Science: Applied Dominionism, Surrender, and Resurgence

The below is from The problem of using “methodological” naturalism to define science


Sometimes the most obvious facts are the easiest to overlook. Here is one that ought to be stunningly obvious: science as an organized, sustained enterprise arose only once in the history of Earth. Where was that? Although other civilizations have contributed technical achievements or isolated innovations, the invention of science as a cumulative, rigorous, systematic, and ongoing investigation into the laws of nature occurred only in Europe; that is, in the civilization then known as Christendom. Science arose and flourished in a civilization that, at the time, was profoundly and nearly exclusively Christian in its mental outlook.

There are deep reasons for that, and they are inherent in the Judeo-Christian view of the world which, principally in its Christian manifestation, formed the European mind. As Stark observes, the Christian view depicted God as “a rational, responsive, dependable, and omnipotent being and the universe as his personal creation, thus having a rational, lawful, stable structure, awaiting human comprehension.” That was not true of belief systems elsewhere. A view that the universe is uncreated, has been around forever, and is just “what happens to be” does not suggest that it has fundamental principles that are rational and discoverable. Other belief systems have considered the natural world to be an insoluble mystery, conceived of it as a realm in which multiple, arbitrary gods are at work, or thought of it in animistic terms. None of these views will, or did, give rise to a deep faith that there is a lawful order imparted by a divine creator that can and should be discovered.

[–> Clue: why do we still talk about “Laws” of nature? Doesn’t such historically rooted language not suggest: a law-giver? (And indeed, that is precisely what Newton discussed at length in his General Scholium to his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.) Of course, that will not move the deeply indoctrinated and polarised, but it is a clear marker to those who are willing to think more open-mindedly.]

Recent scholarship in the history of science reveals that this commitment to rational, empirical investigation of God’s creation is not simply a product of the “scientific revolution” of the 16th and 17th centuries, but has profound roots going back at least to the High Middle Ages . . . .

Albertus Magnus — prodigious scholar, naturalist, teacher of Thomas Aquinas, and member of the Dominican order — affirmed in his De Mineralibus that the purpose of science is “not simply to accept the statements of others, that is, what is narrated by people, but to investigate the causes that are at work in nature for themselves.” Another 13th-century figure, Robert Grosseteste, who was chancellor of Oxford and Bishop of Lincoln, has been identified as “the first man ever to write down a complete set of steps for performing a scientific experiment,” according to Woods.

WHEN THE DISCOVERIES of science exploded in number and importance in the 1500s and 1600s, the connection with Christian belief was again profound. Many of the trailblazing scientists of that period when science came into full bloom were devout Christian believers, and declared that their work was inspired by a desire to explore God’s creation and discover its glories. Perhaps the greatest scientist in history, Sir Isaac Newton, was a fervent [–> though of course, unorthodox] Christian who wrote over a million words on theological subjects. Other giants of science and mathematics were similarly devout: Boyle, Descartes, Kepler, Leibniz, Pascal. To avoid relying on what might be isolated examples, Stark analyzed the religious views of the 52 leading scientists from the time of Copernicus until the end of the 17th century. Using a methodology that probably downplayed religious belief, he found that 32 were “devout”; 18 were at least “conventional” in their religious belief; and only two were “skeptics.” More than a quarter were themselves ecclesiastics: “priests, ministers, monks, canons, and the like.”

Down through the 19th century, many of the leading figures in science were thoroughgoing Christians. A partial list includes Babbage, Dalton, Faraday, Herschel, Joule, Lyell, Maxwell, Mendel, and Thompson (Lord Kelvin). A survey of the most eminent British scientists near the end of the 19th century found that nearly all were members of the established church or affiliated with some other church.

In short, scientists who were committed Christians include men often considered to be fathers of the fields of astronomy, atomic theory, calculus, chemistry, computers, electricity, genetics, geology, mathematics, and physics. In the late 1990s, a survey found that about 40 percent of American scientists believe in a personal God and an afterlife — a percentage that is basically unchanged since the early 20th century. A listing of eminent 20th-century scientists who were religious believers would be far too voluminous to include here — so let’s not bring coals to Newcastle, but simply note that the list would be large indeed, including Nobel Prize winners.

Far from being inimical to science, then, the Judeo-Christian worldview is the only belief system that actually produced it. Scientists who (in Boyle’s words) viewed nature as “the immutable workmanship of the omniscient Architect” were the pathfinders who originated the scientific enterprise. The assertion that intelligent design is automatically “not science” because it may support the concept of a creator is a statement of materialist philosophy, not of any intrinsic requirement of science itself.

The redefinition of science in materialist terms — never wholly successful, but probably now the predominant view — required the confluence of several intellectual currents. The attack on religious belief in general, and Christianity in particular, has been underway for more than two centuries . . . . IT WAS THE AWE-INSPIRING SUCCESS of science itself, nurtured for centuries in a Christian belief system, that caused many to turn to it as the comprehensive source of explanation. With the mighty technology spawned by science in his hands, man could exalt himself, it seemed, and dispense with God. Although Darwin was by no means the sole cause of the apotheosis of materialist science, his theories gave it crucial support. It is perhaps not altogether a coincidence that the year 1882, in which Darwin died, found Nietzsche proclaiming that “God is dead…and we have killed him.”

The capture of science (in considerable measure) by materialist philosophy was aided by the hasty retreat of many theists. There are those who duck any conflict by declaring that science and religion occupy non-overlapping domains or, to use a current catchphrase, separate “magisteria.” One hears this dichotomy expressed in apothegms such as, “Science asks how; religion asks why.” In this view, science is the domain of hard facts and objective truth. Religion is the realm of subjective belief and faith. Science is publicly verifiable, and is the only kind of truth that can be allowed in the public square. Religion is private, unverifiable, and cannot be permitted to intrude into public affairs, including education. The two magisteria do not conflict, because they never come into contact with each other. To achieve this peace, all the theists have to do is interpret away many of the central beliefs of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

This retreat makes some theists happy, because they can avoid a fight that they feel ill-equipped to win, and can retire to a cozy warren of warm, fuzzy irrelevancy. It also makes materialists happy, because the field has been ceded to them. As ID advocate Phillip Johnson remarks acerbically:

Politically astute scientific naturalists feel no hostility toward those religious leaders who implicitly accept the key naturalistic doctrine that supernatural powers do not actually affect the course of nature. In fact, many scientific leaders disapprove of aggressive atheists like Richard Dawkins, who seem to be asking for trouble by picking fights with religious people who only want to surrender with dignity.

But the ID theorists do not go gentle into that good night. That’s what’s different about intelligent design. ID says that the best evidence we have shows that life is the product of a real intelligent agent, actually working in space and time, and that the designer’s hand can be detected, scientifically and mathematically, by what we know about the kinds of things that are produced only by intelligence. It is making scientific claims about the real world. Because it relies on objective fact and scientific reasoning, ID seeks admission to the public square. Rather than retreating to the gaseous realm of the subjective, it challenges the materialist conception of science on its own turf. It thus threatens materialism generally, with all that that entails for morality, law, culture — and even for what it means to be human.

THOSE WHO NOW OCCUPY the public square will fight to keep possession of it. The advocates of Darwinian materialism believe that they are in possession of The Truth, and are perfectly willing to invoke the power of the state to suppress competing views [–> which should be a big warning-sign that something has gone very wrong] . . . [“What’s the Big Deal About Intelligent Design?” By Dan Peterson, American Spectator, Published 12/22/2005; also cf his earlier popular level summary on ID here. (HT: Wayback Machine.)]


Christian leaders are a cowardly lot, aren’t they?

I mean the loathsome products of theological academic training, of course.

Other Christian academics are somewhat more craven than the general population, but not nearly so spineless as the pastors, priests, and clergymen that demand leadership of the church!

Worthless shepherds.

Fortunately, these men, their kneel-before-power theologies, and their comfortable and secure positions are on the way out.

The secular world long ago learned to utterly ignore them (when they don’t frankly laugh at them): it’s long past time for Christians to do so as well.

Purge the pulpits.

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