Fw: [CLIPPINGS] The Guardian (London): Science in search of God; Face To Faith

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Date: Mon Aug 27 2001 - 15:39:57 EDT

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    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Stacey Ake" <ake@METANEXUS.NET>
    Sent: Monday, August 27, 2001 4:39 PM
    Subject: [CLIPPINGS] The Guardian (London): Science in search of God; Face
    To Faith

    > The Guardian (London) August 25, 2001
    > Copyright 2001 Guardian Newspapers Limited
    > The Guardian (London)
    > August 25, 2001
    > SECTION: Guardian Leader Pages, Pg. 24
    > LENGTH: 950 words
    > HEADLINE: Science in search of God;
    > Face To Faith
    > BYLINE: Denis Alexander
    > BODY:
    > When I worked at the American University Hospital, in West Beirut, during
    > the Lebanese civil war, shells often whizzed over our heads. Minutes
    > a salvo would be returned in the opposite direction, and the first
    > casualties would be rushed into emergency. We usually had no idea why the
    > shelling had started, nor why it stopped.
    > Being a Christian in the scientific community is somewhat analogous. Now
    > again, some Texan creationist lobby will make a fresh attempt to ban the
    > teaching of evolution in schools. Amid scientific howls of protest,
    > Professor X writes another book claiming that science supports an
    > worldview. As the shells are lobbed between the extremist camps, the
    > impression that science and religion are at loggerheads is reinforced.
    > Meanwhile, the silent majority - those many scientists who hold to
    > faith - look on in wonder. Generally, we are simply too busy to engage in
    > such debates. In my case, however, I got so fed up with the antics of the
    > extremists that I ended up writing a book - Rebuilding The Matrix: Science
    > And Faith In The 21st Century (published this weekend).
    > The fact of the matter is that when it comes to religious faith,
    > communities reflect the societies in which they are embedded - as for
    > a century, 40% of American scientists believe in a personal God who
    > prayer. The level of belief is highest among practitioners of the hard
    > sciences, such as physics and geology, lower for the soft sciences, such
    > anthropology. The UK has organisations such as Christians in Science, and
    > church attendance among science students is proportionally much higher
    > for the arts. There appears to be a selection pressure operating here:
    > people interested in science are more likely to become Christians, and/or
    > Christians are more likely to study science than the arts.
    > Those who have studied the history and philosophy of science will not find
    > this surprising. Modern science was incubated in a theological womb,
    > emerging in a form recognisable by today's scientists during the 16th and
    > 17th centuries, an era when new ideas failed to flourish unless
    > theologically validated. Many founders of today's scientific disciplines -
    > Kepler, Galileo, Boyle, Ray, Newton, Priestley, Maxwell and Faraday - drew
    > attention to fruitful interactions between their science and their faith.
    > The idea that science and religion were historically always at
    loggerheads -
    > the so-called conflict thesis - became popular during the late 19th
    > but is no longer considered a valid, overarching model for the history of
    > science-faith interactions.
    > Contemporary affinities between science and faith no doubt also arise from
    > the his torical framework of the three great monotheistic religions,
    > Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Unlike their colleagues in the
    > scientists remain firmly wedded to the idea that some things are right,
    > whereas others are wrong. No scientist would sweat long hours in the
    > laboratory for low pay unless they believed that their hard-earned results
    > reflected a reality that was built into the properties of matter. The
    > reality remains the same, irrespective of the language or cultural milieu
    > which it is described.
    > Likewise, the monotheistic religions make truth-claims about history and
    > human nature that can be assessed by a review of the evidence and rational
    > discourse. In talking about scientific data one moment, and the evidence
    > Christian faith the next, there is no need to change one's mind-set.
    > None of these explanations for the contemporary affinities between science
    > and faith should be taken as justifying the use of science in arguments
    > or against, religious belief. Attempts have often been made to utilise the
    > prestige of scientific theories to prop up particular personal ideologies.
    > Darwinian evolution has been used to justify capitalism, communism,
    > and a number of other isms'. This is an abuse of science; evolution is an
    > excellent theory to explain the origins of biological diversity, but it
    > little or no religious significance - it can be placed equally well within
    > an atheistic or theistic context.
    > The big theories of science - like evolution and Big Bang cosmology - tend
    > to become encrusted with all kinds of religious and scientific barnacles.
    > But these should be scraped off to let the theories do what they are good
    > doing - and no more. For the Christian, God can bring about his intentions
    > any way he chooses, and all that scientists can do is try to describe how
    > did it.
    > For all its explanatory powers, science is very limited in the kind of
    > questions that it can address well: how things work, problems amenable to
    > quantification, and deriving general laws about the properties of matter.
    > But many types of human knowledge do not make their way into scientific
    > journals - such as aesthetics, ethics, history, political theory and
    > ultimate questions ( Is there a God?', Does life have any meaning?').
    > Scientists are as interested in them as anyone else. But they do not
    > comprise part of their science.
    > Science continually throws up questions it is unable to answer: ethical
    > questions, questions about the application of science, questions about
    > identity. Christian theism provides a matrix which affirms the validity of
    > scientific knowledge, while undergirding human values at a time when
    > scientific discoveries for many people may appear threatening and
    > dehumanising.
    > Dr Denis Alexander is chairman of the molecular immunology programme at
    > Babraham Institute, and a fellow of St Edmund's College, Cambridge. He
    > the journal Science and Christian Belief
    > =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
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