By: Leslie A. Zukor
First, a confession: In the four years I’ve been at Reed College, this is the first time I’ve been motivated to do anything for Darwin Day. For me, Darwin Day was just another silly secular holiday, celebrated by the science-obsessed freethinkers, who lacked knowledge of 20th century social thought. Although I wouldn’t admit it publicly, I’d taken our postmodern critics way too seriously, to the point of stifling my own freethought activism.
But now I felt differently. What changed me? Firstly, the growing realization that my success in college is due to the medical advancements of modern science. As someone with a chronic medical condition, the only thing separating me from being bedridden is the 11 pills I swallow nightly. If we accept that science is merely an Enlightenment metanarrative, then psychopharmacology is on an equal plain with sorcery. And I can personally testify that only real medicine provides me with real pharmacological relief.
Does this mean that I full-heartedly agree with the science and reason freethinkers? Hardly. As any rational human being understands, science hasn’t been an unqualified good. In order to provide us with the best standards of medical care, we have had to test on innocent animals, and even on less wealthy racial minorities. Furthermore, in our haste to find cures, we sometimes have done more harm than good. Such is the case with the overprescription of antidepressants, which have led to suicidality in some instances, not to mention mania in incorrectly diagnosed individuals.
While I recognize the pitfalls of science, the more I study postmodern critiques of science, the more I realize that we only have science to thank. In short, the achievements of science are real and measurable, hardly on par with postmodernism. For instance, last semester, I asked my Anthropology class to define ”postmodernity”, and no one could come up with a definition, only descriptions of what phenomena are postmodern. And as we read Foucault in After Structuralism, I realize how murky postmodernism really is, not subject to the same kind of empirical verification as science. Its achievement – obscurantism. Hardly the same as science, which has tangibly changed my life.
What did the Reed Secular Alliance do for Darwin Day? Honestly, not much. Unlike other colleges, we didn’t have wine and cheese tasting parties, nor did we have an evolution film-showing. As it turns out, we only hung flyers and put “I support science” stickers with Darwin fish on tables in Commons. That may not sound like much. At ”Godless” Reed College, creationists hardly exist, and the only enemy lurks in the Anthropology and English departments. But for this freethinker, Darwin Day provided me an opportunity to reflect and be thankful – because without scientific pioneers like Charles Darwin, we’d know a lot less about man’s place on planet earth.