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Friday, March 20, 2009

"Science is my job - faith is my rock"

"Science is my job - faith is my rock" is the title of an article in today's Globe and Mail. Zosia Bielski is a journalist who writes on a wide range of topics with an emphasis on social issues. She was prompted to write about the conflict between science and religion because of the controversy surrounding Canada's Science Minister, Gary Goodyear.

As usual, there's no mention of the fact that most active scientists are non-religious. The proportion of atheist scientists is much higher than the proportion of atheists in the general public. Apparently this fact has little to do with a conflict between science and religion.

Zosia Bielski takes the standard approach to this issue. She interviews three religious scientists and discovers that they can reconcile their faith and science. What a surprise!

She does not interview anyone who thinks there's a serious conflict between science and religion. If she had written an article about the lack of faith among scientists and had only interviewed atheist scientists, she would have been accused (rightly) of biased journalism. The lack of balance would have been recognized by any competent editor and she would have been told to go out and get statements from religious scientists. It seems like "balance" only works one way.

What's interesting about the article is that she interview Rev. Ambury Stuart, a climatologist who is also a United Church minister. What Stuart has to say about the conflict between science and religion is very interesting.
"I struggled with this all my life. I grew up in the United Church, I always attended. You say, 'Well, can you believe in God if you believe in Newton's laws?' And the short answer is yes, you can, but it takes a while," Mr. Stuart said.

"You have to think through a lot of stuff. It's not simplistic. You try and divide your brain into two bits: One bit you'll use on Sunday and the rest of it you'll use the rest of the week, and it doesn't work. It doesn't have to."

Evolutionary evangelist Michael Dowd's book "Thank God For Evolution" helped Mr. Stuart smooth out his own message at Glebe Road United Church in Toronto. He weaves his scientific passions into his sermons.

"You can look at scripture and say this means a whole lot more than we ever thought it meant before, because it applies to everything," Mr. Stuart said. "The idea that we are related, that we are kin with the rest of life, is essential for Christianity to do anything constructive in the ecological crisis."
This is about as honest as you get. Stuart is telling us that the conflict between religion and science is real and challenging. You have to work really hard at reconciling science and religion. Many religious beliefs don't survive the challenge.

That's an important lesson for people like Gary Goodyear. Any religion that denies evolution is incompatible with science. You have to choose one or the other. You can't be a Young Earth Creationist without being anti-science. If that kind of faith is your "rock" then science can't be your job.


  1. A person can be a scientist and can be religious. That is obvious. Does that imply that science and religion are compatible?

    Well, it implies they can exist in the same brain, albeit not at the same time, unless you run you're prepared to run your western blots on prayer.

    But it does not imply that scientific and religious epistemologies are compatible.

    For instance, a car can have the state of being either stationary or in motion. This means that a physical object can possess either motion or non-motion. It does not, of course, imply that motion is compatible with non-motion.

    One cannot believe, at the same time, that the universe obeys a set of definable, measurable laws, and that the universe is interfered with by a personal god. They are simply incompatible. Moreover, even if there is a personal god who does interfere with the universe from time to time, science can't measure that, since science, a priori, depends upon the axiom that the universe is objectively one way or another, and that past observations are predictive of future observations.

  2. The Rev's quote doesn't add up. He said if you try to hold competing ideas in your brain it doesn't work. "It doesn't have to."

    What? Then how does he manage to do it? He doesn't say.

    He hasn't provided an explanation or a reconciliation; he just described what didn't work. There is no resolution. What an amazing admission!

  3. "Science is my job - faith is my rock"

    He's got rocks in his head.

  4. Did this article by Douglas Todd come to your attention, Larry Moran: ?

    It was printed in the sun newspaper.

  5. crf asks,

    Did this article by Douglas Todd come to your attention ...

    No. Thanks for the link.

    Isn't it interesting that there are twelve kinds of evolution but non-adaptationist pluralism isn't one of them?

    The idea that universities should be teaching theistic versions of evolution is a complete misunderstanding of what goes on in universities.