Mr. Belden's response was more thoughtful and reasonable than I would
have expected from the typical scientific association. I don't see why
there is any point in arguing with him. If this is how the Encyclopedia
of Associations defines ASA (it appears to be correct) then indeed he sees
ASA as primarily a religious organization. It has a statement of faith
that not only excludes non-Christians, but perhaps even some Christians.
I think that it might be possible to create an organization whose
primary purpose is EDUCATION, that doesn't have a statement of faith,
but a statement of principles, with a focus on science/engineering/
religion/philosophy/metaphysics or what have you. ASA certainly has
some educational functions, and its members include many professors,
but since it has a sectarian statement of faith it is primarily religious.
Since, to the secular world, all religions have to be treated equally,
acceptance of ASA also opens the flood gates to all other sects, cults
and other belief systems. I think the policy statements of AAAS,
AGU and other such associations is that they don't want to give any
official recognition to any religious group, but they are willing to
cooperate with religious groups to foster their own goals. For instance,
AAAS has a project to offer science education to minority children
that is organized through inner-city black churches. This is a practical
and convenient venue, based on existing social structures. I'm sure
it means nothing in terms of support of religion per se by AAAS.
I think there are many other ways in which ASA can serve society, for
instance by creating supplementary courses for home-schooled children,
by providing academic research and support to those involved in missions
and social causes, by forming teams to lobby the government, by scientific
support of groups like the NAE, by developing more and better books,
tapes, and videos, by increasing internet communications, even by
forming ad hoc and informal special interest groups for all kinds of
professions. They don't have to have official standing; it is a free
country and all we have to do is advertise, publicize, set up booths
at exhibitions, etc. I'm sure Don Munro could add many more things to
I was discouraged by the recent demise of the Cult Awareness
Network, which, even though a non-profit, was sued into bankruptcy by an
aggressive religious group that shall remain unnamed. Does anyone in
the Evangelical community care enough to develop a replacement or
alternative for this network's function?
There are all kinds of social needs in which education, theology, and
science play a role. My main complaint about Evangelical scholars is their
"ivory tower" or "cloister" mentality. I suspect that one of the
attractions of academic life must be its sheltering quality.
In other words, in light of ASA's definition, I think some of your
enthusiasm should be turned inward, toward educating the CHURCH on what
it should know about science, and what it should do in society. There
is plenty of work to be done there.
Paul Arveson, Research Physicist
Code 724, NSWC, Bethesda, MD 20817-5700
(301) 227-3831 (W) (301) 227-1914 (FAX) (301) 816-9459 (H)