Another cleric pipes up

Another cleric lets us know there is ‘a lively and important discussion to be had…on the whole idea of the engagement between science and faith; then he gives a demonstration of the way ‘faith’ plays havoc with the ability to think clearly – or the ability to write forthrightly. One of those.

Contrary to popular understanding, the Christian community is not fundamentally anti- science…..[T]hrough the ages and still today, many significant scientists have been and are people of faith, and vice versa.

But that’s beside the point – unless the reverend is making a claim purely about hostility. But that’s where the lack of forthrightness comes in. When he says ‘engagement between science and faith’ does he mean likes and dislikes, friendship versus enmity, or does he mean something about validity as a form of inquiry or knowledge? If he’s just saying ‘some Christians like science,’ he may be right but that’s not really the issue; if he’s saying ‘some Christians like science therefore there is no tension between “faith” and science’ he’s perpetrating a non sequitur.

Richard Dawkins’s resurrected conflict theory, pitting faith and science as irreconcilable mortal enemies, is as offensive to atheist colleagues as it is to those of us who call ourselves people of faith.

But again, that’s beside the point. Never mind how ‘offensive’ it is; is it true?

Taking, as Dawkins and others do, such a dogmatic, fundamentalist view of other people’s opinions and then arguing the absolute correctness of their own view, which is that because a monkey shares 99.99 per cent of our genetic code evolution is proven and therefore there is no God, is not dissimilar to the aggressive and unreconstructed fundamentalist rejection of Galileo those years ago.

Very neat illustration of doing the very thing one is attacking someone else for doing – but I suspect that’s not what the rev intended. That ‘and therefore there is no God’ is just silly. It’s not just a dogmatic, fundamentalist view of other people’s opinions, it’s an outright misrepresentation of them; it’s something too silly to bother saying.

We believe that engaging with views that we do not agree with can be constructive.

Ah – but do you? Because that’s not doing it. Offering a fatuous parody of such views is not ‘engaging with’ them, it’s engaging with a fatuous parody of them.

Among the problems with reducing humans to no more than simple gene-propagating machines is the sense of hopelessness that this engenders. What’s the point in love, in beauty, in compassion, in poetry, in self-sacrifice, if all that we see around us is simply a “momentary cosmic accident”, as Stephen Jay Gould puts it[?]

Once again – beside the point. The issue is, or should be, the truth of the matter, not what sort of sense it may engender. Many defenders of ‘faith’ seem to have a really hard time grasping that very basic distinction.

And the debates remain. Why are humans here? Are we fundamentally anything more than just our genes, and the molecules that compose them? Why does anything exist at all? As the president of the Royal Society, Sir Martin Rees, concedes, “such questions lie beyond science … they are the province of philosophers and theologians”.

No they’re not; not of theologians they’re not; theologians have nothing to offer on the subject. Neither does anyone else, really – no one can offer a definitive answer to those why questions; but theologians actually muddy the water by offering pseudo-answers based on fantasies and wishes.

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