Michael Ruse posted this article last year, but his insights are still spot on. A few of his incisive criticisms . . .
I am not a devout Christian, yet if anything, the things said against me are worse. Richard Dawkins, in his best selling The God Delusion, likens me to Neville Chamberlain, the pusillanimous appeaser of Hitler at Munich. Jerry Coyne reviewed one of my books (Can a Darwinian be a Christian?) using the Orwellian quote that only an intellectual could believe the nonsense I believe in. And non-stop blogger P. Z. Myers has referred to me as a “clueless gobshite.” This invective is all because, although I am not a believer, I do not think that all believers are evil or stupid, and because I do not think that science and religion have to clash.
Let me say that I believe the new atheists do the side of science a grave disservice. I will defend to the death the right of them to say what they do — as one who is English-born one of the things I admire most about the USA is the First Amendment. But I think first that these people do a disservice to scholarship. Their treatment of the religious viewpoint is pathetic to the point of non-being. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing. As I have said elsewhere, for the first time in my life, I felt sorry for the ontological argument. If we criticized gene theory with as little knowledge as Dawkins has of religion and philosophy, he would be rightly indignant. . . . Conversely, I am indignant at the poor quality of the argumentation in Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and all of the others in that group.
I have written elsewhere that The God Delusion makes me ashamed to be an atheist. Let me say that again. Let me say also that I am proud to be the focus of the invective of the new atheists. They are a bloody disaster and I want to be on the front line of those who say so.
(HT: Manawatu Christian Apologetics Society)
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on these interesting statistics:
According to a survey of American Association for the Advancement of Science members, conducted by the Pew Research Center in May and June, a majority of scientists (51 percent) say they believe in God or a higher power, while 41 percent say they do not.
Furthermore, scientists today are no less likely to believe in God than they were almost 100 years ago, when the scientific community was first polled on this issue. In 1914, 11 years before the Scopes “monkey” trial and four decades before the discovery of the structure of DNA, psychologist James Leuba asked 1,000 U.S. scientists about their views on God. He found the scientific community evenly divided, with 42 percent saying that they believed in a personal God and the same number saying they did not. . . .
But the scientific community is much less religious than the general public. In Pew surveys, 95 percent of American adults say they believe in some form of deity or higher power.
And the public does not share scientists’ certainty about evolution. While 87 percent of scientists say that life evolved over time due to natural processes, only 32 percent of the public believes this to be true, according to a different Pew poll last year.
(HT: Faith-Science News)
It seems that most scientists aren’t compelled by their discipline to abandon their religious beliefs.
A nice collection of papers here on the relationship between Christianity and evolution. A few reflect a theistic evolutionary point of view, while others defend skepticism towards a Darwinian approach. The titles that look especially interesting are
- “Evangelicals, Creation, and Scripture: An Overview” by Mark Noll
In this paper, Mark Noll — University of Notre Dame historian and author of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind — looks at 15 of the attitudes, assumptions and convictions considered the most influential in inciting anti-intellectual sentiment among evangelical Christians. He also traces the historical background of when these ideas became prominent and suggests how they still affect contested issues of science and religion.
- “Barriers to Accepting the Possibility of Creation by Means of an Evolutionary Process: I. Concerns of the Typical Evangelical Theologian” by Bruce Waltke
In this white paper from the November BioLogos workshop, evangelical and renowned Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke looks at eleven barriers that prevent evangelical theologians from accepting evolution as a possible means for creation and what we these barriers tells us about the tensions between science and religion perceived by many evangelicals. Waltke’s work is based on a survey forwarded to presidents of the Fellowship of Evangelical Seminary Presidents and their faculty, asking them to identify the reasons that they do not personally accept evolutionary theory.
- “Barriers to Accepting the Possibility of Creation by Means of an Evolutionary Process: II. Concerns of the Typical Parishoner” or “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople” by Tim Keller
In this paper, considers three main clusters of questions lay people raise when they learn of anyone teaching that biological evolution and biblical orthodoxy can be compatible. Keller offers some ideas on how to provide responses that take these concerns seriously.
The Thinking Christian blog reviews this interesting book on the Medieval contributions to modern science.
[Author James] Hannam speaks of the myth that “there was no science worth mentioning in the Middle Ages,” and “the Church held back what meager advances were made.” These beliefs took flower as late as the 19th century with Thomas Henry Huxley, John William Draper, and Andrew Dickson White, who tried to paint religion as the enemy of science. Their story has been told often; Hannam himself has blogged on it.
A.D. White’s part is particularly unfortunate, in that he produced a highly influential, heavily footnoted, apparently scholarly tome on the historic warfare between science and religion. Hannam assesses his work this way:
Anyone who checks his references will wonder how he could have maintained his opinions if he had read as much as he claimed to have done.
Others have treated White less gently than that.
Hannam situates these myths in historical context:
The denigration of the Middle Ages began as long ago as the sixteenth century, when humanists, the intellectual trendsetters of the time, started to champion classical Greek and Roman literature. They cast aside medieval scholarship on the grounds that it was convoluted and written in ‘barbaric’ Latin. So people stopped reading and studying it…. The waters were muddied further by … Protestant writers not to give an ounce of credit to Catholics. It suited them to maintain that nothing of value had been taught at universities before the Reformation. (Continue)
God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science
Publishers Weekly gives a brief review of two new books on this topic — The Genesis Enigma: Why the Bible Is Scientifically Accurate (Dutton, Oct.) and The Religion and Science Debate: Why Does It Continue? (Yale Univ., Sept.).
The second one looks the most interesting:
The 100th anniversary of Yale University’s Terry Lecture series prompted the publication of The Religion and Science Debate: Why Does It Continue? (Yale Univ., Sept.). Edited by Harold Attridge, dean of the Yale Divinity School, the book’s six contributors include Princeton University sociologist Robert Wuthnow, Notre Dame philosopher Alvin Plantinga, and Ronald Numbers, a science historian at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
“We chose this topic because it’s been one of interest and concern on the U.S. public scene in recent years,” said Attridge. Along those lines earlier this year, the press published David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions and Terry Eagleton’s Reason, Faith, and Revolution, both of which have been well received, publicist Robert Pranzatelli said.
Former mathematical physicist and now Anglican priest and theologian John Polkinghorne brings a unique perspective to questions of the relationship between science and religion. First Things gives some background and describes two of his recent books.
A great point here:
The overall message Polkinghorne brings is a crucial one: Science cannot provide its own metaphysical interpretation. As he says with typical precision, “Physics constrains metaphysics, but it no more determines it than the foundations of a house determine the precise form of the building erected on them.” This is especially true in a post-Newtonian world characterized by greater epistemological humility. “The twentieth-century demise of mere mechanism,” he says, provides “a salutary reminder that there is nothing absolute or incorrigible about the context of science.” Some questions lie “outside the scientific domain,” and here “theology has a right to contribute to the subsequent metascientific discourse.” Anyone familiar with the writings of such preachers of scientific atheism as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, or Christopher Hitchins will immediately appreciate the very different world in which Polkinghorne dwells. “The tendency among atheist writers to identify reason exclusively with scientific modes of thought,” he notes pointedly, “is a disastrous diminishment of our human powers of truth-seeking inquiry.”
That tendency, as I recently noted, is scientism.
Concerning natural theology,
As an expert in fundamental physics, Polkinghorne likes to advance a modest form of natural theology—not the older kind of argument that places design in direct competition with biological evolution and stresses “gaps” in natural processes, but a newer style of argument based on the very comprehensibility of nature and nature’s laws. The universe revealed by science “is not only rationally transparent,” but also “rationally beautiful, rewarding scientists with the experience of wonder at the marvelous order which is revealed through the labours of their research.” Why should this be so? The laws of nature “underlie the form and possibility of all occurrence,” but science can treat them only “as given brute facts. These laws, in their economy and rational beauty, have a character that seems to point the enquirer beyond what science itself is capable of telling, making a materialist acceptance of them as unexplained brute facts an intellectually unsatisfying stance to take.” The very possibility of science, in his view, “is not a mere happy accident, but it is a sign that the mind of the Creator lies behind the wonderful order that scientists are privileged to explore.” In short, “the activity of science is recognized to be an aspect of the imago Dei.”
John Polkinghorne recently told ABC Radio in Australia. Here’s a great insight that those who adopt scientism fail to understand:
“People sometimes say that science is about facts and religion is simply about opinion, but that’s to make a double mistake actually,” the Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, a physicist, theologian, and Anglican priest, recently told ABC Radio National in Australia. “There are no interesting scientific facts that are not already interpreted facts, and to interpret what’s being measured, you have to use theoretical opinions. So there’s a very subtle exchange between theory and experiment in science, which means its conclusions are never absolutely certain but well-justified. Similarly, religion isn’t just a question of shutting your eyes, gritting your teeth, and believing impossible things on some unquestionable authority. It’s also concerned with the search for truth through motivated belief, but it’s a different level and kind of truth, and so it’s motivations are a different kind of motivation. But I think, under the skin, science and religion are cousins in the search for truth.”
(Via Science & Religion Today)
Seton Hall University reports:
Rev. Stanley L. Jaki, the world-renowned Hungarian-born author, physicist, philosopher and theologian died April 7 in Madrid, following a heart attack. Known as a leading thinker in areas at the boundary of theology and science, Jaki was awarded the Templeton Prize in 1987. He was cited for delineating “the importance of differences as well as similarities between science and religion, adding significant, balanced enlightenment to the field.”
Father Jaki belonged to the Benedictine religious order, having joined as a novice in 1942, professed his solemn vows in 1944 and been ordained a priest in 1948.
Jaki was a Gifford Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, 1974-75 and 1975-76, the prestigious, century-old academic appointment in the disciplines of philosophy and theology, which has included as past lecturers Hannah Arendt, John Dewey, William James and Albert Schweitzer.
He was deeply committed to the conjunction between faith and reason, arguing that the flourishing of science in Europe was intrinsically related to the Christian understanding of creation and the Incarnation.
“Although the world was God’s creation and, as such, to be profoundly respected, the world itself possessed no intrinsic divinity,” Rev. Thomas G. Guarino, professor of theology at Seton Hall, stated. “Father Jaki’s work elucidated the notion that in understanding the very laws of the physical universe, science naturally opened out toward the affirmation of faith.”
He published more than 40 books and hundreds of articles, chapters and essays over 50 years. He wrote widely on the history of science and religious questions, including a number of volumes on John Henry Newman. His books included The Relevance of Physics, Science and Creation, Chesterton: A Seer of Science, God and the Cosmologists and The Purpose of It All. His final book was Lectures in the Vatican Gardens.