Jonathan Haidt: The moral roots of liberals and conservatives

This week’s TED talk is by moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt. He argues that there are five foundational values that provide the moral “draft” for the mind.

  1. Harm/care
  2. Fairness/reciprocity
  3. In-group/loyalty
  4. Authority/respect
  5. Purity/sanctity 

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He then shows convincingly that liberals and conservatives respond to them very differently. While all five are important to conservatives, only the first two are important to liberals and this difference can help explain the divide between the two groups and their political choices. Haidt further mentions that it can be very difficult if not impossible to see “across” the divide because of our innate self-righteousness.

Impossible to cross chasms are not only the property of politics. As readers of this blog know they are also quite apparent in the science and religion dialogueBut are the divides really impossible to cross?

Near the end, Haidt quotes the Zen master Seng-ts’an. And it’s a doozy.

“If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between for and against is the mind’s worst disease.”

No, we cannot really escape ourselves and no we can never be completely objective. And Haidt’s talk didn’t end nearly as well as it began because he had no real proscriptive method for overcoming the differences. However, to solve a problem requires acknowledgement that a problem exists. And Haidt has done just that by identifying the moral psychology underpinnings that play a role in politics.

I have argued on this blog that a similar issue is at play in the creation-evolution debate within the church. These underpinnings are both psychological AND philosophical. Does that make solving the problem even more impossible? We’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, enjoy Haidt’s talk…😉

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Ch. 4 Weddings and Wars: Interactions of Science and Religion (Part 5)

Today we complete Ch. 4 with our final post on the interactions of science and religion. Previous posts on this chapter provided an overview and a description of the conflictindependence, and dialogue models. Today we look at the integration model.

The INTEGRATION of science and religion

The fourth and final interaction of science and religion is integration. Integration, like dialogue, respects (or in some cases, uses and abuses, as we will see) both science and religion and seeks to bring them together in a meaningful manner. However, integration takes it one step further and seeks to provide a more coherent view of reality that is based upon synthesis of the two disciplines. As Barbour notes, integration comes in one of three flavors. The first flavor (I like ice cream so we’ll call it vanilla) is the one most relevant to this book. In the vanilla form of integration, science is used to provide a basis for belief in God in the form of natural theology. God’s existence can thus be inferred either through the confirmation of Biblical passages, observation of design in nature, or the anthropic principle which shows how unlikely, very unlikely, it is for life to have evolved in our universe.

While natural theology is not nearly as popular as it once was (compare Paley’s watchmaker with Dawkins’ blind watchmaker), it still has its lobbyists, namely, creationists and intelligent design proponents. For the young-earth creationists, integration is driven by a literal interpretation of the Bible that produces “facts” that they attempt to legitimize using scientific terminology and numbers. Being a Christian is not sufficient, one needs to be a Creationist. Because this worldview is all encompassing, the science is seen as evidence for God and not only the best apologetic money can buy but also an acid test for the faith. Not a Creationist? You’re living a double-life and your worldview is incoherent.

For the old-earth creationists, integration arises from a concordist reading of the Bible in which alignment of passages with certain scientific evidence is attempted, again as an argument for the existence of God. They accept the overwhelming evidence for an old earth and apply a day-age or gap-day interpretation in an attempt to “harmonize” scientific data and Genesis 1.[1] The interpretation applied to Genesis 1 is supported by other Bible verses like 2 Peter 3:8 that says, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”[2] There is not a similar attempt to harmonize evolution and Genesis 2-3 because it breaks the rules or exceeds the boundaries of a concordist interpretation and the requirement for a literal fall of Adam is believed by them to be essential to Christian faith. Both variants of creationism appear scientific when they are not, at least as science is normally practiced as described in Ch. 2. They are instead apologetic or evangelistic, aiming to provide a rational defense of belief or serve as entry point to faith in God.

For the intelligent design proponents, integration is not driven as much by a literal interpretation or harmonization of the Bible with scientific facts as it is an incorporation of philosophy into scientific practice. There not only can be a supernatural cause in nature, but it can be detected through the use of mathematical interpretations of apparent complexity. Intelligent design is not creationism 2.0 and should not be discounted as such. Nevertheless, intelligent design is motivated not by scientific evidence but by anti-materialist philosophy that says evolution by natural selection is not capable of explaining the origin and diversification of life. Like with young-earth creationism, there is an attempt to select scientific “facts” or magnify areas of scientific debate in an attempt to show lack of support for evolution. Intelligent design as a philosophy or as a framework for the science and religion dialogue is interesting and worthy of investigation. However, because of the way its proponents abuse science and due to the lack of scientific evidence for the supernatural causes, intelligent design cannot really be said to be scientific anymore than creationism can.

I would argue that we could include in our vanilla ice cream also the scientific materialists that say that science is the only method of knowing and that there is no evidence of God from science. This is also an attempt at integration even if it’s an integration of science with atheology instead of science with theology. The method and purpose is still the same as they are using science to judge the existence of God, but instead of the result being natural theology they produce natural atheology.[3]

You may be thinking, didn’t we already classify creationists, intelligent design proponents, and scientific materialists under the conflict model of science and religion? Is this meandering the reflection of Justin’s poor writing skills or an error that slipped by the editor?[4] Interestingly, though all of these parties were mentioned in the conflict section they also fit well into the integration model too. Their conflict, though seemingly about science, in reality is about philosophy and the different products of their attempts at integration. Creationists and intelligent design folk use science to prove their theological philosophy while scientific materialists use science to prove their atheological philosophy. Thus the conflict. No matter that the kids (the science) are stuck in the middle like children during a divorce.

Though the other two forms of integration (we’ll call them chocolate and strawberry) are more relevant to academic treatments of science and religion, I need to introduce them here because some evolutionary creationists integrate science and religion in their writings as well. In the chocolate flavor, science is used to reformulate traditional theological doctrines, but is not capable of proving the existence of God. This, now referred to as theology of a nature, takes it as a given that God exists and that God created the world. Mechanisms of how God created, insights into who God is and what God’s purpose may be in creation, etc. may all be augmented or revised by scientific exploration. Theology of nature would be said to be “weaker” than natural theology but is specifically used as its own category to differentiate it from older arguments or “proof” of God’s existence. It is also only one component of a broader theology that includes many other doctrines from multiple other sources, but its proponents usually give high credence to the methods and findings of science. They may see teleology or design in the process of evolution and argue that this is due to God’s interaction with and continuing creation of the world. Much of the work in this area is on mechanisms of divine action. The scientist-theologian Arthur Peacocke (1924-2006) led this charge, but others including Robert John Russell, Philip Clayton, Ian Barbour, John Polkinghorne, and Tom Oord (to name a few) have written on theology of nature as well.[5]

Integration, flavor strawberry, is the creation of a systematic synthesis. This model was exemplified in the works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) who sought to integrate evolution and Christianity (some parts of it, at least) into his remarkable vision called the “Omega Point.”[6] His level of integration was extreme and eye opening, and as such others who profess this model are likely to limit themselves a bit more.

Another example of systematic synthesis, process philosophy, attempts to generate an inclusive metaphysics that brings both science and religion together holistically. If natural theology is science driving theology (the evidence for it) and theology of nature theology driving science (the interpretation of it), then the third form, process philosophy, is more even-handed (although science is still in charge). It is not possible to sum up process philosophy in a couple of sentences here but it’s my book so I’ll try anyway.

Process philosophy is anti-reductionistic and views nature as a dynamic and interdependent reality. Its proponents highlight change and interplay as opposed to static substances (which makes for difficulty in studying it scientifically). Each event of change has two aspects, an inner or interiority, and an outer reality. Again, it is important to note that process philosophy is about metaphysics, not science or theology specifically. Many Christians are against process philosophy, because it results in a God that is greatly unlike that of traditional Christianity. Briefly, God is not omnipotent and does not coerce, but instead persuades. Additionally, God is not immutable and undergoes change with the world. God is the source of order, novelty, and complexity but not in a deterministic manner. For those that are interested in learning more about process philosophy as applied to science and religion, the work of John Cobb and David Ray Griffith is a good place to start.[7]

Summary

So there we have the four models according to Barbour for the interaction of science and religion: conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration. We have seen that evolutionary creationists as a group can be found in each of the latter three models which I will argue in future chapters has consequences for evolutionary creation in the Christian intellectual marketplace. I have also argued that the other creation and evolution participants: intelligent design supporters, young-earth creationists, old-earth creationists, and scientific materialists belong in the integration interaction. They are usually seen as representing the conflict model, but I believe this is not due to them seeing an inherent conflict between science and religion but instead a result of their integration resulting in very different positions that makes them at odds with one another and evolutionary creationists.

[1] For a brief overview of the day-age interpretation and others by an Old-Earth Creationist group, see http://www.reasons.org/articles/four-views-of-the-biblical-creation-account.

[2] New International Version.

[3] Hmm… might want to copyright natural atheology. I’ll be back shorty, I’m Googling it right now…

[4] Well shut up. Righting is hard!

[5] For a good introduction, see Arthur Peacocke, Theology for a Scientific Age: Being and Becoming – Natural, Divine, and Human (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1993) and Paths From Science Towards God: The End of all Our Exploring (Oneworld Publications, 2001); Robert John Russell, Cosmology: From Alpha to Omega (Fortress Press, 2008);

Philip Clayton, God and Contemporary Science (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998); Ian Barbour When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners? (HarperOne, 2000) and Nature, Human Nature, and God (Fortress Press, 2002); John Polkinghorne, Science and Providence: God’s Interaction with the World (Templeton Press, 2005) and Science and Theology: An Introduction (Fortress Press, 1998); Tom Oord, The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence (IVP Academic, 2015).

[6] See, for example, Christianity and Evolution (Mariner Books; 2002) and The Phenomenon of Man (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2008).

[7] See John Cobb and David Ray Griffin, Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition (The Westminster Press, 1976); John Cobb, A Christian Natural Theology, Second Edition: Based on the Thought of Alfred North Whitehead (Westminster John Knox Press, 2007); David Ray Griffith, Two Great Truths: A New Synthesis of Scientific Naturalism and Christian Faith (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004).

 

 

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See your blog post here

I am looking for a blog partner and/or several folks that would like to contribute to the blog as they are available.  In a partner, I would prefer someone coming from theological side but this is not essential. For others that are interested in making more sporadic contributions, having a specific background is not important. And students you are more than welcome to be involved!

There are only two requirements to those that would like to post on my blog.

  1. You must be committed to dialogue between the disciplines. If you want to write that science and religion are incompatible and at war with each other, this isn’t your blog. Go away.😉
  2. Academics are welcome, but the writing needs to be accessible. Humor is welcome, if not required. We discuss serious and high-level topics here but we are also playful and/or stupid and we like our Dilbert, xkcd, 70s music, Seinfeld, and obscure pop culture references.

I recommend that folks write posts less than 1000 words and multiple part posts are encouraged. Many different kinds of posts are encouraged including book reviews, essays, or short blurbs about recent scientific or theological articles of interest to the other discipline.

If you are interested in potentially participating leave a comment on this post or DM me on Twitter!

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Ch. 4 Weddings and Wars: Interactions of Science and Religion (Part 4)

Today we continue Ch. 4 with our 4th post on  interactions of science and religion. Previous posts on this chapter provided an overview and a description of the conflict and independence models. Today we look at the dialogue model.

Science and religion in DIALOGUE

The third interaction type that Barbour posits for science and religion is dialogue where science and religion are constructive conversation partners in the areas mentioned above and to which they both claim knowledge. This interaction type is not as common in the media although it is the one that most academics interested in pushing forward the scholarly field of science and religion are fond of. Related to evolution and creation, it can be observed in the writings of some evolutionary creationists or theistic evolutionists, though the previously described independence view is much more common.

Dialogue is something that most would say they want. People want leaders who will “cross the aisle,” have deep respect for those that respect others, and raise their children to look out for the needs and concerns of those that are less fortunate, needs and concerns that are usually observed and appreciated only through dialogue with others. Colleges that are attractive promote diversity, multiculturalism, and a broad and varied education, and speak about subjecting student to others’ viewpoints; meanwhile, employers in turn hire people because they have this experience and are then likely to work well in a diverse and team-based environment. If you’re a scholar, words like collaborative and inter-disciplinary or more recently, multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary, abound in research grants, especially those that are large and far-reaching. Shoot, a key aspect of the core curriculum at my first institution was the sequence of courses formerly known as “Dialogue.”[1]

While “dialogue” is an esteemed goal, conversational ambition easily erodes, often leading to angry comments on the internet or the reduction of nuanced ideas to snazzy sound bytes on shows like the one Jon Stewart famously destroyed during an interview on it.[2] Dialogue degradation is not uncommon in discussions of science and religion either. Thus, though dialogue in science and religion sounds really great, it is not easy to put into practice because it at minimum requires mutual respect between scientists and theologians and at maximum requires academic training for conversation participants in science and religion and there are very few that are adequately versed in both. When dialogue does occur, it is usually based on the identification of methodological similarities or philosophy in the disciplines (driven by philosophy of science), a shared importance of and use of familiar analogies and models, or the use of common concepts. Dialogue leads to a synthesis or theology of nature that has received a fair amount of attention by scientist-theologians but is not nearly as prominent in popular writing. One of them, John Polkinghorne, summarizes dialogue well when he says:

“Dialogue recognizes that science and religion have things to say to each other. My own characterization of that mutual conversation would be that religion must listen to what science has to tell it about the nature and history of the physical world, and that religion can offer science a deeper and more comprehensive account of reality within which the latter’s search for understanding can find an intellectually comfortable home.”[3]

Like with independence, promotion of the dialogue model is not limited to religious believers. NASA astronomer Robert Jastrow, though an agnostic hinted at the importance of dialogue (and annoyed many of his scientist colleagues) with this famous quote:

“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”[4]

Dialogue proponents say that both science and religion believe the claims that they make about the world and our interactions with it correspond to reality. However, neither scientist nor theologian is so confident to believe their words provide an exact replica of the natural world or God. Whether it be limits in human intellect, difficulty in subject matter (best illustrated in attempts to describe an infinite God with human language, especially one as ridiculous as English), instrument liabilities, problems or questions that are not amenable to empirical investigation, etc., all collectively enable at best an approximation of reality.

Another example of a similarity between science and religion is their shared dependence on and limitation by language, which necessitates the need to construct models to convey the reality they investigate. Similarly, metaphors, analogies, and symbols are useful to both scientist and theologian, and not just those who want to sell more than 15 copies of their books. It is impossible to create an exact picture of what atomic particles look like since we cannot visualize them so models are constructed that take account of available data to infer atomic structure. It is perhaps not surprising then that models improve over time as more and more data is collected. Analogies and metaphors are also used in science, especially in the classroom as they enable students to connect the often-confusing and detailed findings of science with prior or commonsense knowledge. Personally, I use analogies frequently in my teaching, and because I don’t eat breakfast and am hungry during my lectures they often involve food.[5]

Analogies and metaphors are quite useful in theological discourse too. To refer to God the Father does not actually mean that God is our father, but to say that God possesses qualities like a father and to acknowledge Jesus’s referral to God as father. Similarly, to say God is love does not mean God = love,[6] but instead that love is one of God’s attributes. Symbols are important to science but even more so to theology. In his remarkable systematic theology, God: The World’s Future, Ted Peters says, ”Christian theology is the explication of the basic symbols found in scripture…”[7] Later in the same book, Peters writes, “To have faith in the God of the future is to reorient one’s life around the symbols associated with Jesus Christ.”[8] Amen, dude, amen.

Dialogue can also occur at the “boundary points” of the two disciplines. For instance, the assumptions scientists make about the world (it is orderly, it can be investigated, etc.) arose out of the belief in the world being a Creation made by a Creator. The dependence of science’s birth on theology is no longer appreciated; indeed some scientists and philosophers of science even attempt to disprove this by reinterpreting history or claiming that science does not require these “external” foundations and can justify itself. One could say that science, now in its teenage years, is rebelling from its philosophical and theological parents. But I won’t it.[9] Other examples of “boundary points” are is the big questions or interdisciplinary topics mentioned in the previous section (human origins, ethics, solutions to climate change, or personalized medicine).

There are several conceptual parallels between science and religion specifically related to creation and evolution: complexity and self-organization, the concept of information, and a hierarchy of levels.[10] An example of the latter can be seen in the discipline of biochemistry, my area of expertise. Metabolic reaction that enable us to extract energy from the food we eat and convert it into a form that enables cells in our body to grow require biochemical machines known as enzymes. Thus, to be a biological life form (let’s call this level 4) we are dependent on enzymes, which function at the biochemical or lower level (level 3). But enzymes are themselves constrained by chemistry (level 2). No enzyme can bypass electrostatic interactions no matter how great it is,[11] interactions that arise out of the four fundamental forces of physics (level 1). Lower levels constrain and cause “up”, while higher levels coordinate and “cause” down.

These concepts can be useful in explaining what both science and religion tell us about nature. For those that promote the conflict or independence model of science and religion, there will likely be an instinctive and immediate cringing upon hearing some of them. Stop using the word information! And stop talking about higher levels as if they can act causally. Science doesn’t say that, you’re interjecting religion and purpose into science! Reductionism is required for science and there’s only one “real” level (physics). Or conversely, from the religious side of the fence, matter can’t self-organize! God is the organizer and Creator. There’s no way the first life form could have “materialized” out of thin air. And there’s equally no way that the universe goes through cycles of expansion and contraction. There was a time zero when God spoke the world into existence!

Dialogue is difficult. Is it worth it?

[to be completed on Friday]

[1] It’s now been changed to “Cornerstone.” Liberal arts do this every few years to make our work more difficult. And to teach the students better, of course.

[2] Here’s the link if you haven’t seen it before. It is absolutely hilarious. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFQFB5YpDZE

[3] John Polkinghorne, Scientists as Theologians (SPCK, 1996), pp. 5-6.

[4] Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (Norton, 1978), p. 116.

[5] I am quite proud of my use of McDonald’s and Burger King as correlates for repressible and inducible operons, respectively. The Big Mac also makes a great model for a bacterial cell wall. Ask your local scientist to explain these quite amazing models.

[6] Or God ≡ love for the Math major.

[7] Ted Peters, God: The World’s Future, 2nd, ed. (Augsburg Fortress, 2000), p. 34. Italics are my emphasis.

[8] Ted Peters, God: The World’s Future, 2nd, ed. (Augsburg Fortress, 2000), p. 81.

[9] Will the prodigal son return?

[10] When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners? (HarperOne, 2000).

[11] See Alsin, your and my favorite protein.

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Discontinued Olympic Sports

I liked this link on discontinued Olympic events and the rabbit trail it took me down so much I decided I had to put it on my blog. No way Phelps is the leader in gold medals if some of these were still on the docket…🙂

My favorites from the list have to be the following. What are yours?

Thanks to Top End Sports for compiling this list!

 

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Ch. 4 Weddings and Wars: Interactions of Science and Religion (Part 3)

Today we continue Ch. 4 and our discussion of models for the interaction of science and religion. Previous posts on this chapter provided an overview and a description of the conflict model. Today we look at the independence model.

Science and religion as INDEPENDENT from each other

Besides conflict, independence or as I call it the “Enlightened view” is the other popular model for the interaction of science and religion and is the one backed most predominantly by scientists or religious scholars that are united in their war against the warfare model of science and religion. Independence usually takes the form of saying something like, “science answers the ‘what’ questions while religion answers the ‘why’ questions.” In the area of evolution and creation, the independence model is a favorite of those who put forth evolutionary creation or theistic evolution who accept the science behind evolution. God is the Creator and is the ‘why’ behind nature and evolution is the ‘how’ or mechanism that God used to create. People of faith who see religious knowledge in Lindbeck’s experiential expressive model most certainly support this view.” You don’t have to believe in God to support independence either though as evolutionary biologist, historian of science, and noted agnostic Stephen J. Gould (1941-2002), also supported this view.[1]

In addition to the why vs. how interpretation in which science and religion answer different questions, independence may also refer to the use of contrasting methods. Proponents of independence argue, “science is based on human observation and reason, while theology is based on divine revelation.”[2] Independence can also refer to science and religion using different sets of language. The primary and secondary causality distinctions made by Thomas Aquinas where God is the Primary Cause and creaturely activity is a secondary cause is a good example of this. Another example comes from the story told by scientist-theologian John Polkinghorne of the boiling teapot. If a friend, hearing you teapot whistling asks, “Why is your teapot boiling?” how do you respond? You could say it’s because water molecules are being heated to the point that they become steam. You could also say that it’s because you want a cup of tea.[3] There are two different but both correct answers that reflect different layers of reality.

Whether they answer separate questions, use dissimilar methods, or employ alternative vocabularies, this model still holds fast to science and religion being independent from one another and is inherently dualist. In fact, it can even be taken further than that and some supporters say that science and religion cannot possibly be at war with each other because they only overlap when disciplinary boundaries are overstepped or scientists and theologians are arrogantly speaking in areas outside of their kin. So, as long as we leave evolution, technology, and medicine to science and leave morality, purpose, values, etc. to religion, everything is copacetic.

To see independence in relation to the creation and evolution discussion, consider the following quotes from three Christians who support evolutionary creation or something similar. First, biologist Darrel Falk:

“Believing in gradual creation is the equivalent of trusting the instruments of science that yesterday’s temperature was really fifty-nine degrees. It is hard for some of us to trust those instruments because it seems to us that there is so much at stake. Nevertheless, after careful consideration, we must trust them – they are legitimately measuring what they were made to measure. Accepting this, however, need not be the first step down a slippery slope. Taking the step of doubting the resurrection or other tenets of our faith has nothing to do with the instruments of science. Scientific tools are silent on the issue of whether the resurrection occurred, just as meteorology is silent on the issue of whether God’s Holy Spirit can penetrate our atmosphere.”[4]

Next, from geneticist and director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins:

“In looking closely at chapters 1 and 2 of the book of Genesis, we have previously concluded that many interpretations have been honorably put forward by sincere believers, and that this powerful document can best be understood as poetry and allegory rather than a literal scientific description of origins… Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religion faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology. Only if symbols are construed to mean what they are not intended to mean can there arise imaginary, insoluble conflicts.””[5]

Last, from Old Testament scholar John Walton:

“Believing in the Bible does not require us to reject the findings of biological evolution, though neither does it give us reason to promote biological evolution. Biological evolution is not the enemy of the Bible and theology; it is superfluous to the Bible and theology. The same could be said for the big bang and for the fossil record.”[6]

As we saw earlier in the chapter, there are absolutely questions within science or religion to which the other doesn’t speak. For instance, my lab uses genotyping and molecular fingerprinting methods to identify and characterize tick-borne infectious agents. What, if anything, does religion have to do with that? Nothing. Now, the philosophy of science and framework for scientific study as a whole does have it’s grounding in theology and religious philosophy (although many would debate this), but the specific questions that we study in my lab do not.

Does it work the other way? Do questions of religion have anything to do with science? I would argue yes and therein lies the rub. We are natural beings in a natural world and science is the best method available for studying said world. A potential worry for religious believers about the independence model is that religion seems to be making concessions while science doesn’t have to. Put another way, why does it seem like science gets a first-row seat with all that legroom while religion is relegated to a seat in coach next to the crying baby? As science progresses, couldn’t it, won’t it, attempt to take over more and more from religion? A quote from good friend and fictional scientist, Bill Billson, highlights this. “Sure, science and religion are independent. What’s that? Evolution is true and it’s causing us to revisit traditional Christian beliefs? Genes play a large role in personality and behaviors generally associated with the soul and mind and brain are becoming increasing inseparable? Oh, just ignore that because science and religion are ‘independent’. Why doesn’t it work the other way such that religion causes us to revisit traditional scientific beliefs? I already told you, science and religion are separate from each other!” The pushback against the independence view from religious believers is warranted.

In addition to the potential for differing “lane sizes,” answers to the big questions are seemingly incomplete if both science and religion are not consulted. How does one adequately discuss human origins, ethics, solutions to climate change, or personalized medicine (to name a few) without inviting both science and religion to a seat at the conference table? From an academic perspective, it doesn’t seem that maintaining disciplinary boundaries is worth ignoring large and important questions or having to arbitrarily place a portion of the question in paper while the rest is in plastic.[7] Must we mimic the Bombardier beetle who holds two chemical compounds in distinct reservoirs in its abdomen lest it internally release the toxic spray meant for its enemies? Isn’t the effort worthwhile if it could bring us closer to truth or a better solution to a global problem?

That depends. If you’re looking to be anti-conflict and think the German university model of separate disciplines is Ausgezeichnet or das beste,[8] independence makes for an easy thesis. But what if you’re concerned about the limitations mentioned above and still are a pacifist? And what if, like the author, you’re a Christian who believes that Jesus Christ is the lord of all, including Creation? Carry on, my wayward son.[9]

[to be continued on Monday]

[1] “To say it for all my colleagues and for the umpteenth million time (from college bull sessions to learned treatises): science simply cannot (by its legitimate methods) adjudicate the issue of God’s possible superintendence of nature. We neither affirm nor deny it; we simply can’t comment on it as scientists. If some of our crowd have made untoward statements claiming that Darwinism disproves God, then I will find Mrs. McInerney [his third-grade teacher] and have their knuckles rapped for it (as long as she can equally treat those members of our crowd who have argued that Darwinism must be God’s method of action). Science can work only with naturalistic explanations; it can neither affirm nor deny other types of actors (like God) in other spheres (the moral realm, for example).” Stephen J. Gould, Impeaching a Self-Appointed Judge, Scientific American (1992), Volume 267, pp. 118-121.

[2] When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners? (HarperOne, 2000), p. 18.

[3] I would say it’s because I’m out of coffee but I’m not British or nearly as cool as John.

[4] Darrel Falk, Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology (IVP Academic, 2004), p. 216. Italics are my emphasis.

[5] Francis Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press, 2006), p. 206. Italics are my emphasis.

[6] John Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (IVP Academic, 2009), p. 166. Italics are my emphasis.

[7] That’s a bad play on grocery store bags if you didn’t get it.

[8] See the idea of separate disciplines for research really took off in Germany and then was brought to the U.S. in the 19th century. And Google translate tells me Ausgezeichnet means excellent and das beste means the best so go Passat.

[9] The lyrics to the Kansas song are actually spot-on to this discussion. Surely heaven waits for you!

Posted in Blurred Vision, Science vs. religion | 2 Comments

Laura Snyder: The Philosophical Breakfast Club

This week’s TED talk is by historian Laura Snyder who introduces us to the “philosophical breakfast club,” her name for the four natural philosophers who collectively introduced four major principles into scientific inquiry and became the first modern “scientists.”

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Go for the principles, enjoy the fascinating historical rabbit trail, and most certainly stay for the ending. I don’t want to steal her thunder but she’s absolutely right. I hope that scientists agree and they will be welcomed with open arms. Tear down the wall!!!¹

Check out her Wikipedia page. “Narrative-driven non-fiction books about the way that science is intertwined with the rest of culture?” Yes times 10.

(1) I can’t help but link to that creepy part of the Pink Floyd song. Too much of a great effect.

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