I must be doing something right: twice in one week Sauron has ordered his minions from BioLogos to call me out on HuffPo.
Pete Enns, BioLogos’s senior fellow in Biblical studies, takes exception to the polling data I cited showing that many Americans are not only creationists, but see the Bible as the precise word of God. Enns notes that these polling questions were ambiguously worded, making their interpretation dicey. Ergo Jesus. Well, I’ll grant that in some polls the questions could be misleading. Nevertheless, all polls, with their diverse ways of posing the question, show that about 40% of American are Biblical creationists. And perhaps Enns could tell us what’s so misleading about the poll questions showing that 81% of Americans believe in heaven, 78% in angels, 70% in Satan, and 70% in hell. Maybe they interpret the question as actually asking about a metaphorical hell (e.g., spending your days reconciling science with the story of Adam and Eve).
BioLogos‘s vice president, Karl Giberson, whom I recently debated about the compatibility of science and faith (video pending), engages in classic displacement behavior: he argues that one analogy I used is weak. The analogy at issue: “Catholicism is compatible with pedophilia because many Catholics are pedophiles.” This was meant to show that compatibility isn’t demonstrated simply by people holding two contradictory views in their heads. (Along with many accommodationists, Giberson seems to believe that the existence of religious scientists is evidence for the compatibility of science and faith.)
According to Giberson, this analogy doesn’t work because those child-abusing priests know that it is wrong. They have cognitive dissonance. In contrast, the religious scientist has no such dissonance:
A religious scientist functions routinely as a scientist in the lab, perhaps looking for the gene that causes hyperbole. While they [sic] are engaged in this search they believe that God is the creator. On regular occasions this scientist goes to church, where he or she sings hymns, listens to sermons, volunteers at the soup kitchen, takes communion, and puts money in the offering plate, all the while believing that the scientific picture of the world is accurate. Occasionally this religious scientist may even daydream about finding that gene for hyperbole while listening to the sermon. At no time do the co-existing mindsets conflict or create cognitive dissonance.
QED: science and faith are compatible.
Never mind that some pedophilic priests almost certainly aren’t tortured by guilt, or that any dissonance might come from the fear of detection rather than genuine guilt. Never mind that monogamous adulterers may live a happy and unconflicted life with their duplicity (indeed, I’ve known some!). There are many forms of hypocrisy, and not all hypocrites are tortured. I would add that a lot of people who try to adhere to science and their faith do experience dissonance: read the testimonies of those who finally abandoned their their faith after learning about science, or of those priests who left the cloth when they couldn’t comport their faith with reality.
But put all that aside. Giberson is just playing a word game here to avoid tackling the real question, the question that I broached in our debate—science and faith are philosophically incompatible. Accommodationists pretend that these are equally valid “ways of knowing”, but they actually differ radically in how they attain this “knowledge” (I’d claim that faith produces no knowledge at all), and in how they buttress it when answering the questions, “What’s the evidence for what I think is true?” and “How would I know I was wrong?” There are many religions, all making incompatible assertions about what is true, but there is only one science.
I’ve belabored these points ad nauseam here and elsewhere, but accommodationists like Giberson won’t deal with them, despite my having explicitly defined what I mean by “compatibility.” They’d rather quibble about semantics. (By the way, Dr. Giberson, I didn’t mean that religious scientists were as bad as pedophilic priests.)
Let’s rewrite Giberson’s paragraph about the happy religious scientist:
A religious scientist functions routinely as a “naturalist” in the lab, perhaps looking for the gene that causes Alzheimer’s. While doing this, he refuses to accept any conclusion that isn’t supported by data. One of his students wants a particular gene to be involved, since he’s working on it, but the r.s. tells him that wish-thinking isn’t enough. There have to be hard data—perhaps through association studies—that can either implicate that gene or rule it out. On Sunday this scientist goes to church, where he prays for the health of his mother, assuming against all evidence that someone Up There hears his prayer and is kindly disposed to answer it. He has a sip of wine and eats a cracker, assuming without evidence that these substances have been magically transformed into Jesus’s blood and body before consumption. Later on, he goes into a little booth and tells a hidden priest that he masturbated twice during the week. He believes, without evidence, that if he doesn’t confess to this diddling he’ll be immolated for all eternity in molten sulfur.
I’d call that intellectual dissonance. And it explains why American scientists are far less religious than the American public.