
Carl Woese, 2004/ Don Hamerman

Possibly Carl Woese (1928-2012) is the only person to have discovered an entire domain of life, the Archaea. He was not a Darwinist (possibly because the offbeat Archaea didn’t make sense in that scheme of things?). But, facing death, he began to think about other things as well, as he recounted to Suzan Mazur:

Suzan Mazur: It’s wonderful that you’re making these breakthroughs without encountering too much hostility from the classical biology community.

Carl Woese: But I have not overthrown the hegemony of the culture of Darwin…

Suzan Mazur: Do you have any closing thoughts?

Carl Woese: Yes, I do not like people saying that atheism is based on science, because it’s not. It’s an alien invasion of science.

Umar Nasser, “Carl Woese: Legendary biologist calls out atheists in final interview” at Rational Religion

The interview is from Suzan Mazur, The The Paradigm Shifters: : Overthrowing ‘the Hegemony of the Culture of Darwin’ (2015), Kindle Edition. (p. 105).

Nasser also recounts the recollections of a biologist friend of Woese’s that point in a similar direction.

Two things for sure:

  1. It’s a good question whether Woese would have recognized the Archaea for what they were, had he not been in the habit of thinking for himself. Maybe he would have just been satisfied to shoehorn them into the conventional scheme somewhere.
  2. Atheism likely affects science in the same way as any dogmatic creed, by shaping the questions we are allowed to ask and discouraging others. A shakeup is needed now and then, for progress.

2 Replies to “Archaea discoverer Carl Woese’s theological reflections in old age

  1. 1
    Truthfreedom says:

    The story of the discovery of the Archaea domain of Life is pretty fascinating.
    And no, archaea are NOT bacteria.
    From the interview:

    “His imagery (Woese’s) portrays the atheist belief system as colonising scientific thought, occupying it unjustly, and using it as a base for its activities.
    In other words, exactly what we have seen happening in recent history”.

    R.I.P. Mr. Woese.

  2. 2
    Truthfreedom says:

    And:

    “Carl deeply believed that there was directionality to evolution, that evolutionary processes were not merely the result of random genetic events, and that there was indeed a force in the universe that created it all. It will come as a surprise to many, but Carl believed in God, and was quite a spiritual person.
    However, Carl was deeply suspicious of religion and religious people. And he detested those like Richard Dawkins who used science and evolution as a tool to deny the existence of God.”

    There is two of us then. Dawkins is just a repellent immature wannabe. A shallow thinker for the masses with no intellectual punch.

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