Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Science and Religion Aren’t Friends?

One of my habits every morning is to read through USA Today among some of the other newspapers that I peruse, and this morning I read the Forum in USA Today, and quite frankly did so before I had breakfast. I think that if I was eating breakfast at the time I would have had indigestion. I read the forum portion which was authored this time by Jerry Coyne, a professor of evolution at the University of Chicago, and I might be dealing with this article all week, there’s a lot to chew on here. The title is “Science and Religion Aren’t Friends.”[i] He says one relies on truth whereas the other relies on hope and obfuscation. Trying to equate the two or giving religion undue authority, does the world no good. I think the article would be better rendered “Naturalism and Religion Aren’t Friends.”


I want to read just the opening of this article, and make a couple of comments. Coyne says,

Religion in America is on the defensive.


Atheist books such as The God Delusion and The End of Faith have, by exposing the dangers of faith and the lack of evidence for the God of Abraham, become best-sellers. Science nibbles at religion from the other end, relentlessly consuming divine explanations and replacing them with material ones. Evolution took a huge bite a while back, and recent work on the brain has shown no evidence for souls, spirits, or any part of our personality or behavior distinct from the lump of jelly in our head. We now know that the universe did not require a creator. Science is even studying the origin of morality. So religious claims retreat into the ever-shrinking gaps not yet filled by science. And, although to be an atheist in America is still to be an outcast, America's fastest-growing brand of belief is non-belief.

But faith will not go gentle. For each book by a "New Atheist," there are many others attacking the "movement" and demonizing atheists as arrogant, theologically ignorant, and strident. The biggest area of religious push-back involves science. Rather than being enemies, or even competitors, the argument goes, science and religion are completely compatible friends, each devoted to finding its own species of truth while yearning for a mutually improving dialogue.

As a scientist and a former believer, I see this as bunk…[ii]
Now the article goes on, but I can’t get into the rest of it right now, I’ll leave that for tomorrow, and perhaps the next day, I want to point out that here again you have a supposed scientist making a dogmatic assertion rather than a defensible argument over and over and over again throughout the article, failing to recognize that science was invented in Christian universities, and it came out of the notion that reason devoid of revelation always ends up in the blind ditch of ignorance.

So Coyne says, “Recent work on the brain has shown no evidence for souls, spirits, or any part of our personality or behavior distinct from the lump of jelly in our head.”[iii] Kind of reminds me of nineteenth century science, in which a fertilized human egg was though of a microscopic blob of gelatin. We now know it’s among the most ordered complex structures in the entire known universe. But as so often happens in science reporting, the interpretation of the empirical facts is confused by Jerry Coyne with the facts themselves. Although he says recent research on the brain and human cognition proves that there is no material or I should say immaterial soul or spirit, he confuses his interpretation of the facts with the facts themselves. In truth, the recent work in brain research is quite compatible with anthropological dualism or body/soul dualism—it’s the idea that we have a soul or a mind distinct from the brain.

I’m not sure that Jerry Coyne has really thought out the implications of his paradigm from the perspective of logic or legal ramifications or even libertarian freedom. Because, from the perspective of logic we can demonstrate that the mind is not identical to the brain. We can do that by proving that the mind and brain have different properties. The subjective texture of our conscious mental experiences, like the awareness of color, is different from anything that is simply physical. If the world were only made up of matter the subjective aspects of consciousness simply would not exists. I think if Jerry Coyne would reflect for just a moment he would be convinced that the experience of color involves more than a mere wavelength of light.

From a legal perspective, if human beings were merely material they couldn’t be held accountable this year for a crime committed last year, simply because physical identity changes over time. So from a purely material perspective the self who did the crime in the past is literally not the same self who in the present is going to be punished. Legally and intuitively, of course, we recognize a sameness of soul that establishes personal identity over time.

If we were merely material beings, as Jerry Coyne supposes, then libertarian freedom or freedom of the will simply does not exists. Instead, we would be fatalistically relegated into a world in which everything is determined by mechanistic material processes. If I’m merely material, my choices are merely a function of genetic makeup or brain chemistry.

The implications of this worldview chronicled in the Forum in USA Today are profound. In a worldview that embraces fatalistic determinism, I can’t be held morally accountable for my actions. Why? Because reward and punishment make sense only if we have freedom of the will, and in a solely material world, reason itself is reduced to the status, well of conditioned reflexes. Even the very concept of love would be rendered meaningless.

I’ll tell you, I’ve said this many times right here on the Bible Answer Man broadcast, ideas have consequences. When Coyne says that “science is even studying the origin of morality,” he ought to think twice about what he’s talking about. There are all kinds of people buying into his worldview. Everything is a function of blind mechanistic material processes. What then grounds a moral position? There are people, like Ted Bundy, who confess to over thirty murders, who had a conversation with his victim, a girl that he was about ready to murder and rape, and he wants to take this idea, that idea that comes out of nothing producing everything—which is absurd notion—to its logical conclusion. Here’s what Bundy said—again he’s taking about a victim, in fact he’s specifically addressing a victim, think about your daughter, about to be raped and murdered—this is what Ted Bundy said, “I learned that all moral judgments…” in other words he was brought up the school of evolution. He learned that,

All moral judgments are value judgments, that all value judgments are subjective, and that none can be proved to be either right or wrong…I discovered that to become truly free, truly unfettered, I had to become truly uninhibited. And I quickly discovered that the greatest obstacle to my freedom, the greatest block and limitation to it, consists in the insupportable value judgment that I was bound to respect the rights of others…

Now as I’m recapitulating the words of Ted Bundy, recognize how eloquent they are, how precise they are, how erudite they are. He’s taking something that he’s learned, he’s no dummy, and he’s drawing it to its logical conclusion. He goes on to say,

I asked myself, who were these others? Other human beings, with human rights? Why is it more wrong to kill a human animal than any other animal, a pig or a sheep or a steer? Is your life more to you—

He says to this girl that he’s about ready to rape,

—than a hog's life to a hog? Why should I be willing to sacrifice my pleasure more for the one than for the other? Surely, you would not, in this age of scientific enlightenment, declare that God or nature has marked some pleasures as moral or good and others as immoral or bad? In any case, let me assure you, my dear young lady, that there is absolutely no comparison between the pleasure I might take in eating ham and the pleasure I anticipate in raping and murdering you. That is the honest conclusion to which my education has led me, after the most conscientious examination of my spontaneous and uninhibited self.

So on what moral grounds can someone like Jerry Coyne provide a response to Ted Bundy? In a materialistic world, how can you say that it was ok to speak out against slavery in Great Britain in the seventeenth century, after all it was completely culturally acceptable? My point here is simply to say ideas have consequences and the horrendous consequences of what people are buying into glibly when they read USA Today like this morning’s “Science and Religion Aren’t Friends,” are dramatic for how we view our world, but more than that what we do in our world. Jerry Coyne the evolutionist is simply wrong; in fact dead wrong; devastatingly wrong.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[i] Jerry Coyne, “Science and Religion Aren’t Friends,” USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2010-10-11-column11_ST_N.htm

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

18 comments:

OBIT2010 said...

Your right Hank! Science points to God, not away from Him!

Beagle said...

Hank, Hank, Hank. You make indefensible arguments over and over and over again literally every time you open your mouth or put pen to paper. ("Science...came out of the notion that reason devoid of revelation always ends up in the blind ditch of ignorance"...and "If the world were only made up of matter the subjective aspects of consciousness simply would not exists.") All based solely on your arrogant stance that it's your opinion and you couldn't possibly be wrong. Jerry Coyne couldn't possibly have put any thought into the implications of his paradigm from the perspective of logic or legal ramifications or even libertarian freedom. Jerry Coyne couldn't possibly have reflected long enough on his theory...because he didn't come to the conclusions you came to. You dare to call atheists "glib"? YOU call US glib? The irony is overwhelming! You should keep in mind (at all times) that you, too, were once an unbeliever and you give the impression that you think just because you did an about face the rest of the population should as well. Whatever side of the argument Hank Hannegraaff is on must be the "right" side. Anyone with an opinion that doesn't jibe with yours is dangerous (you seriously compare me with Ted Bundy?). Anyone who doesn't believe in God couldn't possibly have a moral compass. Anyone who isn't afraid of the threat of hell couldn't possibly have a reason to be "good". I suppose when you finally wake up one day and come to your senses and realize there is no God that will be THE TRUTH. Period. End of discussion. Because Hank says so and you're so much more enlightened than everyone else. That way of thinking is what is dangerous. Philosophers have been having this same discussion for thousands of years and you think your assertions here put the argument to rest? Phooey!

Boris said...

All of Hank’s tirades against science, scientists and in particular the facts of evolution prove just how anti-science Christianity and fundamentalist Christians really are. There isn’t a devout Christian alive who doesn’t hate and fear the advance of science. This is certainly nothing new.

“The priests of the different religious sects ... dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight, and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subdivision of the duperies on which they live.”
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Correa de Serra, April 11, 1820, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

Beagle said...

Oh, and by the way, what you're saying is that you did not have a moral compass when you were an unbeliever, right? So, how many people did you rape and kill before you got "saved"?

Boris said...

One of Michael Behe's favorite alleged examples of "irreducible complexity" is the immune system. Let Judge Jones himself take up the story:

"In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not "good enough."

Behe, under cross-examination, by Eric Rothschild, chief counsel for the plaintiffs, was forced to admit that he hadn't read most of those fifty-eight peer-reviewed papers. Hardly surprising, for immunology is hard work. Less forgiving is that Behe did dismissed such research as "unfruitful." It certainly is unfruitful if your aim is to make propaganda among gullible laypeople and politicians, rather than to discover important truths about the real world. After listening to Behe, Rothschild eloquently summed up what every honest person in that courtroom must have felt:

"Thankfully, there are scientists who do search for answers to the question of the origin of the immune system... It's our defense against debilitating and fatal diseases. The scientists who wrote those books and articles toil in obscurity, without book royalties or speaking engagements. Their efforts help us combat and cure serious medical conditions. By contrast, Professor Behe and the entire intelligent design movement are doing nothing to advance scientific or medical knowledge and are telling future generations of scientists, don't bother.

As the American geneticist Jerry Coyne put it in his review of Behe's book: "If the history of science shows us anything, it is that we get nowhere by labeling our ignorance God."

Anonymous said...

Hank,

Here is a thought. Get an educated atheist and discuss the issue in your show. You are attacking a strawman throughout this article and in your radio program. It is easy to talk to the gullible when you build the case for the other side and break it down yourself.

Best,
Riyaz

Travis Sheehan said...

Sounds like more Verificationism-as-science prophets have reared their heads.

Anonymous said...

We need to get one thing straight, that the atheists don't seem to understand. Science is the study of nature. Scientific investigation has produced evidence that this universe (nature- this space-time continuum) began 16.5 billion years ago from a singularity of infinately small volume (the Big Bang). Whatever produced this event is outside of nature, and by definition supernatural.
Science cannot study what is outside of nature. Everyone is free to speculate and use their imagination as to how this may have occurred. You can use scientific nomenclature to describe your fantasy. You can find scientists who will agree with your hypothesis. But it will remain science fiction unless you can get outside this space-time continuum to study it. And that only happens on "Star Trek".

Boris said...

First you need to prove that whatever caused the Big Bang actually WAS outside of nature and not simply vacuum fluctuation or some other natural occurrence. Also if science discovers there is something outside of nature it can and will study it. Scientists have studied supernatural claims such as in prayer studies and refuted them.

Paul Sun said...

Hi Hank, you mentioned that &#8220 The subjective texture of our conscious mental experiences, like the awareness of color, is different from anything that is simply physical &#8221.

I need more explanation on this. What do you mean by awareness of color and subjective texture of our conscious mental experiences ?

Anonymous said...

You make a point that I've always found to be disturbing when it comes to the material world view as well as I've ever seen or heard it. At least, an argument that in my mind totally upsets the 'Religion is wrong because it is bad' line --- how can something be bad if there is no guiding moral law?

But you also raise another point that I have found much more disturbing. I've always felt that Christianity "should" be true, that all its moral teachings make sense, and are validated most in my life because the many of the ones that I didn't understand have come home hard. But it is hard to reconcile how the way spirituality and Christianity in particular may 'feel' so right does not change the fact that I've never, ever understood how the soul could exist separately from the brain. It just doesn't compute and all that stuff goes out the window.

And then I'm left with, Jerry Cohn doesn't have a response to Ted Bundy. But maybe I don't, either.

XO said...

You are all kidding yourselves. 'Most' Science is conducted in the same spirit of those building the tower Babel. Man, making a name for himself, building an object that reached into the skies. Much of Science (not all) is a continuance of this agenda. Eagerly investing huge efforts and millions into the remote idea of finding origins and life on other planets. This is merely human effort joining hands in vain rebellious efforts. Rather than a tower, we now build multi-million $ telescopes an, satellites, rovers and space vehicles. Science conducted with presupposing that God (one that holds man accountable) does not exist. Humans have not changed, even after millennia.

XO said...

12/24/10

You are all kidding yourselves. 'Most' Science is conducted in the same spirit of those building the tower Babel. Man, making a name for himself, building an object that reached into the skies. Much of Science (not all) is a continuance of this agenda. Eagerly investing huge efforts and millions into the remote idea of finding origins and life on other planets. This is merely human effort joining hands in vain rebellious efforts. Rather than a tower, we now build multi-million $ telescopes, satellites, rovers and space vehicles. Science conducted with presupposing that God (one that holds man accountable) does not exist. Humans have not changed, even after millennia.

Bennie said...

Hank,

Here is a comment that by brother recently posted on his facebook page. Can you please elaborate more on this for me. I can be reached at usaharris@gmail.com . Please see comment below.

Notice...the language the Messiah spoke and Paul (Shaul) heard was in the Set Apart Tongue, the Hebrew Language. The Messiah spoke His Name in Hebrew NOT Greek. The Name Yahushua tells us who saves: Yah Saves. (Psalm 68:4)
There is NO letter... "J" in the Hebrew, Arabic, Greek and Latin language! The Name above all Names could Not begin with the letter "J" as this letter did not exist some 2,000 years ago. The letter "J" is only 500 years old.
Yohannan John 5:43, "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive."

Anonymous said...

As the American geneticist Jerry Coyne put it in his review of Behe's book: "If the history of science shows us anything, it is that we get nowhere by labeling our ignorance God."

God is not the gap between what we know and don't know. God doesn't change based on our understanding of the world around us. Only an advocate of atheism would even think this way.

Anonymous said...

"Oh, and by the way, what you're saying is that you did not have a moral compass when you were an unbeliever, right? So, how many people did you rape and kill before you got "saved"?"

I'd guess none. I'd bet he didn't rape and kill people for the same reason that I and many other atheists do not - because we have no desire to. Do not kid yourself. You do not refrain from raping and killing because you are a "better" person than someone, as that suggests that there is some way a person "should" act, which is nonsense.

I personally do not like what Ted Bundy did, but I admire that he was at least intellectually honest, and I would never delude myself to believe I am a "better person" than Ted Bundy just because we have different preferences.

Boris said...

You are all kidding yourselves. 'Most' Science is conducted in the same spirit of those building the tower Babel.

Response: Science tells us the Babel story is a myth. But then so does common sense, something always in short supply on Christian blogs.

XO said...

How so Boris? Enlighten us ignorants.