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

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Wed Oct 21 2009 - 20:17:32 EDT

Heya all,

I find myself in agreement with Cameron and Ted on this topic, to different
degrees. So, here are my own views on these matters.

* I agree with Ted Davis that Christianity itself can be put at risk by the
discovery that Jesus was not raised bodily, or that Jesus was not crucified.
Whether or not those are purely scientific findings so-called to me is
beside the point - they're examples that Christianity is not 'bulletproof'.

* I also disagree with something I think Cameron is implying here, or maybe
I'm misreading - namely that for a belief in God to be reasonable, it has to
be capable of being falsified or at least severely challenged by science. I
have several problems with that, but one of them stands out: I think what
science has uncovered about the operations of nature has made any meaningful
type of atheism unlikely to an extreme. I'm talking here about the
across-the-board denial of the existence of some kind of designer(s) on the
scale of worlds, either in the sense of a mind/minds being fundamental to
nature and existence itself, or our world being an intentional creation in
whole or in part. The fact that nature is rational and capable of being
grasped by human minds to such a high degree, that coded language plays such
a central role in the so-called 'mindless natural processes' of life itself,
the unexpected success of mathematics, etc.. all these things and more, to
me, establish theism and/or mind-centered 'non-naturalism' as beyond
reasonable dispute or, if we're going to entertain hyper-skeptical
possibilities or walk down a Kantian road, beyond dispute as being
reasonable inferences.

To put it another, mostly analogous way: I think it's reasonable to be
skeptical of a claim of proposed technology if said technology has never
been tested in the real world. As in, if no one has ever fired a rocket to
the moon before (or nothing comparable has been done in the past due to
various restraints, etc), I can see it being reasonable to be skeptical that
such a thing can be done. But if the test has taken place and the rocket has
reached the moon, I don't think I have to find a way to -still- be skeptical
that this can be done. I can be skeptical of other aspects of the technology
(Is it economically feasible? Is it the best way to get something on the
moon? Is it at all useful or practical?), but the original question I asked
is over.

I see the question of big-d Design and little-g god as in a similar state:
Between considerations and discoveries of science and philosophy, I have
little reason to take the blanket claims of atheism-naturalism seriously
anymore. The question is not whether God (again, construed broadly) can be
compatible with science and reason - they're not only compatible, they're
complimentary. The question is whether atheism-naturalism can be compatible
with science and reason - and I don't think the answer is very encouraging
for those partial to said beliefs. (I'll point out that even among the New
Atheists - whose love for making loud and bold claims is considerable -
there is an intense allergic reaction to even being construed as making a
positive claim for atheism, specifically because those who make positive
claims need to provide evidence and are open to criticism. There are a few
reasons this move is made, but here's what I suspect is a central one:
Because said positive claim is ridiculously difficult to defend or sound
reasonable while doing so. Raelians would fare better on defense.)

* But I therefore can't really accept NOMA, at least as it's commonly
presented. I agree that 'science' alone has nothing to say one way or the
other about issues of God, or teleology, or design, or the "supernatural",
etc - at least when construed properly. And I agree that faith (meaning
trust in something there is evidence of, but not decisive proof of) plays a
major role in religion (atheism included), and also a similar if less
pronounced role in philosophy and reason. But I take NOMA to suggest that
science is "off-limits" to religious people, and cannot be called upon to be
included in, or supportive of, their worldview - and that, clearly, I
reject. When this is done, it is no longer science - it's a synthesis of
science and philosophy/theology working in tandem. And so long it's
recognized as such, it strikes me as licit.

Note: I can also understand some Christians or religious believers whose
beliefs do not intersect with science whatsoever. And again, I thoroughly
support a (proper, consistent, non-hypocritical) 'protection' of popular
science and science education that insists on "walling off" science in this
way, meaning that science has to be kept "pure" to really be true and actual
science. But so long as they make clear they're no longer doing science
purely, I have nothing wrong with "design inferences", and certainly not
with natural theology and so on.

My two cents, anyway.

On Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 2:49 PM, Ted Davis <> wrote:

> >>> "Cameron Wybrow" <> 10/21/2009 1:45 PM >>> wrote
> (among other things):
> I can't speak for the anti-ID wing of YEC with any confidence, but I am in
> regular contact with a large number of ID supporters, of all types,
> including YECs, OECs, religious syncretists, and even hard-boiled
> agnostics.
> Some of them are on-side with macroevolution; others reject it. But one
> thing that all of them, or almost all of them, have in common, is a hatred
> of NOMA.
> Further, many of these people would see NOMA as closely allied with TE.
> From the ID point of view, many if not most TEs believe that all events
> happen due to natural causes (however much God may be mysteriously
> "co-operating" with those causes), and their acceptance of Darwinian
> evolution (which is 100% naturalistic), is directly connected with that.
> And again from the ID point of view, while the religious sincerity of most
> TEs is not denied, it looks as if religion for TEs belongs in the private
> world of faith. For example, in the insistence of many TEs that not even
> God's bare existence can be established through the observation of nature,
> ID people see a cleavage, a sort of schizophrenia between the "science"
> half
> of the soul and the "religion" half of the soul, where "science" knows the
> external world, and "faith" knows God, and never the twain shall meet.
> Science can't talk about God, and faith can't talk about nature. And from
> the ID point of view, that sounds an awful lot like NOMA.
> ***
> Ted comments:
> Some might see this analysis as a bit "over the top," in terms of a
> profound distaste for the NOMA position on the part of ID proponents; and,
> in terms of a comparable distaste for those TEs who sound like NOMA
> supporters to ID proponents. From my own experience with larger groups of
> ID supporters, however, I confirm the accuracy of what Cameron is saying.
> This is one of the reasons, IMO, why have a reapproachment between some
> forms of ID and some forms of TE (something I would like to see) will be
> very, very difficult. There are deeply entrenched views and attitudes on
> this particular aspect of the issue. IDs almost all see NOMA, or even the
> much more sophisticated complementarity view -- which is much older, more
> sophisticated, and much friendlier to orthodox Christian belief -- as an
> unacceptable "privatization" of faith. No amount of evidence concerning the
> public witness for Christian faith that individual TEs often engage in (I am
> thinking of people like Collins, !
> Lamoureux, George Ellis, Polkinghorne, Dick Bube, or countless others)
> seems to dissuade ID advocates from drawing this conclusion. If you don't
> embrace a very strong form of natural theology (which is what ID is
> equivalent to, IMO), then somehow your faith is simply "privatized," even
> though it is publicly and widely proclaimed.
> As I've said in the fairly distant past, ID advocates and TE advocates
> usually have different views of what it means to make science one's
> Christian vocation. A bit more respect for diversity on this, in both
> directions, would be a good thing for the body of Christ, IMO. (You can
> find hundreds to put in each "camp" within the ASA, and we get along pretty
> well most of the time, but the ASA itself has sometimes been caricatured by
> those who don't understand who we are.)
> I disagree myself with Gould's NOMA view, insofar as Gould used it to deny
> to Christians (at least implicitly, if not explicitly) the right to claim
> that Christ was raised bodily from the grave -- among other things. Thou
> shalt not make religious claims that involve statements about physical
> reality, he might have said. And, he was wrong about that. His book,
> "Rocks of Ages," however, is really pretty good overall. Among other
> things, Gould is one of only a few scholars who understood what White's
> "warfare" thesis was really about: the progressive elimination of core
> theological claim in the name of science, in order to ensure the survival of
> religion in a scientific age. What Gould apparently not see, however, is
> that many contemporary thinkers involved with the "dialogue" of science and
> religion, coming from the very liberal end of Christian theology, are
> actually embracing White's warfare view -- despite their repeated denials of
> the warfare view. I wrote about this!
> in "Zygon," Dec 2000 (an essay that I actually wrote before I saw Gould's
> 1999 book).
> ****
> Cameron also wrote this:
> This why I asked, in another conversation, what it would take, for a TE, to
> put Christianity at risk. If NOMA applies, then Christianity is
> bulletproof, at least on the side of science. No conceivable fact
> uncovered
> by science, no conceivable law or theory or scheme of the world uncovered
> by
> science, could ever put Christian teaching in doubt. And TEs appear to
> believe that Christianity is scientifically bulletproof. So if NOMA is not
> the basis of this invulnerability of Christianity to any possible discovery
> of science, what is?
> ***
> Ted comments:
> My own answer to the indirect question in the first sentence of the
> paragraph just quoted is as follows. What it would take to put Christianity
> at risk, IMO, is clear and unambiguous evidence that either (a) Jesus was
> not crucified; or (b) Jesus was not raised bodily from the grave after his
> crucifixion. Gould almost certainly thought that "science" had made (b)
> impossible to believe, but obviously I would differ with him on that. I
> have yet to see the demonstration, you might say. This is not a
> "bulletproof" claim, in terms of science--if we include archaeology among
> the sciences (as I do). Are there any possible conclusions of the natural
> sciences that would "put Christianity at risk"? An interesting question.
> I'm not too confident of an answer. I would myself find actual hard
> evidence of an enormous multiverse very disturbing -- there, I admitted
> that, which some have probably suspected. But, hard evidence for me would
> probably have to involve actually observing !
> some other part(s) of the multiverse, and if I have it right that isn't in
> the cards. So, have I thereby made Christianity invulnerable to refutation
> by natural science? On the other hand, part of my uncertainty about this
> involves the fact that some smart Christians I know think that an infinite
> God might as well have created a multiverse that is for practical purposes
> also infinite. (That's not a new idea, theologically, as many will realize;
> there were discussions of this at least as early as Nicholas of Cusa in the
> 15th Century.)
> Cameron will no doubt bring biology into this somewhere, but I'm not sure
> that biology puts Christianity into doubt. (It depends on how biology is
> defined and how Christianity is defined.) At the basic level, you could say
> that physiology refutes life after death; one of Compton's critics went
> after him that way (for details, see the next issue of PSCF). But, I don't
> think physiology has anything to say about the new heaven and earth...
> And, I fail to see how *any* of the sciences has anything *at all* to say
> about the Trinity, or atonement, or faith, hope, and love. Not to mention,
> grace. If Cameron or anyone else can show me where I'm wrong, I'm all ears
> -- or, eyes.
> Ted
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Received on Wed, 21 Oct 2009 20:17:32 -0400

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