Advocating Science Without Engaging it?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

He had a large positive influence on me too. I remain indebted to him.

I think you are right but I fear that was a mistake. How well can we promote science if we are not engaged with it?

The Real Story of the Hunt and Meyer Exchange

But Biologos doesn’t do science, so they don’t react fast enough to the rapidly changing directions of science. They put a stake in the ground and say “see science and faith matchup” then the science moves and then they have to plant a new stake in the ground and say “see science and faith matchup” That is why I got so upset about Dr. Haarsma proclaiming alignment of science and faith on such things as the multiverse. Please wait until there is at least some consensus of the science first before proclaiming aliment with your faith.


Very true. And very important to get young people engaged in going into scientific fields. If Christian faith is hold back young people from the sciences, you either going to have fewer scientist who are Christians or many more scientists who are atheists. Doesn’t look good as the jobs of the future are going to require a working level of scientific understanding and thinking.

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(Daniel Ang) #4

I totally agree. Biologos is often very passive with regards to science instead of trying to genuinely synthesize it within a Christian framework. It doesn’t seem to really have a clear stance, instead being just a communication machine for science to Christians. From a Christian viewpoint I also thought it didn’t sufficiently engage with scientistic formulations of science (such as that held by Dawkins and Coyne). The limitations of the original Biologos approach are becoming rapidly clear. But I think we shouldn’t overly criticize an organization which wasn’t supposed to be THE end-all-be-all for thinking about the harmony between science and faith.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #5

I suppose one of their big misses was the science of Adam. They could have been on the forefront.

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(Ashwin S) #6

More scientist engaging with such “scientistic formulations” would be good for science overall… not just the christian perspective.
It would definitely remove the perception that Science somehow promotes or supports atheism. This is a fairly rampant misconception promoted by Dawkins and co.
Its not good for Christians… And its misleading athiests. Selling them a lie in the name of Science.
In the end it will be detrimental to good science.

(George) #7


Could you specify exactly how you would describe YOUR version of scientistic formulations?

I have been promoting @swamidass’ version of just such a thing… and you have pretty much gone out of your way to sniff your nose at the goals embraced here. Exactly what would be different in YOUR approach?

(Ashwin S) #8

I don’t make scientistic formulations.When making arguments for Christianity, i rely on the following -

  1. Personal testimony
  2. Philosophy (usually as reasons to believe in God, and his nature as understood from creation)
  3. Presentation of biblical truth.
    I don’t believe we can access all Truth with Science. If someone does, i usually try to show how that is an erroneous understanding. Mostly i am forced to discuss science in contexts where people insist that Science/evolution has disproven God and deny he is the creator. This is a rampant misunderstanding. I have heard people make comments such as this - "How can you believe in God as a creator, didn’t you learn about how life originated when lightning struck the pond?"This is a direct result of “scientistic formulations”.
    This will be important, because this is exactly the non academic world that pastors and lay leaders in church deal with. Where ignorance meets “populisers of Science” and leads to ridiculous conclusions about what science actually teaches or can teach for that matter.

To be frank George, i don’t think you have even understood what @swamidass is getting at. I don’t think he has any interest in clubbing evolution with theology. This seems to be why he avoids the label of TE/EC. He seems interested in showing how the current facts of science need not be in conflict with religious claims. esp in connection with a literal Adam. I appreciate his efforts and i have learned a lot from it.

Incidentally, i am also not very interested in presenting theological claims in light of evolution. I prefer using philosophy/other common grounds shared with people.As an additional point, it would be useful to show how belief in evolution does not conflict with belief in God.But its not and should not be the main thrust of any theology connected to Creation IMO.
Ultimately, the authority of Christianity lies in Divine revelation.I don’t view it as inferior to any other authority including Science.
In short, i dont think my approach is very different from that of @swamidass.

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(George) #9

Fantastic, @Ashwin_s,
I think you just helped me win a vague kind of wager with Joshua! Now I owe YOU a steak dinner!

@swamidass… okay… lets just admit you owe me a steak dinner… You’ve been giving this guy some of your special attention… and so whatever you keep saying to @Ashwin_s … CLEARLY it didn’t sink in! And i told you it wouldnt.

Who knows how many OTHER people “read into” your vague rhetorical points whatever the heck they want to believe you are saying !

Maybe you could PM me a more EXPLICIT set of statements to see where you are willing to put a little more OOMPH into your “Elevator Pitch”!

P.s. I’ll bring back a dessert in a foil swan for you, @Ashwin_s!

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #10

This is true…however…

I am interested in thinking theologically alongside evolution. That is why I have encouraged theologies of nature and of the Genealogical Adam (which @gbrooks9 calls a Dual Creation model). I would not call this “theology in light of science.” Rather I would say it is “science-engaged theology”. That is how we accomplish the goal of showing the two need not be in conflict.

I think @Ashwin_s is going the right direction, but probably has not seen as much of the work on a Genealogical Adam. Honestly, I am not sure what it means to “clubbing evolution with theology”. What do you think it means?

Someday in the coming months, I hope we can work on our messaging. Part of the challenge is that we have zero budget, zero staff, and a very large amount of activity. This is creating some difficulty as many people are “reading into this” the key parts with which they are identifying. Give me a few months. It is possible things could be on a way to much sharper clarity soon…

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #11

What does this mean?

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(Ashwin S) #12

I understand this to mean that you don’t want to mix up evolutionary science and theology.
While you are interested in engaging with science from a theological perspective. And investigating areas of compatibility. This will mean you want to genuinely engage with scripture, tradition, hermeneutics etc as a priority in any interpretation. As opposed to giving these a secondary status with respect to current scientific understanding.

(Daniel Ang) #13

Not all popular scientists have been “scientistic”. Paul Davies, although (I think) not fully Christian, is more friendly towards religion. Freeman Dyson is an actual Christian. There are also tons of Christian scientists who are just seriously doing their work and don’t have time to do popular outreach stuff (if you noticed, people like Dawkins don’t really produce that many scientific papers). I do agree with you, though, that militant atheist scientistic voices have been recently more united and visible in advocating their stance in the public arena compared to Christian ones (Dawkins, Coyne, Carroll, PZ Myers, Stenger, Hawking, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, etc.).

Perhaps there is a space for a united front of Christian scientists who challenge these voices in the public arena, speaking to everyone, not just Christians. You need scientists who have some facility with theology and philosophy and can launch cogent critiques of atheism and materialism to a general audience. We need Christians who write popular books about science that are not explicitly religious but vocally against the materialistic view of the world. Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos, though he is not a theist himself, would be an example.

(Ashwin S) #14

I have a heard a lot about this book… plan to read it some time… have you read it?

I agree that an united Christian voice is required. Right now, when a Christian is challenged with Dawkins/PZ Meyers etc and is looking for resources to help in apologetics… he will find ID the most useful in addition to the work of theologians and apologists such as William lane Craig.I am speaking from personal experience.
Historically, there has been a synergistic relationship between apologetics and theology. If you want to be relevant in theology at the level of the church (as apart from purely academic circles), your work will have to have an element of apologetics in it. No pastor who cares for his flock will promote a theology that he views as weak in answering the burning moral and existential questions of the day.

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #15

If you go down the path of arguing for the neutrality of science, a lot of non-Christians, including atheists, will join that united front too. That is the strength of the approach I am encouraging. It is not divisive like those that try and argue apologetically for God in science. We can disagree in our personal beliefs, but all agree to keep science neutral.

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(Daniel Ang) #16

I have not actually read it, although I have read a few reviews and discussion about it. It seems to have raised quite the furor in atheist circles. My reading list is getting ever-longer, especially after being exposed to so many knowledgeable people recently, including on this website! (In fact, since @jongarvey mentioned Heisenberg’s Physics and Philosophy so much, I now have a copy on my desk.) Perhaps we could read Nagel’s book together at some point and have a discussion group/thread about it.

I know that the two of us have differing views on the truth of ID, but looking at it from a merely practical perspective, the weakness of ID as a rhetorical tool in the public arena is that its conclusions are endorsed by very few practicing scientists. Thus, embracing ID might mean having to reject the scientific consensus on evolution. A consensus is not necessarily right, but once you do so your legitimacy as a public voice is undermined, similar to how conspiracy theorists are not viewed as reliable sources of information by the general public.

In contrast, EC/TE authors believe in the same science as even atheist scientists, so they are immune from scientific critique. In that sense I feel a Biologos-like organization which is more outward instead of inward-looking would be an interesting idea. That’s also why William Lane Craig has been such a strong voice (even if he isn’t very famous): ID-type arguments are not the center of his stuff, so people can’t dismiss him as “just another creationist” or something like that.

(Daniel Ang) #17

What I was thinking is not arguing apologetically for God in science, like ID or creationists do, but a chorus of Christian-friendly scientists who argue against the implication that science implies philosophical materialism or scientism. Even though science is supposed to be theologically neutral, popular presentations of science often go beyond that - for example, causally remarking that “we are nothing but atoms” and stuff like that. I think there could be good push back against statements like these.

(Ashwin S) #18

It will be great if this happens. I am a little skeptical on whether it will happen to an extent to make a difference.
I think the current unity is because of political pressure… but that’s limit of what I will comment on this subject.

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #19

That is exactly what we are aiming for here at Peaceful Science.

I get it and agree. Just saying that even atheists might join that chorus. Wasn’t disagreeing with you.

(Jon Garvey) #20

Excellent book. I raised some points on it and linked to a liust of reviews here.