Thursday, March 13, 2008

Faith and Science

There was an interesting discussion today on Scot McKnight's blog, The Jesus Creed, dealing with the relationship between faith and science. RJS, a guest poster, has been leading a discussion about Francis S. Collins' book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. The discussion was about whether a literal interpretation of Genesis was torpedoing our attempts at reaching out to scientists. RJS' question for the board was whether scientific discoveries should change our hermeneutic (especially of Genesis 1–11). I encourage you to read the discussion as it was interesting.

The thing that threw me was the following statement from RJS, before she outlined the evidence for a 4.5 billion year old earth and the common descent of the species:

"So what are the generally accepted facts? As you read what follows remember this key point: NO serious scientist doubts this basic outline – except a few with a prior conviction that evidence from scripture trumps all else."

Now, I never claim to be a scientist. I studied evolutionary biology in high school and then got the "Young Earth" theory at Cedarville. I was exposed to the street level arguments in both discussions, but I hardly understand the technical arguments. Personally, I believe in a relatively young earth. I think there are gaps in the geneologies in Genesis, so I am willing to grant that people have been around for 50,000 years. But I have not been convinced by the evolutionists that the earth HAS to be older than that.

And this is where RJS' comment struck me--the phrase "NO serious scientist." There is a lot implied in this phrase. It essentially means that if you hold to a young earth you are not a serious scientist. You may be a scientist, but you are not a serious scientist. And if you are not a serious scientist, well then you are a fanatic fundamentalist. Do you see the power play in this language? There are the evolutionists (us), and then there are the lunatics (them).

To me, evolution is more of a metanarrative than science. It is a framing story that helps scientists do what they do. And as it functions as such, I am all for it. If evolution helps scientists develop cures for diseases and iPods that hold more music, great. But why do they feel the need to impose their metanarrative on the rest of us? Over 90% of people in the world believe in God, so their attempts are largely failing. But still, scientists carry themselves with this implied authority that because they are scientists, we should listen to them.


Scientism, or naturalism, or evolutionary biology, or whatever you want to call the rejection of the spiritual doesn't answer the questions that I am asking. Can't they be comfortable agreeing to disagree?

On a side note, Francis Collins and RJS are both Christians. I don't know where RJS stands, but I think that Collins supports some kind of theistic evolution. I am sure that both of them are brilliant and they can well defend their positions. I bet they are both great people, too. I am open to the idea that Genesis 1–11 should be interpreted figuratively, but I think Romans 5 implies that Paul interpreted the Adam narrative "literally" (whatever that meant to him). I don't see the need to adapt my metanarrative to match that of evolutionary biology. Why do scientists insist that I agree with them?

Maybe I'm a fundamentalist afterall.


Chason Laing said...

Yup. I pretty much agree with you. But it's OK to be a lunatic. I'm a lunatic and I think I'm all better for it.

What really cracks me up though is the absolute nature of their statements and beliefs. Can they give you a name of someone who was there at the beginning? No. And yet they seem to think that their information is so perfect that they can explain the world.

Last week, it snowed on two different days in Dallas. They didn't see it coming the first time until a day before. Then when it snowed the second time they claimed it would snow again the next day. It didn't. If scientists can't even get the weather right due to fluxuations in information, how can they expect me to believe them dead on when trying to explain the beginning of the world?

Welcome to the fundamentalists side of the fence. The grass is greener here.

Until you get bored.

Matt said...

Thanks for your thoughts Chason.

I think it's interesting how in the case of postmodernism, evangelicals are ahead of the scientific community. If you look at, everyone is a postmodernist when it comes to their discussions of faith. Everyone has humility in their interpretations, they allow room for dissent and alternate theories. Even when someone suggests some crackpot interpretation of the text, people respond with comments like "How interesting, I never thought of it that way."

On the other hand, the scientific community seems to be threatened by dissent and breaks with the "consensus." I understand how they might frown upon someone messing with the scientific method, but why do they ridicule people with alternate theories of origins (a question of metanarrative, not method)? Why can't their be room for alternate views and scientific dialogue? Is that such a bad thing?