Two replies in one

John W. Burgeson (
Thu, 5 Feb 1998 09:25:12 -0700

This post is in reply to both George and Robert:

Thank you both for your observations.

George wrote:

Me> This is a discussion group. Our purpose is to probe the questions,
ME> provide answers. We are Presbyterians. We do not belong to a
ME> challenged" church.

GEORGE "I'm curious about what this means - especially since the
is now in fellowship with the ELCA. I would take "not doctrinally
challenged" to mean that there are doctrinal standards which provide
answers to at least some questions."

ME again: It was a "throwaway line, George. I was trying to be "cute"
and, in retrospect (and thankfully before the class) I'm taking it out.
ME> Science is descriptive, not prescriptive. Many an elegant theory has
ME> torpedoed by ugly facts.

GEORGE: Yeah, but ... . Science is not "prescriptive" in the sense that
it can absolutely rule out phenomena or insist that others must occur.
But in practice, perpetual motion machines of the 1st kind are
forbidden: If someone claims to have one scientists will generally say
"You must have made a mistake." & theoretical science has to _try_ to
be "prescriptive" by predicting new phenomena - and not abandoning the
theory at the first sign of trouble. Observations & experiments - as
well as theories - are sometimes in error."

ME again: No quarrel here, George. The key phrase above is, of course,
"in practice." I don't expect to ever see a PMM. The conservation law
seems as well founded as any in physics. But it is still a descriptive
law; it tells what we have observed.
GEORGE: More germane to such a course - It seems to be that besides
discussing what science is & how it operates, it might be good to spend
some time on where we get our religious & ethical ideas. The question
of natural knowledge &/or revelation ("special revelation" if you
prefer) comes in here in connection with, e.g., homosexuality. Does the
fact that homosexual orientation occurs in human beings & the experience
of homosexual persons indicate that homosexuality OK (as is often
argued), or are these things "overruled" in the ethical sphere by what
the Bible says (assuming that we've gotten a clear interpretation of
relevant biblical material)? "

ME again: My hope is to cover some of the above (not the homosexuality
part) in the first session. It is apparent there is far too little time
for all the relevant material. My other hope is that there will be enough
interest to schedule a follow up course later on.

On the homosexuality issue, in particular, we will be covering it in the
second class session. I see it as a "data-poor, speculation-rich" topic,
myself, particularly when it comes to the "scientific evidence." So I'm
only going to (I think) conduct a discussion around the Scripture
references, using Schmidt and Helmaniak, with perhaps passing reference
to the skimpy (IMHO) scientific data. The subject is so emotion-laden
that I really am a little shy of it.

Then Robert Wauchope says:

... your outline seems to dismally one-dimensional in its' description
of science. I hope you have a working scientist or two in your class."

ME > I'm a "non-working physicist," (long retired), and I suspect we will
have a
physician or two. I have no ambition to cover "what science is" in 10
minutes or so! Only to give a flavor of how I view it, hopefully with
class members adding their perspectives.

ROBERT goes on:

"Science is so much more than a superficial game game played by
materialists. It's also exciting, obsessive, competitive, sometimes
dreadfully monotonous, a product of millions of hours of hard thinking
hard work, powerful, liberating, conservative in community and radical in
the individual. If you are fortunate enough to be in a position to do
and (occasionally) do it well, it is a great privilege. Elitist, sure."

ME: No disagreement, except with your last sentence, perhaps.
Robert concludes:

"I am charmed by the image of you sitting in a middle-class church in
America--literally steeped and surrounded by the products and privileges
of the most advanced, technologically, and privileged, economically,
culture in the world at present (and the one follows from the other) and
discussing it al as if it were some pathological aberration."

ME: Great heavens! I sincerely HOPE I do not do the latter!

Thanks again, guys.


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