John Haught’s paper ‘Does Evolution Rule Out Gods Existence’, has been published over at the American Association for the Advancement of Science website. The Association’s strap line is ‘Advancing Science, Serving Society’.
It’s part of an ongoing attempt to reconcile science and religion, but I’m left wondering just exactly how the above paper Advances Science or, indeed, Serves Society.
From the world view of a theist, science and religion MUST be reconcilable for the declared aim of both is to discover that which is true, that which is real.
Therefore, whatever science may discover MUST, eventually, if somewhat reluctantly and possibly painfully, be incorporated into the religious world view. How could it be otherwise?
The scientific ethos, moreover...”is the will to be obedient to the truth, and, as such, it embodies an attitude which reflects one of the basic tenets of Christianity.” Benedict XVI – Sept 2006
Fair enough: let’s agree for now that science and religion are both seekers after truth. Is there a difference in how they go about it? I think so. I’m going to suggest that science is obedient to truth in that it will follow truth, by the nose, wherever it goes and that, on the contrary, religion has already staked out its truth claim, and is both obedient to that truth and to what it thinks that truth demands of everyone. Since, however, the truth claims of the various religions are mutually incompatible, we are left with the options of either declaring one of them to be true, none of them to be true, or to discover in some verifiable way of discerning the validity of such claims to truth.
Religion itself is characteristically highly resistant to ‘truth’ it does not like. (Rome only got round to apologising for the Galileo debacle in 1992), and of course the tussle over evolution runs and runs – the Catholics perhaps slightly ahead of the game here, in their acceptance of the theory, and with their current efforts to incorporate evolution into their theodicy.
In Haught’s earlier debate with Jerry Coyne, Haught seemed to be suggesting that personal experience fell into the category of ‘evidence’. Humans of all religious persuasions (and none) have, throughout history, had numinous and transcendental or peak experiences.
.As Haught says of the Creationists:
“….. [they] close their eyes to modern historical awareness of the time-sensitive nature of all human consciousness, including that expressed in the sacred texts of religion. They are unable to discern the different types of literary genre--symbolic, mythic, devotional, poetic, legendary, historical, creedal, confessional etc.--that make up the Bible. And so they fail to read the scriptures in their proper context.
The difficulty is to distinguish words that proceed from God from those that proceed from godly men. From, what is to be taken literally and what metaphorically; and who gets to decide, and when, (and on who’s authority?). What was to be taken as canonical truth and what apocryphal? Ancient sacred texts simply will not do as adequate evidence to establish the veracity of religious claims, however beautiful, inspiring or poetic the language may be.
Can literature or testimony…..”even slightly increase the probability that the Book of Mormon was delivered on golden plates to Joseph Smith Jr. by the angel
"Certainly, love’ transcends’ knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Ephesians 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is logos. Consequently, Christian worship is "logic latreía" -- worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason.” (cf. Romans 12:1). – Benedict XVI – Sept 2006
[Cartesianism and Empiricism]…..”on the one hand it presupposes the mathematical structure of matter, its intrinsic rationality, which makes it possible to understand how matter works and use it efficiently: This basic premise is, so to speak, the Platonic element in the modern understanding of nature. On the other hand, there is nature's capacity to be exploited for our purposes, and here only the possibility of verification or falsification through experimentation can yield ultimate certainty. The weight between the two poles can, depending on the circumstances, shift from one side to the other. As strongly positivistic a thinker as J. Monod has declared himself a convinced Platonist/Cartesian.
One simple and effective way of such hijacking and coat-tailing is to lay down a claim that genius is a form of divine inspiration and that significant scientific discoveries may be taken as yet further ‘evidence’ of the beneficence of the divine...beckoning us ever onwards and upwards towards our celestial destiny. I predict a lot more of that sort of thing.