Coyne Says Religion and Science Incompatible?

(Ashwin S) #21

Actually there is historical evidence for the ressurection. What is happening is that you are approaching the evidence with a prior commitment to materialism.
Thus blinding yourself to the Truth.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #22

I hope so!

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #23

They don’t? That is news to me. I was convinced that Ken Ham believed in talking snakes and dinosaurs in arenas fighting Giants.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #24

He was really clear that this was just an “imaginative” take on Genesis 6:1-4. He is dreaming out loud here. It is not that he does not know what he thinks.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #26

You do realize that Coyne was applauded about Dover and worked to discredit ID and DI.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #27

Be careful with such statements as when YOU look at the evidence YOU may find that it is less than compelling. Alice’s anthropology site is worth a look.


There are thousands (millions?) of scientists who are also believers, and they don’t report any compatibility issues. I tend to take their word on it.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #29

There is historical evidence, of course. Just because many atheists struggle with history doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

(Edward Robinson) #30

The bibliolatry you are referring to is characteristic of some Protestants, but not all. There is a difference between believing the Bible is divinely inspired (which is not only a Protestant teaching but also an official Catholic doctrine, and always has been, even when you were growing up), and limiting Christianity to a certain mechanical, literalistic reading of the Bible, as if the Bible is God himself, rather than a means of communication of God’s teaching to us.

Catholics have generally avoided bibliolatry, because they supplement the text of the Bible with authoritative Church teaching; the Bible isn’t read mechanically and in isolation, but in the light of centuries of development of the faith within the Church. This is a good thing in itself, if done rightly. The downside, however, especially for Catholics of an older generation – including the generation you and I belong to (though I wasn’t raised Catholic, I grew up surrounded by Catholics in my community, and one side of my family was Catholic, so I know the older Catholic popular attitude toward the Bible pretty well) – is that Bible study for lay Catholics wasn’t emphasized at all. In some places it was positively discouraged, lest independent Bible study lead to “wrong” interpretations of the Bible. Bible interpretation was regarded as something for experts, such as the local priest, not for lay people. So many Catholics of older generations have only the vaguest idea of what is in the Bible.

This has been changing in recent years, as the Church no longer actively discourages Bible study, and Catholic and Protestant Bible scholars now interact professionally in journals, at conferences, etc.

Anyhow, Coyne’s rejection of Christianity seems to a blanket rejection, not just of bibliolatry but of any form of Christianity. And he has the right to reject any religion that seems to him to be untrue, but his claim that science disproves Christianity can’t be sustained. At the most, science could disprove certain claims about nature or history that some Christians have made – but most Christians today believe that those claims (e.g., geocentrism) were never central to Christian faith in the first place, and can easily be surrendered.

Science can’t disprove the possibility of miracles. Science can suppose that they don’t normally happen, in order to carry out its work (without worrying about angels arbitrarily moving the planets off-course, etc.), but a proof that miracles could never happen would be a philosophical proof, not a scientific one. And I haven’t seen a philosophical proof that is convincing.

Coyne can say he doesn’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, but he can’t say that “science proves” that Jesus never rose from the dead. All he can say is that if Jesus rose from the dead, something other than normal natural causes were involved, and science can say nothing about mysterious causes of that kind. The scientist can reasonably say: “I have no objective proof that Jesus rose from the dead, and therefore do not believe it,” but he can’t say: “My science tells me that no man can possibly have arisen from the dead,” and anyone who believes such a thing is scientifically ignorant." Many people who are not scientifically ignorant think that Jesus rose from the dead (Francis Collins, for example) – but they affirm that the cause was not natural and therefore is outside of the area of expertise of natural science.


One of the main disagreements that lead to the Great Schism was access to the Bible. At the time, the Roman Catholic Church prevented all lay people from reading the Bible. People were actually arrested if they were found in possession of a Bible. This is why the Protestant view of lay people reading directly from the Bible was so controversial at the time.

Looking back, perhaps the RCC got a few things right. They were afraid that if the laity had access to the Bible some would worship the Bible instead of God, and that seems to be what happened.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #32

Atheist don’t struggle with history. Living in today’s world with today’s reality is much more important than struggling with history.


That’s not the Great Schism. By the Great Schism most people think about the schism of 1054 when the Roman church from the west and Byzantine church from the east parted ways.

(Edward Robinson) #34

I agree; I think they did.

Probably they were concerned with something less grand than that, i.e., most likely they were concerned that the untutored laity would come to particular religious and theological conclusions differing from those of orthodoxy, e.g., about the authority of Popes, or the nature of the sacraments, or indulgences, or the Trinity, etc. However, I agree that in practice, what happened was that some Protestants ended up making a religion out of the exact letters of the printed Bible (often the King James translation!), so that Christian life came to be conceived of as “defending the Bible” – as if the Bible was the object of worship, rather than God or Jesus Christ. And of course, for the Catholic Church, that would be a misfocus. The Bible was essential to understanding what Christianity taught, but it pointed to the object of worship, rather than being the object of worship itself.

To be fair, it is only some Protestants who have edged near or into bibliolatry. The majority have not done so. But often those that have done so get the most press, and thus some onlookers equate Christian belief with that narrow perspective. This is unfortunate, as it makes it harder for better-balanced Christians to explain Christian faith to the world.


It makes me wonder if this is a more modern view, as if people are seeking objective standards instead of spiritual truths. In the very early Christian church there wasn’t a Bible. Gospels may have been partly oral tradition, and not everyone had all of Paul’s letters. Those Christians seemed to do just fine.

Anyway, just thought I would poke my head in and share my historical musings on Christianity.

(Edward Robinson) #36

I agree that a certain type of modern Protestant Biblicist is seeing a certain kind of “objectivity” and sees it in a very narrow type of literal-historical reading of the Bible. They seem to have a need for a rock-bottom basis for certainty, and since they have ruled out “the Church” as a reliable source of certainty (the Church having been stripped of authority in the name of the right of the individual to interpret the Bible according to his “conscience”), and since many of them have also ruled out “religious experience” as a reliable source of certainty (many of the dispensationalists are fiercely opposed to Pentecostalism, and to any notion of miracles continuing beyond the Apostolic era), all they have left is the Bible.

And if the Bible is not a straightforward history book, if it is a subtle book whose meaning is not always obvious, then it won’t be reliable as a “list of approved answers” to theological and moral questions, and won’t give certainty. Only if it is meant to be read in a straight literal fashion will it give absolute certainty to everyone – and this is important to those intellectually and poetically non-adventurous, risk-averse Christians who emotionally require such certainty to function, and can’t bear the existence of any loose ends or open questions in their religious life. So a certain kind of Protestant mind decides that the Bible has to be read with mechanical literalism. This decision springs far more from the psychological makeup of the Protestants involved, than from the inherent nature of the Biblical text.

Of course, this pattern is not unique to Christianity. There are analogous attitudes in other religions; for example, we can see that in some countries, poetic and mystical forms of Islam with a long history in the tradition have been persecuted in favor of a sort of literalism. Some human beings have a drive to acquire certainty, to remove all ambiguity and doubt from life, and the kind of religion they prefer reflects that inner drive. Others think that religion can’t, and shouldn’t try, to remove all ambiguity, but should wrestle with the ambiguities and in that wrestling learn something of spiritual value.

(George) #37

For example… there’s the amazing music … behold the "Animalia Christmas Chorus!,
by the “A Capella Science” channel on YouTube.

Every sound you hear is produced by just one person… with dozens of looped tracks!

[ Here is the actual link! ]

Behold the "Animalia Christmas Chorus! ,
produced by YouTube channel: “A Capella Science”.
Every sound you hear is produced by just one person… with dozens of looped tracks!

(George) #38

If you like … see this thread…