FINALLY Uncle Karl has finished his “I burn teh strawmenz” series on BioLogos, having exhausted all his arguments against me in the lamest post of all, engagingly titled “Part Six.”
This article is giving me a pain in my lower mesentery, which I can ill afford since I’m on my way to my final dinner in Bogotá, so I’ll just state his arguments briefly. And since they’re self-refuting, I need hardly say more than, “Nice try, Karl, but you didn’t pwn me.”
1. Just like religion, science relies on faith:
Faith plays different roles in different disciplines. The physicist needs no faith to accept the law of the conservation of energy. There is no need for the chemist to have faith in the periodic table. The factual evidence is so great that faith is simply not needed. But evolutionary biology needs some faith. The reconstructions of the history of life on this planet require the postulation of species for which there is no direct evidence. Most of the “common ancestors” are hypothetical in the sense that they have to be constructed indirectly with methods that are far from flawless. I think the evolutionary biologists are doing a great job with this—read Coyne’s excellent Why Evolution is True, if you are skeptical—but the enterprise requires inferences that look very much like little leaps of faith.
I don’t have faith in common ancestors of reptiles and modern birds in the same way that Karl has faith in God. There is tons of real scientific evidence indicating that such ancestors existed, and I anticipate that they, or closely related transitional forms, will be found (many of them have been). There’s no “leap of faith” here. In contrast, belief in God is a leap of faith simply because there’s no credible evidence.
When someone who purports to sell science to religious people starts saying that both magisteria really rest on “faith”, you know that they’re dealing in bad faith.
2. There’s real scientific evidence for Jebus:
Religious reflection is more like economics than it is like chemistry. There is evidence for the claims of the economist and for the chemist and there is evidence for religious truth claims. This is a simple fact. The New Testament contains several documents written about Jesus by smart people in the first century. These documents are evidence.
Yes, just like the Qur’an and the Bhagavad Gita and Urim and Thummim (the golden plates of Moroni) and the writings of L. Ron Hubbard—and all the thousands of religious documents written by smart people purporting to recount real events. Those were also written by smart (or canny) people, and so should count as “evidence” too, no?
One can disagree with the documents and reject the evidence as weak or inadequate in some way. Or one can accept the evidence and be a Christian. But what one cannot do is claim that there is no evidence or dismiss the evidence because it fails to meet the standards of the chemist. If the central claim of Christianity is true—that God became incarnate in Jesus Christ—that is the most complicated and mysterious event in history and the people who tried to articulate what it was like certainly cannot be critiqued because their analyses would not meet the standards of the chemist.
Why not? People are basing their entire lives, and hopes for the afterlife, on what is written by “smart people” in those fictitious documents. Why shouldn’t we require that that evidence at least meet the standards of chemistry? And since Uncle Karl sees so much of the Bible—stuff recounted as if it were as factual as the Resurrection—as simply fictional metaphor, why does he see Jesus’s return to life as “real scientific evidence” while cavalierly dismissing tales like the Flood or Adam and Eve as pretty fictions? Given that nearly the entire Bible is written as if it were true, how does one separate the “evidence” from the pretty stories?
The far more significant difference, of course, relates to the dynamic character of religious investigation. When Isaac Newton “leaped to the conclusion” that gravity ruled the universe, gravity did not respond by embracing Newton and healing his brokenness. When believers make their leap of faith to embrace God, God responds by entering into relationship with believers, often with transformative consequences. There is no counterpart to this response in scientific or historical investigation.
Yes, because religious belief involves fooling oneself while science does not. God doesn’t transform the believers; they believe they’ve been transformed because they’re kidding themselves.
So let’s not disparage the central claims of theology just because they are so much more complicated than the function of penicillin.
Oh, let’s! Those claims really aren’t more complicated than penicillin; they’re just much more ridiculous and much less credible.
It’s been fun, Karl, but can you go after Al Mohler for a while?