Christians in Science: Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility

Society
(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

Continuing the discussion from Why Some TE/EC Scientists Silent About Divine Action?:

Some people I hope will follow this thread and chime in when they can help: @eddie, @purposenation, @Chris_Falter, @pevaquark, @Wayne_Rossiter, @Rogero, @jordan, @Philosurfer, @deuteroKJ, @rcohlers, @TWReynolds, @Troendle, @stlyankeefan, @dga471, @PdotdQ, @cwhenderson, @Zachary_Ardern, @AJRoberts, @TedDavis, and @Agauger.

The Starting Question

In the background, I should add, many are wondering why I went public with my disagreements with Behe. It is not clear to many why I am doing what I am doing there.

The Rules

This thread will have some specific rules. This is a complex and important topic, central to what we are building at Peaceful Science.

  1. Keep posts substantive and thoughtful.
  2. Do not write posts much longer than about 500 words.
  3. Do not be repetitive. If a question is raised or an important point missed, rephrase, do not repeat.
  4. Do not distract from direction I am trying to go with this.
  5. Off-topic posts will be removed.
  6. Phrase objections as questions. For example say, “how does what you are saying account for X?” Rather than, “X just shows that this is all wrong.”
  7. Take any questions I pose to you seriously, and do your best to answer them.
  8. Constructive resistance (as judged by me), nonetheless, is encouraged.
  9. If you are in doubt what to post, post it on the comment thread first: Side Comments on Christians in Science.

The Bigger Question

The small question is, in my view, a pain point that arises because of a bigger problem. Yes, TE leaders do not usually publicly acknowledge God’s action, but this is because the “framework” they have adopted for engaging science and theology. What do I mean by “framework”? This is not a theological framework alone, nor a scientific framework alone, nor a philosophical framework alone, or a social framework alone, nor a strategic framework alone. Though it touches on all these things.

My thesis is this: we currently lack a sensible model for what it means to be a scientist in the Church and a Christian in science. There have been individuals who have found their way through the minefields (Ian Hutchinson, Francis Collins, Praveen Sethupathy), but these guys (and perhaps myself) are essentially unicorns. They arise by magic. We known not from whence they come, or to where they go. I wonder if it all hangs on these sorts of question:

  1. What is my purpose within science?
  2. What is my purpose within the Church?
  3. What would a better society look like? What is the “good” to be sought?
  4. What is my “theory of change”? How will might my actions bring about a better society?
  5. How do I see truth? How do I navigate the epistemological relationship between science and theology?

All these questions touch on these deeper questions. What are the things I value? (more than a verbal affirmation, but with actions). What is my identity? Where is my allegiance? (as a Christian in science). These are questions of identity, best worked out from the point of view of a Christian who is a scientist. Though I know there are non-scientists looking in, this is the perspective from which I come to this problem and, in my view, the most important perspective to work out for Peaceful Science. Rather than playing wack a mole with these smaller questions, I want to answer this big question. Rather than psychologizing my peers with grand inferences about their internal states, I want to build out a better way. If we work it out and model it, I am sure they will come.

What should it and could it mean to be a scientist in the Church and a Christian in science? If we can clearly answer this big question, my thesis is that the many smaller questions become much easier to navigate for the Christian who is a scientist.

  1. What am I willing to disagree with my scientific colleagues about publicly? Why?
  2. What am I willing to disagree with other Christians about publicly? Why?
  3. What language do I adopt to explain my position? Why?
  4. What are the most important messages to take forward in public? Why?
  5. How do I encourage younger scientists? Why?
  6. How do I measure success? Why?
  7. Who is my opposition and how do I relate with them? Why?
  8. How do I publicly talk about Divine Action? Why?

These are the questions of society, working out how and why and when we engage the public. We will see that there are cohesive sets of answers to these questions, such as within ID (The DI) and TE/EC (BioLogos), and also within YEC, and even among the New Atheists (though not as Christians). I am suggesting that all these frameworks are (1) ironic in the sense that they answer questions in a way that undermine their ultimate goals, (2) tragic because they cause significant amounts of unintended injury, and (3) point to better possibilities if we understand them well.

I want to work out some answers to the big question, that filter down to smaller question along the way. I want to do this by:

  1. explaining first the existing frameworks, as I see them (perhaps starting with ID and TE/EC)
  2. propose a starting point for new way forward, that is still being fleshed out.
  3. explaining how I have been putting this into practice over the last several years.
  4. explain how other scientists and Christians have been responding to it.

So, we have a lot ahead of us here. We will be discussing other organizations, but only generally. This is not mean to be an attack on any one. Hopefully the case I will make will be put forward in language that they feel describes them well.


At this point, I will pause and wait for substantive comment on what I written so far or likes to the main post, so I know that this is interesting and important to enough people to put the effort into this.

8 Likes
Side Comments on Christians in Science
William Lane Craig on The Genealogical Adam and Eve Workshop
Welcome to Terrell Clemmons: Questions on Methodological Naturalism
Welcome to Terrell Clemmons: Questions on Methodological Naturalism
(S. Joshua Swamidass) pinned globally #2
(S. Joshua Swamidass) split this topic #3

21 posts were merged into an existing topic: Side Comments on Christians in Science

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #4

Briefly, contemplation of these questions over the last year has left me wondering what group I am closest to. I do not fit in with any of the groups out there, but from this perspective I might be nearest to Reasons to Believe (@AJRoberts). This might surprise me as much as it surprises observers, as I affirm evolution and they do not.

Please vote here: which group first?

2 Likes
William Lane Craig on The Genealogical Adam and Eve Workshop
(Jordan Mantha) split this topic #18

A post was split to a new topic: Experiences of Christian scientists in churches and labs

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #21

Was thinking about this today. I need to do this series, but not yet. There is interesting movement in the world right now. Soon to be discussed. The world is changing.

2 Likes