Re: [asa] Number of biologists who are TE

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Tue Sep 19 2006 - 19:22:29 EDT

Hello Michael,
  Do you also agree with Ted's comment to the effect that people in the humanities are leading the way in science and religion discourse?
  Just this evening I spoke with a pentecostal Brit who cautioned that humanism is growing in the U.K.. When I inquired about what this meant, it resulted in a claim of anthropocentrism, putting 'self' at the centre of existence. Humanism, of course, takes many forms, as the example of 'humanitarian aid' would suggest - not all are necessarily negative or anti-Christian.
  Though I accept a geologist's use of evolutionary theory in their particular field, I don't take a natural scientific viewpoint towards the evolution of humanity or human-made things as carrying much weight. In this sense, I wonder if giving human-social scientists credit for contributing to science-philosophy-religion dialogue in a constructive way could actually help communication-wise?
  G. Arago

Michael Roberts <> wrote:
  I parallel Ted in many ways and totally agree with the basic thrust of his
argument. I got into the history of science through an encounter with YEC at
L'Abri in the 70s and realised then that an understanding of the history of
science especially geology was essential to see where YEC is wrong. I later
realised the problems caused by the conflict thesis which Dawkins and Silver
wish to proclaim. It is prevalent on Panda's Thumb as well.

Last week I gave a talk on Adam Sedgwick the evangelical geologist
1785-1874 first to a local history group and then to a Mothers Union meeting
(about 15 women aged 57 to 93). In both the opposition of science and
religion came out and so I could deal with it. An attraction of YEC is that
it apparently cuts this particular Gordian knot and stops "science" from
challenging their (ill-informed) faith.

Finally there is no excuse fro a Silver to write such unsubstantiated ideas,
nor for anyone else.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ted Davis"
Cc: ;
Sent: Tuesday, September 19, 2006 4:19 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Number of biologists who are TE

> Jack's thoughtful post merits a reply--I hope also a thoughtful one, but a
> reply in any event.
> Absolutely right, Jack, historians have changed our understanding of
> Newton
> over the years--and sometimes at great resistance from the scientific
> establishment. For a prime example of this, see Richard Popkins' tale
> about
> wholly unsuccessful efforts a quarter century ago to get NSF or NEH
> funding
> for a scholary edition of Newton's theological and alchemical papers. It
> was to be edited by Popkin (a world class historian of ideas), the late
> Betty Jo Dobbs (the leading historian of Newton's alchemy at the time),
> and
> the late Richard S Westfall (my former thesis adviser and the leading
> Newton
> scholar of the past century). I quote from his account, in "Newton and
> Newtonianism: New Studies," ed. James Force and Sarah Hutton (2004), p.
> 20:
> "We were convinced that the people who had not wanted anything to do with
> Newton's religious and alchemical opinions and wanted to preserve his
> position as a pure scientist, were behind this [refusal to fund the
> project]. Westfall and Dobbs had had many run-ins with the scientific
> establishment in England and America. I went to Washington to try and
> find
> out what happened and to reinstitute applications for funding. I went to
> see the director of historical work at the NSF. He calmly indicated that
> he
> had told the NEH not to fund the project. As I tried to draw him out as
> to
> why he was so adamant, and why he did not want this material of Newton's
> to
> be available to scholars, he told me he would be willing to fund making a
> mircofilm of all of Newton's manuscripts and placing the microfilm at the
> University of Northern Alaska, where any scholar could look at them, if he
> or she wished."
> Popkin is hardly a follower of the Edinburgh strong programme or some
> other
> type of social constructivism. Westfall was a hardcore defender of
> scientific rationality--he actually believed (wrongly) that Newton's
> theology did not influence his science, and (wrongly) that Newton had been
> a
> sceptical deist rather than a bible-believing non-trinitarian Christian
> (if
> that's not an empty set). They weren't the usual suspects when it comes
> to
> promoting "science wars."
> Yet the very attitude that sank this Newton project, it seems to me,
> underlies Prof Silver's comments--not only his comments about Newton,
> whose
> immense historical importance gives greater signficance to Silver's
> erroneous point than it otherwise would carry, but also his larger point
> about science and religion today. Genuine scientists, he is saying, just
> do
> not allow their religious beliefs to influence their work. Period. And
> Newton is a nice case in point, he wrongly affirms for the world.
> Let me respond also Jack's point here:
> One of the major changes in ASA (and Science and Religion in particular)
> is that most scientists have been forced out of the
> discussion over the years as philosophers, theologians, sociologists and
> historians have taken over - the ones with degrees in
> a science and one of the humanities - who no longer do science. This
> has been good because the topic covers all of
> culture. Yet, we may be turning off science people because they may
> not understand the vocabulary or are not really
> interested in what they see being discussed in the /PSCF/. Perhaps this
> is a reason that the ASA has seen a declining membership.
> Ted responds:
> Fascinating point, and it might be partly right. Rightly or wrongly, my
> own view (no surprise) for more than 30 years (going back to my days
> teaching high school science and math) has been that HPS is the most
> crucial
> discipline for "science and religion." That's why I left high school
> teaching to get a doctorate under Westfall: I wanted to enter the dialogue
> with expertise in the core field. I saw so much being written that was so
> wrong, in the service of a cultural agenda that was dangerous to Christian
> faith, that I was eager to start getting on with the job of rewriting the
> history of religion and science; to clear away the underbrush, as it were,
> to make it possible to "get it right" in the future.
> It seems to me, however, that declining interest in our journal might well
> reflect generational issues, esp the career challenges faced by the
> current
> generation entering scientific fields. Immense pressures placed on
> postdocs
> and other junior scholars to work themselves to death and to focus very
> narrowly on advancing their own careers through serving the reputations of
> the project directors who are bringing home the bacon. It's harder for
> folks in such situations to see much beyond the next experimental
> horizon--and I am not being critical of them as individuals.
> Science-and-religion is a highly interdisciplinary field, with the larger
> questions really coming out of humanities perspectives (whether or not
> they
> are raised by scientists themselves, as they often are). It should be no
> surprise that people with graduate training in the humanities (whether or
> not they also have training in the sciences at any level, though it
> certainly helps to have it) are often leading the way.
> My blessings, Jack, and my gratitude for all you have done to make the ASA
> website a key resource for the church and others.
> Ted
> To unsubscribe, send a message to with
> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.

Share your photos with the people who matter at Yahoo! Canada Photos

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Tue Sep 19 19:22:58 2006

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Sep 19 2006 - 19:22:59 EDT