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Science and Religion Lecture

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Religion and Science

Philosophy of Religion, Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, California

August 4th 2004 Dr. Peter Krey

We spoke about the three story universe in Genesis in order to make the point that the science of the ninth century BCE should be distinguished from the theology presented in the account. (Much like religion and culture need to be distinguished in order to save the integrity of religion.) A real attempt was made to demythologize the creation story and only the one God, Jahweh or Elohim, is introduced, while Tiamat, Apsu, Ea, Marduk, and all other others of the Acadian or Babylonian pantheon are left out. Only a slight allusion remains to Tiamat in the Hebrew name for chaos, TOHU va BOHU. But the ancients did not have the table of elements, but merely four: earth, wind, water, and fire. Copernicus was two and a half millennia in the future. A distinction has to be made between the theology and the science of that day so that we can relate modern day science to the same theology, viz., that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and human beings, male and female, in God’s own image.

And the earth was formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” And God saw that the light was good and separated the light from the darkness. (Gen. 1:2-4)

The light mentioned in the Genesis account refers to divine light, i.e., intelligence, because it precedes that of the sun, moon, and stars. The separation could well be clear thought versus the darkness of contradiction and ignorance.

The best science of that day (Thales, 580 BCE) felt that all life came from the water and the world was filled with gods. The Genesis account agrees only with the first half of the first philosopher’s teaching.

Now the light of a divine science is implied in this account, but the writers of the scriptures cannot possibly know it. Nor can we possibly know it, in the advanced stage of science that we are in. We would be quite arrogant to feel that we have understood an intelligence embedded in the nature of the genetic code, for example. It took many high powered computers working many years to decipher the genome and be able to read the genetic code of the RNA and DNA, which resembles the intelligent constitution of living organisms. Who wrote that constitution? what do you make of the Anthropic Argument of our text on page 218? Does chance have a chance against providence? (Science has advanced humanity into a positive space that has helped and saved millions of lives. That value of science cannot be overstated.)

But the miracles of modern science have given it an exorbitant amount of authority in the world today. Writing, which translated the oral word into a visual medium, the printing press, which has spread the light of knowledge throughout the world, electricity, which has made the night into the day, and filled our age with far more light than the ancient dark world ever knew. Then science produced the miracles of the telegraph, telephone, cars, airplanes, rockets, and space satellites, radio, phonograph, television, computers, etc. There is far more going on now in cybernetics than we can even name.

These modern miracles of science have, however, dimmed slightly in their significance, because like any other human endeavor, not just religion, science suffers from the inherent ambiguity Tillich mentions. Technology the handmaiden of theoretical science, left culture and the ethical competence of individuals as well as our societies behind. The culture gap is very dangerous, because science makes possible doing many things that we are hardly ready to take responsibility for. The A-bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a case in point. Einstein said, “The unleashed power of the atom, has changed everything save our mode of thinking and thus we drift to unparalleled catastrophe.” Not only the problem of the collusion of the scientific enterprise with the military industrial complex, but genetic modification and matters like human cloning have brought science into negative space. The incredible promise that science would bring about constant progress for a utopia has not materialized. In fact science cannot change human nature and has often brought a measure of hell along side a taste of heaven.

And the theoretical science that has provided technological change has brought an externalization of life that makes relationships and community even more difficult than before. Science also represents a kind of reductionism, whereby we seem to diminish culturally and ethically, because science does not understand the human condition and what gives meaning to human life. In every technological advance there is also a loss, which we do not yet know how to measure. The scientific method also extorts the secrets of nature in a way that violates nature at the same time, not out of a love of nature, but out of a Promethean attempt to control it. Instead of a whole and loving relationship with nature, scientists in line with industrialist and militarists often rape, rifle, and violate nature for very utilitarian motives.

This negative space is something scientists themselves have become dimly conscious about, and ecological, environmental movements have begun, with concerned scientists also standing up and realizing that they too have political responsibilities as citizens. 90 percent of all scientific research, at one point, was funded by the “Defense Department.” Scientists have begun to ask themselves, “What is wrong with this picture?” In countries like the former Soviet Union, the scientists became the dissidents who resisted the injustice of that whole system. And scientists also affirm the Humanities and no longer undermine them, although society still feels that science has much more to offer than the Humanities do, for example.

Lets quickly look at the scientific method in the Induction study and then Durkheim’s critique of evolution in terms of its selling humanity short from an ethical and religious stand-point, because it does not include the objective, anthropological study of ethics and religion in evolutionary theory.

From the Peterson Reader:

1. Stephan Jay Gould, page 499. NOMA: Non-Overlapping MagisteriA of Religion and Science

2. Richard Dawkins, page 509. Religion conflicts with evolutionary theory.

3. Nancy Murphy, page 513. Empiricist accounts of knowledge that critiqued theology are now themselves becoming critiqued. Paradigms, models, and communal nature of knowledge as more adequate descriptions of scientific knowledge.

4. The problem of evil: Augustine, page 249. Evil as the absence of good.

5. David Hume, page 255.

Our reader, i.e., Michael Peterson, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach, and

David Basinger, editors, Philosophy of Religion, Second Edition, (Oxford University Press, 2001).


Written by peterkrey

August 4, 2008 at 6:33 pm

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