Friday, July 18, 2008


The scientific method has been an extremely useful method of problem solving and expanding mastery over the material world. Despite that, many religious people are wary of science and scientists. Do you ever wonder why? In large part it's statements like the following.

"We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment--a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation for the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori commitment to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, the materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."
Richard Lewontin, New York Review of Books, 1997

Lewontin and his brethren have a perfect right to be materialists and to view the world through atheistic-tinted glasses. They do not have an intellectually honest right to assume that their a priori commitments are absolute and might not have a different explanation. I think it's reasonable to interpret what he says as being willing to skew information to keep God's foot out of the door. That is why many religious people, even those not inimical to science are skeptics of "scientific" announcements that "the Bible" has been "disproved."

I still think the scientific method is useful and in fact a fine way to examine what I like to call GOD'S CREATION. At the same time, I find some "scientists" to be as dogmatically blind and agenda driven as the most unthinking "fundamentalist."

I have hopes that there are people who can actually exchange knowledge and ideas--even ideas about scientific knowledge & revelational knowledge--without the need to demonize one another. See my post on The Common Foundation of Faith and Reason for further thinking on this subject.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Thanks for a thought provoking post.

Scientists are right in vigorously supporting materialistic explanations. The minute we say "God did it" it's no longer science.

However, scientists (and others) often confuse this methodological necessity with a metaphysical reality. Just because the scientific method must be material does not imply the non-existence of God. If fact it is precisely because science limits itself to the material world that it has nothing to contribute to metaphysics and thus nothing to say about the existence or non-existence of God.

Accepting this reality and getting rid of the dogmatism and demonization you mention would go a long way toward your hope of a freer exchange of ideas, something I also wish for.