Einstein’s God: Can We Reconcile Science and Religion?

Can we reconcile science and religion?

The host of American Public Media’s Speaking of Faith, Krista Tippett, believes we can. She calls them both “pursuits of cohesive knowledge and underlying truths” and does not believe they are necessarily in opposition.

(Clearly, a view everyone reading this shares…)

In her new book, Einstein’s God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit, Tippett speaks to a number of scientists, theologians, Templeton prize winners (what category are they in?), and artists about these issues and shows how (as one blogger put it) “scientists and theologians are asking the same questions of and feeling the same wonder at the world they inhabit, without conflict, and with great humility and respect for the truth.”

I’m sure some of you are offended by that very notion — that science is placed on the same mantle as religion. Hell, I’m sure some religious people are offended by that idea, too. Massimo Pigliucci doesn’t hide his distaste for the book.

Before discussing whether this is intellectually honest or not — is it just a big fluff piece? — below is an extended excerpt from Tippett’s book in which she speaks with Charles Darwin‘s biographer James Moore.

Judge for yourself.

Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. We’ve come to imagine him as a godless naturalist and to see the publication of his book as a dramatic moment in history, one that has created an instantaneous rift between science and religion. These assumptions fuel some of our most intractable cultural debates.

In my conversation with the biographer James Moore, we reject those debates. We explore the world in which Darwin formulated his ideas. We read from his varied writings. We ask what Darwin himself believed. Did he find his observations of the natural world a rejection of God and of creation? How might he speak to our present struggles over his legacy?

As it turns out, Darwin was grounded in the distinctly reverent Judeo-Christian philosophy of Western science up to that point in history, a view of the world encapsulated in a quote of Francis Bacon that he put opposite the title page of The Origin of Species:

Let no man… think or maintain that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works… but rather let men endeavor an endless progress or proficience in both.

Darwin, as we learn from James Moore, was agonizingly aware of the fixed worldview that his theory of transmutation — the original term for evolution — would unsettle. The people of Darwin’s time believed that every condition of plant, animal, and man was static and eternal, brought into being all at once at the beginning of time.

They estimated that to have been six thousand years earlier. But The Origin of Species was not the first classic scientific text to break from such beliefs. It was, rather, the last to fully engage them. Darwin waited two decades before he published. His observations and conclusions were painstakingly belabored. He anticipated religious questions and objections at every turn and responded carefully to them. Darwin’s theory of natural selection was born, James Moore asserts, of “theological humility.” This insight alone would place our culture’s contentious battles over Darwin on a different footing.

My own suppositions have been radically changed by this discussion. I’m reminded of the conversations I had on Albert Einstein. Einstein did not reject the idea of a force or “mind” behind the universe. But he saw that expressed in natural laws that could be discerned and described.

In a similar way, Darwin saw creation as an unfolding reality. Once set in motion, as he saw it, the laws of nature sustained a self-organizing progression driven by the needs and struggles of every aspect of creation itself. The word “reverence” would not be too strong to describe the attitude with which Darwin approached all he saw in the natural world. There is a great intellectual and spiritual passion and a touching sense of wonder evident in his writings, from his private notebooks and correspondence to the Beagle diary and The Origin of Species. For me, this view from within Darwin’s life and times opens up fascinating new ways to ponder not the rift but the possibilities for exchange between science and theology. He used the biblically evocative analogy of a “tree of life” to illustrate his theory of species sprouting as branches from the same trunk, some flourishing and others withering and falling to nourish the ground in which the whole is sustained. His vision of all of life netted together is profoundly consonant with what we are learning now in environmental sciences as well as in genetics.

In describing a creation that organized itself, incorporating chaos and change into survival and progress, Darwin did not challenge the idea of God as the source of all being. But he did reject the idea of a God minutely implicated in every flaw and injustice and catastrophe.

As James Moore puts it, Darwin forced human beings to look at the inherent struggle of natural life head-on, not as we wish it to be, but as it is in all its complexity and brutality and mystery. This is the most difficult for human beings, perhaps, in times of great change and turmoil such as ours. Indeed Moore and I trace the fact that the greatest resistance to Darwin’s ideas has appeared in other cultural moments of flux and global danger. But Moore tells his students who believe they must choose between belief in a creator and the science of Darwin simply to read The Origin of Species. There is much in Darwin’s thought that would ennoble as well as ground a religious view of life and of God. I’ll end with that book’s final lines, which are rich with wonder:

[F]rom the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals directly follows. There is grandeur in the view of life with it several powers, having been originally breathed by the creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from Einstein’s God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit

Copyright © Krista Tippett, 2010


  • http://www.cashumn.org Nick Wallin

    I personally find Krista Tippett to be a moron, and “Speaking of Faith” makes me want to gag. Certainly won’t be reading her book.

    In regards to the question “can we reconcile science and religion”, the answer is yes, IF (and this is a huge if) religious people will not automatically distrust science because it contradicts what their pastors tell them. Religious people need to understand that empiricism and the scientific method are superior methods for understanding the universe.

    If they can’t do that, then religion and science cannot be reconciled. Science certainly can’t bend. Science is in the business of testing claims, and religious claims cannot be tested. Science is methodologically materialistic.

    For the two to come together, religion must back down.

  • Valdyr

    The difference is that religion gives us belief, and science gives us knowledge. No religious text has ever triggered the discovery of an important biological, geological, medical, electronic, agricultural, astronomical, or technological advancement. In fact, what religion has historically inspired is the violent opposition to such advancements as being “against the will of God”. Whenever someone comes out with some bent-over-backwards interpretation of religion seems to predict scientific findings, notice that it only arises after the science is done.

    “Oh, the ancient Hindus had a belief that life is far older than most religions say! And now we know the universe is billions of years old!” Please. If the Bible had instructions for cultivating pencillin or the Koran had blueprints for the internal combustion engine, then maybe I’d consider the idea that science and religion are equally valid and unopposed to one another.

  • Thegoodman

    I feel like the author only put Einstein in the title to draw attention to the book. After first reading the title, I thought it was a book written by Einstein (or at least assembled from various documents he authored). So it appears to be a sham right from the get-go.

    I also disagree that science and religion are asking the same questions. Religion doesn’t ask questions and it doesn’t seek truth. It claims to have answers and provide “truth”.

    People asks questions.
    Science seeks the answers via data.
    Religion fabricates the answers to appease the populace and gain control.

    They are in no way related and they also cannot co-exist. One applies logic and the other defies it. Science seeks data from all sources while Christianity has only 1 source of information.

    This is like saying a Nazi can marry a Jew. While it is true they can get along and even admire each others’ virtues; they will not be the same until one of them goes to the other side of the fence. The person that changes will have to leave behind his/her views and subscribes to the views of the other person.

  • mikero

    She calls them [science & religion] both “pursuits of cohesive knowledge and underlying truths”

    I actually don’t mind this kind of characterization very much. I have no problem accepting it as technically accurate. However, it’s slightly underhanded, since it neglects the fact that only one of these pursuits actually works at building cohesive knowledge and uncovering truth.

    Similarly,

    “scientists and theologians are asking the same questions of and feeling the same wonder at the world they inhabit, without conflict, and with great humility and respect for the truth.”

    Again, technically true. I have no quarrel here (ok, except maybe the “great humility” and “respect for the truth”). Both groups ask questions, and only one group bothers to get answers.

  • NewEnglandBob

    Krista Tippett is just making shit up. I guess that is what one does when one has no logic or reason to support her silly compatibility theory.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    Science and religion are perfectly compatible as long as believers realize that the “truths” of their religion have no capacity to invalidate the facts revealed through science.

  • Ron in Houston

    I personally find Krista Tippett to be a moron, and “Speaking of Faith” makes me want to gag. Certainly won’t be reading her book.

    @Nick –

    LOL. Don’t mince words now – make sure you tell us how you REALLY feel.

  • Nikki

    This viewpoint is actually one that several religions have, contrary to popular belief. Roman Catholicism and Baha’i come to mind. Yes, I know a lot about all the issues that the Catholic church has had, and still has, with science – I have a second row view of it (both my parents are practicing Catholics). However, the Catholic church does integrate science into SOME of its beliefs – for instance, it states that evolution is God’s way of creating the universe. It takes a VERY long time for the Catholic church to do this, but it does do it eventually.

    The Baha’i faith states specifically that “If religious beliefs and opinions are found contrary to the standards of science, they are mere superstitions and imaginations; for the antithesis of knowledge is ignorance, and the child of ignorance is superstition.”

    The problem, in my view, is not IF science and god can be reconciled, but SHOWING that they can be, to those that will always refuse to believe it.

  • Deiloh

    For me, the only way to reconcile faith and science is to A) define faith B) show evidence that faith is rational C) show evidence that the object of faith exists. (not nec. in that order)

    Typically I see:
    a) faith is the belief in the promise that god made to humans for life after death
    b) it is rational to have faith because god has promised and god fulfills promises
    c) a book says it is the word of god and that god exists

    or
    a) faith is the feeling that the universe is sentient
    b) it is rational to have faith because it is comforting
    c) look how big and complex the universe is

    etc. etc. etc.

    I’m not buying it. And I’m not buying the book.

  • Bailey

    I just won a copy of this book…I plan on going through it and annotating every little piece of intellectual tomfoolery and BS I come across, then gifting the book to someone who needs a good dose of reality.

  • Andrew Morgan

    ARRRGGGHHHH WHETHER OR NOT DARWIN BELIEVED IN GOD DOESN’T MATTER AAAAAGHHHHHHHH

    I don’t understand why anybody thinks that it matters whether Darwin was religious. What that tells us about science and religion being philosophically compatible is precisely nothing.

  • Killer_Bee

    It sounds like a puff-piece.

    Religion for the masses,
    reason for th’ elite.
    I don’t see any reason
    the twain should ever meet.

  • Barker

    I like to think science and religion can coexist much the some way reality and make-believe can coexist. The problem for some, of course, is knowing which is which.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Advocates of religion and science both want to know the truth. The difference is in the methodologies.

    Religion recognizes revelation (God telling people things) as a sufficient methodology in itself. Science remains silent on the inspiration of ideas themselves. Science comes into play with the testing of ideas usually through physical experiment. The best religion can do is to see if new revelations are consistent with previously accepted revelations.

    Problems can develop when one tries to reconcile a body of untested but otherwise internally consistent ideas with a body of tested and internally consistent ideas. Religion vs. Science.

    Interestingly, problems can also develop when one tries to reconcile one body of untested and internally consistent ideas with another body of untested and internally consistent ideas. ReligionA vs ReligionB.

  • Sackbut

    Just about a year ago I heard an episode of Speaking Of Faith, and I was struck by the stated focus of the show: “Religion, spirituality, ethics, and ideas.” It happened to be a discussion about Alzheimer’s that day; what does that have to do with religion? On the other hand, pretty much anything can be discussed under the banner of “ideas”, so what is the the show’s focus, actually?

    From that episode a year ago, I got a general impression that anything that touched on comforting, identity, profundity, or hope automatically was a religious subject in the eyes of Krista Tippet, who, I learned, has a degree in theology. None of those topics have anything to with religion in my view. My lack of religion probably makes some religious people think I am missing those topics in my life.

  • littlejohn

    I don’t think it even makes sense to compare science and religion.
    Religions are a set of conclusions, assumed to be correct. Any new information showing those conclusions to be incorrect is rejected, sometimes violently.
    Science assumes nothing. Science is a method. We can’t even prove it’s the best method. It’s simply the only method with a genuinely good track record.
    Any knowledge gained through the scientific method is tentative. If new information contradicts what most scientists believe, then the scientists absolutely must change what they believe to be true. There are no eternal truths in science.
    Religious people don’t understand the distinction, often pointing out that a mistake by a scientists disproves science. No it doesn’t. It’s another scientist who discovers the mistake, not a priest. They’ll never get it.

  • Aj

    Science is about gaining knowledge through gathering supporting or opposing evidence. They do ask the same questions, this is why accommodationists are wrong. Religion includes supernatural beliefs that have no grounding in evidence or rationality, that’s disrespecting the truth. Religion makes extraordinary claims without any evidence, and is proud of this, that’s not humility, that’s arrogance. Filling the gaps of scientific knowledge with religious nonsense is not only irrational, it’s clearly counter to the principles and enterprise of science. To call religion humble and respectful of the truth is a huge joke.

  • Trans Sami

    While we’re at it lets also reconcile known historical facts with mythology. Sure proven historical facts say the vikings where just mundane pillagers, but if these people can reconcile ancient middle eastern legends with modern scientific facts I see no reason we can’t reconcile the tales of Thor fighting giant serpents with the historical facts of vikings existing.

    Sure one is a proven fact backed up by countless scientific studies and tests while the other is primitive superstition that has never provided one shred of evidence except for a handful of believers citing each other, but if the accomodationists can reconcile science and religion I see no reason we can’t reconcile history and mythology.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    That piece was mostly about Darwin, not Einstein. Einstein said some very stupid things on the topic of religion, and used some words in unfamiliar ways which caused other people to misunderstand what he did say.

    Einstein said, “I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly.”

    Sorry pal, you didn’t.

    Einstein is also often quoted as having said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

    But please read that in context. Here’s a full paragraph of it.
    Science and Religion

    This article appears in Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions, pp.41 – 49. The first section is taken from an address at Princeton Theological Seminary, May 19, 1939. It was published in Out of My Later Years, New York: Philosophical Library, 1950. The second section is from Science, Philosophy and Religion, A Symposium, published by the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, Inc., New York, 1941.

    Now, even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other (1), nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion (2). To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith (3). The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

    1) This is NOMA. And it is wrong. If science and religion are clearly demarcated, why do religious boobs so frequently stumble across the line?

    2) “Aspiration toward truth and understanding” comes from religion? This is either clearly wrong, or else he is using the word “religion” in some unfamiliar way.

    3) Belief that the world is comprehensible to reason does not require blind faith; it is a reasonable conclusion to draw from a half millenium of successful scientific exploration.

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. We’ve come to imagine him as a godless naturalist and to see the publication of his book as a dramatic moment in history, one that has created an instantaneous rift between science and religion.

    Really? Who actually thinks of Darwin this way? Not supporters of evolution, that’s for sure. This is not a good start and doesn’t really make me want to read more.

  • Karen

    I totally agree with Deen, btw.

    I think that science and “religion” -as the literal “connecting back,” as a search for life’s meaning- aren’t mutually exclusive. But fundamental religion in the way it’s currently pursued is too rigorous in it’s suspicion when it comes to change and discovery (compensating for their own doubts, I’m certain). It almost becomes the anti-science.

  • me

    It doesn’t offend me that people put religion and science at the same “level”, it disappoints me. Sure science and religion are all trying to find the answers. But science works and religion doesn’t.

  • Erp

    I think a key point is what definition of religion is being used. Some will disagree with her definition since so many definitions of religion exist, but, if she clear and consistent then at least a ground for discussion exists (e.g., religion_def1 can be reconciled but religion_def2 which many other people hold can’t be reconciled).

  • Miko

    The problem is that science and religion do not, or at least should not, answer the same questions. If they go after the same questions (necessarily in the area of objective reality since that’s all that science addresses), science wins hands down since it has better tools for examining reality. If religion wants to have a place, it should concede that it has nothing to tell us about reality and stick to nonobjective issues. (This is not to insult religion; there are many nonobjective questions worth answering and doing so from within a religious framework is probably just as good as from any other framework.)

    Jeff P: Religion recognizes revelation (God telling people things) as a sufficient methodology in itself.

    Not necessarily. Considering all of the interpretations that people do of the Bible, it seems that some principle of inference, probably modus ponens, is also used. Also, since different people read the same text and reach different conclusions, we have to conclude that either 1) the system is not internally consistent, 2) the system has multiple consistent models, or 3) the people are illogical. (I favor a combination of 1 and 3.)

  • Miko

    @Erp: The problem is that people don’t use the same definition consistently. They use religion_1 when engaged in debate about religion since it’s easier to defend, but they use religion_2 in practice since it’s what they actually believe.

    Ayn Rand called this an “anti-concept,” meaning an unusable term designed to make comprehension impossible through the provision of two contradictory definitions. It leads to delightfully frustrating and pointless arguments, as opponents can just shift the definition whenever it suits their needs.

    Other common examples are defining “capitalism” both as “a market system in which economic exchanges do not involve coercion” and as “a status system of privilege for the owners of capital resources,” and defining “anarchy” both as “a political system without central authority” and as “chaos.”

  • Richard Wade

    I think that this is a clash between two types of human nervous systems. There are people who favor their ears as the main way they learn about the world, and there are people who favor their eyes.

    The auditory people sit in rooms listening to someone tell them about the world outside. That person learned what he’s saying by sitting in a similar room, listening to a similar person, and on, back into the past, and none of them ever went outside. Indeed, going outside is frowned upon, and staying inside to listen is considered a virtue.

    The visual people get bored sitting there and wander outside, actually looking at the world around them, and they immediately notice that what they see doesn’t match what they have heard.

    Some of them get uncomfortable and run back inside, trying to forget what they saw. Many of those will be in a crisis for a long time. So they read books about how what they have seen and what they were told are somehow not in conflict. That reconciliation only works as long as they neither listen too closely nor look too closely.

    The rest of the lookers accept that their own eyes are more reliable than the stories told by those who never looked, and they look closer and closer. They become fascinated and invigorated by their accelerating discoveries, completely losing interest in the tales told them in their childhood.

    Books like this are for wooly thinkers who don’t want to listen or look very carefully.

  • littlejohn

    Selkirk makes a good point.
    Einstein, like Hawking, throws around the word “god” rather carelessly.
    I’m certain neither man was a theist, but were using the word as a synonym for “nature” or whatever.
    But they should have realized the confusion such loose talk can cause.

  • ckitching

    Science may be compatible with religion (as a concept), but that doesn’t mean it’s compatible with any and all religions. The scientific method is severely opposed to rigorous, unalterable dogma, and any religion that relies heavily on this is will inevitably find itself in conflict.

    Fundamentalist or dogmatic religionists will continually find conflict with science because both fields make conflicting claims about the nature of the world. On the other hand, many types of liberal or casual religionists are often perfectly compatible with science because much of their interpretation of holy text is of metaphors instead of literal, unalterable truth.

    I find this type of argument rather disingenuous. It’s a literal refutation of a oversimplification. No one doubts that there are those who are religious and scientific at the same time. Likewise, there are plenty of religious beliefs that have little or no impact on the furthering of scientific knowledge. However, there are huge conflicts with being a young earth creationist and practising the science of biology, anthropology, or geology, just to name a few.

    God as a metaphor for the universe or existence is nebulous enough that it can be compatible with nearly anything. God as a grumpy bearded old man, sitting on a cloud, deeply concerned with how you utilize your sex organs, who will punish you severely for not following his often arbitrary rules, is fundamentally incompatible with a large number of things. Unfortunately, popular forms of religion tends to have less in common with the former, and more in common with the latter, which inevitably leads to people saying that religion and science are incompatible.

  • llewelly

    … Templeton prize winners (what category are they in?) …

    Confusion.

  • Hilary

    It seems that the religious people want to make Darwin the leader of what they see as the “atheist religion.” Making him look like he was religious would presumably discredit us… Clearly, they don’t get it.

    I just finished reading The Greatest Show on Earth, and Dawkins addresses that same quote from on The Origin of species, but mentions that “by the creator” was not in the first edition. It was added later to appease religious leaders.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Miko says:

    Considering all of the interpretations that people do of the Bible, it seems that some principle of inference, probably modus ponens, is also used. Also, since different people read the same text and reach different conclusions, we have to conclude that either 1) the system is not internally consistent, 2) the system has multiple consistent models, or 3) the people are illogical. (I favor a combination of 1 and 3.)

    It is probably a bit of all three at different times. The interesting thing is that religious thinking (even from the same person) can’t be pinned down for all time. It remains fluid (interpretations change) as the person thinks about different things. Perhaps at any particular moment the religious model in a person’s mind is internally consistent but the model changes as soon as they think about something else. From a larger (or longer) perspective, this looks like a system that is not internally consistent practiced by illogical people.

  • muggle

    I like Richard’s analogy. Very apt.

    It’s two entirely different ways of looking at life. Realistically or through — well, I was going to say rose-colored glasses but considering any religion’s precepts of what happens if you fall short in proper obedience and discipline maybe shit-colored glasses is more apt.

    And Richard put it well. One gets too curious about the world and examines it, looks at what they can find in it. Others are too afraid to do this.

    This may explain why I spent my whole childhood with my mother screeching in alarm, “Curiosity killed the cat!” Big mistake. All it did was give my cat-loving ass nightmares — and make me want to poke around in the world all the more to protect our kitties from any possible danger.

    And, yet, science goes way over my head. Go figure.

    Oh, and no, I don’t think they can co-exist, in the end. The more science progresses; the more religion dies. I think it dies a little bit with each new scientific discovery.

  • sailor

    Krista Tippit would have no idea how to produce anything that was not a puff piece. her program is the worst NPR has to offer, as shallow as a mud flat with the tide gone out.

  • Gibbon

    I find something completely disingenuous about this whole debate over whether science and religion are compatible or incompatible, and that is due to the fact that while it has been clearly established for several hundred years; since the Scientific Revolution, what science is, the same can’t be said for religion.

    We know that science is essentially the practice of making observations and performing experiments all with the intention of acquiring knowledge and understanding of how the natural world works, but we don’t know what religion is. No one has managed to provide a working definition that can adequately account for what we regard as religion, and which has been agreed upon as providing a robust explanation. To use scientific vernacular, there is no agreed upon and established theory of religion.

    You can not determine whether science and religion are in conflict or not until you have formally identified what each of them is. But if you rely on this notion that religion is belief or dogma, you are in fact falling under the influence of a perspective that was not shaped by evidence but rather by the Protestant Reformation. And that definition can be accounted for by the efforts of people like Martin Luther who argued in favour of shifting Christianity more towards scripture and away from the Church of Rome.

    This is where science has an advantage, academically at least. We know what science is, but we don’t know what religion is.

    Putting aside that issue, there is no evidence of a conflict between science and religion. For example, you can’t interpret what happened to Galileo as being related to what is going on with evolution; one is an example of the Church’s authority being challenged, while the other was a shakeup of scriptural interpretation. There is nothing to indicate that they are related in any way.

  • Richard Wade

    This is the “reconciliation” offered by a mouse cornered by a cat.

    Attempts to reconcile religion and science seem to be made mainly by people who have a vested interest in preserving religion, rather than by people who are more interested in preserving science.

    Muggle is correct. Each new discovery is more territory for science and less for religion. It’s a ratcheting effect.

    Religion has been in a continuous retreat in the face of science for centuries. The increasingly impressive success of science to offer people healthier, longer and more interesting lives in the here and now has whittled away at religion’s hold over people’s minds.

    Religion’s latest tactics are the acts of the desperate:

    Imitation— Preachers using scientific jargon, trying to sound as “logical” as a guy in a white lab coat.

    Co-opting— Religionists trying to re-define science as a more inclusive vehicle that will carry them too, or just adding the word “science” on to their dogma whether it fits or not.

    Bad mouthing—Blaming science, or at least non-religionists for society’s ills or for natural disasters, and demonizing good people who simply are not convinced of religion’s validity.

    The self-fulfilling rationalization—Acknowledging religion’s continuous demise, and proposing that that is somehow evidence of its authenticity.

    All of these eventually backfire. They might briefly slow down the retreat, but in the long run their disingenuous nature disillusions more people.

    I don’t really see the point of reconciling with a failed hypothesis.

  • Paul Zimmerle

    I’m surprised you didn’t point out that the basic premise of the book is utterly false, Einstein was not a deist.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    I have noticed the timidity of the NCSE in regards to attacking religion head on. In fact, they even state outright that religion and science are not necessarily in conflict with each other, which is patently false. There is a deliberate effort to distance the NCSE from atheism and it’s done for practical (as in PR) reasons. I don’t necessarily disagree with their approach, but I’m not entirely comfortable with it, either.

  • Charon

    Science and religion are epistemologically incompatible. As others have said in different words, they approach knowledge in different (and incompatible) ways.

    They are not a priori ontologically incompatible. Science could have found evidence for a god. But it didn’t, and therefore they are a posteriori ontologically incompatible.

  • Gibbon

    Richard Wade

    Muggle is correct. Each new discovery is more territory for science and less for religion. It’s a ratcheting effect.

    Only if you first assume that religion and science are competing for the same territory. But what reason is there to believe that?

    I don’t really see the point of reconciling with a failed hypothesis.

    Again. Only if you assume that religion is a failed hypothesis. But I have yet to see a convincing reason to believe there is any legitimacy to that assumption.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    The whole reason for the conflict though is (and I believe PZ Myers pointed this out on his blog some time ago) that religion is intruding on science by attempting to directly compete with it on scientific territory. Creationism is an attempt to recast Genesis as a science journal rather than merely a creation myth of bronze age tribes because religious leaders need to pretend that religion has as much authority as science. This is an act of desperation that reveals just how little power religion has in the modern world. If religion were truly relevant, these leaders would be happy playing the role of moral and spiritual guide and would leave measurable reality to the people who do it best, the scientists.

  • Aric

    Not all religions is the same, nor are all religious people. See this quote by the Dalai Lama.

    “If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.”

    I know nothing about the particular book or author, but it reminds me of one worth looking at, with the words of many great scientists, not just Einstein. It’s not about science and religion, but about science and mysticism or spirituality. “Quantum Questions” by Ken Wilbur. http://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Questions-Ken-Wilber/dp/0394723384

    Another Dalai Lama quote for the heck of it:
    “Buddhism does not accept a theory of God, or a creator. According to Buddhism, one’s own actions are the creator, ultimately. Some people say that, from a certain angle, Buddhism is not a religion but rather a science of mind. Religion has much involvement with faith. Sometimes it seems that there is quite a distance between a way of thinking based on faith and one entirely based on experiment, remaining skeptical. Unless you find something through investigation, you do not want to accept it as fact. From one viewpoint, Buddhism is a religion, from another viewpoint Buddhism is a science of mind and not a religion. Buddhism can be a bridge between these two sides. Therefore, with this conviction I try to have closer ties with scientists, mainly in the fields of cosmology, psychology, neurobiology and physics. In these fields there are insights to share, and to a certain extent we can work together.”

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    There exists no greater method of understanding the universe than science and no greater accumulated knowledge (revised frequently as evidence is uncovered) than that provided by scientists seeking to uncover the truth of the universe’s mysteries. Scientists are experts in their field and many are humble about their knowledge and wary of speaking out on areas that do not concern their field of expertise unless something is preventing them from working. They are respected as experts only so long as they produce up to date research and improve our body of understanding. Nothing is assumed or granted by default.

    Religion does nothing to further our understanding of the universe, has no store of knowledge, no method of revision in the face of new or contradictory evidence and, in fact, has actively worked to limit understanding and knowledge for thousands of years. There is no greater limiter of understanding than that offered by blind faith and the assumption of foreknowledge. Religious leaders are authorities who seek to impose their view on all people from all walks of life without regard for their own abilities or expertise. They assume authority and demand respect without earning it.

    The two are as compatible only insofar as religion is allowed by adherents to conform to science.

  • Luther

    I completely disagree with the propositions related to the reasonableness of reconciling science and religion.

    But I will agree to compromise, if:

    With those who say Darwin was in favor of science being reconciled with religion, if they will agree, based on Darwin, that Evolution is solid science, implying that live on Earth evolved over billions of years. And fight the Creationists on this.

    With those who say Einstein believed in some kind of god, if the will work to rid the world of nuclear weapons based on Einstein’s beliefs.

  • jose

    Let’s say Darwin repented from his theory and became a born-again christian, young-earth creationist and all that creepy stuff you have over there in America.

    Let’s say he wrote another book after the Origin, saying -in summary- “I’ve seen the Light, everything in the Origin is Satan’s work.”

    So?

    We don’t use darwinian evolution because we like Darwin or because he told us so. We use it because it works. Darwin gave plenty of evidence supporting natural selection (everything in his books is like one idea followed by a hundred examples supporting it) and we make experiments that supports it as well.

    Now, where is the evidence and the experiments for goddidit. Please tell me. At this point, all they have to offer is old, tired, perfectly- explainable-by-evolution fine-tuning.

    Newton actually wrote some wacky stuff about prophecies and alchemy. That didn’t quite work out so we only know about it for historical reasons, but we don’t use those ideas in science because they just don’t work- even when they’ve been written by Newton.

    In short: we do what works. Now show me how goddidit works.

  • http://www.hillsideslide.blogspot.com Tina

    I enjoy Krista Tippet’s show, Speaking of Faith.

    I don’t get the sense that she is prostlytizing or preaching.

    In fact, she wouldn’t interview someone like a Falwell (ok, he’s dead now) or Dawkins b/c they have that air of “knowing it all” already- tough to get a good conversation, with give and take and discovery, going.

    What she strives to do is open up the conversation. She gets people from different corners talking & engaged.

    I find I learn a lot.

    I especially appreciate the tone of her discussions. She is creating real-life examples of people with sometimes totally different views respecting, relating to, and learning from one another. If that is ALL that she accomplishes, the world is better for it.

    I especially appreciated her show “Beyond the Atheism-Religion Divide,” which interviews Harvey Cox, author of “Secular City.”

    Here’s a Tippet Snippet:

    “‘Belief and non-belief run down through the middle of each of us, including myself, a cardinal of the church.’ I thought, this is just terrific. This is a guy who’s really making explicit what so many people feel and know about themselves, but are reluctant to talk about very often.”

    I think she gives fodder and space for people to explore their beliefs, or lack thereof. .

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Science can be viewed as a methodology to settle differences of opinion verifiable by a third party where the natural world provides the judgment. You can design an experiment that can be duplicated by others where nature itself runs its course in the experiment and provides results for all parties to see. Everybody sees the experiment from the third party perspective.

    Religion is all first person. First person “subjective” experience can only be communicated to others as narratives. The narratives cannot be experienced or verified by other people. One must simply accept or believe the narrative based on the authority of the person who experienced it. This is what religious people do with the bible. They simply accept and believe the written narratives of people from long ago.

    Religion has been very guilty throughout human history of making stuff up. Either all religions are made up or all religions but one are made up. It is certain, though, that at least all religions but one are made up. It is also hard to find agreement even within a single religion. One could say that at least all interpretations but one are wrong even in a single religion.

    Science is an effort by mankind to provide a means of enquiry that tries to eliminate all the negatives associated with the first person narrative.

  • http://www.hillsideslide.blogspot.com Tina

    Jeff P said: “The narratives cannot be experienced or verified by other people. One must simply accept or believe the narrative based on the authority of the person who experienced it. This is what religious people do with the bible. They simply accept and believe the written narratives of people from long ago.”

    As a person who grew up in the Christian Church, I don’t think your statement describes the whole picture.

    It is true that I cannot prove that any of those stories actually happened. Are they historically factual? I don’t know. I wasn’t there. For all I know, we could be living in Teh Matrix and someone wrote the Bible the day before I learned to read.

    Then again, I don’t know how much of the stories my grandma told about growing up on the farm were factually true. I believe they were, but I cannot prove that, for instance, when my great great aunt buried her infant son in a driving rainstorm, it was the saddest day of her life.

    However, those stories are part of my heritage. I carry them with me. The are meaningful to me. They helped shape how I see the world & what I expect in Life.

    It’s been said that a Myth isn’t something that happened once and is over, but something that happens again and again.

    So my question is: am i discovering meaning through the stories that others have passed down? am i finding wisdom encased in those stories?

    Against all else, I ask: How can I love my neighbor as myself? Is what I’m about to do “loving?”

    Now, those are not questions exclusive to Christians, but it’s how I have learned them & I can’t separate them from the package they came in.

    As for now way to verify…
    When Jesus suggested that you love your enemy as yourself and you turn the other cheek, he gave me something I can test. As a lesbian who goes to church, I get plenty of opportunity to love my oppressor/frenemy. And once I began to take that step, that risk, I started seeing good results.

    Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr certainly tested these concepts and they seemed to verify what Jesus suggested.

    Was it “simple” to “accept and believe” these narratives when young marchers were about to face police dogs and firehoses, or when they received bomb threats or imagined the lynch mobs? I would say: not simple. That was a huge personal risk based on the recorded sayings of The Bible- Jesus and the Prophets.

    It’s hard to communicate b/c of the limitations of language and assumptions and comment length, but I belive that religions point to certain spiritual and moral “truths” that can be observed and tested.

    Now, can we prove that Jesus turned water into wine? I can’t imagine. But then, I’m more interested in the reality underlying the stories about justice, mercy & love.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    It’s hard to communicate b/c of the limitations of language and assumptions and comment length, but I belive that religions point to certain spiritual and moral “truths” that can be observed and tested.

    I think it’s sad when a person has to put the word truths in scare quotes. It means they’re not really talking about truth any more. Perhaps you should expand your vocabulary a bit. Maybe you could talk about moral values rather than moral truths. And instead of spiritual, which is ambiguous, you could try using the word emotional.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    @Tina,

    We humans are creatures that enjoy and appreciate first person narratives and useful mythology. There is nothing wrong with first person narratives and mythologies unless people elevate them to ABSOLUTE TRUTH and start to persecute others accordingly. If you find use in the narrative of those that talk about what Jesus supposedly said, then all the power to you.

    I’m sure, though, that you can appreciate that the narrative that Fred Phelps chooses to pay attention to (in that same bible) is oppressive towards many. The bible is a mismatch of good and bad narratives.

    I would have no problem accepting and believing the narratives told by your grandmother unless they were filled with supernatural events, infinite punishment for finite crimes, and claims of infallibility.

  • Siamang

    That speaking of faith thing really annoys me. I think it’s the wooly-headed faux-thoughtful tone of voice from Tippett.

    Her whole approach seems to be that there’s no idea, no thought, no point of view within religion that could be wrong or mistaken or unmeaningful. Except the contrary view, that religion is frequently if not mostly wrong, or often harmful, very likely mistaken and in my view actually actively impeding the search for meaning. I don’t think THAT point of view *would* be welcome on her show.

    For an example of the wooly-headedness, look at this quote from her book:

    He used the biblically evocative analogy of a “tree of life” to illustrate his theory of species sprouting as branches from the same trunk, some flourishing and others withering and falling to nourish the ground in which the whole is sustained.

    The fact that Darwin illustrated a “tree of life” is somehow an argument for the role of religion in guiding his science because… wait for it… there was a famous tree in the Bible??!

    But life makes trees. Evolution makes trees. Trees were around for millions of years before the Bible.

    The analogy of all of life being like a tree isn’t so much an analogy as a resemblance. There’s a reason why a tree with a branching structure is like life with a branching structure, or like a river with a branching structure, or like our circulatory system with a branching structure: It is a fundamental shape of self-propagating systems.

    Darwin used the “tree of life” not because of a biblical reference, but because when you draw a family tree, it’s *just that shape*.

    You might as well make the case that “Darwin wrote his book on paper, and the BIBLE is a book written on paper! He must have been inspired while reading his Bible to do all his famous science and write it on paper!”

    The wooly-headedness is nothing but religion’s familiar desire to look upon the good discoveries, inventions and insights of others and claim them all as their own.

    I’ll hasten to add… the lack of evidence, foggy evidence and fuzzy connection of this example is exemplar of the usual religious apologist’s disdain for rigorous arguments.

    But that’s what you get when your whole schtick is “there’s no idea in religion that’s completely wrong.” If you want to believe it, and it makes you feel warm inside, then there’s probably a really really deep truth in there that’s just impossible to articulate distinctly. Let’s meditate on that, shall we?

  • Fredrik

    If Ms. Kippett wanted to know about Einstein’s god she should have read this letter from him to Erik Gutkind after reading his book, ‘Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt’. Notably the follow excerpt:

    The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.

  • http://www.hillsideslide.blogspot.com Tina

    @Reginald Selkirk

    I suppose that that is what I’m trying to do- expand my vocab, as well as the conversation.

    The reason I used quotes around ‘truth’ is b/c I was trying to acknowledge that others may have a different word for or view of what I’m trying to describe.

    I’m trying to describe something that is not a value.

    The nonviolent peace movements, and individual efforts to love someone who is hurting you, work b/c they evoke something in the oppressor- a sense of shame, and at the same time, reach out to that oppressor in love. The ultimate goal is that both sides learn to see each other as equals, as people, not dehumanized Its.

    I acknowlege that it does not work every single time, but the probability factor is high.

    The transformation from oppressor/oppressed to friend through the method of loving the oppressor has worked time and again.

    Do x, y, z and you will have predictable results.

    I call that a truth b/c it is describing a replicable scenario.

    Maybe that is not the right word. But it is a Something.

    As I see it, its not a value (like, red is the best color and i value all things red… they are soo much better than blues) but a description of something that is there.

    Thoughts?

  • Aj

    Tina,

    It is true that I cannot prove that any of those stories actually happened. Are they historically factual? I don’t know. I wasn’t there. For all I know, we could be living in Teh Matrix and someone wrote the Bible the day before I learned to read.

    You don’t have to have been somewhere to determine whether it’s likely to be true. And actually, being there isn’t even good evidence, because it’s anecdotal, and peoples eyes, minds, and memories deceive them all the time. A virtual world requires far more assumptions than reality, as an explanation it’s as bad as the god hypothesis.

    So my question is: am i discovering meaning through the stories that others have passed down? am i finding wisdom encased in those stories?

    I discover meaning and wisdom through stories, they’re called fiction, and they don’t have to be presented as some sort of truth, because they’re not. If religious stories were presented as fiction, then there would be no problem with them. They could be criticized and rejected, no one would be indoctrinated with them.

    I acknowlege that it does not work every single time, but the probability factor is high.

    Do x, y, z and you will have predictable results.

    I call that a truth b/c it is describing a replicable scenario.

    I don’t think you have any idea, because you haven’t done the work involved to test this hypothesis. Show your equations, data, and methodology of how you came to a high probability “factor”. If you actually had quality evidence supporting your claims, then perhaps you could say that you’re working towards the truth, and your work is persuasive.

  • muggle

    “The transformation from oppressor/oppressed to friend through the method of loving the oppressor has worked time and again.”

    No, it has succeeded in some rare instances. More often it has failed. Ask any battered wife.

    I find it amusing in a real dark humor kind of way that you use Ghandi and King as examples of loving your enemy working. While both men did a great deal of good, hello, they were both assasinated. No, it didn’t work yet again.

  • Gibbon

    Darwin’s Dagger

    The whole reason for the conflict though is (and I believe PZ Myers pointed this out on his blog some time ago) that religion is intruding on science by attempting to directly compete with it on scientific territory.

    It’s only creationism that is doing that, which is best thought of as something of a bastard child of the Christian religion. It is not so much religion or Christianity intruding on scientific territory, but rather a Christian ideology (note: not religion) that relies on the notion that the Bible is infallible and without error and so must be interpreted literally, word-for-word. Creationism can’t be seen as evidence for a conflict between science and religion either, since creationism was nonexistent for the many centuries when science and religion coexisted without conflict.

    Creationism is an attempt to recast Genesis as a science journal rather than merely a creation myth of bronze age tribes because religious leaders need to pretend that religion has as much authority as science.

    Creationism first and foremost, is a rejection of evolution as legitimate science; the people behind it are not trying to take over or subvert the whole of science, they simply object to a certain scientific theory undermining their interpretation of scripture. The way they see it is that human origins is crucial to achieving morality, and for their particular moral compass to work they require that the origins of humans must have followed the Genesis account of creation. Haven’t you ever seen a creationist say that Jesus means nothing if the Garden of Eden had never occurred? They don’t believe in Jesus for any scientific merit, but instead for moral value, which they believe is lost if the Genesis creation story never happened.

    This is an act of desperation that reveals just how little power religion has in the modern world.

    Tell that to the United States. Religious communities haven’t exactly loss much power there; the Religious Right still has a lot of influence. How about almost the entirety of the non-Western world? Islamic bodies dominate the Middle East. Then there’s the Catholic Church. The Church is still able to protect its clergy from being punished by the state for the crimes those clergymen commit, and they’re getting away with it. It doesn’t appear that religious institutions have lost too much power.

    If religion were truly relevant, these leaders would be happy playing the role of moral and spiritual guide and would leave measurable reality to the people who do it best, the scientists.

    What do you think Liberal Christianity is? Moderate Islam? It is what all the moderate religious people do. They don’t pretend that their religious texts have any scientific merit that supersedes that of science; they are happy to let science do what it does best without unnecessarily objecting to it or the results that it produces. Those people simply use their religion as a source of guidance and identity. As long as religions are able to adapt to the ever-changing social environment, they will remain relevant. But if they can’t, new ones will most likely spring up in their place.

  • jose

    adding to what @muggle has said…

    Not only Gandhi and King, but Jesus himself was assasinated too.

    I mean, according to the myth.

  • ckitching

    Creationism first and foremost, is a rejection of evolution as legitimate science; the people behind it are not trying to take over or subvert the whole of science, they simply object to a certain scientific theory undermining their interpretation of scripture.

    I’m afraid, you’re wrong on this. Creationists don’t just object to biological evolution. They also object to geology (plate tectonics, and the origin of many geological features), archaeology (showing human origins in Africa), nuclear physics (radiometric dating), cosmology (showing our planet and solar system to be ancient and minor features of the universe), and even the absurd things like heliocentrism and Einstein’s relativity theories. I’ve even heard objections about climatology based on the bible now. Anything that does not put humanity and the earth in a privileged position, created a relatively short time ago, is opposed by creationists, and the amount of evidence against their position is enormous.

  • Gibbon

    ckitching

    I’m afraid, you’re wrong on this. Creationists don’t just object to biological evolution. They also object to geology (plate tectonics, and the origin of many geological features), archaeology (showing human origins in Africa), nuclear physics (radiometric dating), cosmology (showing our planet and solar system to be ancient and minor features of the universe), and even the absurd things like heliocentrism and Einstein’s relativity theories.

    But it all comes back to human origins. Plate tectonics, radiometric dating, the Big Bang, these are all things that the creationist sees, due primarily to the time-spans they describe, as lending support to the theory of evolution. But they don’t object to the scientific disciplines that produced these theories, if they did then we would expect to hear them dismissing such things as nuclear power or earthquake standards for building codes just as much as they criticise radiometric dating and evolution. If there was no theory that attaches these non-biological theories to human origins you would hear very little from the creationists on them.

    They may be chucking out what they believe is dirty bath water (evolution), but they’re not ditching the bathtub (the sciences).

  • ckitching

    They may be chucking out what they believe is dirty bath water (evolution), but they’re not ditching the bathtub (the sciences).

    I still believe you’re wrong about that. I’ve heard it said in certain creationist circles that the only thing scientists have ever given us was deadly new weapons (they were speaking of nuclear and biological weaponry, of course). Unlike most everyone here, and even most intelligent design proponents, most do not make a connection between human technology and scientific research because the research almost never leads directly technological products. Many people fail to comprehend that advances in physics and chemistry fields lead to improved computer and medical technology.

    Even among the public at large, a surprisingly high number of people simply do not associate the technology behind their new television screens or cell phones with physicists in white lab coats performing experiments in laboratories. Likewise, medical progress is most often assigned solely to doctors and physicians instead of biologists and chemists. Instead they associate them with tinkering inventors and corporate R&D instead. For example, I’ve seen many people who call themselves libertarians take the position that pure research is worthless, and shouldn’t be funded.

    Even take the growing problem of popular anti-intellectualism. Scientists (along with historians, and most other pure research professions) are definitely assigned to the intellectuals category that is to be hated, but doctors, and engineers, who have training and knowledge requirements that are just as steep, are usually exempted.

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  • http://www.hillsideslide.blogspot.com Tina

    @Muggle,

    Yeah, when I read that, it is funny (dark, but funny).

    And, on an individual basis, you’re right. Didn’t work out for them to live long and prosper. They got killed.

    At the same time, huge societal changes came about because of those movements, which were spearheaded by G and MLK- via non-violent resistance/loving the enemy.
    Yes people were killed & beaten, but change happened and a lot of oppressed people got their rights and regained their dignity, without a civil war.

    So, overall, I think the numbers pan out. AND, b/c these mov’ts didn’t use violence to win their rights, the cycle of violence was greatly curtailed.

  • Neon Genesis

    I have nothing against Christians who are able to reconcile their faith with science if it helps them accept evolution as a fact, but Krista Tippett is a hypocrite and doesn’t really believe in NOMA. I was listening to an interview with this “doctor” on her radio show and Tippett bashing western medicine for being dogmatic and closed minded and promoting “alternative” medicine that’s already been debunked by real science like acupuncture and homeopathy. I think this alternative medicine view is far more dangerous than just Christians believing in evolution. They also claimed on the show that scientists are trying to silence alternative medicine by not giving them enough funding to “prove” it works and she promotes using prayer as an alternative medicine. Like I said, I have nothing against Christians who actually believe in NOMA, but Krista Tippett is not one of them and I think this alternative medicine is just as dangerous as fundamentalism.

  • Gibbon

    ckitching

    I still believe you’re wrong about that.

    The thing is though that most creationists, such as Ken Ham and even the Intelligent Design community, believe that science supports their position. They reject evolution as a failure of science and instead argue that their ideas have greater scientific legitimacy. And the people who do believe that make up the vast majority of creationists.

    I’ve heard it said in certain creationist circles that the only thing scientists have ever given us was deadly new weapons (they were speaking of nuclear and biological weaponry, of course).

    I’m sure as hell hoping that you are not taking that comment from Ben Stein when he said that “science leads to killing people”, as a statement of what creationists generally believe, because it would be a big disappointment if you are. Again, creationists do not object to science or the various disciplines, but rather to certain scientific theories. They have no problem in using geology to argue for Noah’s Flood or a young earth.

    Unlike most everyone here, and even most intelligent design proponents, most do not make a connection between human technology and scientific research because the research almost never leads directly technological products. Many people fail to comprehend that advances in physics and chemistry fields lead to improved computer and medical technology.

    Even among the public at large, a surprisingly high number of people simply do not associate the technology behind their new television screens or cell phones with physicists in white lab coats performing experiments in laboratories.

    Do you really believe that? That a significant number of people do not recognise that science is behind pretty much all technological advancements? It is highly unlikely that many people believe that science played no part in the advancements of technology. Scientific knowledge has increased exponentially over the last several centuries, and at the same time technology has developed with ever increasing speed; it wouldn’t take someone with an education to realise that there is a connection between the two.

    For example, I’ve seen many people who call themselves libertarians take the position that pure research is worthless, and shouldn’t be funded.

    Actually, libertarians aren’t so much objecting to scientific research, they just don’t see anything worthwhile in scientific projects that do not produce results which can be put to practical use. Typically, this argument is applied to the astronomical sciences more than any other. Geology, biology, physics, and chemistry are all seen as having useful applications, whereas something like astronomy, which studies things distant from Earth, usually isn’t. Libertarian-minded people are fully aware of the connection between science and technology, they just don’t see the point in any research that does not or can not produce technology.

  • Neon Genesis

    “The thing is though that most creationists, such as Ken Ham and even the Intelligent Design community, believe that science supports their position. They reject evolution as a failure of science and instead argue that their ideas have greater scientific legitimacy. And the people who do believe that make up the vast majority of creationists.”

    I was raised as a creationist and I can tell you that the Christians at my parents’ church most certainly are anti-science. They believe that all scientists expect for the creationist scientists are apart of this global atheistic conspiracy to supress evidence of the existence of God and that the reason why the Large Hadron Collider keeps failing is because God is punishing the scientists for trying to contradict the Genesis creation account. They also claimed that people don’t believe in God because they’re too educational expect they believe being too educational is a sin. The fact that they’ll accept science when it’s convenient for them does not prove creationists like science. It only proves they’re hypocrites. In his documentary Expelled, Ben Stein said that he loved science, but we all know that’s a joke, right?

    “Do you really believe that? That a significant number of people do not recognise that science is behind pretty much all technological advancements? It is highly unlikely that many people believe that science played no part in the advancements of technology.”

    I can say that while they may recognize science is behind technology, I think most creationists take it for granted that science gave them their nice cars and fancy TVs and computers and don’t give science any proper credit for it.

    “Libertarian-minded people are fully aware of the connection between science and technology, they just don’t see the point in any research that does not or can not produce technology.”

    Wow, just like creationists!

  • muggle

    Yes, Tina, as I said, despite doing a lot of good, loving their enemy did not work. They wound up dead and they didn’t change their enemy. They changed society. Mostly by martyring themself. In my book, that’s not working. I do not see loving your enemy as a valid form of self-defense. It is, frankly, stupid. There are better ways to effect change. There are changes I would drastically like to see happen but I offering up my life for them.

    Of course, I’m a Bitch. Yes, with a capital B. That’s Ms. Bitch to you. Turning the other cheek is for fools.

  • Neon Genesis

    “It is, frankly, stupid. There are better ways to effect change. There are changes I would drastically like to see happen but I offering up my life for them.”

    Like the Iraq War? Wow, that’s really helping in the Middle East.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Gibbon, I’d question whether the positions you describe can be meaningfully described as being supportive of science. It’s true that in modern western society, science is so respectable, like mom and apple pie, that very few people are likely to publicly state that all science is hooey. (I can’t comment on what you’re likely to hear in Neon Genesis’ private creationist discussions.) And yes, creation “science” feels the need to dress itself up in the trappings of science. However, if someone claims to believe in science, but rejects huge fields of science every time they produce results they don’t believe in, only to replace it with sham pseudo-science, I’d say that they feel some social pressure to pay lip service to science – they don’t believe in it or understand it in any meaningful way.

    Putting aside that issue, there is no evidence of a conflict between science and religion. For example, you can’t interpret what happened to Galileo as being related to what is going on with evolution; one is an example of the Church’s authority being challenged, while the other was a shakeup of scriptural interpretation. There is nothing to indicate that they are related in any way.

    This seems like an untenably narrow view of “when things are related.” Yes, one involves the authority of the Catholic Church, and one involved the authority of the Bible, that hardly strikes me as such a huge difference as to make them completely unrelated. The common thread is that, throughout history, many people have thought that their religious beliefs made factual predictions about what the observable physical world was like. For those people, NOMA is not an accurate description of their religious beliefs – in those cases, science and religion can conflict. It’s only if a person’s religious beliefs make no testable predictions about the physical world – e.g. they believe that prayer has no observable physical effects external to the person praying – that NOMA is accurate.

  • dgrhm

    I think the real issue is the conflict between rigid dogmatic literalism and progressive exploration and inquiry.

    As humans, we ask questions and want answers. Some systems of thought, like religion, supply all the answers to all of our questions. It kills off inquiry. Other systems, like science urge us to ask more questions. New answers create new questions.

    I’ve put the systems in two camps. Science explores the questions of objective reality, religion explores the realm of subjective reality.

    For example, one can study God, Darth Vadar, or Alvin and the Chipmunks and get universal human truths. Those truths are not necessarily objective.

    Objective reality, on the other hand, is what can be measured and observed in space and time. This is the realm of mathematics and science.

    We are on the brink of a new scientific field; synthetic genomics. We can make artificial life forms. Objectively, that means we can manipulate and engineer life at the molecular level.

    However, there are ethical things to consider. Should we use such technology to make weapons that can eliminate whole groups of people? What will we do when governments begin to use that technology to design such weapons? (And studying human history, they will.)

    Ethics is subjective. It’s not the realm of science to answer ethical questions, but it couldn’t hurt us if scientists were ethical in their pursuit of knowledge and asked if what they were doing was moral.

    We’ve got nuclear weapons because of scientists. What are we going to do when we have DNA bombs?

    We need a method to discover ethical truths. Otherwise, scientists will continue to discover new things that will lead to amazing technologies and apocalyptic weaponry.

    We’re running out of time to reconcile these things. What can we do?

  • Gibbon

    Neon Genesis

    I was raised as a creationist and I can tell you that the Christians at my parents’ church most certainly are anti-science. They believe that all scientists expect for the creationist scientists are apart of this global atheistic conspiracy to supress evidence of the existence of God and that the reason why the Large Hadron Collider keeps failing is because God is punishing the scientists for trying to contradict the Genesis creation account.

    It doesn’t so much sound like these people are opposed to science it self, but rather to scientists and scientific theories, two things that I wouldn’t describe as equating to science. And again, it comes back to origins. One of the big issues the LHC is supposed to address is the Big Bang; figure that out and you’ve figured out the origins of the universe. That’s got to be a problem for the creationists, whose whole doctrine rests on the origins of everything.

    The fact that they’ll accept science when it’s convenient for them does not prove creationists like science. It only proves they’re hypocrites.

    All it proves is that they are opposed to certain scientific theories and the scientific community, but not the practice of science.

    I can say that while they may recognize science is behind technology, I think most creationists take it for granted that science gave them their nice cars and fancy TVs and computers and don’t give science any proper credit for it.

    So what? You expect them to bow down at the altar of science and give thanks and forgiveness to the gods of science for the bountiful technology that has been bestowed upon them? Ninety-nine percent of all people, creationist or not, take it for granted that scientific research has provided them with all their wonderful technology; they just don’t give it any thought. For the vast majority of people, there is little point in giving credit to scientific research for technology; I’d say that there is just as much reason to do that as there is to pray to god that he rain-out the cricket tomorrow.

    Wow, just like creationists!

    Hardly. Creationists are driven by their ideological commitment to oppose anything that they believe conflicts with their ideology. Libertarians are more pragmatic, they object to money being spent on projects which have no tangible pay-offs, such as SETI. What is the point of trying to discover if there is life on other planets when such knowledge could not be put to any use?

    Autumnal Harvest

    And yes, creation “science” feels the need to dress itself up in the trappings of science. However, if someone claims to believe in science, but rejects huge fields of science every time they produce results they don’t believe in, only to replace it with sham pseudo-science, I’d say that they feel some social pressure to pay lip service to science – they don’t believe in it or understand it in any meaningful way.

    Again. They may reject certain scientific theories, but they don’t reject science. Why do I get this funny feeling that all your arguments rely on the fallacious notion that science is some sort of ideology, philosophy, or “world-view” (despite the absurdity of such a term), or that it offers one of them, despite the fact that it is nothing more than a practice? Experimentation and observation constitute the defining essence of science; I’d like to whatever objections creationists have made to those two basic principles.

    This seems like an untenably narrow view of “when things are related.” Yes, one involves the authority of the Catholic Church, and one involved the authority of the Bible, that hardly strikes me as such a huge difference as to make them completely unrelated.

    It is not an untenably narrow view, it is the fact. There is no evidence that connects the Galileo Affair to the evolution-creation debates. There is nothing about the Galileo Affair that is also present in the dispute over creationism.

    When Martin Luther argued that the Church of Rome had no greater authority to interpret scripture than anyone else, he was basically saying that every person, laity or clergy, had the right to interpret the Bible for themselves; they didn’t need someone else to do it for them. But what the Catholic Church argued in the Council of Trent was that they alone had the authority to interpret the Bible. When Galileo presented his scientific theory, some 50 years after CoT, he also offered his own interpretation of the relevant scripture to make it consistent with his theory; he was interpreting the Bible despite that being heretical under the Church. Galileo was simply an innocent victim of the Reformation Wars, in other words he had really bad timing.

    It is not the same with creationism. It isn’t over the authority of the Bible, as liberal Christians assign to it similar authority as well. It is about evolution conflicting with a specific interpretation. The creationists object to any idea or notion that contradicts their particular interpretation of the bible.

    Again. The Galileo Affair was a dispute about Church authority, while creationism is about scriptural interpretation. There is no evidence to suggest that together they are part of something bigger, nor is there a common factor present in both of them. The only thing they could possibly have in common is the presence of scientists.

    NOMA is not an accurate description of their religious beliefs – in those cases, science and religion can conflict. It’s only if a person’s religious beliefs make no testable predictions about the physical world – e.g. they believe that prayer has no observable physical effects external to the person praying – that NOMA is accurate.

    NOMA is not accurate, because science and religion do overlap, just not in a way that most people realise. Religion is a social oriented practice, while science is a knowledge oriented practice; there is a bit of overlap but not of the sort that naturally puts them at odds with each other. For the most part they have coexisted for over a thousand years without any real trouble, so as to why anyone is trying to stir up trouble now is beyond me.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Again. The Galileo Affair was a dispute about Church authority, while creationism is about scriptural interpretation. . . nor is there a common factor present in both of them.

    I’m not sure what to say, since you for some reason seem to have ignored the part of my comment where I point out the common factor. As I said before, the common factor is that religious people thought that their religious beliefs had implications about the physical world. For you to insist that two things have no common factor because you can list ways in which they’re different, doesn’t seem to make much sense.

    Why do I get this funny feeling that all your arguments rely on the fallacious notion that science is some sort of ideology, philosophy, or “world-view” (despite the absurdity of such a term), or that it offers one of them, despite the fact that it is nothing more than a practice? Experimentation and observation constitute the defining essence of science; I’d like to whatever objections creationists have made to those two basic principles.

    I can’t parse that last sentence, I think there’s a typo there, but it seems to me that you’re saying that you’re only going to view creationists as rejecting science if they explicitly say “I do not believe in experiementation and observation.” Again, I’m not sure what to do other than repeat what I’ve said earlier, and which you seem to have ignored. If somone claims that they believe in experimentation and observation as an accurate method of determining reality, but then reject the results of that experimentation and observation whenever it produces results that they don’t like, then there’s no meaningful way in which that claim is true.

    Perhaps it comes down to what you mean by “rejecting science.” Yes, science is a practice, a set of methodologies for determining how the world works. And most people aren’t going to explicitly criticize those methodologies, so if that’s your standard, very few people can be said to have “rejected” science – but most people probably don’t think about those methodologies at all, so I’m not sure by that standard you could say that many people, religious or not, have “accepted” science. I would say people “accept” science when they accept that those methodologies are an reliable way of determining information about the physical world. I don’t understand your view, it seems to be that your view is that people “accept” science when they’re willing to use technology produced by that science.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    It doesn’t so much sound like these people are opposed to science it self, but rather to scientists and scientific theories,. . . they are opposed to certain scientific theories and the scientific community, but not the practice of science.

    Gibbon, reading through your posts, I see that your repeatedly state what things aren’t constitute rejecting science. Can you clarify what it would take for you to see someone as rejecting science? Do they need to state that they reject all science, because the scientific method if always inhrently flawed? Or refuse to use technology produced by science?

  • http://kaleenamenke.blogspot.com Kaleena

    I love Speaking of Faith and highly recommend it especially to readers of this blog!


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