Conservative Theology

February 19, 2010

Religion and Science / Steve Fuller on Theological Anthropology and Science

JB

A very interesting video by Steve Fuller on human nature.  I think the Q&A session is better than the main talk, but you have to listen to the talk to understand the Q&A session.

Summary:

The liberal and conservative views of human nature have swapped over the last century.  Marx viewed humans as being beyond nature, and being able to refashion the world according to our image.  The conservatives in Marx's time emphasized the constancy of human nature and the inability for improvement for humanity.  The modern left wants to downgrade the human's nature, making us more of a part of nature, while the conservatives endorse a view of humanity that is beyond nature.  He then shows how this interplays with science, and that science is based on humanity's being beyond nature, and that downgrading humanity also downgrades the role and scope of science.

My View:

Conservatives view humans as being both physical and spiritual.  The left is waffling between extremes because they are reductionistic, and, failing one reduction, they move to another.  Christians, on the other hand, only find a reduction in God, and therefore resist either extreme.

Note:

The video is much more interesting than my summary would suggest.  Especially the Q&A.  The Q&A pushes on the discrepancy between western intellectual traditions and the evolutionary view of the human, and how many people hold to both even if they aren't compatible.

February 11, 2010

Religion and Science / Science Without its Magisterium

JB

Steve Fuller has a new book coming out called Science in Acum Publishing's "The Art of Living" series.  Here a snippet from the book's description (bold mine):

...Fuller argues that science is undergoing its own version of secularisation. It is not that people are coming to lose their faith in science per se but rather they are losing the compulsion to conform to a specific orthodoxy that is upheld by a specially anointed class of “science priests”. We are, in a sense, all scientists now, says Fuller. Taking science into our own hands, we have become emboldened to affirm ideas and claims that conform to our own or our community’s experiences even if they go against the authorised experience of the laboratory.

 

 

February 07, 2010

Religion and Science / Religious Knowledge and the So-Called "War" Between Science and Faith

JB

I have had it with people talking about the war between science and faith.  It is simply the most absurd concept I've ever heard of in my life.  If there is such a war, it certainly isn't being engaged on the theological side of the aisle.  The only reason for the claim of a war is to remove any real integration of theology into academic conversations.

Let me explain my problems with the idea of a "conflict" between science and religion.  Has anyone met anyone in the entire U.S. who disagrees with the entirety of the scientific enterprise?  The only way that this could be true is if someone viewed science as a series of facts to be memorized.  If that is their view of science, it is a decidedly anti-scientific view of science.  Science is a process, not a result.  Anyone who calls the results science instead of the process, is not promoting science, but something else.

Now, science is just one part of human knowledge.  I think that even the most ardent reductionist materialist would agree that, at least in our present state, in the absence of complete scientific knowledge, there are other non-scientific avenues of inquiry which yield real knowledge.  The materialist would hopefully at least allow for such avenues to yield "stand-in" knowledge, while we wait for knowledge.  In addition, in absence of complete knowledge, these other avenues might actually deliver better knowledge on some avenues than current science does, even if one believes that in the end science will produce the better knowledge.  In any case, I think we can safely say that there are a multitude of ways of obtaining knowledge other than science, even if someone believes that in the long run science is the ultimate form of knowledge.

Therefore, the question is, what happens when religion and science come to different conclusions?  Should science give in?  Should religion?  Should they each continue independently?  Should they find common ground?  My contention is simply this - no matter what they do, it would be improper to consider it a "war".  If a mathematician criticizes an engineer, we wouldn't talk about a "war between math and engineering".  Nor should we consider many of the criticisms of evolutionary psychology by evolutionists as a "war between science and science".

The fact is, if a discipline can yield real knowledge, then, in our finite and imperfect state of knowledge of all fields, it is likely that some of that knowledge will in fact be contrary to a few or many parts of other fields.  There is nothing wrong with this.  The part that is problematic is interpeting these conversations as a war.  The only reason why some people see this as a war is not because there is a conflict between disciplines, but rather that some people don't see theology as a proper discipline that yields any real knowledge.  That is the only way in which a "conflict" status between science and religion could emerge.  Everyone believes that science can at least yield some real knowledge.  But many materialists think that it is plainly improper for theology to yield real knowledge.

Therefore, the "war" between religion and science, if it is being waged at all, cannot be thought of as being waged by the religionists!  If there is merely disagreements, then the only person who would see that as a war, as opposed to merely the common result of multiple disciplines with incomplete knowledge, is someone who saw religion as having no proper role to play within the development of knowledge.

That is why the proposed "solutions" to the "war between science and religion" are so infuriating... they all involve simply ceding all knowledge claims to science!  Either that, or, even worse in my opinion, is to gloss over "science" with a meaningless ex post facto theological brush.  The only thing that does is tell everyone that yes, theology is adding nothing of consequence to the conversation.

The true solution to the "war" between science and religion is for theologians to understand science better - not so as to merely capitulate to someone else's claims, but rather to be able to more effectively engage in constructive dialogue.  I believe absolutely in the claim that "all truth is God's truth".  I disagree, however, that this necessitates us to think that everything a scientist says represents truth. 

If religion contains true knowledge, then, if all truth is God's truth, that truth should be instructive in fields beyond our just theology. 

I think the biggest fear that is preventing this is the fear of, "what if theology makes a claim that turns out to be wrong?"  Well, so what?  Isn't it amazing that science can overturn itself every few decades without a loss of confidence, but we are scared to death that even a single statement we make might turn out to be wrong.  I think, perhaps, that we are holding ourselves to too high of a standard.  Instead, we need to engage, and engage with the knowledge that we might be wrong.  But if we use the possibility of being wrong as a reason to not engage, then we might as well just quit altogether, and tell everyone to just listen to the materialists since they are the only ones with real knowledge.