Bringing Science into the Churches

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The Kansas Board of Education has rewritten the science standards so that they may include the supernatural. That’s OK with me, as long as they play fair: Scientists must now be allowed to investigate the supernatural, including the truth claims of religion, and their judgements must be taken seriously. Science is, after all, our most successful enterprise (especially if we count medicine and sanitation), and we should be allowed to apply the principles of science to religion or anything else that makes objective claims. I say, Bring science into the churches!

The theologian Ian Barbour argues that science and religion have more in common than many people think. Both formulate hypotheses, both test their hypotheses, and both include an element of faith. Science, however, tests its hypotheses more rigorously, while relying less on faith.

I think Professor Barbour is exaggerating, but it is certainly true that religion formulates and tests hypotheses, whether or not its adherents recognize them as hypotheses. Even a religion that stresses faith above all else seeks evidence to confirm its hypotheses. That is why you hear so many testimonials to the fact that someone “got religion” and turned his or her life around or was cured of an “incurable” disease. These testimonials are a form of hypothesis testing. Unfortunately, they are usually unreproducible stories, and attempts to demonstrate conclusively that prayer can affect the outcome of a disease have been equivocal, at best.

Scientists, on the other hand, often display faith in their theories. Quantum mechanics is one of the most successful theories ever developed. Many physicists interpret quantum mechanics as predicting that nature is wholly random at the subatomic level. Though he did not deny the validity of quantum mechanics, Einstein never accepted that interpretation, in part because of his faith that the universe could be understood rationally. Wolfgang Pauli, likewise, had faith in the law of conservation of energy and discovered a new particle. Good scientists, however, do not carry faith too far and, like Boris Deryagin, the discoverer of polywater, sometimes have to admit error or abandon a cherished theory.

Some theories are so firmly established that we may safely say they are correct, at least within certain limits, just as Newton’s theory is correct for moderate gravitational fields. Descent with modification is so well established that we may consider it a fact. The modern theory of evolution, which explains the observed facts better than any other theory, is one of the most well-established theories in science—on a par with Newton’s theory of gravity or Einstein’s theory of relativity.

The Kansas State Board wants to redefine science to include the supernatural? OK. Let them subject their religious beliefs to the kind of scrutiny to which scientists subject their hypotheses. If their beliefs are sound, they will hold up, and there will be near consensus, as there is in mature sciences. If their beliefs are not sound, or at least not demonstrably sound, then there will be no such consensus.

Fair is fair. The Board wants to introduce the supernatural into science? Fine. But then let’s also introduce the scientific method into theology. How else can we teach the controversy and let children make up their own minds?

Acknowledgement. Thanks to Vic Stenger, President of Colorado Citizens for Science, for suggesting the topic in an e-mail to CCFS.

References. Ian Barbour, Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues, HarperSanFrancisco, New York, 1997.

Matt Young, No Sense of Obligation: Science and Religion in an Impersonal Universe, 1stBooks Library, Bloomington, Indiana, 2001; www.1stBooks.com/bookview/5559 .

84 Comments

That would add an entirely new and interesting aspect to sunday school, that’s for sure.

no longer could any sunday school teacher just give the answer: “because god made it that way” to any child’s question about the nature of some aspect of the world around them.

… and since science has nothing to do with the concept of “state”, pushing for inclusion of science in religion certainly wouldn’t be negated by any part of the constitution, would it?

so… theoretically, how would one go about getting grass roots support for such an idea?

Evangelism, of course.

(don’t hit me don’t hit me don’t hit me) lol.…

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That would be fun for about a week. Then we’d run out of beliefs to test.

hmm, realistically, if we flipped the religion in school argument around, we would actually have to find a church where lots of parents wanted science taught along with scripture.

I doubt it would be that common of an occurence.

then again, there is the psuedo-science approach of Ross that PvM noted in another thread not far below this one.

what if we went to Ross’ actual congregation and asked them if they wanted scientific debate as part of their weekly scripture?

they appear to like Ross’ approach, so it would at least be a good place to test drive the idea.

Of course it really is a serious matter. Separation of church and state exists at least as much to prohibit the government from “preventing lies” (which it probably would do, as was the case in the USSR, but other lies were introduced) at the churches as to prevent IDists from mandating vague religious impulses to be taken to be science in the schools.

The fact is that if the latter happens, the former is no longer prevented as such. What begins in a fit of religion, in the hopes of misusing government in the service of religion, could readily be turned against religion when science is politically stronger. The thinking would be, ‘if religion can force lies into the teaching of science, shouldn’t we at least insist that the truth be told in churches?’

We are not, I hope, fighting simply to keep religion out of gov’t sponsored schools, but to keep the gov’t out of religion. It’s not a joke that religion could very well end up shackled by government if the churches are so mindless as to cut through the protections we live under. Obviously the erosion of the separate estates need not progress that far in any particular event or era. However, the danger is real, if not immediate.

the slate piece mww mentions is yet another reminder that it does indeed seem like we are arguing with the old-tyme flat earthers from time to time. the difference is even worse tho, flat earth was based on the “science” of it’s day, not religion, so it was actually easier to argue against it.

I don’t think evangelicals view their ideas like flat-earther’s did.

It’s not a joke that religion could very well end up shackled by government if the churches are so mindless as to cut through the protections we live under

that is a reasonable argument on the face of it. the problem comes when one is under the impression that only one’s own “side” will control the resultant government.

I see this attitude posted over and over again on fundamentalist forums all over. many think that by putting their religion back into government, that resultant government will only choose to support their own viewpoints.

I see it when there is talk of replacing “liberal” judges, for example.

How does anyone convince someone with that kind of attitude that putting their own religion into government wouldn’t end up giving them exactly what they want?

Not to be too trite, but isn’t that what Orwell was afraid of?

There was a comedy skit dating back probably from the mid-1980s which went something like:

Priest (chanting voice): The force of gravity is proportional to mass and inversely proportional to square of the distance.

Congregation: f equals G, m-one, m-two over r squared.

Narrator: In a surprising development the Supreme Court allowed a compromise that creationism could taught in schools in exchange for physics lessons in church.

Priest (chanting voice): Let us calculate together. (Lifts calculator)

[Pan to confused member of the congregation with his calculator overlooking what is on another member’s calculator.]

I am sure I butchered it a bit, but that gets the general idea across.

Religious claims aren’t tested (nothing would count as failure) and the behavior of individual scientists being affected by their faith beliefs does not mean that science is taken on faith. In Einstein’s specific case, there is no scientific theory that he took on faith, nor any that he rejected on faith – rather, he rejected an interpretation that violated his assumption that the underlying ontology of our world did not include randomness. Because of that he felt that the theory was incomplete and struggled to find a complete theory – that’s very different from faith.

If their beliefs are not sound, or at least not demonstrably sound, then there will be no such consensus.

Uh, yes, but that’s the status quo.

Part of the kick of religion lies in believing things that are obviously counterfactual. If any religious tenet ever turned out to be literally true, the faithful would quickly lose interest in it.

It’s not a joke that religion could very well end up shackled by government if the churches are so mindless as to cut through the protections we live under.

Well said. Reminds me of an exchange from A Man For All Seasons..

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law! Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that! Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law! Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

That pretty much spells out the irony that is more specifically named The Thomas More Law Center.

really, your quote should be read back to those from TMLC who represented the dover school board.

the ACLU now represents Thomas More more accurately than does the TMLC!

Well said Jim

The mystery of mysteries The great unknowable unknown The joy of magic And for some removing the dull certainty of everyday life.

If life is a journey there can be an inward and an outward one (Nothing new here I’ve cribbed from Campbell… I know…don’t tell me.… again)

For some science is the great outward journey and is no different than the voyages of the ancient explorers the only faith they needed was that they didn’t sail off the edge of the world (and being mariners that was counter intuitive anyway) reality is no problem because they were immensely practical and rational thinkers each new discovery is a reward in itself.

The counter to this is the inward journey not unlike schizophrenia, facing demons, doubt and a disjointed reality which if by the end of the journey one succeeds in creating a sane reality makes one better able. It is not an accident that some versions of religion can create a mass psychosis no different from group schizophrenia.

Quite Right STJ The thing is, the irony would be completely lost on them. More (the latter) thinks he is descended directly from Adam and probably fantasizes he is the son of God. He is certainly big headed enough.

Whether sacred doctrine is a science?

St. Thomas Aquinas Wrote:

Objection 1. It seems that sacred doctrine is not a science. For every science proceeds from self-evident principles. But sacred doctrine proceeds from articles of faith which are not self-evident, since their truth is not admitted by all: “For all men have not faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:2). Therefore sacred doctrine is not a science.

Objection 2. Further, no science deals with individual facts. But this sacred science treats of individual facts, such as the deeds of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and such like. Therefore sacred doctrine is not a science.

On the contrary, Augustine says (De Trin. xiv, 1) “to this science alone belongs that whereby saving faith is begotten, nourished, protected and strengthened.” But this can be said of no science except sacred doctrine. Therefore sacred doctrine is a science.

I answer that, Sacred doctrine is a science. We must bear in mind that there are two kinds of sciences. There are some which proceed from a principle known by the natural light of intelligence, such as arithmetic and geometry and the like. There are some which proceed from principles known by the light of a higher science: thus the science of perspective proceeds from principles established by geometry, and music from principles established by arithmetic. So it is that sacred doctrine is a science because it proceeds from principles established by the light of a higher science, namely, the science of God and the blessed. Hence, just as the musician accepts on authority the principles taught him by the mathematician, so sacred science is established on principles revealed by God.

Reply to Objection 1. The principles of any science are either in themselves self-evident, or reducible to the conclusions of a higher science; and such, as we have said, are the principles of sacred doctrine.

Reply to Objection 2. Individual facts are treated of in sacred doctrine, not because it is concerned with them principally, but they are introduced rather both as examples to be followed in our lives (as in moral sciences) and in order to establish the authority of those men through whom the divine revelation, on which this sacred scripture or doctrine is based, has come down to us.

Lateral thinking here.

If the Mystics- Jesus, Buddha, etc etc have evolved (I won’t say …are Apes…dang) then for the Fundies that’s tantamount to saying they can’t be the Son of God or that religion evolved with man… they are that un-self aware, they don’t have any concept of infinity or if they do denial of it must drive them partially mad.

they don’t have any concept of infinity or if they do denial of it must drive them partially mad

you have a point there. all of us are inherently subject to the same madness tho, yes?

Only if the mystics were only man, like us, it would drive them mad. If they were “Mystics” and had a concept of infinity maybe they had a way of dealing with the knowledge that didnt injure their psyche.

If they were “Mystics” and had a concept of infinity maybe they had a way of dealing with the knowledge that didnt injure their psyche.

do you, kenan think you posess the same knowledge inherently, or not?

Beautiful STJ The 2 sides of Zen 1.all of us are inherently subject to the same madness tho, yes? 2.you posess the same knowledge inherently

No I do not.

k.e.

Wouldnt 2. be

2. [if] [all of us] posess the same knowledge inherently

kenan

Hmmmmmm

A link to a story might be in order here.

http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives[…]e_irony.html

Have you read “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” ?

he was quoting me directly, instead of paraphrasing.

he understood exactly what i was saying.

and it’s got little to do with mysticism, per sae, tho it might sound a little strange on the surface.

I was simply trying to define the concept of infinity, as i perceived KE was pointing to.

we’re getting a bit off topic here, but many of us believe that all of us posess the same inherent knowledge that the “Mystics” possesed to deal with the knowledge of the infinite. At the same time, most of us exist in denial of that which drives us slowly mad.

I’ve always viewed this as being one of (the only?) core duality of many belief systems and religions.

which is why i always find it puzzling when someone says they can’t become Jesus, or Buddha, because they don’t posess the knowledge to do so.

no and that link was lame, it just seems like that statment would make since if it was “ [if] [all of us] posess the same knowledge inherently “ not the other way. but i’m no “Zen Bhuddists” so maybe i just don’t understand.

I see and this is getting way off subject.

Comments so far have been as coherent as Denyse o’ Leary’s!!!!

There needs to be sense not prejudice

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GDS-list/message/30 11/9/05 Gainesville Daily Statement Biologists Fight Back Michael Adler, staph writer In response to what they see as the religious right interfering in public school science curricula, some biologists have decided that the best defense is a good offense. They have formed an association in Topeka Kansas to do just that. Naming themselves the Assembly for Quality Religious Instruction, they are lobbying for a law to require all church Sunday schools to teach alternatives to the theory of immaculate conception. “There are holes and gaps in the theory of immaculate conception” said geneticist David Suzuki. “We think churches should discuss the shortcomings with their Sunday school classes, and let the students know that alternative theories exist to explain how Mary became impregnated with Jesus.” The group’s theory, called “intelligent insemination,” requires the existence of a fertile man, but they do not go on to say who that man was. The theory holds that the process of reproduction is so complex that it must have happened through normal biological processes, not supernatural ones. Asked if the proposed law is unconstitutional, Suzuki responded “Of course it is, but so is putting religious instruction into public schools. Constitutionality concerns have never stopped our opponents, so it won’t stop us either.” He continued, “Our country was founded on secularism and the principle of open debate and a free exchange of ideas. Clergy have been defrocked in retaliation for daring to suggest that Jesus may not have had a virgin birth. We think that such suppression of ideas is damaging to the public discourse, and that the retaliation, on the part of Christian churches, against their own priests is reprehensible.” Janet Bacon, a Kansas Sunday school student, said “We’re becoming the laughing stock of not only the nation, but the entire world,” Adding “and I kind of like it.”

intelligent insemination

so many jokes come to mind…

must - bite - tongue…

“We’re becoming the laughing stock of not only the nation, but the entire world,” Adding “and I kind of like it.”

so said the future court jester in the kingdom of ID.

Some people argue that the difference is due to the fact that Europe has state religions while the U.S. does not, but I think this is a post hoc argument that doesn’t bear up under scrutiny.

I’d have a tendency to agree with that, especially given what we were just discussing about the UK.

the establishment of state religions was done for different reasons in different places.

now here’s a kicker…

as noted by Stephen, “there was a lot of persecution that happened over here because of the state church combination”

in fact, wasn’t that part and parcel of why many migrated to the US to begin with?

now we kinda face the situation in reverse.

it makes me wonder.…

there have been several studies suggesting a genetic component to certain types of religious behavior.

what if those who migrated to the US to escape religious persecution shared a certain genotype?

would that explain the current preponderance of fundamentalism in this country?

or is that just silly?

Is the fact the the COE is legally encoded the reason why many Muslims feel currently “repressed” in the UK, even if in practical terms they are not?

I would think that it’s more the way some Christians such as the fundies, Bill O’Reilly, John Gibson, etc., feel repressed in the U.S., even though they aren’t. Some people feel that not having everything their way is intolerance. You can also see this in complaints about “special privileges” for gays, and so on.

What I fail to understand is…if/when the Dover trail bans teaching ID. Will you still have to fight, over and over again, the same action in area after area?

Legally, and technically, the ruling will only be binding within that particular judicial district. It would not apply, technically, to any other area in the US.

However, most Federal courts are very sensitive to precedent, and once one district has ruled on any particular matter, the other districts tend to then defer to that judgement and enforce it as if it were their own. No need to keep reinventing the wheel, after all. Hence, a decision in one Federal district usually settles the matter for the whole United States.

But legally, there is nothing about a decision in Dover that prevents, say, Kansas, from re-fighting the same fight in their own district court (with, I’d be willing to predict, the same results).

Once the Supreme Court rules on a matter, however, it becomes legally binding everywhere in US jurisdiction.

Example — the 1982 Maclean decision in Arkansas that outlawed creation “science”, was legally binding only in that federal district. A similar case was then carried out in Louisiana. When it got to the Supreme Court, the court defered to the Maclean decision, and that opinion (creationism was illegal) then became legally binding everywhere in the US.

Assuming that Dover rules against ID, that decision will be binding only within the jurisdiction of that particular district court. Other federal district courts will very likely defer to that precedent, but they don’t legally HAVE to. They can issue a different ruling if they like. Then it would be up to the US Supreme Court to make a decision, and that decision would be binding everywhere in the US.

In practice, the Supreme Court is asked to hear many many times more cases than it actulaly has the resources to, and thus it tends to pick carefully the handful of cases it will reconsider. As a result, it doesn’t often agree to hear issues that have already been uniformly decided by a number of lower courts. It usually agrees to hear only cases where significant disagreement of confusion exists amongst the lower courts.

Since ID has already lost in Cobb County, and seems quite likely to lose in Dover, I think it very unlikely that the Supreme Court will agree to reconsider the ID question — it will, I think, simply reaffirm the decision of the lower courts.

A federal court loss for ID in Kansas (which seems to me an open-and-shut case), would make it even MORE unlikely that the Supreme Court would agree to reconsider the issue.

As an aside, it is interesting to me to see if the Dover judge cites any of the Cobb County ruling in his decision. If he does, it would reinforce BOTH rulings in the eyes of the Supreme Court, and make it much less likely that they would be overturned.

The very best result, in my view, would be if the Judge, citing the precedent of the Supreme Court’s 1987 Aguillard decision, rules that ID is simply creationism under a different name, and creationism has already been ruled illegal by the Supreme Court. That would reduce the IDers to attempting to demonstrate to the Supreme Court that ID is *not* creationism — which is an impossible argument for them to make (their search-and-replace job with “Pandas” kills that whole argument).

so am i getting the correct impression that folks view the encoding of religion into law in the UK to be rather archaic, but maintained as a point of tradition, rather like the monarchy? legal, but not used on point often enough any more so of little everyday importance?

as an aside:

Is the fact the the COE is legally encoded the reason why many Muslims feel currently “repressed” in the UK, even if in practical terms they are not?

Having a national religion has no noticeable effect on daily life. Monarchy however does (to a very small degree). The biggest effect of being a Monarchy is that the Prime Minister gets to have more power, adds a bit of spectacle to national events (a monarch is a far more politically neutral person than a politician) and is probably very good for tourism. *as an aside I just moved to Windsor, the Queens number 1 residence. Also officially I live within a couple of miles of the USA (the monarch gave a field near Runnymead {where the magna carta was signed} to the USA).

I can’t speak for the Muslims in this country, but suspect the majority of those feeling excluded are 2nd generation immigrants and torn between two cultures. Add to that; the majority of immans are imported from Pakistan and usually can’t speak English. I seriously doubt that any feelings of alienation come from having an official religion. There are mosques aplenty over here. I also live quite near to the largest Hindu temple outside India.

Religion is absolutely a personal thing. The state has nothing to say on it except to preach tolerance. A pity not everyone follows that advice really.

or is that just silly?

Only if going off the deep end of sociobiological fantasy is silly. :-)

On Church / State Spinoza proposed a model that offered a logical neutral God and that the Church/s should be under the control of the Head of State. I’m fairly certain that his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus was one of the major inputs to the US Const.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinoza

I can’t find a summary of

Theological-Political Treatise Benedict de Spinoza

But its worth a scan

STJ I have often thought about that property of human nature myself. Is there an evolutionary advantage to the species if the brain is more plastic (I’m thinking Early in life) and receptive to abstract ideas (Think:- horror stories to keep kids in line, learn to hunt, and group think). I’ve noticed that around the adolescent to adult transition those ideas become set in concrete. Then they are then taught by rote to the offspring.

Lenny I can’t become JFK :>

Lenny I can’t become JFK :>

But are you Chou dreaming you are a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming you are Chou?

;>

Only if going off the deep end of sociobiological fantasy is silly. :-)

yeah, it starts to sound a bit like the kind of thought experiment i recently argued against myself in another thread.

otoh, i can formulate plausible selection pressures in my mind, and unlike lutsko’s hypothetical, there are actually precedents in the peer reviewed literature.

unfortunately, the negatives associated with the mere term ‘sociobiology’ have a tendency to quash intellectual discussion on human behavioral evolution.

I do remember a debate we had here a while back about one of the publications suggesting genetic components to religious behavior that got quite heated.

I personally think it is just as worthy a ‘thought experiment’ as lutsko’s was, if not more so, and more relevant.

If anyone wants to brave what undoubtedly will turn into a very heated discussion, I’m game.

just say “go” and i’ll start a post over on ABC tommorrow.

Mu.

Quack.

Sorry – we Buddhists were just having a quick conversation. ;>

nobody interested in starting a discussion about migration patterns, selection pressures, and human sociobiology?

hahahaha STJ Mu is Chinese/Japanese for woof and show up in Zen Koan’s Essentially metaphyical puzzles for sharpening the mind.

Steviepinhead Wrote:

Blast, we’re talking three thick volumes here, with a fourth in press, and a lot of the words are pretty long. You may want to give these a pass.

Not merely long; some of them are so obscure as to be in only the OED, and sometimes only under variants.

Truly the amateur etymologist’s delight.

In comment comment #57879

Michael Adler, quoted by Pierce R. Butler, Wrote:

“There are holes and gaps in the theory of immaculate conception” said geneticist David Suzuki. “We think churches should discuss the shortcomings with their Sunday school classes, and let the students know that alternative theories exist to explain how Mary became impregnated with Jesus.”

Pedant point: The immaculate conception has nothing to do with the conception of Jesus. It is the doctrine that Mary herself was conceived and born free of original sin. Mr Adler is thinking of the doctrines of the incarnation and virgin birth of Christ.

Pedant point: The immaculate conception has nothing to do with the conception of Jesus. It is the doctrine that Mary herself was conceived and born free of original sin

wow. I was under the same misconception for all these years. learn something new every day.

thanks

The immaculate conception has nothing to do with the conception of Jesus. It is the doctrine that Mary herself was conceived and born free of original sin

Wait a minute, I thought the Immaculate Reception involved Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris . … . ?

;>

(Ya know, the ironic thing is that I’m not even a football fan.)

Sir_Toejam Wrote:

as noted by Stephen, “there was a lot of persecution that happened over here because of the state church combination”

in fact, wasn’t that part and parcel of why many migrated to the US to begin with?

To a limited extent, for some groups. Many came to North America not to escape religious tyranny, but to establish religious tyranny. Examples of these include the “pilgrim” Puritans, and some extreme Dutch Reformed folks, both of which were actually fleeing a spirit of openness and toleration in The Netherlands. One group settled in New England, the other in Western Michigan.

I am a direct descendent of a man who did jail time in Massachusetts because his religious beliefs were non-standard as defined by the Colony. In the same time period, it should be noted, he would also have been subject to immediate arrest, trial and imprisonment should he have happened to visit Virginia.

We really don’t need to return to that; although, seeing Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell doing the perp walk would have a certain compensating satisfaction (being a Baptist was a prison offence in Virginia).

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on November 14, 2005 8:14 PM.

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