Book Club Channel
On the Integrity of Science: A Response to Bill Dembski
Editor's Note: The following is the second piece in a four-part conversation between Dr. William Dembski and Dr. Karl Giberson, concerning Giberson and Francis Collins' new book, The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions. Read the first piece by Dembski here. Find more resources and discussion surrounding the book at the Patheos Book Club.
Bill Dembski describes my recent book with Francis Collins as an exercise in "Selling the Product." I am not sure what this means. Certainly Francis and I had no conversations about "selling" and I don't think of science as being a "product." Our goal with this modest volume was simply to calm the fears of Christians who feel their faith is threatened by science in general and evolution in particular. If "selling the product" means doing our best job at our task, then we plead guilty to this oddball crime.
I want to respond to Dembski—a personal friend whom I have known for many years—by addressing my most global concern about the anti-evolution movement of which he is a major player. This concern relates to the nature of the scientific enterprise, which I just don't recognize when anti-evolutionists, whether Bill or Ken Ham or Phillip Johnson, talk about it.
I am deeply concerned that evangelical Christianity, as a vast and largely self-sufficient subculture in America, has become so disengaged from science that it is now intellectually impoverished. I am particularly alarmed at the widespread rejection of mainstream scientific ideas by Christians, particularly evangelicals. In some cases the rejection is, frankly, humiliating. The age of the earth, to take the most egregious example, has been established beyond all reasonable doubt to be billions of years, and yet most Christians think the earth is just a few thousand years old. And some of these Christians are very well-educated.
In my book Saving Darwin, I used the following analogies to help readers understand just how far-fetched this is:
Scientists know the moon to be two hundred and forty thousand miles away. How would you react if your neighbor, who was very interested in science, said it was a quarter mile away, closer than the convenience store you can see from your front step? Imagine attending a massive rock concert that broke all attendance records with ten million fans. Your neighbor, who was in attendance, claims there were just ten fans at the concert. Suppose you discussed the age of the earth with your neighbor. In agreement with scientists, you say the earth is five billion years old; your neighbor, however, says that number is a million times too large and the true age of the earth is just over five thousand years. Such extreme disagreements seem laughable and artificial. The last one, however, is a highly animated argument in America as young-earth creationists, a hundred million strong, spar with the scientific community over the age of the earth. Nobody thinks the moon is just above the rooftops, but most people in America have a neighbor who thinks the earth is ten thousand years old.
Karl W. Giberson (Ph.D.) is a leading voice in America's creation-evolution controversy and the author or coauthor of four books on science and religion, including Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists Versus God and Religion (with Mariano Artigas), Species of Origins: America's Search for a Creation Story (with Donald Yerxa), and Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution, which was included in the Washington Post's "Best Books of 2008" list. Giberson serves as professor of physics at Eastern Nazarene College, directs the Forum on Faith and Science at Gordon College, and is executive vice president of The BioLogos Foundation, which he helped launch.