Manufacturing Conflict

Manufacturing Conflict October 19, 2019

Tom McLeish wrote recently:

It’s been a long and tiring century or more of fake news, but I nurture a precious hope (how can one live otherwise?) that the voices of evidence, reason and truth will ultimately prevail.

One of the more persistent myths that have invaded our conversation, media and (very sadly) education, is the late Victorian invention that religious faith and science are necessarily in conflict. So prevalent and normalised is this assumption, that recent surveys in UK high schools find up to 70% of 15 year olds think it (but without being able to say why). I say ‘late Victorian’ for before the publication of two books, now forgotten and unread but best-sellers in their time, there is no great ‘conflict narrative’. The books were: History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), by Andrew Dickson White, and History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, by John William Draper (1874). Purportedly historical writing, more recent scholarship has demonstrated that these (actually anti-Catholic, rather than anti-religious) texts are largely polemic. When history failed to rise to Draper and White’s expectations, they simply invented it.

A recent article in Nature also addressed this:

I want to suggest that many of the worst chapters of this history result from scientism: the ideology that science is the only valid way to understand the world and solve social problems. Where science has often expanded and liberated our sense of self, scientism has constrained it.

Politics is another area in which conflict can seem inevitable, and in some circumstances we may indeed say it is not only unavoidable but necessary. But for Christians, we may not avoid having enemies, but we must love them and not dehumanize them. Steve Wiggins writes:

Those of us who grew up Evangelical hold an unusual place among our liberal peers.  We’re often able to peer around, over, and under that wall that has been built between those who want a faith-based nation and those who want a free one.  Angela Denker is a fellow traveler on this road, and her book Red State Christians: Understanding the Voters Who Elected Donald Trump is a useful roadmap.  Some of us fall further from the tree than others, but one of Evangelicalism’s more endearing traits, when taken seriously, is the love of those who are different from you.  That love is often forgotten in the political rhetoric daily whipped into a froth by an unstable president being used by his party to install agendas that hardly fit the moniker “Christian.”  That’s why books like this are so important.

On the preconceptions we can have across the divide between religion and atheism, and how they can be challenged:

To Tell the Truth (RJS)

Bruce Alberts said this in an NCSE interview:

If people don’t know what science is, and they hate it because of how they were taught in middle school or high school, then they have no reason to believe what scientists have to say. And it’s not just when it comes to evolution, but about rational thinking, too, and respect for science judgment. It’s important to get the public to understand the nature of science and that scientific judgments are different than dogmatic judgments.

See also the report on their summer workshops on evolution and the nature of science.

On the difference between justifications and causes:

Do Not Trust Your Arguments

On how not to change minds about controversial topics.

On the importance of sincere dialogue

Has Science Disproved Christianity?

On science as a wonderful, humbling vocation for a Christian to pursue:

Guest Post: A wonderful, humbling, vocation

Is there a place for faith in the lab?

Report Preview: “Science and Religion”: the perils of misperception

Bible, business, and science


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  • John MacDonald

    Another issue is when science isn’t science anymore. See

    Theoretical physicists who say the multiverse exists set a dangerous precedent: science based on zero empirical evidence

  • John MacDonald

    Did a quick edit above!

    Just throwing this out there: What do others think are the aspects of Space and Time furnished by the mind, and which, if any, represent extra-mental reality? Do we commit a paralogism or leap of faith making the jump from our experience of Space and Time to descriptions of Space and Time as objective entities even if we do assume they exist?

  • bill wald

    This essay is a good argument for eliminating the federal control of public and private education and of religious dogma. As long as adult citizens have the freedom to travel between the 50 states and take portable assets with them, religion and education should be controlled by state constitutions.

    Why? Because people will vote with their feet and will then function as economic/social experiments. Exactly why should I care if Utah was a “Mormon” state and Maryland a “Catholic” state? The important, honest, legit functions of the US government are nation defense, foreign policy, and interstate commerce.

    Everything else will be regulated by adults moving to the state which best suits their personal, hopefully family, needs. Political/social winners with winners and losers with losers. The freedom to climb up the food chain is the freedom to slide down the food chain . . . a matter of community and family social contract.

    • This comment is a good example of why social darwinism, despite being discredited, needs to continue to be a focus of concern. Not guaranteeing the same freedoms and rights in all states is a recipe for disaster. Even now when discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and religion is illegal there are still different prevailing cultures in different parts of the country and it tears at its fabric when we cannot agree on those most lofty of goals and principles.

      • billwald

        I prefer to look at our 50 states as 50 competing economies and 50 social experiments. Would you prefer that all the nations of the world would have a single, unified constitution and the exact same freedoms and rights? Say a UN World Government?

        • “UN World Government” sounds like the kind of thing people believe in who embrace the outlook of the Left Behind series.

          Do you think that the actual work of nations through the UN and other entities to agree on human rights that all are entitled to is a bad thing?

          • billwald

            Disagree. Socialists push for a world government. Capitalists are nationalists, not internationalists.

            The intent of “Left Behind” was to push dispensational eschatology e.g. Baptist theology, the idea that God and Satan will fight it out on this earth using humans as combatants. God wins and all non-Christians end up in Hell. It has nothing to do with politics. Google ” John Nelson Darby ”

            I think that political freedom and the concept of personal rights can not be exported. Every nation must be earned on its own initiative. The USA has spent billions trying to export our form of government. Off hand, the only major nations that have successfully learned anything from the US example are Japan and South Korea.

            There has never been a successful slave rebellion unless one considers Haiti a successful example. Why not? Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. See google.

          • When someone says “Google” as though that is an answer it is not a good sign. When they do so in reference to John Nelson Darby and yet get his denomination wrong, it is very telling…