I’m off to the UK for a week for the Edinburgh Book Festival, where I’ll talk about about the evidence for evolution (in a joint session with Nick Lane, author of Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution), and — in a second venue — debate a theologian and a philosopher about the difference between belief in evolution and belief in God and religion. The estimable Greg Mayer will be handling the website when I’m gone.
I want to mention three articles before I go:
First, in last week’s edition of Science and the Sacred (the venue for “leaders of the BioLogos Foundation”), Darrel Falk, a biologist at Point Loma Nazarene University and co-President of BioLogos, says goodbye to Francis Collins as a member of the Foundation. He also takes a swipe at atheists for making their work harder. His words fall into the familiar pattern:
Why is it that a group concerned about the advancement of scientific ideals is our most vocal opponent? We support science, including the science of evolutionary biology. We think this incongruity implies that for them the issue is not the preservation of science in our fragile world. For them, the issue is that they want to use scientific data to justify their own political and philosophical ends. They are trying to present science as claiming something it does not claim to justify their nontheistic view of the world. They want to rid the world of philosophies grounded in theism. It is clear from their writing that they have taken no time to carefully study the host of philosophers who are theists or the elegant theology of some of the world’s finest minds.
But what I really want to point out is Falk’s inadvertent highlighting of the difference between science and faith. For in his piece Falk considers the question, “is there any potential finding of science that would cause me to lose faith”? The answer, of course, is no, NOTHING could ever make him abandon his Christianity. As he notes:
- Even if it turns out that our sense of right and wrong emerges through natural selection and other natural processes that can be explained through science–and I personally suspect this will be the case — it does not in any way imply the absence of a personal God. The Creator, after all, may well function through natural selection in some manner that the scientific process is not equipped to detect.
- Even if it turns out that the human mind emerges from molecules interacting in a manner that can all be explained through the physical properties of matter — which I also suspect is the case — this in no way implies the absence of a God whose existence is necessary for that mind to come into being. It also has nothing to say about whether there is a God who interacts mind-to-mind with those persons who seek that interaction. Even if the cell and the information it contains is explicable through natural processes, this does not in any way imply the absence of God’s Spirit “hovering” (Genesis 1:2) and thereby influence the outcome in some manner beyond exploration by scientific tools.
- Even the most contentious issues don’t undermine core tenets of evangelicalism. Many brilliant persons have reached the conclusion that there is good reason to believe in a God who works in creation, a God whose action is beyond the realm of scientific testability. (See this earlier posting for more detail.)
And here we have the real difference between faith and science, for, unlike faith, science can answer the question, “How would I know if I were wrong?” And if you can’t answer that question, how can you know if you are right?
Second, Falk mentions with approbation a piece by Mooney and Kirshenbaum, called “A Call for Peace in the Science/Faith Battle,” that also appeared on the same BioLogos-sponsored website on July 27. You don’t have to read this essay, because you already know what it says: the usual indictment of shrill atheists, P.Z.-and-Dawkins bashing, world without end. What is interesting, though, is that although M&K have relentlessly touted on their website every essay promoting their book, they don’t seem to have mentioned this one. (I may be wrong, but a search revealed nothing.) Why is that, I wonder?
Finally, over at Metamagician and The Hellfire Club, the ever-civil Russell Blackford has finally lost patience with the twins:
The Colgate Twins have – and should continue to have – every legal right to exhort us to self-censorship, but such self-censorship is not in the public interest, and it is morally reprehensible for them to urge it … rather than simply addressing our arguments on their merits. The twins have moved the debate to a meta-level where our actual arguments are not addressed and we are forced to defend our very right to put them. This is a time-wasting distraction. Worse, we are presented as vicious and violent; we are demonised, rather than being treated as reasonable, peaceful people with a valuable role to play in public debate on serious issues.
When faced by this, we quite properly respond with anger and contempt. There is an appropriate time for those emotions – a time when they are healthy – and this is one of them. The twins have shown that they are not just reasonable people who happen to disagree with us on important issues. That would be fine. But they have no rational arguments relating to the issues of substance; instead, they are purveyors of hatred and bigotry who choose to demonise opponents. They choose to treat us as beyond the pale of substantive discussion of our ideas. Well, we are entitled to say what we think of them; we are also entitled to go on making our substantive points, patiently, civilly, and reasonably, as we have done throughout.
It will take more than these two privileged nitwits with bright, toothy smiles to get us to shut up.
It’s with a light heart that I depart for that Blessed Plot.