Ruse: Science and Christianity (2)

Continuing an ad hoc discussion of some of Michael Ruse’s claims in Science and Spirituality: making room for Faith in an Age of Science.

Ruse makes an interesting and persausive point about the late Stephen Jay Gould’s (here appearing in the Simpsons) famous metaphor of the ‘non-overlapping magisteria’ of faith and science.

This phrase is often taken to mean that Gould was happy to let science be science and faith be faith – the two operated in different spheres of meaning or something like that. [This actually is pretty close to what Ruse himself is arguing in this book, although he would not put it that way.]

Anyway, Ruse unpicks Gould’s image a bit to show that Gould, very much like Weinberg, Crick, Dawkins etc, had no time for the specific faith claims of Christianity.

Once Christianity trespasses into the realm of science you are into ‘unscientific’ claims about God, the Trinity, the Resurrection or ‘silly’ talk of miracles. The religious Magisteria Gould had in mind seems to have been more of a vague morality shorn of its theological roots than any acceptance of the supernatural.

To believe that God directs and creates through evolution is to invent a God who is “retooling himself in the spiffy langauge of modern science.” There is no higher reason why were are here apart from the fact that Homo Sapiens managed ‘to survive by hook or by crook.’ Our success as mammals is owed to the extinction of the dinosaurs, probably due to a comet hitting earth. So Gould quipped,

‘In an entirely literal sense, we owe our existence, as large and reasoning mammals, to our lucky stars.’

Comments, as ever, welcome.

Ruse: Christianity and science (1)

Over Christmas I had to prepare a review of a book for Evangelical Quarterly by philosopher of religion and author of numerous books on science, Michael Ruse. It’s called Science and Spirituality: making room for Faith in an Age of Science.

I won’t replicate the review here, but want to focus on some of the more provocative ideas Ruse suggests: provocative for both atheists and Christians that is. His argument is for the coexistence of Christianity (not spirituality as the title implies) and science – that they can exist together with integrity. So he draws fire from both ends of the spectrum

So here are a couple of starters for ten:

1) Science is utterly incompatible with creationism

= 6 day creation,  a young earth a few thousand years old. Such claims do not belong to traditional Christianity which has always said truth cannot be opposed to truth.

And here’s a pretty good put down:

‘Creationism, so-called, is an idiosyncratic legacy of nineteenth-century, American evangelical Protestantism.’ (8).

2) The dismissals of religion by many heavyweights of modern science (examples below) are ill founded.

Science has limits and these thinkers have transgressed them in their confident dismissals of the silliness, backwardness and unreasonableness of ‘religion’ – as well as often placing unwarrented faith in the ability of science to explain everything.

Ruse quotes among others major scientists: Nobel Prize winner for Physics, Steven Weinberg (‘Religion is an insult to human dignity’) and Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the double helix  (‘If revealed religions have revealed anything it is that they are usually wrong’).

And how about this for another put down?

These are the heavyweights of science. Their populizers have no such claims to great achievement, but in their way they are even more important in forming the public’s opinion about science [and religion].

The underachieving populizers include Richard Dawkins (‘faith is one of the world’s great evils’) and Daniel Dennett (‘If religion isn’t the greatest threat to rationality and scientific progress, what is?’).

I reckon Ruse is not on either Ken Ham’s or Dawkins’ or Dennett’s Christmas card lists.

Comments. as ever, welcome.