Recently there was a post on this site that generated a lot of feedback, Conversation with a modern creationist. This was posted by Professor Lee Silver June 4, 2008. It is the record of an exchange between Professor Silver and Josh Pepper who is a very articulate and well read creationist. Maybe this exchange should be a warning sign, a shot across the bow of science.
There were an incredible number of comments on this post including my comment below. I have been thinking about the entire debate since then and have some additional comments.
"You (Professor Silver) have more patients than most people. This is not a winnable discussion. You both have good intentions and firmly believe what you are posting. Unfortunately when Josh states "I will not be swayed in my belief in God or the accuracy of the Bible – having those doubts would defeat the purpose of faith" the conversation is over. It is not our intention to shake Josh's, or any other persons, "faith." Personally I admire people with such strong "faith." The faith of creationists itself offers an answer to this conflict. I would like to direct you to Luke 20:25 "And He said unto them, Then render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." Creationists have a responsibility to maintain their strong faith in the Bible, but they also have an obligation to "render unto Cesar the things that are Cesar's." In this case the teaching of and testing on evolution and the related sciences."
We (the people who teach the sciences) are not asking creationist or anyone else to “believe” what we are teaching as “gospel truth.” If this were the case science would never progress, new ideas would never overturn old ideas. The science we teach is just the best science we have available at this time.
Stephen Jay Gould has proposed the concept of NOMA, or “Nonoverlapping Magisteria” to explain the separate and distinct domains of science and religion. Gould makes an excellent case for the different magisteria. Unfortunately his condescending attitude towards those who sincerely believe in God and the Bible will prevent those very believers, who need this information the most, from reading his works.
Our fundamentalists brothers and sisters have taken a strong stand against NOMA “Christians should not fall for this. Christ is the Lord of the universe, and the Bible is accurate on everything it touches, not just faith and morality, but history, science and geography also. So Christians should not give up any part of the ‘real world’ to those with a materialistic agenda. Especially when atheists are happy to let their own faith influence their science, by promoting evolution.”(1)
As I wrote earlier, I admire people with such strong faith, but I have to modify this a bit, strong faith and blind faith are two different things. Strong faith is for the average person that doesn’t have the resources to study the earliest Bible manuscripts. These folks have to depend on fundamentalists Biblical scholars to teach them about their Biblical heritage. The quote above from answersingenesis.com may be what the fundamentalists want to hear and believe but it does not hold up under scrutiny. (2)
We are witnessing the advent of “Scientific Creationism,” a term that should be an oxymoron but one that is creeping into our culture. Is science as we know it coming to an end? John Horgan, senior writer for Scientific American has a book titled The End of Science (1996). Hogan had an article in Discover magazine where he stated:
“He (the philosopher, Colin McGinn, of the U. of Miami) ... suggested that, given the constraints of human cognition, science will eventually reach its limits; at that point, he suggests, “religion might start to appeal to people again.”” (3)
McGinn went on to predicted that people would “turn to religion if science comes to an end.” Personally, I have faith in religion and respect for science. Holy-Mother-Church has come a long way since the days of Copernicus. Unfortunately our Creationist brothers and sisters have a long way to go.
The next few paragraphs are directly out of a very good article in the Skeptical Inquirer magazine. Reproducing this is a lot easier than me trying to understand and rewrite the article.
“Scientists are a philosophically naive lot. But this naivetë does not come without a price. Because most scientists can't justify their methodology... (see my note #4)
This has arguably led not only to the rise of pseudoscience and religious fundamentalism, but also to a shrinking pool of scientific jobs and research funds...
Can science be shown to be a superior means of acquiring knowledge? Yes it can, but only by showing that it is more likely to yield justified beliefs than any other methodology. Thus the real issue is not whether a belief is scientific or pseudoscientific but whether it is justified or unjustified....
No one wants to hold unjustified beliefs. The problem is that most people never learn the difference between a good explanation and a bad one. Consequently they come to believe all sorts of weird things for no good reason....
Must science come to an end? Not necessarily. But unless scientists become more philosophically sophisticated, their apologetics will continue to ring hollow. And unless our educational system focuses more on teaching students how to think than on what to think, our populace will become increasingly credulous....
In our age of rapidly changing information, knowing how to distinguish truth from falsity is more important than knowing what was once considered true and false. Only a person who knows the difference between a justified and an unjustified belief can truly appreciate the value of scientific inquiry.” (5)
The bottom line is, when students study science they have an obligation to learn the science that is the state-of-the-art (render unto Cesar the things that are Cesar’s). When these same students are in their private life they have an obligation to hold to their faith in God (render... unto God the things that are God’s). Perhaps both sides, Cesar’s and God’s, should be a bit more tolerant of the other.
(2) I would recommend anyone interested in Biblical scholarship read the book Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, by Bart D. Ehrman (which I have read) and in all fairness the book, Misquotes in MISQUOTING JESUS: Why You Can Still Believe by Dillon Burroughs (which I have not read yet)
(3) Horgan, John, The Final Frontier (from Discover), The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2007, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 2007.
(4) Physicist-philosopher Pierre Duhem and logician Willard Van Orman Quine have convincingly demonstrated that hypotheses have testable consequences only in the context of certain background assumptions. If a test fails, it is always possible to maintain the hypothesis in question by rejecting one or more of the background assumptions.
(5) Schick Jr., Theodore, The End of Science?, Skeptical Inquirer Magazine, March/April 1997.