She blinded me with science

science religionBack in December of last year, a federal judge ruled against a Dover school board including intelligent-design theories in curriculum. The ruling basically said that intelligent design is religion-based and therefore false science. Mainstream coverage pounced on this. I raised a question about the coverage then:

Why is it that people have such an easy time seeing into the hearts of intelligent design proponents and discovering nefarious religious motivations but never question the religious motivations of evolution proponents?

Well, George Johnson had a fantastic piece in The New York Times that surveys religious attitudes of various scientists who attended a conference on science and religion. The article is so well-written and has so many juicy parts that I’m having trouble picking which ones to excerpt.

Johnson’s experience writing about science and religion shows. He wrote Fire in the Mind: Science, Faith, and the Search for Order a decade ago. He’s won the Templeton-Cambridge journalism fellowship in science and religion. And he’s written numerous articles on the subject.

For this article, Johnson covered a Science Network event referred to by some as an anti-Templeton conference on science and religion. Most of the numerous speakers Johnson quoted expressed a great deal of animosity toward religious belief:

Dr. [Steven] Weinberg, who famously wrote toward the end of his 1977 book on cosmology, “The First Three Minutes,” that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless,” went a step further: “Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”

He quoted the noted atheist Richard Dawkins, but many other scientists also expressed anti-religious views, including Harold Kroto, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carolyn Porco.

Somewhere along the way, a forum this month at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., which might have been one more polite dialogue between science and religion, began to resemble the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: in a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told.

Here’s what Porco, a research scientist at the Space Institute, proposed:

“Let’s teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome — and even comforting — than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know.”

darwin fishJohnson provides perspective on the story, detailing efforts by the Templeton Foundation to smooth over differences between science and religion. He explains that more prominent believing scientists were invited to the conference but didn’t attend. And he quotes evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala, a former Roman Catholic priest, pooh-poohing efforts to fight six billion people finding meaning and purpose in life. When physicist and nonbeliever Lawrence Krauss argues that science does not make it impossible to believe in God and that nonbelievers should stop being so pompous, Dawkins explodes.

“I am utterly fed up with the respect that we — all of us, including the secular among us — are brainwashed into bestowing on religion,” he said.

While many reporters have been enamored with Dawkins and his colorful quotes, Johnson goes on to quote two religion-opposing scientists in response, including anthropologist Melvin Konner.

“With a few notable exceptions,” he said, “the viewpoints have run the gamut from A to B. Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?”

His response to [doctoral student Sam] Harris and Dr. Dawkins was scathing. “I think that you and Richard are remarkably apt mirror images of the extremists on the other side,” he said, “and that you generate more fear and hatred of science.”

There are many other things in the article — notably allegations against some believers — that are left unanswered, but the piece is properly limited to the people and ideas expressed at one conference.

More than a few atheist and non-religious commenters here have suggested previously that Richard Dawkins is equivalent to Christians’ Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell. Reporters run to them ad nauseum whether they deserve it or not.

This article showed debate with Dawkins. The debate was over tactics rather than underlying views, but in the crusade to win converts to their belief system, scientists’ tactics are important. It’s nice to have a well-written look at the same.

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  • Opie

    Is the community of anti-religion scientists disproportionately male?

  • Larry Rasczak

    The community of scientists, religious and non-religious is disproportionately male.

    I think though this is not a fight between
    “Religion and SCIENCE”. This is a fight between
    “Religion and SCIENTISM.”

    Scientism and Science are not the same thing, though the Scientisists would want you to belive that it is.

    (Did I spell that right? What do you call a “believer in Scientisim? Not a Scientist, that is a person who does Science. Not a Scientologist, that’s Tom Cruise. A Scientisist??)

    In any case “People who believe in Scientisim” would love to cast this as a fight between bright new SCIENCE and mean old backward Religion. They have largely been sucessful in doing so, but it isn’t really accurate. Scientisim requies just as much faith, if not more. It just replaces belief in God with belief in “Mankind” or “Humanity”.

    (Sorry, and I don’t buy that “infinite goodness and ability of Mankind…” I’ve MET Humans. We aren’t all that great)

    Still Science and Scientisim are not the same thing. Can we make that distintion here?

  • Matt

    Actually, I think it might be fair to call a “believer in scientism” a scientologist — just as the term fundamentalist is confused in MSM so we could get some emotional response by applying the scientologist label to Dawkins et al. If not for Hubbard’s “religion” it would in fact be the perfect word. And since I think evolution is no less fanciful than Xenu and dianetics …

    But I’m with Larry, we need to distinguish between science and the philosophy of scientific materialism/naturalism (or the religion of the same); that’s what the whole fight is really about. We need to make Mollie’s point over and over that atheism is a religion (a non-theistic religion, to be sure) and that Dawkins & co. are in fact vocal, rigidly doctrinaire proponents of that religion.

    And by the way, keep hammering the point that for all they complain about what’s been done in the name of religion (e.g., wars of religion in Europe), nothing matches the sheer destruction caused by atheist idealogues in the 20th C.

  • Frank D.

    Actually, comparing the level of damage done by religion as the millenia have rolled by to the damage done by atheists is akin to comparing the relative damage inflicted by a nuclear device to that inflicted by a firecracker.

    But you’re right, of course, that atheism is as much a religion as Christianity — and just as aggravating.

  • david

    “What do you call a “believer in Scientisim? Not a Scientist, that is a person who does Science. Not a Scientologist, that’s Tom Cruise. A Scientisist??”

    Sound like a very interesting question. This group of people is beginning to take form, perhaps also attracting followers. A proper label seems to be called for. I don’t think they should be called scientologist; it has a special meaning. A scientisist seems too much. How about “scientismist”? Its meaning seems straightforward and not confusing. It is not even degrading. It is just the fact, nothing but the fact.

  • dpulliam

    I thought this was a money paragraph:

    His response to [doctoral student Sam] Harris and Dr. Dawkins was scathing. “I think that you and Richard are remarkably apt mirror images of the extremists on the other side,” he said, “and that you generate more fear and hatred of science.”

    Extremists on both sides should get equal treatment from the press, me thinks.

  • Mollie

    I completely agree that a descriptor is called for. I wasn’t sure if scientism was considered a fair one or not. And, if so, what its practitioners are called.

  • Mr. Grouchypants

    I believe that the followers of Scientism prefer to be called “Brights”. Not that they are implying that their opponents are “Dims” of course.

  • david

    I do not mean all who attended the conference are scientismists. Only those who insist that they have the true truth without the sufficient evidence to present it are. These are the people who want to impose their view on others without sufficient justification.

    Wikipedia has this definition:
    “Scientism is an ideology which holds that science has primacy over other interpretations of life (e.g., religious, mythical, spiritual, or humanistic explanations). The term has also been applied to the view that natural sciences have primacy over other fields of inquiry such as social sciences.

    Standard dictionary definitions include the following meanings:

    1. The use of the style, assumptions, techniques, and other attributes typically displayed by scientists.[1]
    2. Methods and attitudes typical of or attributed to the natural scientist.[2]
    3. An exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation, as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities.[3]

    * “Scientism is the use of scientific or pseudoscientific language.”[4]
    * Scientism is the contention that the social sciences should be held to the somewhat stricter interpretation of scientific method used by the natural sciences. [5]
    * Scientism is the belief that the social sciences are not science because they commonly do not hold to the somewhat stricter interpretation of scientific method used by the natural sciences.[6]
    * Scientism was a common ideology in the 19th and 20th centuries which places its trust only in scientific progress. See also positivism and social positivism.
    * Scientism is a belief that scientific knowledge is the foundation of all knowledge and that, consequently, scientific argument should always be weighted more heavily than other forms of knowledge, particularly those which are not yet well described or justified from within the rational framework, or whose description fails to present itself in the course of a debate against a scientific argument. It can be contrasted by doctrines like historicism, which hold that there are certain “unknowable” truths. [7] This viewpoint is typified by comments such as “Scientific research has demonstrated that substance x causes cancer in humans.”
    * As a form of dogma: “In essence, scientism sees science as the absolute and only justifiable access to the truth.”[8]
    * Scientism can also be used to reject the assertion that the application of scientific understanding to all phenomena produces the predicted results and is therefore a reliable guide to policy.”

  • Jeffrey Weiss

    Scientisics, maybe?
    As in: Mr. Doe and his fellow scientisics believe that…

    Construction similar to “messianics.”

  • Eric Weiss

    Michael Crichton (JURASSIC PARK, etc.), himself no stranger to science, wrote an interesting autobiographical book called TRAVELS a number of years ago in which he described some paranormal experiences that confounded his understanding of reality, and the postscript in the book makes for interesting reading on this subject.

  • MJBubba

    What we are looking for is a suitable label that does better than Scientism-ist or the like. If Scientism can be thought of as belief that “scientific argument should always be weighted more heavily than other forms of knowledge,” it seems inadequate to describe athiests who want to quash all other religions. Scientism seems to be a suitable label for the rejection of ontological arguments as proof that God exists, but inadequate to describe those who make the leap from a lack of scientific proof to a belief that the non-existence of God is proven, and then aggressively proselytize that view.
    This is a large problem in the reporting on the Intelligent Design debate because the athiests use the confusion of their views with scientific methods to advance their arguments, and succeed in taking in both journalists and judges.

  • S. Bauer

    How about “scientismatics” along the line of “fanatic”, “dogmatic”, etc.

  • Gary McClellan

    I think that the attempt to come up with a “label” is looking in the wrong direction, by trying to focus on the word “science”. The real essence of the debate is over Philosophical Materialism, the idea that the material world is all that there is, and that only those things that can be proved through the methods that apply to that world are of any value. That simple truth is what makes debate with people like Dawkins essentially pointless, because no matter what else gets said, there is an essential “loggerheads”.

    Someone who believes in an “active” God (as opposed to the passive one of the Deists) see the possibility of God “breaking the rules” and performing a miracle, and doesn’t have any problem at all with it. Dawkins et al see that as impossible from first principals, and unworth of discussion. This is why the Virgin Birth is always one of their standard “sneers” in their language.

    The “findings” of extreme Materialists like Dawkins are essentially predestined by their own presuppositions. Unless he gives up those presuppositions, he won’t end up anywhere else.

  • david

    There are many good points here. It seems that all agree that some kind of labeling to capture the imagination is necessary. With the risk of making it more complex, how about “Materialistic Scientismist”? Since there are possibly people who are non-Materialistic or Theistic Scientismists, this will make the distinction. On the other hand, it is undeniable that they are using some kind of science language.

  • Hans

    Very nice post, Mollie. And I found Gary’s comments to be quite interesting. Isn’t it humorous that Christians get beat up by gnostics for being too material while also getting beat up by materialists for being too gnostic. We just can’t win.

  • Priest David Thatcher

    This is in response to Frank D., who asserts that the damage that “religion” (he doesn’t identify which one) is like an atomic bomb, while the atheists haven’t hardly sparked a firecracker.

    Hmmm. I guess the ideological atheisms or irreligion of Nazism (er, the holocaust in WWII) and the atheism of the Soviet Union and China (scores of millions dead, altogether) just don’t count?


    ? Good grief, Frank: beef up on your facts of history.

    I am not saying that Christianity, or religion in general, is guiltless in these matters. However, we’ve got to see the past better with regard to the dynamics of atheism. Wasn’t it Dostoyevsky who said that “Without God, anything is possible”? His was not an optimistic statement: atheism has no absolute moral boundaries to control itself, and it opens a Pandora’s box that apocalytpic science fiction has only begun to explore.

    God bless everyone’s Thanksgiving feast and celebration.

  • Christopher Orr

    There was a very interesting appearance of Mr. Dawkins on South Park recently basically skewering him from the left as an areligious zealot. It got a little randy, which is to be expected from the show, but I thought it was interesting. The section is actually available on YouTube if you want to catch it.

    Otherwise, the fact that people attempt to teach their children their values – religious or no – should be no shock. The fact that people want to convince others that they should share common values should be no shock. Where it becomes a little more dicey is when areligiosity is not acknowledged as a value and belief, but simply as “the truth”. This allows the true believers in atheism to begin using any and all means necessary to ‘protect’ children and society from ‘them’, ‘the others’. There are many kinds of witch hunts, and persecutors never believe they are doing wrong.

    If atheism has protected status under the First Amendment – protection from religion as well as to practice any religion – then public schools and publicly funded scientists cannot use those monies to promote anti-religious ends. The secular square has to be defended from those seeking to create either a theocracy or an atheocracy.

  • Dennis Colby

    How about “scientismo”? As in, “This convention is full of Templeton-bashing scientismos!”

    I loved the article. One thing I’d like to see explored more is the conflict on this issue between different types of scientists. I thought it was really interesting that Dawkins caught flak for calling religion “child abuse” from a non-believing anthropologist. Obviously, to an anthropologist, dismissing cultural transmission as abuse is going to seem the height of, well, unscientific characterization. This brings up the interesting point that there’s no monolithic “scientific community” to formulate an opinion on religion. There are different sciences with their own approaches to religion and their own reasons for being interested in it.

    On second thought, “Scientismo” sounds like the name of an evil robot in a 1950s sci-fi movie.

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  • Charming Billy

    “Actually, comparing the level of damage done by religion as the millenia have rolled by to the damage done by atheists is akin to comparing the relative damage inflicted by a nuclear device to that inflicted by a firecracker.”

    Hi Frank,

    Funnily enough I posted a comment here recently about how often the above observation is presented as if it were uncontestable fact. I’m not sure it is.

    I have a few questions I’ve been wanting to ask the next person who offers, without elaboration, some variation on the “religion has killed more people than X” theme. So, stop reading here or prepared to be further aggravated.

    1. Can you provide facts to back up this observation?

    2. How broad is the scope of “damage done by religion”?

    3. Would you accept a distinction between damage done in the name of religion and damage done for the sake of religion?

    4. To what degree is the damage done by religion offset by the benefits of religion?

  • Jinzang

    It seems to me that we should be able to do better than have both groups hurl invectives at one another. The problem as I see it is the scientistist are doing philosophy when they think they’re doing science, and they’re doing philosophy badly. Both the “science” they promote and the “religion” they denounce are as much myths as Isis.

  • Larry Rasczak

    Thanks to everyone for the nice words.

    I like Scientisimo….

    But the thought occured to me, if homosexuals can be “gays” can believer in Scientisim be “grumps”?
    They don’t seem to be the most cheery bunch of folks in the world…though when it comes to Grumpy, well I am as close to the incarnation of grumpyness as you can get, and I am not a Scientisimist (Scientisimista?) so perhaps it won’t work.

    In any case, the Scientisistisisist (or whatever) seem to be of the opinion that, given enough funds (normally government in type), grad students, comptuer time, and equipment, literally ANYTHING is knowable and possible.

    Back in law school they would have called this “assuming facts not in evidence”. I’d call it a leap of faith.

    Sure the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Program showed that with unlimited cash science can do great things.

    But these folks start from the assumption that there are no limits to what we can know and do.
    That may not be the case. Take the Golden Retrievers. A Golden Retriever is a very bright dog. You can teach them a lot. A priest I knew had one as a seeing eye dog, and that dog was smart and disciplined and very impressive.

    Still, even though you can teach a Golden Retriever a lot of things, there are portions of the Universe that are so complex no Golden Retriever will ever understand them. Newton’s Laws of Motion come to mind. No Golden Retriever will ever teach a physics class. Nonetheless Sir Isaacs laws go merrily along, oblivious to the fact that no dogs will ever understand the mathematics and physics behind them.

    I know of no reason to assume that there are not portions of the Universe that are so complex no Human will ever understand them. Sure, we have come a long way, and I have every reason to believe we can go a lot further. Perhaps someday we will crack Unified Field Theory. But lets not rule out the possibility that we won’t. We may be like a Golden Retriever with a Physics text.

    The complexity of the Universe is not limited by the processing capacity of the Human Mind.

  • Discernment

    Haha. I can’t wait for them to post the un-edited videos.

  • Charles Manning

    I think Gary McClellan had it right. People should stop trying to invent pejorative words to hurl at each other. And Gary’s point that the heart of the debate and what prevents it from being resolved is the assumptions of science (Philosophical Materialism) and the assumptions of religion are incompatible. It might be true as Gary suggests that the debate won’t end until Materialists give up their assumptions. However, there’s another way to end this debate, the religious could give up their assumptions of the super natural. There is yet a third alternative, the materialist could keep their claims to material world and leave all the spiritual word to religion and religion could keep their claims to the spiritual word and leave the material world to the scientists. Note: sand, rocks, wind, rain, floods, fingers, eyes, breathing, brains, light, sound, electricity and blood are all material things.

  • Gary McClellan

    It’s not that the religious should “give up” on the material world at all. Religion is not merely all “woo woo” spiritism at all (far from it).

    The point is that someone who believes in an active God believes that God is capable of “suspending the rules”, and accomplishing that which is entirely impossible under physical laws.

    The Incarnation is proof that Christianity is not about “matter” vs “spirit”, but that it’s about both. Else, we may as well all run back into the fun of Neo-Platonism and start cranking up to teach Docetism.

  • Charles Manning

    “The Incarnation is proof that Christianity …”

    The incarnation isn’t proof of any thing. Proof, a necessarily true statement give a set of axioms, is term best left to the fields of mathematics and logic.

    “The incarnation is the dogma that Christianity …” would be more accurate.

    Science is really a partial matter; it doesn’t “Prove” anything. Scientific theories may have vast bodies of evidence supporting them. They might be extremely useful for understanding the material world and predicting what will happen in that world but they are never finally proven so that they can never be doubted. Science requires scraping ideas when ideas that are more useful come along. Science is not so arrogant as to claim that it has come to the final external truth. That arrogance is reserved for a different metaphysical tradition. Scientist maybe very confident in their ideas but the scientist’s cockiness is beside the issue – the issue is whether or not those ideas are useful and predictive. Ideas that don’t live up should be tossed out regardless of how certain the person who proclaimed them is, even if that person is so confident that they swear with all their heart might mind and soul that their theories are good.

    Mixing spirit in with matter has never produced a more useful predictive theory. Putting god in the equations has never produced a clearer description of what’s going on.

    If the laws of physics can be suspended then they are not really laws of physics, they are more like suggestion subject to the will of god. Then, unless the will of god is rule bound, we do not live in an orderly predictable universe but a universe that may be predictable from time to time but is at it’s center as arbitrary and capricious as the will of god.

    If the will of god isn’t arbitrary and capricious but is constant and principled then I say we try call those constant priniciples the laws of nature and try to figure out what they are.

  • Gary McClellan

    No, I stand by my statement of “proof.” How does it prove anything? The Incarnation, the traditional teaching within the Christian Church that the Eternal God chose to take on Human Flesh in order to save fallen humanity is indeed proof that the Christian Faith is concerned not just wit “spirit” but also with the material. Notice, that the word proof is not applied to the Incarnation itself, but to what the teaching of the Incarnation says about the Christian Faith.

    The fact that Christianity is concerned with the Material world can be seen though a number of statements all of which are fully in accord with traditional Christian Theology (and this list is NOT meant to be comprehensive).

    1.) God took on Human Flesh
    2.) God Created the Material World (along with everything else)
    3.) The Resurrection is clearly stated to be a physical rebirth of our physical bodies.

    Now, you can dispute those individual ideas, consider them to be “unscientific” or the like. They certainly are statements of a different nature than predicting that at sea level, a falling object will accelerate at a known rate.

    However, those statements ARE valid to prove that Christianity is not a religion that separates material from spiritual and says that the physical is of no value. Your statement, that the “incarnation is a Dogma” misunderstands the entire thrust of my post.

    As to your other stuff. I’m perfectly willing to admit that the vast majority of time, God allows to the world to work upon the principals that he built into it. Science can usefully study those principals to understand this world, and even to see a veiled glimpse of the God behind it. I likewise understand that Science cannot usefully talk about miracles, since they are by definition a suspension of the rules. However, I do not see that admitting the possibility of an extremely rare, extraordinary suspension of the rules for a particular purpose to be destructive to science.

    The will of God is not arbitrary and capricious, and it is constant. One large piece of God’s will is that he is orderly, which does indeed lead to a regular, orderly, predictable world. However, another piece of that will is that he is Gracious, which may, on occasion, lead to him taking actions that are outside of the ordinary order from our perspective.

  • Gary McClellan

    Gah. You know, I really need to learn to proofread before I hit “post”. Especially principal vs principle.

    I need to wake up fully before I post I guess.

  • david

    It is easy to take some common sense to see that separation of the material world from the christian worldview is schizophrenic. The christian worldview as taught in any credible way (traditional or Biblical) is much bigger than the material worldview. To say otherwise is blind to these facts and is a recent phenomenon. It is also self-incoherent, logically or in any sensible reason. Hence the material interpretation should be informed by the christian viewpoint among christians. To say otherwise is to abandon the christian conviction, which is fine for a non-christian, but not so for the christians. Science has only limited usage as confined by its method. It cannot claim that its materialistic interpretation has exclusive right and is total or complete. In that sense, the bigger Christian worldview has, in principle something to offer to the scientific method, including informing about the mystery of the universe when scientific method is limited to the materialistic world.

  • Charles Manning

    Yes, Christianity is concerned with the material world in that they make certain claims about the material world. However their track record for accurate and useful claims isn’t very good. Take for example Christian claims about the motion of the planets. Or try to use Christianity to predict the weather, construct a building or heal the sick. Approaches from science, material philosophy do a much better job at all of those.

    As for god occasionally sticking his hand in and violating natural law – that is a very safe claim to make as there could never be enough evidence gathered to refute it. But one has to wonder, if god created the natural law why does he have to stick his hand in every once in awhile and make adjustments? Couldn’t god have done a better job to begin with and created natural laws that wouldn’t require his occasional tinkering. Didn’t he see in advance that certain things wouldn’t work? How all knowing is god? How infinite is god’s wisdom? How powerful is the god thing?

    An axiom I hold, something I can’t prove is true is that the world, the universe, material existence or whatever you want to call it is orderly and rule bound. This orderly nature is necessary if the universe can in principle be understood. I’m not saying that humans are capable of fully understanding it only that it would be possible in principle. My axiom had no exceptions in it. If the universe is sometimes not rule bound then it is in principle not understandable because at any moment the universe could breakout in chaos and one could never know in advance when chaos would reign and when the sometimes rules would reign. BUT….. an analogy … the food I’m eating is fat free, well except for the lumps of fat in it. It’s either fat free or it has fat in it. The universe is either rule bound (chaos free) or there chaos out there. It’s logically inconsistent to say the universe is orderly and then to posit a force – be it the free will of god or something else that messes up the order. A better but less cute analogy would be a logical argument. The conclusion of a logical argument from true statements that contained many, let’s say hundreds or even millions, of inferences would cease to be valid if just one of those inference was invalid even if all the other inferences were valid. Orderly systems don’t have just a little bit of disorder in them.

    Now you may disagree with my axiom and posit a universe that isn’t always orderly. There is no argument against that and if that is the difference between science and religion then there is no way to reconcile the two views. But I suspect religious people, at least Christians, believe the universe is orderly. They are often talk about chaos as if it were bad, evil, the thing of the devil. Yet when the orderliness, the consistency of their metaphysical system get’s called in to question they want to fudge on the orderly universe and say something like it’s orderly and gracious … what does that mean? Is gracious not orderly? God laid down some rules but then graciously exempts you from them? That’s nice but wouldn’t it have been nicer for god to have made wiser rules in the first place?

  • Emily Bell

    However their track record for accurate and useful claims isn’t very good. Take for example Christian claims about the motion of the planets

    Which claims do you mean? Is it sufficent for the scientist to be a self declared Christian in which case Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion certainly have been useful, or does it have to been a offical claim of a Christian church? In which case there certainly would be problems since I don’t think there has been a offical claim about the motion of the planets by any church body (there have been bans on teaching certain claims though).

    It is true that most Christians do not classify any claims or discoveries they may make about the material world in the areas of weather (which ironically is a chaotic system according to the most current science), construction or medicine as being especially christian. I think this has to do with the current usage of words as much as anything else (if something factual is believed by nonchristians then it isn’t called a christian claim even if all christian believe it as well).

    But one has to wonder, if god created the natural law why does he have to stick his hand in every once in awhile and make adjustments?

    I was reminded of the chapter in CS Lewis’s book _Miracles_ titled “The Propriety of Miracles” It gives his response to that question/feeling.

    My own answer is why not? If God wishes to 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of the time run the universe according to the natural law but very occasionally perform a miracle, why not? It might very well be the wisest thing to do.

    I used to be the gamesmaster of a roleplaying game which had various rules to determine the results of actions the characters would make. In order for the game to be enjoyable and playable, I sometimes had to overrule the rules even though by and large the rules were a good thing.

    This by the way made my game more orderly instead of less so. My players needed to factor in my nature as well as the rules of the game in order to determine the likely result of their actions but but the end result (since I wasn’t being capricious) was actually an increased chance of predicting correctly. I admit that this did mean that they not only had to understand the game and it’s rules but also had to have at least a understanding of me (at least when it came to my gamesmastering).

  • david

    I am not aware of any error in science that can be traced back to God. If there is one, I am not aware of it.

  • Charles Manning

    Because 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999999999%
    isn’t perfect. But then who said god was perfect?

    I classify Christian claims and claims following from the assumptions of Christianity. So I wouldn’t consider claims made by people who happen to be Christian as necessarily Christian claims. I would consider the banning of an idea by a church a teaching of the church and an implicit claim that the idea is somehow wrong or bad. It’s true Christians and other religions don’t like to make their claims too specific. Science likes specific claims because they can be compared with reality (aka the material world) and if the claims are wrong then the theories that generated it must be wrong so the scientists can attempt to fix them. It’s that error correcting mechanism science is so proud of. Religions and other dogma centered metaphysics aren’t so flexible. So if specific claims arising from their theories (doctrine, base assumptions whatever you want to call them) get proven wrong it can be a problem. Better to keep things vague and keep the “it’s a mystery – we can’t understand the mind of god…” defense that can be used no matter what because it covers everything, whether you are right or wrong.