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Eminent Domain Stuff

New London Update (2/24/06)
Coverage of the Rally at New London's City Hall (w/ pics)

Monday, January 10, 2005


Separation of Church and Science

I recently ran into a set of articles discussing the Naturalistic worldview and how it is diametrically opposed to Christianity. Here are the first and second posts over at Challies.com.

These two pieces address the underlying issues that constantly set off debate between adherents of religion and those of science on a number of topics (see the sidebar for my own ramblings on Evolution vs. Intelligent Design). Essentially, the ardently religious accuse the unbendingly scientific of, alternatively, ignoring the teachings of the Bible, practicing bad science and (most interestingly and amusingly) of blindly following a religion of their own: namely, the Religion of Science. The unbendingly scientific, on the other hand, accuse the ardently religious of being stupid, ignorant and illogical. While these are not by any means complete lists, you get the idea.

At the outset, I would like to state that I am not planning to apply any of these derisive terms to either side. I am a budding scientist/medical doctor as well as a deeply religious person. If you think that sets up one heck of an internal struggle and contradiction, you'd be partly right. Allow me to explain.

Before we get started, however, there are three things that we all need to keep in mind during this discussion.
1) All human institutions are imperfect.
2) Science is a human institution.
3) Religion is a human institution.

So, my explanation. My own spiritual/intellectual journey started on the very religious side (and yes, I realize that mine is not a unique story so I'll keep it short). During high school I didn't see any huge problems learning about science (including evolution) and being 100% Catholic. That changed with I got to college. At some point I figured that I was so smart that I could get by without God or religion in general. The nonexistence of God seemed to be the logical outcome of various lines of reasoning and so I became somewhat of an atheist. That didn't last long as I soon realized the error of my reasoning. It came to me that the positive statement "There is no God" was just as unsupported as the converse, and so I converted to agnosticism. Much like its immediate predecessor, that didn't last long either. During this time there was always a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that, although the logic seemed sound, something just wasn't right. That's when I ran into Robert Miller's book Finding Darwin's God (which I have discussed previously). This led me to finally find a way to reconcile my deeply ingrained belief in God with my growing understanding of science. And so here we are at the present, which deserves its own paragraph.

My current state of belief in God and in science can be summarized as follows: God created the Universe and set certain laws (which we approximate as the Laws of physics). These laws were set such that they would lead to the eventual formation of the cosmic bodies we observe today as well as Life. The purpose of the process allowed/determined by God's Laws was to give rise to living beings with the mental capabilities to recognize that God exists. From that point, these beings would have the freedom to believe in God or not, and He will decide whether or not we deserve to join him in Heaven after death.

Now, there are plenty who would jump in at this point and disagree with me. Since some have done so in the past, read these comments to see what associated issues have already been addressed. While some people's interpretation of the Bible's teachings may very well imply that evolution is 'unBiblical,' I disagree. Regardless, let's get to the point of all this.

I find it terribly unfortunate that the situation has reached a point where so many religious people think that scientists are generally amoralistic jerks who don't care about anything that cannot be 'proven'. While I can see why some might get this impression with people like Richard Dawkins and Michael Newdow running around claiming that all we need is reason and science to complete our existence, the generalization (as most of them are) is really unfair. But let me tell you, I know many successful scientists who are deeply religious. And...as a scientist, I am deeply offended when my colleagues step over the line and pontificate, as scientists, on topics outside of Science.

On the other hand, I am saddened that too many scientists see the religious as ignorant fools who believe blindly in something and are, therefore, intellectually inconsequential. However, I can see where they might get that idea when so many people seem to believe that they understand the Theory of Evolution and have rationally concluded that it is wrong. I would submit to you that 99% of those people don't really understand the scientific issues involved (and let me also add that 99% of scientists have likely never sat down and read the primary literature on evolution and, for their part, believe in it blindly). On the other hand, I am also deeply offended when otherwise fine TV stations run programs aimed at 'explaining' mysteries of the Bible using science.

I mentioned at the outset that my own beliefs might be seen as contradictory, but they are not so. Those (such as the blogger at Challies) take the view that the naturalistic worldview is in direct opposition to a religious one. Certainly, he has a point when it comes to the opinions of some naturalists. There are, however, a number of definitions of 'naturalism.' Challies defines it as:

Naturalism is the belief that the natural world as we know and experience it is all that exists. To put this in religious terms, we could say that Naturalism teaches that ultimate truth does not depend on supernatural experiences, supernatural beings or divine revelation; instead it can be derived from the natural world.
That's one definition and certainly it is the worldview of some. However, if we restrict ourselves to the aspects of naturalism that flow directly from the process of science, I think this definition works better:

[n] the doctrine that the world can be understood in scientific terms without recourse to spiritual or supernatural explanations
So, who among you thinks that the world is not understandable by our mortal faculties? If you believe that we cannot understand the world by asking and answering questions, then you're beyond reach of any argument and you might have found a certain period in history to be heart-warming. If, however, you think that we can understand natural processes (i.e., the world/universe) then you must admit the power of science, which is no more than the organized questioning of our world.

On the other hand, if you're more on the scientific side of things and think that everything can be explained by science, than you sadly misunderstand the nature of science. There is nothing about the process of science that excludes miracles for the simple reason that they are not reproducible and, therefore, cannot be systematically tested.

So the answer I have come to for myself is that I believe God exists and that he Created everything. Further, He set the rules at the Beginning and then let things go as (He knew) they would. Since He set rules it makes perfect sense to me that we humans can try to understand them and our efforts will not be in vain. While it is possible that we cannot ever fully comprehend God's rules, you cannot prove to me that it is impossible.

The question I have for both sides is: What's wrong with this worldview? Which tenant of faith on either side does this insult? What does either side have to fear from the other? Religion address ultimate Truth through Devine Revelation or what process you believe in but you will never be capable of fully understanding God. Science addresses physical Truth and can say nothing intelligent beyond our ability to observe our surroundings. Both, however, can be understood derive from the same unknowable and unfathomable source: God.


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