Mythicism, Creationism, Science and Faith

Where do mythicism, young-earth creationism, mainstream biology and mainstream historical study (including but not limited to the study of the historical Jesus) fit in the diagram below, in the view of readers of this blog? Even though one cannot run “history experiments,” are historians not doing something similar when they take their ideas about the past and test them against the available evidence? Just having an idea that is compatible with the evidence does not show it to be correct in the domain of history, because, given the piecemeal evidence historians often have to work with, it is entirely possible for more than one conclusion to be compatible with the evidence. But historians at least try to exclude as bunk things that are incompatible with the evidence, while it seems that apologists of every sort are on the right hand side of the image below, not on the left. What do readers think?

(The diagram is from Unreasonable Faith)

I’d also be interested to hear from anyone who, like me, thinks that there can be faith – in the Tillichian sense of Ultimate Concern – which embraces new information and correction, rather than insulating itself from it. In the view of readers, can there ever be a form of religion that would be placed on the left hand side?

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  • Dan Ortiz

    Science is (can be) a religion

    • Henry Imler

      Or at least we can say that Naturalistic Materialism and Religion (hard to collapse all those things we call religion into a monolithic category) can be viewed as the same sort of thing, a Metanarrative, or Story-of-it-All.

      Thoughts, Dan? (Others?)

    • Beau Quilter

      No. Calling science a religion is like calling a vaccination a faith-healing.

  • rmwilliamsjr

    is there a difference between being a science and asking a question scientifically?
    is history a science or does it have some technics that are scientific?
    is it the universe of discourse of history that makes it problematic ie people in the past, both are hard to experiment with *grin*.

    or is it something else, like history is a believable story about the past. the accent on what it means to be believable in any given time and culture. perhaps science has a very different model about what it means to be believable. and that is why they look so different.

    like history can there be a scientific study of religion, from within the domain of religion itself? like historians using science to predict and dig up richard iii, the intermediate topic might be science-the digging, but the big picture-the story of richard iii is not.

    so perhaps a scientifically aware religion is possible, one that avails itself of scientific technics but the big picture, one of religious faith is not accessible to those technics.

  • Jim Roberts

    I am uninterested in whether there can be a religion that’s placed on the left side. I am much more interested in whether an individual can have a faith that’s placed on the left side. And, yes, I think that there can be. Or, I’m heading toward becoming an atheist, one or the other, really.
    And, yes, creationism belongs solidly on the right-hand side.

  • Mike Gantt

    Whoever drew the chart does not understand much about biblical faith.

    • infocusnow

      Whoever drew the chart does not understand much about faith, period.

    • Beau Quilter

      Whoever drew the chart does not have biblical faith.

      • Mike Gantt

        That’s the point he was trying to make. My point was that he doesn’t really understand what he’s criticizing.

        • Beau Quilter

          Yes. Only the initiated can truly understand the Eleusinian Mysteries.

          • Mike Gantt

            There’s nothing esoteric about biblical faith. We practice it when we take a friend’s word for something…only the friend is God.

          • Beau Quilter

            It’s true. The Holy Spirit doesn’t talk to you unless you believe in him.

          • Mike Gantt

            The Holy Spirit speaks to everyone. If only we would listen more…

          • Beau Quilter

            I’ll have to check my antenna. I can’t hear anything.

          • aar9n

            You have to pay for the subscription.
            Its 10% of your earnings. Cough it up.

          • Beau Quilter

            Not until I get some reception!

          • aar9n

            Have you tried rebooting?

  • infocusnow

    This is fine if you’re preaching to your choir, although the more scientific members of that choir might point out a thing or two.
    These charts illustrate SOME, not all, instances of science, as well as faith.
    If you get an idea, perform an experiment, and the evidence does NOT support your idea, guess what, sometimes it’s a bad experiment, rather than a bad idea.
    As far as ignoring contradicting evidence goes, again, this is an illustration of a rather narrow, and personally biased, interpretation of the concept of faith. Which, interestingly enough, belies a rather UNscientific approach. Personally, I’ve met VERY few people of faith (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, pagan) that actually “ignore contradicting evidence” offered by science.
    No less a man than Isaac Newton was a man of faith. Didn’t seem to get in the way of calculus, celestial mechanics, optics, Laws of Motion, universal gravitation…you get the idea.
    Was Newton ever wrong? Yes, but his errors were not faith-based; he simply didn’t know enough yet to arrive at the answer.
    Besides, where’s the contradicting evidence these people of faith are supposedly ignoring? Granted, as far as we know, the universe has no scientific NEED for a god or creator, but that does not in any way preclude the existence of one, and it’s scientifically irresponsible to assert otherwise.
    The issue with faith is not its use, but rather its misuse.
    And ignoring scientific evidence, actual evidence, falls in the latter category.

    • Paul Burnett

      Newton was so wrong he wasn’t even wrong, when he drifted off into mysticism. He wrote more about weird religion than he wrote about science and math.

  • Cheryel

    Human nature desires religion, that is, something to comfort
    oneself in times of stress that may be rational or irrational; belief in
    spirits of dead loved ones, fairies, angels, the mathematics of probability,
    faith in the goodness of mankind, etc… that give one hope and courage to face
    tomorrow. For me, science is the study
    of how God did it, i.e. Dark Energy is a creative unknown.

  • Dr. David Tee

    The thing is Dr. McGrath is telling people to NOT use the very thing element God said to use. God said, faith pleases Him; The JUST shall live by FAITH; and then we have all those people held up as examples for using FAITH in Hebrews 11.
    Now as to the distorted idea behind those charts we can see that a person who drew them up prefers secular science over the way God wants science to be used. Their bias is clearly seen in their demonstration of their ignorance of what Faith is.
    Faith doesn’t exclude new information, it excludes the lies told by secularists and those who pursue alternatives to the Bible. That is why God said to get wisdom and understanding so that one can use discernment correctly when confronted with ideas that contradict the Bible and see when the blind are trying to over-rule those who have clear sight.
    Genesis is true book containing true answers science doesn’t promote itself in that manner. There in lies one of the problems with using secular science–it doesn’t have the answers for the world and is completely useless.
    Another problem with that variety of science is that it is redundant and wastes valuable resources. We already know how everything came to be but since unbelievers reject God’s word, they have to come up with something to fill the void in their lives. Thus they waste billions chasing an unprovable and unverifiable idea.
    People are suffering because of this fruitless pursuit of knowledge we already have and that helps make their version of science wrong. It is also wrong because it is not the truth and it has no hope of becoming the truth.
    Now we come back to the question Dr. McGrath and others refuse to answer: Where in the Bible or even history does God grant permission to take secular or other versions of science over His word? and a new one: Where does God say blessed are they who use science over faith?
    Science used correctly and within the rules of God is helpful to the world, sadly, too many people get lured away by the lies of the secular world and science is abused and mis-used for the secular agenda–turning people away from the truth.

    • David Evans

      “There in lies one of the problems with using secular science–it doesn’t have the answers for the world and is completely useless.”

      “Science used correctly and within the rules of God is helpful to the world.”

      Make up your mind, is science useless or helpful?

      Yes, I know you said “secular science”. What’s the difference? Can you give me one example of non-secular science which is true and useful?

      • Dr. David Tee

        Yes I can.
        If you do some reading you will find that I am not the only one who uses the term ‘secular’ to differentiate between real science and the fake stuff that evolutionists use.
        Does what I say eliminate or exclude unbelievers from doing science correctly? No. dr. D. rayzsch in his book Battle of Beginnings quoted a man, and I am not going to look it up right now, who was clearly an unbeliever. That man said, that God is not to be a part of science in any way. Now I have paraphrased a bit but that is basically what he said.
        Now when you remove God from science, you remove the light that shows what is right and wrong, which does apply to the scientific field. There is no such thing as ‘all science is good science’. Those who remove God are basically stumbling around in the dark missing the mark.
        Now evolutionary thinking is a prime and excellent example of this stumbling around and what it produces misses the truth by a country mile. The evolutionary scientist has constructed a theory in which the only thing evolutionary minded scientists can agree on, in its basic form, is that the mechanism supposedlu responsible for diversity of life is the process of evolution.
        The details are rarely agreed to and subjectivity plays a large role as humans present their ideas. No answers are produced rendering the theory of evolution and secular science useless for human living.
        Their claims that medicine is based upon evolutionary biology is misleading and wrong. since they are not studying evolution but the reaction God’s creative work has to being combioned with specimens derived from God’s creatove work,. Both sides of the experiment are under the corruption that entered the world at Adam’s sin.
        So, in reality, the evolutionist declares that their medicines are effective because it works with the evolutionary process but that is mere deception because the evolutionary process itself cannot be put in a test tube and studied and no one has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that the process actually exists.
        They over-generalize and call it change but that is too murky to warrant any credibility or serious consideration. it is an attempt by evolutionary thinkers to make sure they have no loopholes in their theory so they can always find an escape route when shown to be in error.
        If evolutionary biology was correct then they would not have the 106,000 deaths per year their medicines cause-
        This is the example where non-secular science is truthful and useful. We see the errors of the secular version and work to avoid them. It is interesting that you do not hear athiests up in arms over the amoun tof deaths caused by secular, evolutionary medicine but have 1 child die from faith healing and they are tearing down the fences to lynch the religious person.
        The hypocrisy of the unbeliever and secular science knows no bounds.

        • James F. McGrath

          OK, I have decided that you are an atheist pretending to be a Christian in order to spout nonsense and drive people away from Christianity. You had me going there for a while, but to claim that all medical errors are a result of evolutionary biology is simoly too ridiculous for you not to see it. And so clearly you are being intentionally ridiculous – although I suppose it is also possible that you are insane. But either way, you have two options: behave like a sane person, or leave me with impression that you are an atheist. Your call.

          • John Pieret

            Poe’s Law:
            “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is utterly impossible to parody a Creationist in such a way that someone won’t mistake it for the genuine article.”

          • Dr. David Tee

            You would be wrong on all counts and I didn’t credit all medical errors to evolutionary biology. if you looked at the website you would have seen less than half were credited to evolutionary thinking.
            The points are, which you willfully miss, 1. is that evolutionary biology really isn’t evolutionary and 2. no one rails against evolutionary medicine for killing thousands yet will villify anyone who practices faith healing.

          • aar9n

            It makes sense now… vaccinations cause mental retardation because they use evolutionary science….

            That’s even better than social justice leading to Nazism.

            Are you a faith healer too? Is that what your doctorate is in?

          • Susan Burns

            There is a third option; ban him from your blog.

          • James F. McGrath

            As a rule I tend to ignore rather than ban people, unless what they are doing is actually spamming, i.e. merely pasting the same thing over and over again, or using threatening or other such language. It is my aim to allow as free expression as possible on my blog, and as long as people have the patience to respond to trolls, and the trolls have the patience to continue putting their foolishness on display, there is probably no need for a ban.

        • David Evans

          I asked “Can you give me one example of non-secular science which is true and useful?” I don’t think you have given me one. If you were right, there would be non-secular health care with a lower death rate and a higher cure rate for the same conditions than secular health care. Can you show me any, with the numbers?

    • rmwilliamsjr

      Genesis is true book containing true answers science doesn’t promote itself in that manner. There in lies one of the problems with using secular science–it doesn’t have the answers for the world and is completely useless.

      Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted.

      therefore sciences like genetics are obviously completely useless when faced with the true answers in Gen 30.

    • James F. McGrath

      Where in God’s creation does God give you the permission to treat humanly-authored books as providing greater clarity to the evidence God himself has provided through his own creative work?

  • Brenda Von Ahsen

    The diagram is wrong on both accounts. That is not faith and that is not science.

  • rdMark

    A true journey of “faith” should always be open to change. If it does not, then it is “dogma”.

  • arcseconds

    Whoever drew the diagram doesn’t understand much about science.

    I wouldn’t waste your time on this, James, it’s just propaganda.

    • James F. McGrath

      Well, I think that discussing propaganda, and drawing attention to what is wrong with its depiction of things, is hardly a waste of time…

      • Beau Quilter

        I agree; correctives are useful.

        For example, my problem with the science diagram is that it makes theory too easy.

        There should be a loop from “Perform Experiment” to “Does the Evidence Support the Idea” to “Yes” back to “Perform Experiment” that repeats for numerous iterations before finally landing on “Theory”.

        This is the strength of true scientific theory. It is not based simply on one experiment, but on repeated experimentation.

        Most sciences would include another box that stands as an alternative to “Perform Experiment”. This box would be labelled “Verify with New Evidence”. For example Einstein’s relativity has been verified with observations such as the observation of starlight bending around the gravitational attraction of our sun during an eclipse.

      • arcseconds

        OK, I’ll bite, because I’ve nothing better to do right now.

        The first thing that strikes me is that they’ve decided to present science as a flowchart. Flowcharts are usually used to describe well-defined, deterministic processes, often the actions of computer programs. Also, it’s a fairly simple flowchart.

        So the subtext here is that science is a straightforward, simple, mechanical process. It’s easy, McGrath, so why don’t you just do it, and stop with the silly religioning?

        It also seems to be buying into the myth of The Scientific Method. There is no The Scientific Method – no way of describing all and only scientific activities by a recipe. There are scientific methods, sure, like performing a titration, or estimating the number of a particular species of beetle in the undergrowth on the basis of a sample, etc.

        These simplistic notions I think work as a kind of life-preserver of certainty for those who hold them, which fulfils a similar function to props like biblical literalism – there’s a clear delineation between the Right Way and all other ways, which the subject supposes they entirely understand, which allows them to deride anyone who doesn’t conform to their ideology.

        In addition, it’s making the common assumption that science is entirely about theory construction. I blame the Greeks. Actually the activities of most scientists aren’t about constructing theories at all: they’re about characterizing newly discovered species, or constructing novel chemicals, or devising new ways of measuring things (you base this on known theories! you’ll just get into strife if you’re using a fresh theory without solid empirical support to build a measuring device), etc. A halfway house is improving existing models, or creating a new model on existing theories to cover a case which lies in their purview – this sort of thing can end up testing theories, but it isn’t the point, the point is to describe more accurately a phenomenon using an existing theory.

        For something that prizes theories so highly, it gives us no insight into some of the more intriguing aspects of theory construction. There’s surely more to the ‘inspirition’ phase than merely ‘having an idea’. Typically, the people who make real advances spend years and years collecting data, mulling over it, attempting partial explanations before they ‘have an idea’. Inspiration doesn’t come from nowhere.

        In addition, many of the most impressive advances, particularly in physics, have been made by people who have had the courage to challenge the metaphysical presuppositions of their day. Newton had no time for the 17th century mechanistic philosophy (where the only physical interactions which could be ultimately countenanced were pushes and pulls – clockwork, quite literally). Einstein challenged common-sense notions of space and time. Schrödinger and Bohr and the other quantum mechanics guys challenged even more: our notion of objects, causality, and knowledge.

        What’s particularly odd about these accomplishments is how little experimentation really had to play in the matter, particulary in the case of Einstein. He thought his theory was already proven when he produced it. Of course, the empirical support is still important, and Einstein was inclined to downplay it too far, especially later in life, but in a sense the support was all there before the the theory was.

        But you can’t just put down “challenge the existing metaphysics” as a step in a flowchart (so much for rules). That would be a recipe for crackpottery, or at the very least highly unorthodox beliefs, which is the last thing the people producing this diagram would want.

  • Marissa Hursh

    I have found that most of the everyday people I encounter DO fit the right-hand chart in the sense that they do not examine the Bible with a critical eye, asking hard questions about things in the Bible that do not make sense. It seems to me that when pressed about these things, they just offer up the old “we are not capable of understanding God’s designs.” Like a parent who will never explain the “why” to their child but just says, “because I said so.” Well, that didn’t fly with me as a child and it certainly doesn’t as an adult. I say, “try me.” Humans are born with a curiosity about their world and if you believe in a Creator, then it seems to me we are meant to use that and our minds, which to me is what science is about. I would say, though, that the people I encounter whom I feel ought to be “scientific” in their ways, such as physicians, fit the left-hand chart less than they ought. Thus the call for a return to “evidence-based” medicine. Too often it seems to me that “scientists” also fit the chart on the right, subscribing to a particular world view that only becomes altered under duress when the new evidence in incontrovertible and widely known.

  • Steve Greene

    Religious faith is never like science. No, not even when they use any rhetoric to pretend it is. Actions speak louder than words.

    However, it’s true that religious believers can embrace new information and correction after the fact, because of science, and modify their religious beliefs. For example there was this controversy that arose a few hundred years ago about the doctrine of the sun going around the earth, because astronomers were making some rather damning observations with that new invention of the telescope at the time which was making it rather clear that the earth actually went around the sun. When it became too hard to ignore or deny religious believers finally just reinterpreted the relevant Bible verses to be figurative. These days (and for the last 180 years or so) Bible believers have gone through the process of reinterpreting the Bible to allow for a billions of years old earth, and universe, and are now going through the process of reinterpreting the Bible to allow for evolution. (Of course, some Christians today are still holdouts, but they’re increasingly been seen as the intransigent irrationalists they really are.)

    Religious believers don’t exactly “embrace” new information and correction, but it can and does happen. But it’s only a reaction when they become rather compelled to have to make the change that’s necessary to preserve as much as possible of the remaining part of the religious belief. So Noah didn’t really exist, but the Bible doesn’t really teach that, it’s just a figurative lesson God gave us, like a fable.

    Yeah, right.