From: Dr. Blake Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu Sep 18 2003 - 23:56:32 EDT
In writing, I made an overstatement to simplify what I
was trying to get across. Hopefully not to belabor it
much basically there are some aspects of science that
overlap with what religions talk about. First, I was
referring mainly to scientism. When properly
understood, science has a particular, limited sphere
Second, the first thing that really has to be
discerned is whether the religion is making scientific
claims or in the absence of anything better people are
using religious understandings to try to explain
things about the world.
For example, Genesis is discussed by lots of atheists
and many christians as if it were meant to be a
scientific, historical description of creation. This,
of course, is problematic from a couple respects.
First, it is not treated in that literal sense in
Judaism and its treatment in christian theology varies
considerably. Second, in terms of using it to attack
christianity, it simply fails because christianity's
crux is, of course, Jesus and the cross, not Genesis.
The Hebrew scriptures are informative, for among other
reasons, they are the scriptures that Jesus and His
followers were familiar with. But, I would agree with
George that Genesis, indeed all of the Bible, must be
read in light of that which is uniquely Christian --
Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. A scientific critique
of Genesis, both misses the point that it is not
uniformly understood by christians (or Jews) to be a
scientific description and for christians, Genesis is
important only in relation to Jesus. So, while
science can tell us that Genesis could not be read as
a literal scientific account, most christian theology
is not predicated on it being a literal scientific
When dealing with the gospel witness to Jesus,
science, in terms of the hard sciences, has little to
say. Science, for example, cannot rule out the
miraculous -- which is often poorly defined in the
question of miracles since christian scriptures
describe some natural phenomena as miracles in the
context of their occurrence. Miracles do not
necessarily presuppose supernaturalism, but science
likewise cannot rule out supernaturalism.
To the extent that science authors try to do so, like
Sagan's Demon Haunted World, again, they largely miss
the point by going for folk religion rather than
dealing more broadly with the philosophical and
metaphysical questions that underpin a proper
understanding of the questions, etc.
Likewise, religious practice and its effect on
individuals is only partially and indirectly subject
to scientific investigation. Its results are often
interesting such as the fair amount of psychological
work that has been done on religious belief and
behavior. These data, like so many, are of course
open to all sorts of interpretations depending on
presuppositions. Science does not provide, in most
cases (if any), a basis for determining which
presupposition is the correct since those again are
beyond the realm of science, not being subject to
empirical testing, etc.
For brevity, I won't get into other areas, but my
overarching point here is that I think there is
general confusion on what a scientific worldview means
and what christianity's worldview is and how the two
do not conflict with one another and science cannot be
the arbiter, without other presuppositions that aren't
"scientific", about most aspects of religion.
BTW, to clarify the arational point, it doesn't even
have to be an emotive or an affective disposition.
There just isn't a "rational" way to make some choices
in the sense of their being a way to measure or
compare them on a particular scale. For example, if
you're in occupied France in 1943, is there a
"rational" way to choose between staying at home so
one can care for an 80 year old infirmed grandmother
or joining the French resistance to fight the Nazi
occupation. In the sense of "rationalistic" no. To
choose one over the other is to make a choice between
particular competing values and while that is rational
in being reasoned, it is not rational in the way that
most people who try to use the term (why do so many
atheist organizations have rational or reason in their
name?) in a particular sense. But then again, neither
is most of their behavior either. Fundamentally,
whether it is "rational" to believe is a non-question.
There is certainly reasoned belief, but to believe in
christianity, for example, is also a choice to believe
in a particular set of values that, as the New
Testament and experience makes abundantly clear, are
often at odds with prevalent cultural values of
various times and places.
--- Steve Petermann <email@example.com> wrote:
> I am all for people thinking critically
> about what science means and does and what it
> It is only in bad theology or ignorance of theology
> that a scientific worldview has much of anything to
> say about religion.
> That sounds just as prejudicial as a scientism.
> Surely science has
> something to tell us about how the cosmos unfolds.
> When religion does the
> same thing then there can either be a conflict or
> Steve Petermann
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