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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
      science.
      Lloyd

      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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