Friday Roundup

  • I am aware of no serious, reflective, Christian scholar/theologian who asserts his views clash with science and he is okay with that…what the vast majority assert (here) is more along these lines:

“Finally, Brunner stated that the real conflict between “faith” and “science” appears especially when modern scientists (or I would say popularizers of science) smuggle “scientific monism” into “science.” Brunner labels “scientific monism” (which many since him have called “scientism”) “superstition!” (p. 175) By “scientific monism” he meant the belief that all of life’s questions can be answered by science and that by its own methods science is capable (eventually) of providing a comprehensive understanding of all of reality.

In my experience very few actual scientists believe in or promote “scientific monism,” but many popularizers of modern science do just that—by implication (e.g., James Burke). Brunner rightly noted that “It is with philosophy that the serious conflict of faith is fought out.” (p. 173) The problem is that philosophy is often smuggled into the teaching of science—especially by popularizers who either don’t understand science’s limitations or misuse science, misunderstood and/or misrepresented, to promote their philosophy (viz., naturalism).”

Sound familiar?

  • I could certainly quibble with his logic and opinions at points, but there is much here to agree with as well.
  • This is a wonderful essay by one of my favorite theologians, but I note this part simply because we need to understand the dominant myth, the one we currently live under and inhabit…and just how false it is: 
“In his extraordinary book Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, David Bentley Hart observes that the relegation of Christian beliefs to the private sphere is legitimated by a story of human freedom in which humanity is liberated from the crushing weight of tradition and doctrine. Hart, whose prose begs for extensive quotation, says the story goes like this:
Once upon a time Western humanity was the cosseted and incurious ward of Mother Church; during this, the age of faith, culture stagnated, science languished, wars of religion were routinely waged, witches were burned by inquisitors, and Western humanity labored in brutish subjugation to dogma, superstition, and the unholy alliance of church and state. Withering blasts of fanaticism and fideism had long since scorched away the last remnants of classical learning; inquiry was stifled; the literary remains of classical antiquity had long ago been consigned to the fires of faith, and even the great achievements of ‘Greek science’ were forgotten until Islamic civilization restored them to the West. All was darkness. Then, in the wake of the ‘wars of religion’ that had torn Christendom apart, came the full flowering of the Enlightenment and with it the reign of reason and progress, the riches of scientific achievement and political liberty, and a new and revolutionary sense of human dignity. The secular nation-state arose, reduced religion to an establishment of the state, and thereby rescued Western humanity from the blood-steeped intolerance of religion. Now, at last, Western humanity has left its nonage and attained its majority, in science, politics, and ethics. The story of the travails of Galileo almost invariably occupies an honored place in this narrative, as exemplary of the natural relation between ‘faith’ and ‘reason’ and as an exquisite epitome of scientific reason’s mighty struggle during the early modern period to free itself from the tyranny of religion.
This ‘simple and enchanting tale’ is, Hart observes, captivating in its explanatory power.  According to Hart, however, there is just one problem with this story: every detail of the story, as well as the overarching plot, just happens to be false (emphasis added).”
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5 Responses to Friday Roundup

  1. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    Sure, scientists are not in the habit of telling us that they are unscientific, or dumb, or crazy. That is what criticism is for. Taking the example of Francis Collins, even his religious critics realize that his crisis and conflict is far more serious than he might himself believe. Our capacity to bamboozle ourselves is notorious.

    For example, Collins makes a big deal about a “moral law” being evidence for god, and consistent with his theism. But real scientists who study the issue in evolutionary terms wouldn't accept that at all, and see that our moral natures are very much products of evolution directly, with no need for divine intervention. It is, if he were to actually think about it, an enormous and deep conflict. Lots of people are smart, yet still wrong about things.. that is why criticism and critical thinking is always so important. Like evaluating evidence, as you and Bernard are doing, belatedly.


  2. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    I'm not sure what link/content you are referring to, but:

    “…But real scientists…”

    The suggestion that Francis Collins isn't a “real” scientist is laughable. You don't get to tell us who the “real” scientists are especially those who: “Before being appointed director of the NIH, Collins led the Human Genome Project and other genomics research initiatives as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of the 27 institutes and centers at NIH. Before joining NHGRI, he earned a reputation as a gene hunter at the University of Michigan. He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science.” (Wikipedia)

    I think Collins knows how to do critical thinking and he has “actually” thought about all this. He's even written books about it, so yeah, he's thought about it. You are a smart person Burk, and you are wrong here so I agree with you as to that point about smart people being wrong all the time. By the way, Bernard and I are not evaluating evidence. We are evaluating philosophical perspectives that take all the evidence into consideration.

    Speaking of Bernard, you never told us if you agreed with his statement that something could be true and still clash with science, or as he put it: “I didn't say it was false, just that it clashed with science.”


  3. Darrell says:

    I wonder if Charles Townes, who passed away recently, was a “real” scientist? I wonder if he knew his views clashed with science, the poor soul. Imagine him doing and understanding all that “science” and not even knowing how he was then supposed to view life and the big questions or that there was a deep division between his science and faith. Wow. Poor fellow. I wonder.

    Oh wait, since he had forgotten more physics than those who claim his views clash have ever known to begin with, somehow I doubt it. Nope, no wondering and I don't wonder about Collins either.


  4. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    Very funny. But the issue is one of studying the evolutionary biology, in the case of Collins, that touches on behavior and morality, which he may or may not be conversant with. And with Townes, it would be similar and more broadly about biology. Even cosmic speculation about causes has no scientific merit either way right now, other than supporting the big bang observations. What came before… totally up for grabs, nobel or non-nobel.

    The issue overall is that people can claim there is no conflict where there are glaring conflicts. It is human nature to think one's world view automatically coherent, because it is one's own. Townes simply isn't taking huge swathes of critical theory seriously, from the historical study of christianity and judaism for that matter, to the miracles and saints of our own time.. it an embarrassment of poor thinking and conflict. Perhaps his christianity is deistic, in which case it is not really christianity, is it?

    What would a conflict be, in your book? Perhaps religion has spent so much time hiding from scientific critique, behind nebulosity and vagueness, that you don't even know what a conflict might be, it being doctrine that religion is true, thus compatible by some commutative property with all else that is more securely true.


  5. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    Herein, is contained, most, if not all, the problems with your arguments and responses, in general (once the rhetoric is subtracted):

    “The issue overall is that people can claim there is no conflict where there are glaring conflicts.”

    Ever heard of question-begging much? I guess not.

    “It is human nature to think one's world view automatically coherent, because it is one's own.”

    Right. Now apply and rinse to your own argument. Hmmmm…oh the cluelessness…irony…and how postmodern…I love it.

    Always a pleasure Burk. Oh, by the way, still dodging my question about Bernard's statement? That's okay, I get it. God forbid you find yourself agreeing with a Christian over a clearly incoherent and illogical assertion. Right, integrity, keep the faith–don't break ranks–who cares about truth. No worries. I get it.


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