Science and religion

Discussion in 'Creation vs. Evolution' started by Helen, Jul 27, 2003.

  1. Helen

    Helen
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    First, I received the following in an email:

    A book, For the Glory of God by Rodney Stark, was recently published by Princeton University Press that contains a chapter, God's Handiwork: The Religious Origins of Science which places our current struggle over origins in a much larger context: the deliberate diminution of importance of religion in the development of science that can be traced back to so called "enlightenment". The following paragraph from the introduction to the book gives an overview of the chapter:

    "Chapter 2 shows that there was no "scientific revolution" that finally burst through the superstitious barriers of faith, but that the flowering of science that took place in the sixteenth century was the normal, gradual, and direct outgrowth of Scholasticism and the medieval universities. Indeed, theological assumptions unique to Christianity explain why science was born only in Christian Europe. Contrary to the received wisdom, religion and science not only were compatible; they were inseparable. Hence the last portion of the chapter demonstrates that the battle over evolution is not a conflict between religion and science but between True Believers on both sides."


    In line with this, I find theistic evolutionists to be in the impossible position of trying to pretend they are true believers for both sides!

    The close interplay between Christianity and science is also explored in The Soul of Science by Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton. The beginning of chapter 5, on biology, for instance, states,

    If any area of science seems more clearly hostile to Christian faith than others, it is biology. The evolution controversy that began in the last nineteenth century became a rallying point for anyone opposed to Christianity or the church. Reading the typical history textbook today, one gets almost no clue to the rich interaction that existed for three hundred years between Christian faith and the study of living things.

    Near the end of this chapter, they add the following interesting observation, with which, by the way, I fully agree:

    Clearly, science is not simply a matter of observing facts. Every scientific theory also expresses a worldview. Philosophical preconceptions determine where facts are sought, how experiments are designed, and which conclusions are drawn from them. It is only by grasping the worldview traditions that have shaped the development of biology that we really understand what motivated a Cuvier, a Buffon, or a Darwin. We end this chapter, as we began it, with the quotation by William Coleman -- that the advocates of all three historical traditions "ultimately borrowed their biology from their metaphysics."
     
  2. NeilUnreal

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    This is a good observation. However, I think the development of Western science, philosophy, and Christianity are so entangled that making anything other that general statements is difficult. We've got the individual events and the broad scope of history, but not much theory to connect the two.

    Because of the capitalization, I assume the author is referring to "True Believer" in the Hofferian sense. If this is the case, people like Dawkins and YEC's would represent antipodes, rather than the antipodes being evolutionists vs. Christians. The vast majority of evolutionists (including theistic and agnostic), would not be "True Believers" at either pole. (Likewise, neither would non-scientific Christians who are non-commital with respect to evolution.)

    I agree, this is very sad. Ditto geology and astronomy. I try to make a point of reminding both Christians and atheists of this history. I think grad students in various disciplines are more likely to be exposed to the history of their disciplines than are undergraduates. To me this seems an upside-down way of inculcating young scholars. (But then, if I had my way, I'd make everyone attend class in cap and gown :eek: )

    Good review, though some of the articles seem a little post-modern for my taste.

    -Neil
     
  3. Elena

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    EF Oh, I completely disagree regarding geology. My undergrad professors did, my students do, and most of the people I have encountered in teaching historical geology do, discuss the historical perspective of the science with regard to Christianity. In fact, I dare say it is near impossible to discuss and teach the material without delving into the religious aspects of the science. I don't know where you learned your geology Neil, but it's a shame that this was not highlighted as you correctly point out it should be. It certainly was emphasized in my undergraduate curriculum (looked at my physical and historical notes!). I also know that I emphasize it as do many of my colleagues.
     
  4. NeilUnreal

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    Elena,

    Mea culpa, I committed the fallacy of "hasty generalization." My experiences in geological education were similar to yours. For some other sciences my experience was bad.

    However, the general knowledge of science history seems low -- even in fairly well-educated and literate circles. Maybe it's taught but it just doesn't "take." (Perhaps science majors just want to get on to the hardcore stuff, and liberal arts majors get zoned out by the science.)

    -Neil
     
  5. Elena

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    EF No big deal. I was just surprised that someone would include geology since its history is so steeped in Christian tradition. It is hard to evade the discussions of the Noachian flood in historical geology. It's why I was surprised that someone could obtain an undergraduate degree in geology without some significant discussion about the role of the bible in geology.
     
  6. Steven O. Sawyer

    Steven O. Sawyer
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    It was once said that the study of nature was a cure for atheism. Within the last 200 years and especially since Darwin’s publications, that is no longer true. Nature is now deified to take the place of God and this is the official stance of the scientific community and our public indoctrination… er, excuse me… I mean our public education system. Science (and many scientists speaking on behalf of the name of science) claims to be neutral towards the idea of the existence of any god. However, the universe theoretically acted through nothing more than natural processes (which is all that is accepted by modern science). Nature itself becomes the creator of life as well as the diversification and evolution of all life, including man. Nature created the solar system. Even the elements thereof were naturally formed inside the furnaces of long dead other suns that are themselves the happenstance of gravity of hydrogen. The universe can even do something that even the Biblical God cannot do: create itself from nothing (i.e., the Biblical God is eternal and was never created while the natural universe supposedly emerged from a fluctuation of quantum nothingness). Why would a naturalistic system need any god? Even if one existed, the naturalist must view such an impotent being as irrelevant regardless of whatever other philosophical and metaphysical views they might hold. The true naturalists, and hence the true scientists, MUST view, interpret, and postulate the origin of all events as naturalistic.

    Of course the purely naturalistic view is thoroughly atheistic. When one gets to the position that God becomes irrelevant, then one is, for all practical purposes, an atheist. Issac Asimov claimed to be an agnostic and not an atheist as many do today, but the practical result is atheism. They are just smart enough to know they cannot defend a universal negative. This agnostic/atheistic-evolutionary position is one that no Christian could ever subscribe to without denying the very foundation of their faith. The Christian view has always held that the one and only true God whom is transcendent to nature created the universe. So while science teaches one to evaluate all of reality as merely natural, Christianity teaches that God created the universe from no pre-existing substance and that He works miracles and does interact with His creation. Some Christians believe God created through long processes; others believe it was a sudden miraculous event.

    So when many people on this board who are supposed to Christians get upset when I refer to naturalistic biological evolution and abiogenesis as basically atheistic, well, I’m sorry, but I can’t tell the difference between you and the atheists from the arguments. If we are really an evolutionary creation in the image of an ape, which was created in the image of a “big bang” and everything is heading towards maximum entropy, then essentially we come from nothing and we are headed nowhere. These are atheistic concepts and they lead to the logical conclusion of nihilism. If Nature is responsible, then the atheists argue for the same things that some of you guys do… naturalistic evolution and naturalistic abiogenesis. Just like a “pro-choice” advocate may argue against being called a “pro-abortionists” the pragmatic difference is moot. If God was not directly involved in the creation of life or if he merely left the creation of the diverse life forms and even man up to the natural laws, then of what practical use is He? What’s the difference between your impotent god and the deification of Nature?
     
  7. Peter101

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    &gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt;So while science teaches one to evaluate all of reality as merely natural, Christianity teaches that God created the universe from no pre-existing substance and that He works miracles and does interact with His creation. Some Christians believe God created through long processes; others believe it was a sudden miraculous event.&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;


    Steven,

    I think you summarized at least two of the contradictory positions fairly well. As one who accepts evolution, I tend to agree that the way science operates does not rely on God and it is quite easy to leave God out entirely. But there is plenty of logic behind that way of thinking. Maybe God works miracles, but I have never seen one. Maybe God, rather than evolution, created man out of dust, but I don't see any evidence to that effect and I do see convincing evidence that there was a long evolutionary process that created many precursors of humans. It would be more convincing to me if God talked in a big loud voice, so that I could hear what he says. But I have never heard that.

    The world that I see is indistinguishable from one where there is no God at all or one in which God is entirely silent. Still, I am reluctant to give up all belief in religion and God. Religion provides a lot of comfort and even though it has also been the source of many cruel and bad deeds, it has also played a positive role in the lives of many. But, I will not twist the facts to support any religious interpretation. I believe this is common among many religious people.
     
  8. Paul of Eugene

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    I who post among you as an evolutionist and a Christian also confess that at times I wonder about some of you out there who seem to talk about God as if He were an equation to solve or a doctrine to accept, instead of a living, personal being with whom one has an acquaintance. God is a personal friend of mine. He gives me fellowship and hope on a daily basis. He hears my every prayer, my every thought.

    This poor servant of His has been blessed on a few occasions by communications from Him. He has deigned to reveal Himself as real to me from my childhood until now by the occasional sign, including a few miracles - no thermodynamic laws were broken, no corpses raised, but His providence was plain to see when it was needed and He made a few promises that He has faithfully kept and He has occasionally seen fit to ask me to do something for Him.

    Few and precious are these direct communications with verbal meaning to them; I count only about a dozen for my whole life; and yet I do not mean I lack daily communication with Him; He is always there for fellowship.

    One of those communications with me was in response to my question to Him about whether or not, in the light of skepticism we all know of, I should continue to be a Christian. You will note that to this day I continue to be a Christian. It has something to do with what He told me, of course!
     
  9. ChurchBoy

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    This is common among religious AND non-religious people. I believe the issue is not twisting of facts but the interpretation of facts. Facts, data, etc., do not speak by themselves but are interpreted throught the "lens" of a person's particular worldview. An evolutionist sees the fossil record and says "evolution!" and the bible believing Christian sees the fossil record and says "creation!". As a Bible believing Christian I place God's Word above man's ideas. God's Word is eternal and unchanging. Man's ideas are in constant flux. Do I believe in evolution or creation? I am not sure, though I tend to lean toward creation. I have decided to reevaluate my beliefs. This must start with asking God to reveal His Truth to me. I must admit people like Helen, Galation, Paul of Eugene, has given me new ideas to think about. I have learned a lot on this forum. [​IMG]
     

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