There Is A War Going On Between Religion And Science. Is A Truce Possible
"Religion's truce with science can't hold". a commentator in The Guardian asked. The first question the better informed reader might well ask is "What truce."
Any scientific project seeking to explain the great questions posed by the human condition is doomed to failure and will conclude with the well worn phrase "more research is needed." Any religious belief seeking to explain the 'how's of the universe is encroaching on the territory of science and for those seeking truth science will always win.
One of the most tedious and most often repeated questions in the public debate about faith has been "are religion and science compatible?" It is a question to which there can be no definitive answer and because that is the case, the question will not go away?
The usual answer is that religion and science are compatible because they are not talking about the same things. Religion does not make empirical claims about how the universe works, and to treat it as though it did is to make a categorical error. Therefore the solution would be for each to respect the other's boundaries allowing them to co - exist in a kind of truce like North and South Korea.
The biologist Stephen Jay Gould proposed such an arrangement when he argued that science and religion have non-overlapping doctrines. In his book Rock of Ages, Gould wrote that science deals with "the empirical realm: what the universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two areas do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry." In short, science is empirical, religion is ethical.
A similar approach was taken by by the physicist John Polkinghorne and the mathematician Nicholas Beale in their book, Questions of Truth. They put it thus: "Science is concerned with the question, How? – By what process do things happen? Theology is concerned with the question, Why? – Is there a meaning and purpose behind what is happening?"
It should be a simple distinction but maintaining it proves to be very difficult indeed. Many "why" questions are unanswerable and therefore stray into a very grey area. If you ask: " When iron it heated to almost white hot why does plunging it into cold water to cool it rapidly give us steel (a primitive form of steel) while allowing it to cool naturally returns it to it's original state. Science can answer that at high temperatures certain molecular changes occur and rapid cooling fixes these changes. That explains the process, the how. Why it happens is a different matter and while scientists tie themselves in knots trying to provide a credible answer to questioners, to say "because that's what God intended" is just a cop out.
This example proves there are many things in the world that are not understood, we use them, we benefit from them but we do not understand the forces at work.
The books by Gould and by Polkinghorne and Beale have both been around a few years and we could say of their reasoned approach, that was then, this is now. In the last decade a conflict has broken out between science and religion. This stems from an almost evangelical faith among some scientists that science can answer any questions and in a cop out of almost religious proportions they simply dismiss any questions that they have no answer for coming up against a resurgence of religious faith in response to the failure of science to build a perfect world.
It is necessary to understand that scientific "why" questions do not imply any deliberate action intent. We can ask why the dinosaurs died out, why smoking causes cancer and so on without implying any intentions. In the theistic context, however, "why" questions are usually about intent. Of a number of people with the same disease and given the same treatment, why do some die and others survive. The answer must involve causation and intention otherwise it is not an answer. The only answer that does stand up in most cases is "We don't know."
"We don't know" may satisfy those of us who have studied Hindu or Buddhist philosophy, the Stoics of Ancient Greece or the European pagan tradition but humans are by nature explanation seeking animals and most have not learned to override that impulse.
This means that if someone asks why things are as they are, what their meaning and purpose is, and the respondent puts God in the answer, it almost inevitably lead to a claim that God has set things a certain way way, or intervened in some way, to make sure the divine purpose is achieved. The neat division between scientific "how" and religious "why" questions therefore turns out to be not so neat.
A lot depends on what we mean by 'science'. If the objective of science is to uncover the laws that govern the universe and nature then no-one of any faith should have an issue with that If however the question to be answered relates to the history of the universe we are on entirely different and much more treacherous ground? Question Big Bang theory and the Science Inquisition will jump on you crying "heretic" and demanding that you be burned. And yet supporters of Big Bang theory have had to invent black holes, dark matter, dark energy and inflation (with no evidence whatsoever other than that they must exist or the equations on which our whole model of the universe is based simply fall apart.
Evolution is a theory that flatly refuses to be evidenced by the fossil record unless you begin with the a priori assumption that the theory itself is true even though there is plenty of evidence to indicate that it is a nonsense. Question evolution however and you are again branded a heretic, young earth creationist and a "right wing nut job." And yet although creatures evolve, like Big Bang, the theory is full of holes. This is largely because Charles Darwin's original theory which was based on empirical evidence has been stretched to include ideas like abiogenisis, the notion that life emerged spontaneously as a result of a chemical accident.
Religion should have no problem with real, empirical science. Where there is a problem between the two lies in the area of pseudo - science, theories based on unproven and unprovable assumptions which are used as prisms through which the evidence is filtered and subjectively interpreted and presented as to "proof" that the theory is correct.
It is somewhat astonishing that may well educated people cannot, through the endless circular reasoning involved, understand and accept that humans are unscientific creatures and the mind will see what it wants to see.
From this we see how devotees of "science" don't actually understand what it is (not a political position, a method of working or a dogma but an affirmed body of knowledge based on evidence) but, led by their hatred of not knowing everything they are actually turning it into a religion.
In an approach he calls anthropic fine-tuning, the Christian physicist, Paul Davies, offers us "The Goldilocks Enigma": the conditions in the universe are just right for life to have evolved, and had a few things been just slightly different at the Big Bang, none of us would be here. At the moment, there is no generally accepted scientific explanation for why or how this is so and even big bang theory has been shown to be more full of holes that a kitchen sieve so as the vast majority of scientists totally reject any alternative to Big Bang (the only evidence of which is gathered from mathematical speculations the question "How did life evolve in the universe can only be answered with a resounding "We don't know." To answer otherwise requires an act of faith, a belief in something for which there is no proof.
Taking off his physicist's coat and donning his theologian's hat, Dr. Polkinghorne (sic) answers the "why" question by saying that the life-enabling laws of physics are "graciously provided by the creator". Not only does this introduce a theological why where we'd normally just look for a scientific why, it is also a claim about how the universe came to be the way it is, namely, by divine fiat. It trespasses onto the "how" territory of science, but since it cannot explain the mechanism by which God intervened, nor test the hypothesis that he did so, it is no substitute for a proper scientific answer. On the other hand the scientists currently chasing the epheremeral Higgs Boson, the sub atomic particle which they need to prove exists otherwise the whole scientific theory of how the universe works will simply fall apart and we are back to God or the stoical "it works."
There are ways of understanding religion that do not fall into this God versus science trap. Brauch Spinoza's "God-or-nature" approach, the divine could act with a purpose that was, at root, simply the playing out of natural forces. But the theistic God is "behind" what happens, not simply part of it. This is very close to the Hindu / Buddhist / Pagan idea of "the oneness, a whole of which we are all part.
Alternatively many people of faith say that religion is not about belief at all, and so never explains anything in terms of agency-why. By following that line we can see that any religious belief that involves an interventionist, physically present God and claims that the sacred texts of that faith hold indisputable truths about why things happen, must also be encroaching on questions of how they happen too. And if that is the case the comfortable peace which many claim should exist between science and religion just isn't possible.
The religious believer could bite the bullet, accept that religion does make some empirical claims, and then defend their compatibility with science one by one. But the fact that two beliefs are compatible with each other is the most minimal test of their reasonableness imaginable. All sorts of outlandish beliefs – that the Apollo moon landings never happened, that a marginal increase in the CO2 component of air will certainly cause a global catastrophe, that weather can be controlled so accurately we can rely on the wind to generate all the electricity we need, are scientifically feasible, but that hardly makes them credible. What really counts, what should really make the difference between acceptance and rejection of an empirical claim, is not whether it is compatible with the existing science, but whether an evidence-led, rational examination a problem that offers a better solution than competing alternatives.
So the fact that science is compatible with religion turns out to be a comforting red herring. We should be asking is theoretical science compatible with reality.
How easily science and religion can rub on together depends very much on what kind of religion and what kind of we're talking about. If it is a kind of religion that seeks to explain the hows of the universe, telling us God created everything in seven days, or ends up trying to inculcate such ideas by suggestion, then it is competing with science. In the same way when scientists start trying to control nature and resort to telling lies in order to justify their meddling in what does not need to be meddled in and their refusal to seriously consider possible consequences claiming they are scientists and know what they are doing, then the two are invading each other's territory. If the religion is of a kind that doesn't attempt to explain the hows of the universe, and the science seek to understand nature rather than controlling it then the science v religion debate can move on, free from the illusion that the outcome rests on one question with one answer.
Creativity Must Triumph Over ConformityBruce Elkin argues that to save civilisation creativity must triumph over conformity. We must kick our addiction to consumption, rediscover the things that are really important and use the unique abilities of humans to create a society in which fullfillment is the goal rather than wealth and power. In other words we must redefine what we mean by success.
Mathematics and RealityIn all of our blogs and web sites the Greenteeth team have been critical of those science fans who are turning science into a religion. Scientists deny this of course even in the face of the evidence. Here Ian R Thorpe shows you that the idea of mathematics as God is nothing new, it has been around longer than Christianity in fact.
Vilified' Christians 'fear arrest' as Neo Nazi Secularist Persecution Increases Says Former ArchbishopFormer Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Carey has again defended the richts and freedoms of Chistians against what he feels is persecution by militant secularists. In a submission to thre EWuropean Court Of Human Rights Dr. Carey has spoken of fears that political activist jusdges and lawyers are showing anti - Christian bias in their judgements.
Science cannot provide all the answers, there is room for faithWhy, in these days when the militant atheist supporters of Richard Dawkins and his fellow travellers are so ready to decry and belittle religiopus faith and claim science has proved God does not exist, do so many eminent scientists still believe in God, including a number who have made carers in science but are very active in their respectoive churces?
Melvin Bragg attacks Richard Dawkins Atheist Fundamentalism
Broadcaster, novelist and critic Melvyn Bragg has launched a fierce attack on militant atheists and in particular Professor Richard Dawkins, accusing him and those who follow him of “ignorance” . . .
Melvin Bragg attacks Richard Dawkins Atheist FundamentalismBroadcaster, novelist and critic Melvyn Bragg has launched a fierce attack on militant atheists and in particular Professor Richard Dawkins, accusing him and those who follow him of “ignorance” . . .
There Is A War Going On Between Religion And Science. Is A Truce Possible
The war, let's be honest, is between religious fundamentalists and science fanatics. Each is straying into the other's territory. But both are out of order and should leave the unanswetrable questions to philosophy. Can there be a truce, can the two coexist?
Dawkins, Divinity And A PopeWhen a question about why so many seemingly rational people accept the idea of Jesus's divinity was posted at a site I use a very lively thread developed. Strangely it was not the Christians who were pedantic and resisdtant to new ideas but people who claim they are atheists and agnostics
Former Archbishop Of Canterbury George Carey says its time to remind ourselves Christians have rights tooGeorge Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, has warned there are 'dark forces at work in Western society' that are degrading the values of Christianity after a High Court ruling banned public prayers from council meetings ...
Dr. Pangloss Said All Is For The Best
Ever been irritated all those exhortations to "look on the bright side"and "be positive" Felt let down by hopey-changey stuff and people who say "lets join hands and sing kumbiya to create utopia" but fail to deliver. This article might be just what you need to read
Getting Started With ExistentialismIn our section on philosophy existentialism had to be a major focal points. The world is constantly being defrauded by false prophets and self styled messiahs with promises of deliverance from the constant dangers and uncertainties of life. Established religion, faith and belief systems such as Christianity, Islam and Judaeism and systems of thought like Hindu and Buddhist philosophies at least offer the comfort of belonging and the refuge of ritual while the new crypto-religions of science and psychology arrogantly claim infallibility while failing to deliver on all fronts. Existentialism however is the philosophy of personal responsibility.
Theosophy For BeginnersThose two old friends of Greenteth Multi Media, Philo and Sophia, are dedicated to spreading wisdom and understanding. It's natural then that their page here should include a sub menu on Theosophy, an almost forgotten belief system now although it was only founded in the nineteenth century. Theosophy is based on the ideas of Helena Blavatsky and while it drawns on the ancient wisom found in Hindu, Budhist and Zoroastrian teachings it is fully compatible with Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox versions of Christianity as well as Jewish and Muslim beliefs
The War Between Science and ReligionWhen cosmologist Martin Rees was awarded the Templeton Prize for scientific work enhancing the spiritual side of life the militant atheists reacted with predicatable angry intolderance. Their intolerant attitude seems to have done more to harm the scientific community than to turn paople against faith and religion.
Alchemy For Beginners - Part 1: A Condensed history Of AlchemyReligion and Science have in recent times not been comfortable bedfellows. Strange then that the earliest scientists were priests, people who chose todevote their lives to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. One early science much derided by modern scientists was Alchemy, the quest to turn base metals like lead into Gold. But was the althemists idea reeally daft?
Quantum Metaphysics or The God ExperimentsThe noise from militant atheists is becoming unbearable as they scream and shout about superstition and magical thinking. So what if science came up with something that turns upside down everything we thought we knew about the nature of the universe. Well it has, twenty years ago. Quantum entanglements, non - separability, oneness, once it enters the public perception we will suddenly have to see ourselves differently.
The Flight From FreedomFleeing from freedom seems like a contradiction, after all we usually asdsiciate flight with escaping from captivity. In this first part of Existentialism for Beginners however the author identifies a human instinct that predisposes us to seek illusory safety by conforming and being part of the crowd rather than embarking on the lonely life of the free thinker, the person who truly makes their own decisions and follows their own path.
Can We Change? Mystics Say Yes, Science Says No - Or Does It?Medical science has always insisted we cannot change the way our brain works but now that view is changing. A number of scientific studies have proved various things that have nade a lot of science fanatics look silly. The brain can be rewired after traumatic injury, meditation can change the way we think, prayer, riyual and superstition are all beneficial and the placebo effect is a powerful healing tool.
Not Intelligent Design But A Designer Universe.At the risk of making to sciencyheads kick off about intelligent design we must enter the argument between science and creationism to pose the possibility that the universe did have a designer - not a god such as the creation myths describe but a race of intelligent (?) beings who, live ourselves could not resist meddling with things they did not fully understand thus incurring unforeseen consequences.
The Abuses Of ScienceWith science evangelists increasingly on the back foot as more and more "breakthroughs" are exposed as fraud at worst and hyperbolic self publicizing at best Mary Midgely argues that where scientits went wrong was in denying that science has limitations that rener it unsuitable to answer the questions raised by philosophers.
Silly Secular Society Leader Makes Year's Most Stupid StatementTerry Sanderson, President Of The National Secular Society says: “I look at it this way. If science disappeared from human memory, we would soon be living in caves again. If theology disappeared from human memory, no one would notice. Theology is a completely and utterly useless pursuit. It is self-indulgence of the first order. It grieves me that public money is spent on theological colleges while real education struggles to gain the funds it needs to maintain itself.” The Daily Stirrer's Ian R Thorpe presents a balanced argument that proves Sanderson is a very secular piece of the female anatomy.
< class="relate" A HREF="beforebigbang1.html">Before The Big Bang - Part 1: Ian Thorpe : Space and Timean brings a comedy writers perspective to this examination of the cosmology proposed by the theoretical physicists who unequivocally support the Big Bang theory
Principled AgnosticismPrincipled Agnosticism, a phrase coined by UK writer Madeline Bunting offer a path between absolute faith and absolute atheism of the militant, science worshipping kind.
Catholic Faith and Progressive Left's HypocrisyThat most reactionary of political persuasions, The Progressive Left, are quick to indulge in self righteous criticism of hypocrisy shown by Churches and faith but when one of their own stands accused their hypocrisy and double standards are soon revealed to be greater than any.
All about Eve: A Rant About The Conservative War On Women DebunkedIs it a tenable argument to say that the US Republican Party (GOP) is weaging a war on women because they tried to block a clause in Obama's healthcare system that demands insurers fund free contraception for women? See the argument and then what as it is demolished ...
Equal Rights Campaigners Not Christians Are Imposing Their Belief On OthersWhen head of the Euality and Human Rights Commission Trevor Phillips speaks we should termble. This nasty little race hustler is the de facto head of the thought police and sees his job as to stamp on racism, sexism, homophobia and anything else he and his cronies decide they are not going to tolerate. It is all in the name of tolerance of course, or divesity as Phillips would say. But how does telling people what they can and cannot think promote diversity?
Philo and Sophia
Belief, Faith and Religion
Humanitas - Who We Are, How We Live
Mozart Exposes Another Scientific Scam
Obama opposed to science and reason
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