Sunday, September 15, 2013

War of the worlds

Whenever a new science story breaks out, secularists will often frame the debate in terms of religion vs. science, along with the implication that the former is superstitious or irrational, while the the latter is enlightened and reasonable. Something along those lines.

Consider, for example, secularists discussing news stories like the discovery of the Higgs boson aka God particle. Or Stephen Hawking showing that God is not necessary for the universe to have a beginning. Or Lawrence Krauss indicating quantum physics demonstrates something can be created out of nothing. Or Craig Venter synthesizing life. Or various chemists experimenting in labs to show life emerging from non-life. Or, similarly, computer scientists and artificial intelligence. Or paleontologists with a newly discovered fossil somehow proving modern evolutionary theory is true. Or neuroscientists determining how the mind can arise from the brain. Or astronomers discovering a body in space such as an "Earth-like" planet orbiting a "Sol-like" yellow star evidencing we are not alone in the universe. The list goes on and on, and on.

But for the most part I don't think the real battle has been about superstitious religion vs. enlightened science. Rather I think it's fundamentally been a battle of worldviews. At a broad, perhaps simplistic level, atheism vs. theism - and the theism is usually conservative Christianity, at least in the U.S.

After all, there are renowned scientists and other relevant scholars on both sides of the debate. There are many examples we could use for either camp. But let's take Francis Collins as one example among many. He was the former head of the Human Genome Project. Likewise, Collins' immediate predecessor as head of the Human Genome Project was none other than James Watson of Watson and Crick fame. Watson is of course an atheist. Watson and Collins both have an expert level of knowledge with regard to genetics. It's not as if atheists have a monopoly on the scientific knowledge, while Christians are all ignoramuses when it comes to the science. If we consider the best representatives, it's obvious both sides have many intelligent minds conversant with the science. So it's the worldviews that are at issue, I think.

(Of course, this is not to suggest there are only two sides to the debate. Or that there aren't finer gradations within each camp. For example, there are intelligent agnostics who don't buy Christianity, and other theisms, but who also think atheists, especially the militant ones, severely err in conclusively claiming there is no God. Or effectively so when they say there's 99% certainty there's no God. Can an entirely objective probability even be placed on this?)

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