Recently, on Facebook, I boiled down my philosophical and scientific objections to theistic evolution to pithy status update size and received a good deal of discussion as a result. I plan to edit, reprint, and possibly expand upon my remarks on theistic evolution on Camels With Hammers soon.
But in the meantime, I wanted to take a quick opportunity to dispel one common misconception about anti-religious atheists’ views on faith and science that arose during that discussion. The assumption someone made was that the only reason I made my post pithily demonstrating the incompatibility of theism with evolution was because I must think it “preposterous” that Christians could both “believe in science and believe in God”. Rest assured, I have no such unwarranted prejudice.
What I do think is that some scientific discoveries either refute or simply make obsolete certain historical and contemporary arguments for the existence of God. I also think some scientifically, philosophically, and historically understandable realities make common religious beliefs about God’s nature or involvement with the world either implausible or incoherent.
I also think that all people, Christians or otherwise, who seriously believe in science do not feel threatened by the implications of science for their religious beliefs, but welcome them curiously and with an open mind. And I think scientists who are personally religious but bracket their religious beliefs and engage in science strictly scientifically could do fine scientific work, but their abilities as scientists in such cases give no credence to their religious convictions.
I think a scientist may only legitimately leverage his or her scientific credibility to vouch for his or her religion if and only if his or her scientific conclusions or methods themselves truly entailed the truth of specific religious propositions in ways he or she could philosophically or scientifically demonstrate. Otherwise a religious scientist is simply living in cognitive dissonance if he or she believes in science sincerely and committedly while doing science itself and believes in incompatible religious beliefs sincerely and committedly while practicing his or her religion.
But, nonetheless, cognitive dissonance or not, there have been some extraordinary scientists who were personally religious.
And one cannot help but admire and be grateful to the ones whose commitment to truth led them to conclusions that many of their coreligionists hate and loathe the most. I mean, how can it not warm an atheist’s heart that the Big Bang Theory, so often ignorantly reviled and dismissed by religious apologists as a desperate fabrication of atheists who just don’t want to believe in God, was actually first formulated by the Jesuit priest Monsignor Georges Lemaître?
So, in honor of the Christian holiday occurring today and tomorrow, here is a little video on a scientific role model who was also a devoted Christian:
What allowed Lemaître to scoop Einstein was his willingness to abandon a prejudice that kept Einstein from following out his own ideas to their logical conclusion. Sometimes it is possible to be extremely smart and completely committed to science and yet hold two ideas whose implications, on investigation can be shown to conflict with each other. It happened to Einstein, it can happen to you.
And when I will argue shortly that believing both in God and evolution by natural selection involves believing two things whose implications conflict with each other, I will not be doubting the sincere belief in science of the many millions of thoughtful Christians who are theistic evolutionists. I will not be prejudicially assuming that Christians who sincerely believe in science are a preposterous proposition. I will be arguing though that their sincere belief in science demands they confront the implications of the theory of natural selection for what they want to say about how God can be proven and for what God can be said to be.
I will simply be asking those Christians who truly believe in science to take some of its metaphysical implications truly seriously.