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Friday, July 03, 2009

Lies People Tell - Christ vs Science

Have you ever heard this one? "Christianity is opposed to science." We know this is true, right? I mean look at the dispute between Creationism and Evolution. Christianity claims that we are moral agents responsible for our choices and science likes to claim that we are unwitting products of our genetics, environment, and circumstances. Christianity claims there are absolutes and science claims there are no absolutes (except, of course, for science). Oh, yeah, Christianity and science are at war. And we have been for a long time. We claimed that the world was flat; science proved us wrong. We claimed that the Sun revolved around the Earth; science proved us wrong. It has ever been thus. Right?

Welcome to the second lie. While it is true that Christianity and science are disputing things today, the implication that Christianity is naturally in opposition to science is false. Traditionally, Christianity and science were not opposed. Here, think about this. Why is it that the West is largely responsible for the furthering of scientific pursuits and not the older East? Why is it that Hinduism and Buddhism and such didn't produce well-known scientists before the West did? The reason is that modern science owes its existence to Christianity. You see, Christianity assumes a Creator. A Creator assumes intelligence. Intelligence assumes order and rationality. So science, based on a notion of a rational universe, was able to progress originally to "think God's thoughts after Him".

"No, no," others will assure you, "the Church has always been opposed to science. I mean, look, everyone knows that the Church always argued for a flat Earth." As it turns out, the real myth here is that anyone ever believed in a flat Earth. According to history, there were a few who argued for a flat Earth, but by the Middle Ages the notion was long dead. It was offered as true, however, by Andrew Dickson White in his book, History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom published in 1896. It was a lie, accepted as true by those who were opposed during the Enlightenment period to the Church.

"But, what about the Church and Galileo? We all know that went badly!" There are actually a lot of myths around that whole thing. We know that Galileo came up with the concept of heliocentrism -- the Earth revolves around the Sun ... except it wasn't Galileo; it was Copernicus. We know that the Church was opposed to Galileo's ideas ... except that it's not true. The Church funded his work. They simply questioned his evidence. "Simply questioned his evidence?? What about the torture and abuse he received?" Actually, when he was summoned by the Inquisition, he was housed in the Villa Medici in Rome, a grand estate, and treated as a celebrity, attending receptions with the Pope and leading cardinals. His "torture and abuse" was "house arrest" which included visiting his daughters and publishing more papers. Of what was he convicted? He was convicted of not doing what he promised. The Church said, "If you don't have sufficient evidence to prove heliocentrism, stop teaching it." He agreed ... and then continued to teach it. He was convicted of not doing what he pledged to do. So none of this was about opposition to Galileo or heliocentrism.

Look, it's lies, all lies. Christianity started modern science. In return, moderns have lied about Christianity. Then they took up positions directly intended to eliminate Christianity. Today, science tries to supplant Christianity as the only reliable belief system in the universe. It's not true, and Christianity (and any other thinking person) disputes it. But please don't listen to all those lies about how Christianity and science are diametrically opposed, or that faith and reason have nothing to do with each other. They're confusing the issue with falsehoods that we simply need to identify as falsehoods and then move on ... to genuine issues.


Dan Trabue said...

Just a thought here, Stan. When you say things like...

Look, it's lies, all lies. Christianity started modern science. In return, moderns have lied about Christianity. Then they took up positions directly intended to eliminate Christianity.

It sounds like YOU think Christianity is being oppressed and warred upon by "moderns" and even by "science" types. "Science tries to supplant Christianity as the only reliable system in the universe" ??? Really? Who?

A thinking person who reads your comments here might be inclined to think you're protesting too much and suffering from a bit of martyr syndrome.

You're right. Science and Christianity aren't at odds. Quit making it sound like we are.

Stan said...

You don't get out much, do you? But, hey, you're the one that said we ought to be friends with the world even after I pointed out the passages that said that friends with the world were enemies of God. So when science tells you "Evolution is true and Creationism is false", you immediately jettison Genesis 1-3 as anything approaching reality. (Just by way of example.)

Actually, I work in the field of science. I know the animosity between many in the scientific community and Christianity. It's not a martyr complex and it's not imaginary.

Dan Trabue said...

Stan, please be careful how you represent my positions. Did I ever SAY "we ought to be friends with the world"?

So, if it's NOT imaginary, then you ARE saying there is a war between science and Christianity, and it's all on science's side? Out there persecuting helpless Christians?

How about some source to support that position?

My point here would be that IF you say, "Here's a case where Dr X of the Science Institute attacked Christianity, saying __________", then people have something specific to respond to and we can oppose Dr X IF he was wrong in his actions.

But when you make blanket statements "Moderns are out to get us," you just make your faith tradition look paranoid and a bit silly.

I have worked in the Mental Health field (that being a science) and currently work in Computer Technology (science, again) and I get WAY more harassment from those on the Religious Right (not much, but some) for my faith stances than I do from those in the more scientific fields. I have yet have a scientist persecute me, that I can recall.

Scientists by and large don't CARE that I believe Jesus is the son of God or that Jesus came to live with us on earth, died and rose again. Scientists don't CARE that I've made Jesus my Lord and I'm striving to follow in his steps, that I love God's creation and believe in treating it with respect and sustainably by living a simple, reasonable life (they actually agree greatly with me on that point).

How have YOU been persecuted or taunted by "moderns" and "scientists"?

Stan said...

I have to guess that you don't understand the philosophical concept of "moderns". (I know ... you're not using that way, but that's a term that is used in philosophy with the meaning with which I'm using it.)

"Moderns" are those who follow Modernism, the prevailing worldview since the Enlightenment. This view rejects the existence of a compassionate, all-powerful Creator and relies instead on that which can be tested, verified, demonstrated. Now that would be considered "war".

No, no, I don't mean "persecution". I don't mean that poor little Christianity is being picked on. I mean that the god of this world has moved today's society to believe that science is a believable worldview and religion (especially, but not exclusively Christianity) is okay ... as a private matter. Just don't bring into the public arena because while science is genuine, your religion is ... not.

But I doubt that I can get this across to you any better than I can the rest. When you set your mind to something, understanding the opposing view seems near impossible. All I have to do is turn on the TV and watch a "crime thriller" like Bones where the "brilliant scientist" puts all the religious folk to shame because she's so much smarter and doesn't need all that made up religious stuff. Or visit a place like talkorigins where they're happy to argue to the death that anyone who believes in a Creator is an idiot. Maybe you haven't heard of Richard Dawkins and his writings or Sam Harris's A Letter to a Christian Nation urging us all to abandon hope in God. Perhaps you've never heard the terms "pink unicorns" or "the flying spaghetti monster" used to ridicule anyone who believes there's a God. Maybe ... just maybe, you and I live in different worlds.

Jim Jordan said...

I read an excellent article a while back on this subject and it highlighted the principle: if science and Scripture are in conflict over some point, the culprit is a bad interpretation of one of the two infallible sources.

For example, I see the literal interpretation of Genesis as a bad interpretation of Scripture. And Evolution - spec. the idea that nature is unguided by a pre-existing intelligence - as a bad interpretation of science. Newer findings are showing this to be true (e.g. front-loaded DNA, DNA itself, the complexity of the cell, etc.).

Naum said...

Christianity and science are indeed compatible, per the theme of your post.

However, many Christians of a fundamentalist bent are almost completely anti-science — disbelieving of evolution, global warming, geology, etc.…, things that are well accepted in community of scientists (including many Christ follower scientists).

Stan said...

Jim: "bad interpretation of one of the two infallible sources"

While I understand your point (bad interpretation is the problem), I hesitate to refer to science as an "infallible source". Indeed, science itself considers itself always changing, always correcting, never quite settled (which makes it odd to be the holder of truth in so many people's minds).

Naum: "many Christians of a fundamentalist bent are almost completely anti-science"

Setting aside the unnecessarily inflammatory term "fundamentalist" and the poor example of "global warming" (most who object to global warming do not do so on religious grounds), it is true that there are errors on both sides.

Naum said...

Stan: Setting aside the unnecessarily inflammatory term "fundamentalist" and the poor example of "global warming" (most who object to global warming do not do so on religious grounds), it is true that there are errors on both sides.

Why is "fundamentalist" inflammatory? It's a lot shorter than "extremist conservative evangelical" or "young earth creationist"…

Regarding global warming, while it may be true that those who object do not do so on religious grounds (though from my experience, many in the "left behind" crowd cling to a "rapture is coming soon" mentality that overtly influences their reasoning on the matter), but those in that camp I've termed "fundamentalist" indeed are one thought on the matter, in complete opposition to the prevailing (at this point in tim, circa 2009) scientific consensus.

Foreign billionaire fronted propagandists, crackpot oddball theorists far removed from sanity (though to be fair, all new science results from such kooky outliers), public relations/lobbyist flacks, scientists outside their realm of expertise, corporatist apologists notwithstanding — science is crystal clear on the matter, at least on the prima facie evidence of anthropogenic warming.

Now, the extent and possible remedies for the condition is an all together different stew.

Stan said...

Naum: "Why is 'fundamentalist' inflammatory?"

Fundamentalism: "A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles". Simple. Easy. Not "scary" on its own. But the term has been co-opted to reference "loony-tunes religious wackos". A person who could be classified as "fundamentalist" by adhering to fundamental biblical principles wouldn't want to have that label hung on him because it carries more baggage than it deserves.

Naum: "evidence of anthropogenic warming"

The "evidence" is computer models. These models ignore the simple fact, for instance, that every planet in the solar system has been experiencing "global warming". Assuming, then, that it is anthropogenic, we have a seriously far-reaching effect. Is the global climate getting warmer? Perhaps. But hanging it on humans is a stretch. And then determining if it's a bad thing is even harder. (For instance, a scientist here at ASU was fired for suggesting that the warming and rise in CO2 would be a good thing, improving growing areas farther north and increasing general plant life -- self-correcting.) I read two reports that said that it was too late, that if the developed nations stopped producing greenhouse gases today that we were passed the tipping point and undeveloped nations would continue the problem to our death. So ... the "evidence" for anthropogenic global warming is incontrovertible ... but all this other stuff, well, not so much.

Me? I'm not anticipating a Rapture, so my reasons for questioning it is science (and reason), not religion. Bottom line, until people like Al Gore actually change how they're living to reflect their "beliefs", I'm just not buying it.