Science and Faith/Religion are NOT Mutually Exclusive
Debate Rounds (3)
"Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes."
This argument is not just for non-religious folks who think all people of faith are anti-science...but it is also for the several branches of Christianity who deny Evolution, who believe in a Young Earth, who do not seek medical attention, and who generally reject "secular science".
There is a great misconception about the relationship between faith and science, and how the two can play a role in our lives. This debate seeks to bring a new perspective.
Science: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
Religion: a particular system of faith and worship
Faith: Faith is confidence or trust in a person, idea, deity, religion, or any specifiable belief that is not based on proof.
While some have argued that many forms of faith (and therefore religion) are opposed to reason, proponents of faiths argue that the proper domain of faith concerns questions which cannot be settled by evidence, and that rationality and faith are complementary aspects of human perceptual and imaginative capacities.
BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT
While there is seemingly considerable conflict between these two ideas, especially in the modern western world, they have not always been, nor are they even today, mutually exclusive.
Here is a short list of professional scientists who are outwardly religious and what they have contributed to the scientific world:
Francis Collins (1950-): is an American physician-geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project. He is director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
Before being appointed director of the NIH, Collins led the Human Genome Project and other genomics research initiatives as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).
Gregor Mendel (1822-1884): Augustinian monk and father of genetics.
Georges Lemaitre (1894-1966): Belgian Priest and father of the BIG BANG THEORY
Copernicus (1473-1543): The man who brought us Heliocentrism
William of Ockham (1288-1348): Ever hear of Ockham's Razor? This Catholic priest had a huge impact on natural science, and he wrote significant works in logic, physics, and theology.
Giovanni Battista Riccioli (1598-1671): Jesuit astronomer who authored "Almagestum novum", an influential encyclopedia of astronomy. He was the first person to measure the rate of acceleration of a freely falling body; created a selenograph with Father Grimaldi who now adorns the entrance at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.
Nicolas Steno (1638-1686): made great strides in anatomy and geology. He eventually became a Catholic Bishop. Various parts of the body are named after him: Stensen"s duct, Stensen"s gland, Stensen"s vein, and Stensen"s foramina. He is also the founder of the study of fossils.
That's just to name a few. Please browse the following links for a more complete list, and so that you may validate my sources:
MITIGATING POTENTIAL COUNTERS
I am well aware that there are several branches of Christianity today that deny Evolution, who are Young Earth Creationists, and who generally distrust "secular scientists"...and some who even refuse medical treatment.
This argument is for them as well as it is non-religious people who believe that all people of faith are anti-science and reason.
I would also like to point out that one of the lists above is made entirely of scientists who were PRIESTS or CLERICS, meaning that their faith was not simply an arbitrary societal classification.
In case there is any confusion on what my stance is...here it is:
One can be a devout person of faith, and be a person of science with no conflict between the two ideas of faith/religion and science.
Thank you for initiating this debate.
Science and religion do not conflict insofar as religion keeps its nose out of scientific matters, i.e. matters of fact.
As Richard Dawkins writes, "Did Jesus have a human father, or was his mother a virgin at the time of his birth? whether or not there is enough surviving evience to decide it, this is still a strictly scientific answer in principle: yes or no. Did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead? Did he himself come alive again, three days after being cruicified? There is an answer to every such question, whether or not we can discover it in practice, and it is a strictly scientific answer. The methods we should use to settle the matter, in the unlikely event that relevant evidence ever became available, would be purely and entirely scientific methods."
To me, a "Christian" is someone who believes that Sin (and death) entered the world through one man (as per Romans 5:12) and consequently, mankind is damned. Luckily, God came to Earth in human form, performed miracles, imparted us with wisdom, was cruicifed, and rose from the dead. By accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our Sins may be forgiven and we may spend eternity (in the afterlife) in the presence of our Creator.
Obviously, there are many kinds of Christian. But every branch of Christianity makes factual claims, to one degree or another.
A devout person of faith may be a person of science in the same way that a rapist may be a person of compassion. A rapist may be incredibly compassionate...apart from when he's raping a woman. A person of faith may be incredibly reasonable...except when it comes to his faith.
Just like rape is fundamentally not compassionate, faith is fundamentally not reasonable or scientific. In the case of Christianity, there is not sufficient reason to accept any of its essential claims: Jesus was born of a virgin, Jesus is God incarnate, Jesus rose from the dead, by accepting his sacrifice we will be saved from an eternity of suffering in the afterlife, etc.
You bring up a lot of interesting points, a lot of which I am sure will tempt both of us to expand the scope of this argument.
The originally proposed argument, made by the Plaintiff (myself), is this:
"One can be a devout person of faith, and be a person of science with no conflict between the two ideas of faith/religion and science."
and your ultimate summarized response to that was...
"Just like rape is fundamentally not compassionate, faith is fundamentally not reasonable or scientific. In the case of Christianity, there is not sufficient reason to accept any of its essential claims: Jesus was born of a virgin, Jesus is God incarnate, Jesus rose from the dead, by accepting his sacrifice we will be saved from an eternity of suffering in the afterlife, etc."
OK. So now we move forward.
I will actually start by pulling what you said from the comment section, if you do not mind, as I believe you wished it to be an addition to what you already wrote. I can appreciate that, as I often do so myself. It also ties into a point I was going to bring up:
"the proper domain of faith concerns questions which cannot be settled by evidence"
What exists outside of the reality that humans perceive? This is a question that cannot be settled by evidence.
What exists outside the reality that humans perceive? Well that's a very deep question and you and I BOTH must be careful not fall victim to equivocation of terms and start spilling into complex fields like metaphysics, solipsism, objectivism, and so on.
But I if I get the sense of what you are saying, my response is this...
You are a victim of scientism, and are failing to see the irony of your own statements.
You say, "Science and religion do not conflict insofar as religion keeps its nose out of scientific matters, i.e. matters of fact. "
Well, how about the other way around? Science cannot answer existential questions. Science can only tell you what is there, but it cannot tell you WHY it is there, or WHY it is the way it is, as opposed to not. Why is there something, rather than nothing? Science cannot comment on aesthetics. Science cannot give a human MEANING, and that is something everyone across all cultures strives for.
I'm about to steal some quotes from Fr. Robert Barron.
The sciences can tell us the chemical compound of pen and paper, but the sciences can never understand the meaning of a book.
There is more to our existence than simple "facts" that be systematically observed, analyzed, and expounded or retracted upon into a narrative spun from data interpretation (science). So if you are saying that science can give us all the answers, and the ONLY RATIONAL thing to do is base everything off of evidence....well you're going to live a sad unfulfilled life. And I truly do not believe, you think or act that way. No one does.
My response to your quote from Dawkins is as follows:
OK, so what is he saying? That we could objectively prove these things as having happened or not? I do not disagree. That does not take away from the them happening or not.
We have no way of determining the evolution of human language. Why? Because all of the evidence we have of past languages are ancient written texts. Language existed for hundreds and thousands of years prior to our earliest evidence of language. Does this mean that language did not evolve, because the evidence is not available to us? You tell me. But the way you're using that quote indicates that you are saying...it is not worth believing to have happened.
Now a counter to that is that but we see it now. Ah, yes we do see it now, and we perhaps cannot see the miraculous things described in the Bible.
Or do we?
^Those are just a few resources, there's a plethora of others. I really suggest you take your time to consider them, and I really welcome your armchair analysis.
There was a new Eucharistic miracle approved by the Church (as they do debunk quite a few based on scientific evidence...IMAGINE THAT!) happened VERY RECENTLY.
I see ZERO New Atheist scientists rushing to prove the Church wrong. In fact, I seriously scoured the internet for the counter arguments, main stream media coverage, ANYTHING. The world just does not want to cover it. Why? You could disprove the Church once and for all! And they are open to the public! You can go examine it, look at it, and historically, scientists who work on such miracles end up converting from agnostic and/or atheist to Catholic!
So we see evidence of miracles. We see reports of even mere scientific curiosities...like bread turning into a heart tissue. Wouldn't you be curios as to that? On a purely scientific basis?
THINGS YOU FAILED TO COUNTER
Let's take a look at Dr. Francis Collins, the first man on the list I presented in the opening argument.
He was head of the HUMAN GENOME PROJECT. That's not a project sponsored by a Church. Do you think he might know more about human biology and evolution than you or I? And he writes a book called "The Language of God", justifying fully his profession, discoveries, and work as a cutting edge scientist with his faith in Christianity. And you have the gull to compare him to a rapist of fact and science?
What scientific advancements have you given the human race? Who are you, so highly rational and intelligent and great in science, to question the man who gave us the Big Bang Theory?
And those are just Christians! You are also only limiting your argument to Christianity. Why not Islam? Why not Taoism? Why not Sikhism? Why not other people of other faiths who are great scientists?
Why did you completely ignore everyone on that list, and in fact by doing so, you degrade your own main point.
Watch this before you respond, to avoid the danger of equivocation of the word "God"
And see if you can wrap your factual mind about "Ipsum Esse"
Your argument is, "Look at all of these eminent scientists who were people of faith! Therefore, there is no conflict between faith/religion and science." I don't need to go through your list of religion scientists to refute your argument. Even if every scientist in history was a person of religious faith, faith would still be irrational and unscientific.
Bertrand Russell said, "We may define 'faith' as a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of "faith". We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence."
I know who Francis Collins is. I'm a fan of Kenneth Miller, a Catholic scientist who spoke against Intelligent Design in the Dover vs. Kitzmiller trial. I own his book, Finding Darwin's God. I understand that there are many good scientists who believe in God. But Christianity does not limit itself to "existential questions" about meaning, etc. It makes factual claims.
When presented with a factual claim, a reasonable person examines the supporting evidence. Based on the evidence, he or she may accept the claim as probably true or dismiss the claim as probably false. Perhaps the claim is almost certainly true. Or, almost certainly false. Some claims are impossible to verify. There is no compelling reason to believe one way or the other; we just don't know. In that case, the person of science / reason acknowledges that they just don't know.
In a person of faith, this system of evaluating claims is all screwed up when it comes to their religion. Here's an example:
Did Jesus, in fact, walk on water? The truth is, we really don't know...but it's implausible. It's an extraordinary claim, and there is no extraordinarily good reason to believe that it's true. Yet a Christian would claim to be absolutely certain that Jesus did, in fact, walk on water. Why? What reason is there for this certainty? There is no reason; there is only faith.
I didn't bring up the "rapist" analogy to insult Francis Collins or any other Christian scientist. I brought it up to illustrate my point: a rapist may be compassionate, but rape is not compassionate. A person of faith may be rational and/or scientific, but faith is not rational or scientific.
Most scientists (especially eminent scientists) do not believe in God and are not people of faith:
"In 1997, the British science journal Nature published the results of a random sampling of 1,000 scientists...approximately 40 percent of scientists proclaimed a belief in a personal God." (1)
"...in a follow-up study [Edward] Larson and [Larry] Witham controlled for "eminance," or what their predecessor James Leuba called the "greater" scientists -- those who held 'superior knowledge, understanding, and experience.'" (1)
"...Larson and Witham found...that when eminance is controlled for, disbelief in God rose to 69 percent among biologists, and 79 percent for physicists. When "doubt" or "agnosticism" is factored in, actual belief in God among eminent scientists (averaged over all fields) drops to a paltry 7 percent." (1)
"It should be emphasized that these figures are for Americans. The United Kingdom, Europe, and other developed nations of the world show lower levels of belief for both the general population and among scientists..." (1)
A few more things:
-- I'm not an expert on the evolution of language. So I'll assume that everything you're saying here is true. If it's true that "language exiisted for hundreds and thousands of years" before there was any written texts, then there must have been some other type of evidence of language. Otherwise, we'd have no reason to infer that it existed.
-- Yes, there is a plethora of miraculous claims. Skeptics don't waste their time debunking all of them. As for your claim that we "could disprove the church once and for all!" No, we couldn't. Here's the thing: "Anecdotes are unreliable for various reasons. Stories are prone to contamination by beliefs, later experiences, feedback, selective attention to details, and so on. Most stories get distorted in the telling and the retelling. Events get exaggerated. Time sequences get confused. Details get muddled. Memories are imperfect and selective; they are often filled in after the fact. People misinterpret their experiences. Experiences are conditioned by biases, memories, and beliefs, so people's perceptions might not be accurate. Most people aren't expecting to be deceived, so they may not be aware of deceptions that others might engage in. Some people make up stories. Some stories are delusions...Thus, stories of personal experience with paranormal or supernatural events have little scientific value. If others cannot experience the same thing under the same conditions, then there will be no way to verify the experience. If there is no way to test the claim made, then there will be no way to tell if the experience was interpreted correctly. If others can experience the same thing, then it is possible to make a test of the testimonial and determine whether the claim based on it is worthy of belief." (2)
(1) Michael Shermer, How We Believe
WHAT I SAID
One can be a devout person of faith, and be a person of science with no conflict between the two ideas of faith/religion and science.
WHAT YOU SAID I SAID
Your argument is, "Look at all of these eminent scientists who were people of faith! Therefore, there is no conflict between faith/religion and science."
Hmm, someone needs lessons in citations. How irrational of you! Joking aside...
You have a misconception of what "faith" is. You're using a straw man argument, and furthermore, you completely ignored my rebuttal in R2 which illustrated 1: How the true concept of the Christian God cannot be proven with evidence as you or I can, as He is "Ipsum Esse" (How were the videos by the way, or the essays by Aquinas? I only ask because you didn't mention them at all) and therefore OUTSIDE THE SCOPE OF SCIENCE, much like many other things that are within our reality (aesthetics, art, philosophy, existential meaning, etc.) And 2: the explanation of the limits of both faith and science.
You completely neglected to comment on your displays of Scientism. And it's not worth me re-articulating them here because you clearly ignored them!
You have no idea of what the Christian God is, otherwise you would have responded to the "Ipsum Esse" argument in agreement or disagreement. I'm not even sure you know what I'm talking about, because you just ran to your New Atheist texts to quote from your hero.
Furthermore, you admit in the comment section that you DON'T KNOW about other faiths, and yet I have only provided a CURSORY list of Christian scientists, and we have not even discussed the litany of other scientists across time who were both men of SCIENCE AND FAITH from other religions and cultures! So you CONCEDE that you cannot fully comment on what faith is, as you are unwilling to comment on faiths you are unfamiliar with. So if you have not considered all the possible evidence or viewpoints, shouldn't you, as a man of science/reason, say, "I don't know"?
So really what you have done, is ignore 90% of what I said in rebuttal, and just restated what you wrote in R1 hoping we would not notice!
REASON OF A CHRISTIAN
You, like so many others, have a very shallow understanding of the Christian Faith. If you truly considered the complete picture, even from a mere historical perspective, the history of the Hebrew people, which would then enable you to properly read the Old Testament, and get all the references and literary evocations in the New, and then understand what the Church Fathers were REALLY talking about, then you could start to understand our Faith.
The Catholic Church, first of all, does not take the Bible LITERALLY. It never did! We didn't have the Bible for nearly four centuries after the founding of the Christian Faith at Pentecost. So, keeping in mind the word limit, suffice it to say, you have an outsider's perspective on Christianity.
Our faith is like a stained glass window. Obscure, opaque, and perhaps ugly and misunderstood from the outside looking in, but you must walk inside to truly understand it. And it is clear you have only knowledge from what other's have told you, and not from what you yourself have studied or ventured forth to gain yourself.
You run the same risk of randomly quoting Bible verses and juxtaposing them against popular Bible stories and presenting it like your "get it", as a privileged modern white suburbanite does when he gives a cursory read to "A Raisin in the Sun". I wouldn't date quote mine the Quran and throw it as a Muslim, or do the same to the Holy books of the Hindus, because I don't know the context AT ALL.
I would like to bring up again, you failed to counter the point I brought up that while people may sometimes allow religion/faith to blindly and falsely guide them in sciences, so cant he sciences be misused by people. Your failure to address that point, which is more beautifully illustrated in my opening quote, neglects further comment on breaking down your terrible "shock jock" analogy.
Your statistics on scientists. Sweet dude. You have still yet to comment on any scientist I originally brought up, other than you know who Francis Collins is, but you like this other dude better because he says something you agree with and Francis Collins does not. There are still a number of scientists who DO believe in a personal God.
I am a linguist. Here is a quick blurb on the subject of the origin of human language:
"This shortage of empirical evidence has led many scholars to regard the entire topic as unsuitable for serious study. In 1866, the Linguistic Society of Paris banned any existing or future debates on the subject, a prohibition which remained influential across much of the western world until late in the twentieth century. Today, there are numerous hypotheses about how, why, when, and where language might have emerged. Despite this, there is scarcely more agreement today than a hundred years ago, when Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection provoked a rash of armchair speculations on the topic. Since the early 1990s, however, a number of linguists, archaeologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and others have attempted to address with new methods what some consider "the hardest problem in science."
So unless we find either/or 1: More ancient texts that survived (and that we can properly translate) or 2: Audio recordings from Proto Indo-Europeans...we just don't have the evidence to address the issue. SCIENCE cannot even address this SCIENTIFIC question, due to lack of evidence, is everyone therefore irrational for believing one side of the other on this issue?
But here we go again on the limits of science to being, "a systematic study of observable evidence", and not "the end all be all of all decisions and beliefs everywhere for everyone, which encompasses all problems and questions humans face in their existence" as you would have us believe. Science has limits, and where it's limits are other things pick up the slack. For many people, that is called faith.
You failed to counter nearly everything in R2.
You failed to even comment or discredit any of the men/women of science, who are also full time Priests. Yes, they are shining examples of how you can be fully believing in something beyond what we can observe and a man of science. But you skip commenting on that argument.
Last comment, and I will steal it from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"
Little levity to a heavy subject, and please note that I am well aware that Mac's character is satirical, but he brings up an interesting point at the end.
So have you yourself poured over the data, the mountains of evidence in each field of science (which changes all the time by the way, I suppose the Earth Centric scientists were just being irrational) and form your own well informed opinion? Or are you just trusting the words, which have been diluted and filtered through so many second hand sources, of men you never met or will meet? Or are you taking what they say, on faith?
But now we see the complexity of the word "faith", don't we? Better conduct a science experiment to find the true definition.
You didn't present an "Ipsum Esse" argument. Telling me, "See if you can wrap you factual mind about Ipsum Esse" is not an argument.
An argument consists of premise(s) and a conclusion. Your conclusion is that "one can be a devout person of faith, and be a person of science with no conflict between the two ideas of faith/religion and science." How do you support this conclusion? By listing off great scientists who were men of faith. So, your argument is: "Look at all of these eminent scientists who were people of faith! Therefore, there is no conflict between faith/religion and science!"
Obviously the Christian God is not a physical entity. No scientific experiment can prove or disprove the existence of a supernatural being (outside of our universe) that has the power to create universes. Nevertheless: to be a Christian, you must accept certain factual claims. These claims are matters of fact. Whether or not Jesus rose from the dead is a matter of fact. Whether or not Jesus walked on water is a matter of fact. Whether Mary was a virgin is a matter of fact.
Is it reasonable to believe that Jesus rose from the dead? There must be some incredibly compelling evidence to support this belief, if it is to be considered "rational" or "scientific." Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. But there is no extraordinary evidence. Heck, the Gospels disagree with each other on the details of Jesus' resurrection. Still, Christians accept this factual claim on faith. This is irrational and unscientific.
Christians don't just believe in "something" beyond the reality we perceive. Christianity is not divorced from scientific, factual claims. The Christian God is not just "something beyond" or "the foundation of reality" or anything like that...the Christian God is a personal God. The Christian God is one who (allegedly) created everything, loves the world, came to Earth in human form, performed miracles, told parables, was cruicifed, etc. Did Jesus perform miracles? This is not a "beyond" question. It's "yes" or "no"; a matter of fact. Was the universe designed by a supernatural intelligence? If so, should we not see some hallmarks of design? Again, this is a scientific question.
Like I said: I don't care if every scientist in the world was a devout Catholic.
To be a Catholic, you must accept certain claims (as the Absolute Truth) even though they aren't well-supported by evidence...or, even if they're contradicted by evidence. As a Christian, Dr. Francis Collins must accept that Jesus rose from the dead even though there is no compelling evidence to support this claim. That is not being "scientific."
When faced with skepticism, Christians may alter their defintion of "God." They'll talk about God as some abstract "essence" rather than as a supernatural personality, which is how He is described in the Bible. Let's get real here. The Bible makes factual claims. Christian must accept certain factual claims, because they're essential to the Christian faith. It is unreasonable and unscientific for anyone to accept these claims. Just because (on one hand) you're a brilliant scientist, doesn't mean it's reasonable or scientific of you (on the other hand) to accept unsupported outlandish claims of any kind.
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