This weekend celebrates the 198th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday, who profoundly influenced science and biology in particular, with his 1859 publishing of On the Origin of Species. Since then, science and religion have been profoundly at odds, with some arguing that one or the other is incorrect, or that they can be reconciled.
Case in point: ‘Evolution Sunday,’ run by the Clergy Letter Project, through which a wide body of congregations pause to acknowledge demonstatable scientific facts. The statement, signed by over 10,000 clergy members, states:
We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children.
And kudos to them for acknowledging the basics of natural history, despite their refusal to apply logic and reasoning to the question of whether God exists, or whether mankind has simply created God in his own image (anthropomorphizing God; ascribing human characteristics to God).
As Red State Rabble notes though, the Discovery Institute, and ID proponents in general, strongly disagree that science and religion can be reconciled. For instance, Phillip Johnson has said (my emphasis):
They [scientists] have defined their task as finding the most plausible — or least implausible — description of how biological creation could occur in the absence of a creator. The specific answers they derive may or may not be reconcilable with theism, but the manner of thinking is profoundly atheistic.
I, for one, strongly agree with Johnson on this item. The detection of an agency such as God appears to rely heavily on superstition, imagined perception, and magical thinking. The methods of logic applied by theology and science are absolutely at odds – without going into much detail here, my thoughts on this are very akin to Carl Sagan’s in Demon-haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. For other books, I haven’t gotten to read Daniel Dennett yet, nor many others on theory of mind, the origins of altruism and religion, etc., but I plan to; and the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (which I have read), nicely points out the silliness of theology.
Generally, however, the skeptical scientist lives on the assumption that everything in this world has an explanation rooted in physics and chemistry – we simply don’t always know the explanation, or the question is too big for the layperson to ‘wrap their head around.’ (e.g. can you truly fathom the geologic age of the Earth?). It is a tremendous challenge that faces scientists, to advance knowledge in the face of such complexity, but what’s the alternative? – an intellectually lazy attribution of God as a catch-all for the unexplained?!
People are free to believe whatever they want to believe, with whatever logic they see fit, but the skeptical scientist in me asks “so where’s this God of yours?”