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Fwd: Protecting Science from Religion

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  • Lloyd Miller
    My son just sent this to me today and I thought it might be apropos to our ongoing discussion about how to teach evolution in our classes to students whose
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 9, 2007
      My son just sent this to me today and I thought it might be apropos
      to our ongoing discussion about how to teach evolution in our classes
      to students whose religious beliefs impede their understanding of

      Begin forwarded message:

      > From: "Miller, Samuel D." <sdmiller@...>
      > Date: February 9, 2007 8:18:38 AM CST
      > To: <lloyd.miller@...>, "David Goldman"
      > <DavidGoldman@...>, <norman.mandelbaum@...>,
      > <director@...>, <karneyp@...>,
      > <DKaufman@...>, "Vanderlinden, David W."
      > <dwvanderlinden@...>
      > Subject: Protecting Science from Religion
      > I prefer the judge’s solution on The Simpsons: “As for the issue
      > of Science vs. Religion, I’m issuing a restraining order.
      > Religion must stay 500 yards away from Science at all times.” But
      > this blog from Scientific American’s website is good too:
      > http://blog.sciam.com/index.php?
      > title=protecting_science_from_religion_and_vic&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1&ca
      > t=22
      > April 18, 2005
      > 02:12:03 am, Categories: Archaeology, Philosophy, I.D. and
      > Creationism, 1085 words
      > Protecting Science from Religion (and Vice Versa)
      > Two posts elsewhere today give me the occasion to talk about
      > religion and science, and the importance of keeping them separate.
      > Chris Mooney brought my attention to this speech that the physicist
      > and educator S. James Gates, Jr. gave at last February's AAAS
      > meeting on the rich intellectual legacy of Albert Einstein. At one
      > point, Gates reflects:
      > Due to this cautious approach to wisdom, science casts its greatest
      > achievements in the forms of theories. An accepted scientific
      > theory must explain many, many facts, sometimes hundreds,
      > thousands, or tens of thousands, but a single fact can destroy a
      > theory.
      > Let me paraphrase Einstein about this. He said, "The unhappy fate
      > of most theories is to be proven wrong shortly after being
      > introduced. However, for those not so treated, at best nature says:
      > 'Maybe.' "
      > I believe part of his legacy should guide our community in a debate
      > that's occurring today in our nation. There is a set of
      > suggestions, known as intelligent design, which have been offered
      > as a scientific theory by some. We, in the scientific community,
      > owe this discussion a respectful debate. First, to not do so would
      > be a betrayal of our own cautiousness in approaching the gaining of
      > wisdom. Second, historical examples show that faith-based
      > communities do have the power to turn off science. Unless we
      > rigorously and openly join this debate, our nation will move into
      > the third millennium educating young ones who will be less than
      > able to continue the progress we have seen so far.
      > The "single fact can destroy a theory" idea is one that modern-day
      > creationists love to cite. And yet it's not entirely true as
      > construed.
      > [More:]
      > As Michael Shermer pointed out in his "Skeptic" column some months
      > ago, the facts never speak for themselves. Facts only mean
      > something in the context of some framing theory. Creationists
      > constantly ask questions like "where are the transitional fossils?"
      > and point to unanswered problems in evolution, and they seem to
      > think the absence of those "facts" contradicts evolution. Not so.
      > Only the right fact can destroy a theory: if somebody discovers the
      > fossil of a housecat in pre-Cambrian strata, that could destroy
      > evolution.
      > Furthermore, it's reasonable for Gates to emphasize how
      > provisionally scientists can say that they know anything--but it is
      > recklessly naive to acknowledge it without being aware of how some
      > enemies of reason will twist that admission.
      > First and more generally, they will cite this statement as evidence
      > that scientists don't really know anything absolutely, and that
      > science is therefore nothing more than another type of faith. This
      > is nonsense, however. I know that if Socrates is a man and all men
      > are mortal, then Socrates is mortal; I know this through logical
      > deduction. It's possible to claim that deduced conclusions
      > represent just a form of belief, but only if you're willing to
      > assassinate the concepts of knowledge and belief.
      > As for respectfully debating the intelligent design theorists,
      > events are well past that. The "debate" happened a long time ago,
      > when biologists first pointed out that ID theory falls far short of
      > being a scientific theory. If ID's proponents were interested in an
      > honest discussion, they would have recognized that they had been
      > rebutted and moved on to something else rather than continuing to
      > recycle the same dishonest arguments.
      > But I do agree much more with Gates's next point, and I wish that
      > the critics of evolution who will pounce on the preceding
      > paragraphs would pay equal attention to this one:
      > But, for me, personally, this debate has another dimension. I spent
      > all of my teenage years, as mentioned in the introduction, in
      > Orlando, Florida. As many people know, the southern African
      > American community is one with a deep tradition of religious faith.
      > The bulk of my religious training occurred in the confines of the
      > African American Methodist Episcopal Church. There, we were taught
      > that faith is to be anchored on the inhuman perfection of religion.
      > If intelligent design is accepted as science, then like all
      > scientific theories, it is in principle possible to disprove it by
      > the actions of human observation and thought. Thus, those who would
      > join the inhuman perfection of religion to the human imperfection
      > of science put both at grave peril for anyone who deeply
      > contemplates them. Many in the AME church tradition, like me, must
      > reject this idea that by thoughts and actions of man our faith can
      > be called into question. This is the very greatest danger, in my
      > opinion, of the notion of intelligent design.
      > Hear, hear. Intelligent Design is terrible science, but it makes
      > for worse theology. All those people who feel that denial of ID is
      > heresy are missing the damage they do to their own faith by forcing
      > it to sit atop a platform of scientific argument.
      > Meanwhile, Sean Carroll over at Preposterous Universe writes about
      > his unease with the aims of the Templeton Foundation, which
      > ultimately led him to decide not to participate in particular
      > conference.
      > The Templeton Foundation was founded by Sir John Templeton, one of
      > the world's most successful investors. Its primary purpose is to
      > encourage a reconciliation between science and religion. It has
      > been fantastically successful, at least with respect to public
      > relations. In recent years there has been a spate of stories in
      > major news outlets about how new discoveries in science are
      > bringing modern science closer to religion. There have been no such
      > discoveries, of course. What there has been is money -- buckets and
      > buckets of money, largely from the Templeton folks, to give prizes
      > and host conferences and support scientists who will say nice
      > things about religion.
      > ...The point is that the entire purpose of the Templeton Foundation
      > is to blur the line between straightforward science and explicitly
      > religious activity, making it seem like the two enterprises are
      > part of one big undertaking.
      > Read it all. Sean writes as a committed atheist, but the point
      > fundamentally holds true even if one is devout. Contrary to the
      > maunderings of Gregg Easterbrook, science and religion are not
      > merging. They never can. They are not complementary approaches to
      > reckoning ultimate Truth. Science can only study phenomena bound by
      > natural physical law; God (at least as most of the faithful
      > conceive of God) exists outside of natural law. I'm not arguing
      > that science and religion can't intersect: science poses
      > interesting challenges to some religious beliefs and that religion
      > is a healthy reminder that some questions may be forever beyond
      > science's reckoning. But generally, science and religion are best
      > kept separate, for their mutual benefit.
      > Posted by John Rennie

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