googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: So now they're experts in religion as well?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

So now they're experts in religion as well?

I was reading some of my older posts and I came across a broken link. I tried to see if the article still existed anywhere on the net but I couldn't find it. Instead, I found another article that piqued my interest. It's older, but I believe it's still relevant.

It's an editorial from Nature called, “Dealing with design” that deals with the “problem” of students who believe in intelligent design. I've excerpted a couple of points from the piece. Quotes are in blue and are italicized.

Scientists tend to tune out when they hear the words 'intelligent design.

That's rather telling, don't you think? The first instinct of scientists when they hear the words “intelligent design” is usually to just tune them out. Shouldn't they want to explore the idea? Shouldn't they want to test the theories? Where is their scientific curiosity? No, they just tune out.

... [M]any of the students taught in introductory biology classes hold religious beliefs that conflict, at least on the face of things, with Darwin's framework. Professors rarely address the conflicts between faith and science in lectures, and students are drawn to intelligent design as a way of reconciling their beliefs with their interest in science. In doing so, they are helping it to gain a small, but firm, foothold on campuses around the country.

If I'm reading this correctly, Nature is attributing the rise of intelligent design on college campuses to the lack of biology professors addressing the (alleged) conflicts between faith and science. Maybe they're right, but I still haven't seen a problem. I merely detect a sense of alarm among biology professors that intelligent design is gaining traction.

This is bad news for researchers. Unlike 'creation science', which uses the Bible as its guide, intelligent design tries to use scientific methods to find evidence of God in nature.

Still again, I don't see a problem. Yet Nature says this is “bad news” for researchers. As a matter of fact, their alarm only seems to be that proponents of intelligent design “[try] to use scientific methods to find evidence of God in nature.” What's so alarming about that? I distinctly remember being asked about umpteen million times for evidence for my theory or for God. When there are people actually using scientific methods to find evidence for design, the evolutionists go into a tizzy.

This approach makes it less theologically heavy-handed than its predecessor, but it also poses a threat to the very core of scientific reason. Most contemporary researchers believe that it is better to keep science and theology firmly separated.

Oh, I see now. It's because they never really wanted to find evidence for God. They don't want to see evidence for design. They only want to “keep science and theology firmly separated.” We see again the fundamental tenet of science that everything must have a natural explanation.  Could someone please give me a “scientific reason” why it should be the goal of science to separate itself from religion? Anyone? I didn't think so. It's a philosophical premise – not a scientific one.

Well, I can see their concern but what are they going to do about it? One idea might be to challenge the scientific theories of intelligent design in rigorous scientific debate. No. They don't like that idea. Look what Nature says in the next paragraph:

Such events tend to be well attended, but don't change many minds. Furthermore, ill-prepared scientific lectures can sometimes lack the superficial impact of design advocates' carefully crafted talking points.

I've seen many evolution/creation debates and the scientists are usually thoroughly trashed by the creationists. Exit polls after these debates usually show that if anyone's mind was changed, it tends to be toward creation. Evolutionists have been embarrassed in these types of debates so many times they always discourage other scientists away from future debates.

So what advice does Nature give to frustrated professors?

Scientists would do better to offer some constructive thoughts of their own. For religious scientists, this may involve taking the time to talk to students about how they personally reconcile their beliefs with their research. Secular researchers should talk to others in order to understand how faiths have come to terms with science. All scientists whose classes are faced with such concerns should familiarize themselves with some basic arguments as to why evolution, cosmology and geology are not competing with religion. When they walk into the lecture hall, they should be prepared to talk about what science can and cannot do, and how it fits in with different religious beliefs.

There it is. Read it for yourself. The solution suggested by Nature is that professors prepare themselves to explain how science fits in with different religious beliefs. What do you think that means? Do you think that means professors should compromise on certain scientific theories to make them more palatable to a conservative Christian? You know it doesn't. It means they are practicing arguments that might convince students to compromise on their religious beliefs and make them comport better with the scientific theory. Make no mistake, to evolutionists, “reconciling science and religion” always means compromising on the religion.


Steven J. said...

On the one hand, you expect evolutionists to be familiar enough with creationist thought to realize that when creationists say they don't believe in evolution, that they don't really mean that. On the other, you don't give evolutionists credit for being familiar enough to "intelligent design" to notice that in the two decades or so it's been around, it's failed to come up with a testable theory. It's failed to come up with a coherent definition of, or means of measuring, the "information" it claims that only "intelligence" can provide. At some point, tuning out such an unproductive exercise is the only rational course.

I note in passing that, on the one hand, ID doesn't actually claim to find evidence for "God" (they claim to find evidence for an "intelligent Designer" who might or might not be unique, all-powerful, particularly competent, or still existent). On the other, I see no way that evidence perceptible by finite, fallible human beings (i.e. evidence of finite things with finite power and complexity) could possibly justify the inference of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-benevolent Creator (please note: my point is not that the evidence does not demonstrate this -- it is that it cannot, even in principle, no matter what the evidence is).

As a practical matter, a designer (who might be omnipotent, not that you could ever prove it) can be reliably inferred, if you have some hypothesis about the motives, methods, and capabilities of the designer; a claim that one can spot "design" independent of any assumptions about what the designer is capable of or what his design philosophy is, is absurd and unworthy of consideration.

Steven J. said...

Debate is a skill and a sport. School debate teams routinely find out which side of an issue they're supposed to defend once they arrive at the venue, just as football teams depend on a flip of a coin to decide whether they kick off or receive. A good debater is supposed to be able to defeat a bad one regardless of which one has the right side. Creationists tend to have more experienced and skilled debaters than whatever local teacher or lecturer shows up to defend evolution. I daresay that Answers in Genesis creationist Jonathan Sarfati could beat Richard Dawkins in a game of chess -- but that doesn't really settle which one is closer to right. But the point is that a formal debate isn't much better as a guide to truth.

Debate has an interesting weakness. You can just make up stuff, and it works if your opponent doesn't catch you or call you on it. Duane Gish used to tell audiences, when he was debating hapless evolutionists, that contrary to evolutionary predictions, various enzymes in humans were more similar to homologous enzymes in chickens or frogs than to the corresponding enzymes in chimpanzees. In point of fact, the chimp versions and human versions of these enzymes were identical -- but hey, if no one called him on it, he scored a point.

The fact that creationists don't much impress the scientific community (indeed, they don't even much impress the court system -- debate skills don't work so well when you can be cross-examined at length) is more relevant than the fact that they do impress scientifically illiterate audiences.

Steven J. said...

Of course reconciling science and religion means compromising on the religion. So it has always been. We know, from the few surviving writings that mention their views on the matter, that Jews from around the time of Christ (e.g. in the book of Enoch or Josephus' histories) thought that the Earth was a flat disk surmounted by a solid dome of the sky. Early Christians like Theophilus of Antioch and Lactantius Firmianus affirmed the biblical flat disk-shaped Earth against pagan Greek thinkers who argued for a spherical Earth. But Lactantius was already in a minority (at least among educated Christians) in the early fourth century.

Eleven or twelve centuries later, many Christians argued against the idea that the Earth turned on its axis and orbited the sun. Did not the Bible clearly say that the sun, not the Earth, stopped moving at Joshua's command? Did not the Psalms repeatedly insist that the Earth had been established and did not move? And, for that matter, did not Genesis describe the sun being made after the Earth? On a heliocentric cosmology, that's a lot like digging a foundation after you put up the building, or making whales before there's an ocean to put them in; on a geocentrist cosmology it makes much more sense.

But the Bible, having once been reinterpreted to allow for a spherical Earth, was duly reinterpreted to allow for a moving Earth. This is how the reconciliation of science to the Bible works.