The science side of the controversy contends that religion isn't merely an alternative way of looking at the universe but rather instead a harmful mindset that must by stamped out by science's proclivity to rely upon experimentation and evidence rather than an unquestioning reliance upon faith and authority as is endemic to its epistemological adversary. However, Jerry Coyne in the 10/1/10 USA Today essay titled “Science And Religion Aren't Friends” relies on more untested assumptions than can be found in the average Sunday morning sermon.
It is only natural that Jerry Coyne would have the tendency to end up relying on those things he has bluntly labeled as threats to mankind to make his argument. He is, after all, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago.
Both of these disciplines practiced by Professor Coyne these days are as much about philosophy and politics more so than the collection of objective facts through observation and experimentation. The University of Chicago is to at least be commended for exercising a modicum of caution in quarantining those on the faculty payroll oriented towards imposing opinion rather than simply elaborating actual details of natural phenomena as would a true biologist worthy of recognition as such.
Early in the essay, Professor Coyne asserts, “Evolution took a huge bite a while back [he means out of religion], and recent work on the brain has shown no evidence for souls, spirits, or any part of our personality distinct from the lumps of jelly in our head.” From such an contention, he concludes, “We now know that the universe did not require a creator.”
That's quite a rambunctious leap on the part of the eager professor. It use to be thought that nothing existed below the level of the atom. However, eventually researchers discovered an entirely new kind of universe (if you will) existing in terms of even smaller particles and energy clouds at the subatomic level.
Why can't a similar position be held regarding the mind, soul, and spirit? Though it cannot be denied that these are somehow linked to the material brain, that does not mean these ephemeral building blocks of individuality and personality do not exist because those in lab coats haven't quite pinned them down and sliced them in half with a scalpel.
After all, it is doubtful scientists can conclusively tell us why a certain assemblage of chemicals has the spark of life coarsing through them and others do not. Since a number of their brethren have denied the existence of the Creator, perhaps a number of scientists will endeavor to convince that the phenomena that we call life does not exist either.
Coyne says of science, “Science operates by using evidence and reason. Doubt is praised. No finding is deemed 'true' unless it is repeated and verified by others.” And of religion, he writes, “...rather than relying on reason and evidence to support them, faith relies on revelation, dogma, and authority.”
That is, of course, until someone challenges those sacred cows that often eat at the troughs of big government, industry, and academia. For example, in “Reason In The Balance”, critic of evolution Phillip Johnson chronicled the plight of one professor that dared to buck the herd mentality by simply suggesting that the complexity of organisms MIGHT point to a creator.
At no time did this particular academic fill in to any great degree the detail of this nebulously defined ultimate power or coerce students into swearing allegiance to it. This professor's pedagogical approach was considerably more broadminded than the professor that essentially required students to declare an oath of fealty to the Darwinist position if they wanted the professor to provide the student with a reference for medical school. It would seem though that an aspiring physician believing in a Creator or Intelligent Designer might make a better doctor since such a student would see the patient as made in the image of God rather than as a worthless lump of tissue not all that different from what the orderlies dumped from the bedpans or the tumors zapped with radiation down in the oncology department.
Furthermore, evolutionists make a public display as to how much they eschew dogma and authority. However, can you honestly tell me that each and everyone of them has built from scratch through their own experimental observations the entire tree of knowledge? Is the lowliest among their number going to thumb their noses at names such as Goldschmidt, Gould, and Hawking. The very fact that they rally behind the image of Darwin is testament to how they are prone to bend knee to their alleged betters like many of the religious individuals they heap so much scorn upon.
Among the nondogmatic dogmas of those professing this mindset is that one of the few remaining sins that cannot be countenanced is for the individual to speak out or act in an field where one has not been certified or credentialed by the elites empowered to bring down ruination or at least the edge of destitution upon those failing to curry the favor of these authorities. In academia, reprisals just short of lynching take place if those not bestowed the equivalent of a knighthood in the natural sciences (an advanced graduate degree) dares to speak out regarding evolution and how it applies to the origin of life. However, very little criticism or reprisals in terms of occupational status is inflicted upon the members of this scholastic caste when they venture beyond the confines of their respective narrowly defined fields when making sweeping pronouncements as to how things are to be in religion's sandbox.
Those holding to scientism, the idea that science itself is an ultimate authority rather than a method or a tool, claim that the notion of religion is itself refuted because of the countless unreasonable propositions and doctrines advocated by those for whom an avowed faith is the primary framework through which they construe existence and the universe. As proof, Professor Coyne posits the person of Jesus and how Christians view Him as the Messiah, how Muslims do not, and how those of these respective faiths will incur divine retribution in the eyes of the opposing belief system for their misconstrued perspective regarding this one key figure. The fact that such attention is focused on an individual nothing more than an obscure carpenter and itinerant rabbi residing in a Roman occupied backwater is itself reason to stop and consider that there might be something more to this otherwise first rate failure by the world's standards.
Coyne adds, “I've never met a Chrisitan ..who has been able to tell me what observations about the universe would make him abandon his beliefs in God and Jesus. I would have thought the Holocaust could do it, but apparently not.”
G.K Chesterton remarked, in regards to those horrors that cause even the most devout to question whether or not God actually plays an active part in the world, that these outrages and tragedies were manifestations of the one Christian doctrine that could be verified by a cursory perusal of the daily headlines. That is none other than the reality and pervasiveness of sin.
It is because of the existence of a God and absolute values based on His unchanging character that we are able to say something like the Holocaust is even wrong. For without the principles embodied in holy documents such as the Ten Commandments, who is to say?
Is the barometer of acceptability and propriety to be found in that amorphous moral sense referred to as “world opinion”? If so, that means the Holocaust is only wrong because it was an affront to a majority of the nations of the earth.
In that instance, even if too late to prevent an incomprehensible atrocity and as much in response to other geopolitical factors, world powers came to the rescue of the Jewish people. In an attempt to correct the situation and to prevent something similar from happening again, the nation of Israel was established.
But what of a time foretold in the Book of Revelation when hostility towards both Christian and Jew will be stirred to such a fanatic level by a future world leader known in prophecy as the Beast who, it is believed, will convince the nations of the world to join first in a campaign to wipe out Jerusalem and then attempt an assault on the very Gates of Heaven itself? Are we to believe in one instance the proper thing to do is assist the plight of the Jews or lament the failure to do so and then at some as of yet undetermined point down the time stream attempt to wipe them and allied theists from the face of the earth all because the prevailing consensus demands it?
Coyne assures, “Science is even studying the origin of morality.” The professor assures that atheists embrace the same moral truths as the religious but without something existing above so-called “science”. But where ought we to find these principles?
At the Patuxent Wildlife Visitor's Center, there is a display of a kaleidescopic video montage titled “The Wisdom of Wildness”. The footage suggests that the course we stupid humans ought to pursue is to be found among the less deliberately rational creatures on the rung of what philosophers and theologians have titled the Great Chain Of Being.
If so, who is to say in a naturalistic ethos just what animals we are suppose to emulate? Some animals such as elephants take considerable care of their young and even seem to mourn their dead. It is often claimed that the Canadian geese mate for life and will leave the migration gaggle should the partner be unable to travel onward for whatever reason.
Other animals emulate behaviors that do not comply with what most societies that have been influenced by the light of Judo-Christian Scripture and moral reflection would find acceptable. For example, occasionally female cats will abandon a kitten if she is unable to care for more than one and male cats will sometimes kill kittens that are not their own in order to encourage female cats to mate with them. In order for the couple to copulate, the female praying mantis must rip the head off of its mate and the nature of the female black widow spider towards its mate has become synonymous with a woman that murders her husband.
Before feminists do a victory dance as to these alleged examples of girl power found throughout the animal world, perhaps they ought to tell us why if there is no God establishing the morality by which higher order minds reflect upon the Creator's own rationality and character in order to formulate ethics and values, why these examples ought to prevail over the ones more male-dominated as to how we interpret them?
Male lions pretty much loaf around and look fierce while the females do, shall we say, the lion's share of the hunting and the raising of the cubs. And male sea lions and fur seals are pretty much indistinguishable from breakaway Fundamentalist Mormons such as Warren Jeffes in that they accumulate as many females to themselves as possible while banishing young unestablished males to the periphery of the colony (or out onto the streets in human terms).
Coyne writes, “In contrast, scientists don't kill each other over matters such as continental drift. We have better ways to settle our differences. There is no Catholic science, no Hindu science, no Muslim science --- just science, a multicultural search for truth.”
In regards to the first claim of that particular paragraph, scientists haven't really proven themselves that far removed and above the stains of the, shall we say, sin nature plaguing the remainder of humanity. The death counts under traditional religion run amok are nothing to be proud of and rightly give the sensitive seeker grounds for pause. However, one could properly make a case that these tallies pale in comparison to the 20th century totalitarian regimes that first and foremost dedicated themselves to Darwinian ideals in whose names were often justified the most appalling of atrocities such as the racialism of the Nazi regime attempting to purge the human gene pool of what that vile ideology considered contaminating elements or Marxism's attempt to manipulate social conditions such as education in order to bring about that system's new man devoid of individualism gladly embracing a place as a disposable cog in the technocratic collective.
The second claim in that paragraph insists that there is no particular variety of science but rather a multicultural search for truth. On the surface, that sounds correct as certain facts exist such as the distance between the earth and the moon irrespective of the religious outlook of the researcher ascertaining such an assessment. However, that is only part of the picture.
Like it or not, science arose to prominence as a method for obtaining knowledge about the world in which we live in a time when the Christian perspective was predominant even if not every last practitioner of this epistemological pursuit was an orthodox born again believer. As is attributed to Issac Newton, one of the initial motivations of what would be recognized as science was to think God's thoughts after Him.
It could be argued that the Judeo-Christian mindset as found in the pages of the Bible is the font from which the assorted impulses and brands of modernism (for good or ill) were bequeathed with their concern for the world as it actually exists and how we might improve upon its conditions for the greatest number possible. A consistent multiculturalist cannot view such a mindset superior to one that does not.
Not everyone believes that progress (especially if it is of the technological or economic variety) is necessarily a good thing. There are those that believe such innovations should be opposed at all costs including those tactics lesser bourgeois minds would categorize as violence.
For example, among the Postmodernists that spout this kind of drivel about multiculturalist science are those that do not see the likes of the Unabomber as a homicidal terrorist but rather as some kind of visionary whose artistic masterpieces did not consist of paint and canvas but rather in exploding shrapnel, lacerated sinew, and severed limbs. And unfortunately, this threat once isolated among a few lunatics, has infested the ranks of the Occupy Movement that would have no problem with dragging society back to preindustrial standards of living even though they themselves would be the least likely to survive in a milieu where a lack of self-reliance would spell certain death. But then again, a preference for individual life is one of those pesky values that balanced Christians or even generalized theists drawing ethical inspiration from the Bible can't seem to disimbue themselves of.
It must also be admitted that science came into its own as a research methodology in those settings where God was viewed as distinct from His creation with the natural world under the watchful eye of a single God with the universe operating in accordance with the physical laws He sustains by His own will. Though a number of exceptional minds were able to rise above the blinders of polytheism, there is something about the object you are about to study either being your god, containing the spirits of the entities that you worship, or the distinctions between you and the object ultimately being illusory that will discourage you from learning as much as possible about the given subject at hand.
Granted. Students from cultural backgrounds where Hinduism and Buddhism predominate are noted for their mathematical and scientific excellence. However, such aptitude came more into prominence when these societies came to adopt aspects of a more Western orientation.
Towards the conclusion, Professor Coyne writes, “Because pretending that faith and science are equally valid way of finding truth...not only weakens our concept of truth, it also gives religion an undeserved authority that does the world no good.” But it is only through acknowledging that truth originates in a personal fixed source (commonly referred to as God), it is possible for truth to even exist or to be something that is worthy of individuals and societies even pursuing in the first place.
By Frederick Meekins