Re: Schools and NOMA (was Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....)

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Thu Oct 15 2009 - 00:37:21 EDT

My responses inserted below.

Bill Powers wrote
> Merv:
> The difficulty, as I understand your depiction of the TE position, is
> that God does not clearly speak with regard to the possibilities of
> the natural world. As such, we are left with what we can make of the
> natural world by any means we think best.
Agreed. One of those 'means' that we collectively seem to agree has a
pretty good track record is that thing we generally call 'science'. And
yet that assertion that I just made is not itself a scientifically
supported statement but must lean entirely on things outside of
science. And I'm quite willing to agree that science is entirely
inadequate for many modes of explanation.
More below.
> However, God has, I'm certain you will agree, spoken clearly with
> regard to some events that are usally referred to as miraculous. Were
> science to argue or be committed to the impossibility of such events,
> you would, I am certain, stand in opposition. I am, of course,
> thinking of the Resurrection, but there are likely many more that
> science cannot explain. Were the science of tomorrow to adopt a
> positivist perspective on science, such events would be judged to be
> nonsense. Now one might interpret that to mean that "from the point
> of view of science" they are nonsense, but they might make sense in
> some other context. Still it seems possible to me that science might
> conclude that such events are impossible (men don't raise from the
> dead and water can't be changed into water, etc.)
> How would you respond to "scientific" efforts to prove the
> impossibility of such events?
> bill
'water into wine' --I presume you meant in the last sentences.

If 'science' were to somehow establish the impossibility of such things
(& I'm at loss to think how such a thing could be established as
'impossible' --even in principle) then, yes, I would be forced to
choose between my faith and science. And this certainly applies for the
resurrection --yes. Other items such as how miracles may have occurred
or were they mediated by other events that might provide partially
recognizable explanation --or are some of them even more of the
'parable' sort of story that don't necessarily require all the details
of the reading to be historical in a modern sense (thinking of Jonah &
the whale, for example) --on many such items I try to leave my thinking
non-committal on what seems to me to be peripheral to the message in the
story. This isn't so much me thinking: 'CAN God make a person survive
three days inside a fish' as it is me thinking 'DID God make it happen
this way ...' but then better yet, going beyond this modernistic
obsession entirely and asking 'WHAT did God tell his people by using
this story and what should I be taking from it?' To this end, it
fascinates me how N.Testament figures used Scripture in their day
--especially Jesus, of course. [An unrelated aside is that even Jesus
doesn't seem to have been above creative word play and proof-texting for
the purpose of befuddling the Pharisees --and maybe taking some pleasure
in it. I'm thinking of passages like John10:34 where Jesus answered
them, "Isn't it written in your law, 'I said, you are gods?' If he
called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture can't
be broken), ..."
One can almost hear modern seminary professors clucking in disapproval
over literal word play here, but Jesus doesn't seem to have been above
dishing the Pharisees own medicine right back at them regarding how they
used Scripture. ]

So I guess my response would be to affirm what you already seem to be
suggesting by putting "scientific" in quotes --- that such efforts are
not themselves motivated by science. But if science ever somehow did
tell me that 'no man has ever risen from the dead', then the choice
would become forced at that point. What science rightfully says now
is: "we've never seen or documented a case (to the satisfaction of ___)
in modern times." That is the most a scientist speaking as a
scientist could ever rightfully state. The next leap beyond that --
that since x hasn't recently been observed, therefore x has never ever
happened, ...that is to leap completely out of scientific bounds. What
science legitimately contributes to such situations is to help us
recognize and establish the *miraculous nature* of any such claimed
event. [and I should add --and the importance of this today can't be
underestimated -- that when science *does* show to our satisfaction how
something may have happened; it is not one whit less Divine than it was
before. I.e. We thank God for our daily bread as much as for any
miracles, explained or otherwise.]


> On Wed, 14 Oct 2009, Merv Bitikofer wrote:
>> Cameron Wybrow wrote:
>>> I don't know how many people here are champions of NOMA, but many of
>>> the arguments advanced here smell strongly of NOMA. However, I have
>>> no great stake in this point, and am willing to withdraw it if
>>> everyone here renounces NOMA as a ploy of the devil. :-) However,
>>> in that case, I would ask the renouncers to specify at least *one*
>>> area in which science and religion *do* overlap, and in which, at
>>> least potentially, a believer could be forced to choose between the
>>> teaching of Christianity and the teaching of science. So far, I
>>> have heard people here say that there *is* a conflict between YEC
>>> Christianity and science, but the same people say that YEC is a
>>> *flawed* form of Christianity, so from my point of view, that
>>> doesn't count against belief in NOMA. What would count is if
>>> someone believed that even the "correct" form of Christianity could,
>>> at least in principle, be opposed to certain statements strongly
>>> affirmed by the majority of scientists. Such a person would be
>>> acknowledging that in matters of religion, truth is more important
>>> than peaceful coexistence with science (or with any other aspect of
>>> worldly culture). NOMA believers insist that such a choice would
>>> never have to be made. But that insistence is arbitrary, following
>>> circularly from the rigged definitions of religion and science which
>>> NOMA employs, not from a careful independent analysis of the
>>> separate contents of Christianity and science.
>>> Cameron.
>> As a non-accepter of NOMA, I'll give some reply to your "rounouncer"
>> challenge. Thinking as a TE (my currently native intellectual
>> landscape) I will say that not only will I specify merely one area of
>> overlap, but that the entirety of science (and pretty much everything
>> else --in fact I can't think what would be excluded) is a *subset*
>> of religion. I.e. the entirety of a man's life consists from within
>> his religion. I realize people (anthropologists & other self-styled
>> intellectuals perhaps) want to define away religion as something in a
>> corner over there that we can pick up and 'objectively' study when
>> the fit or desire for amusement puts them in the mood, but I'll not
>> join them in that bit of naivety. I think of religion much more
>> broadly in a world-view kind of way that encompasses everybody
>> probably from even before they made the wet trip down the birth
>> canal. So if it's overlap you want. You name it. I'll claim it
>> overlaps --indeed, for the TE, what else could it do?
>> Much more puzzling or challenging to me, though, is your continued
>> challenge to the effect of: What count's is if I can, in principle,
>> find my 'correct' Christianity in opposition to something affirmed by
>> a majority of scientists -- or shall we just say 'by science
>> itself'. This appears to be a quest for something falsifiable from
>> the TE crowd --- sort of a "demonstrate the mettle of your religious
>> world view and make a prediction so that it can be tested ..."
>> challenge. After all, ID is attempting to get itself into (or show
>> itself to be in) that scientific arena where it can be subjected to
>> scrutiny and ridicule if it doesn't turn out --so where are the TE
>> risk takers? Do I capture the vein of your challenge correctly?
>> Fair enough. I'll reply by noting that, if it is only in the
>> scientific arena that these challenges can be arbitrated, then TE
>> offers nothing extra that was not already recognized as science quite
>> apart from any overtly recognized theology. So I argue that your
>> test, if I've understood it correctly, is already designed to ensure
>> TE failure. If it is part of somebody's religion that the earth is
>> 6000 years old, then science encroaches on their religious belief,
>> and the TE agrees --but as the critic in this case, not the belief
>> holder. If the TE believes that all creation is an expression of
>> God's creative activity and His order (the beautiful & noble, the
>> ugly & cruel .... ALL of it) then how is the TE supposed to take
>> observations about this reality and pit them against her religious
>> beliefs that she sees as encompassing that reality? In addition, the
>> reality as apprehended by science is really much too small. There is
>> a bigger arena with potentially more interesting tests for religious
>> belief. But even there, how is anyone who believes that God is
>> sovereign over ALL supposed to pit any part of even that larger
>> reality against their sovereign God? If God Himself stood before
>> me and announced to me in terms that could not be misunderstood that
>> the literal Sun will literally not rise tomorrow, and then the next
>> morning I observed the Sun rising I would still be at a loss to see
>> this as satisfying your test for falsifiability. Because I would
>> simply be forced to conclude that the apparition I had witnessed must
>> not have been God, making me a victim of somebody's trick or of my
>> own hallucinations. Because the God I believe in is a God of truth.
>> That means that nothing in His creation is going to contradict His
>> own existence or work in creation.
>> Now --through your eyes, I think I recognize this as the ultimate
>> WIMP out! I.e. -- TEs would seem to be just a bunch of religious
>> laissez-faire floaters -- just rolling with the punches, going
>> where-ever the fashionable currents may blow --never resisting
>> anything, but accepting everything (from science anyway) without one
>> muscle of theological criticism ever so much as twitching with any
>> reaction. This would be, I think, a mostly unfair criticism. I say
>> mostly because in one significant sense, you are right --if reality
>> dishes up something, then what choice do TEs have but to roll with
>> the punches? But they have a lot of company in this. After all what
>> is the alternative? To divorce God from reality? But when we leave
>> the play-pen of science, then those who are TEs can (and do) take up
>> their theological crankiness and they cross swords with any and
>> everybody else who also has forayed out of the science play-pen even
>> while some of them imagine they are still in it.
>> In conclusion, I think we essentially fail your test --but then (as
>> many a feisty student has done) --we deny the validity of the test in
>> the first place and argue that there is a broader playing field on
>> which TEs (and others) can be more properly evaluated.
>> That broader playing field, by the way, is still under the domain of
>> Scripture (according to any Christian TEs) and there we can take our
>> own beatings and bruisings, growing and learning, sometimes
>> inflicting it on others. As I've grown as a Christian, my own
>> impressions of God have sometimes had to succumb to reality --and
>> each time I'm faced with a choice: If I can't let go of the god that
>> I thought I had a handle on, I'll probably see myself as falling away
>> from faith altogether. OR I roll with the punch and realize that God
>> hasn't run out of surprises for me with my preconceptions & that I
>> will need to grow and change if I want to track with Him. May the
>> Lord grant that for me and in spite of me! And less selfishly, may
>> the Lord grant the same for any others here who need it as well. Amen.
>> --Merv

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Received on Thu Oct 15 00:37:38 2009

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