The following are some excerpts from an insightful and fair-minded essay I read recently by Mike Murray that addresses the “theology bashing” being condoned by various scientists today. He makes one explicit statement that I do not entirely agree with, that “religion is subjective (faith-based),” but I heartily applaud everything else he writes.
by Mike Murray
I have a vague, conceptual belief in some kind of "supreme being." I see that conviction as being not at all at odds with science. I have stated it before and I will repeat it here: There is no belief system -- scientific, religious, or any combination thereof -- that escapes the requirement of faith.
For, to those scientists who say that a god cannot exist since one cannot be proved (and because no one can say from where such a god would have come), the retort is obvious. If the physical matter that presumably exploded in a "Big Bang" wasn't created by a god, from where did that come? If a god did not create the stuff from which the universe supposedly evolved, who -- or what -- did?
If it cannot be proved that "God always was," neither can it be proved that "matter always existed." A degree of faith (or of sticking one's head in the sand) is involved, whichever way you slice it…
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The presumption of too many people working in scientific positions is thus: science is objective (legitimate), religion is subjective (faith-based). In the matter of the latter, there is no argument; in the case of the former, I disagree.
Scientific methodology calls for observation, experimentation, or contemplation (or some combination of the three) to move a hypothesis to a theory. If other scientists independently replicate a presenter's results -- and if no one succeeds at attempts to disprove the core contention(s) within some period of time -- the proposed theory becomes "accepted" theory. It often remains unproven. Many times, a new theory eventually supplants it.
Hence, even when scientists do make honest efforts at objectivity, actual proof (the hurdle they demand that theologians clear in order to establish legitimacy) is routinely absent in their own work.
The scientists who argue against a Supreme Being's hand in the creation of the universe cite the giants of physics past. They speak of Nicholas Copernicus, who (like Aristarchus in ancient times before him) departed from Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus), arguing for a solar system in which the Earth circles the Sun -- instead of the other way around. They breathe the name of Galileo Galilei, who suffered house arrest at the hands of the Catholic Church in his later years for defending that very notion.
Those same scientists invoke the memory of Johannes Kepler, who worked out the ellipses that the planets scribe in their journeys around Old Sol. And they recall Isaac Newton's theory of gravity, and then Albert Einstein's revision -- through his work on general relativity -- to bolster their views.
Pretty heady stuff, that. And a most impressive list of experts.
But those making the argument for "matter evolving to consciousness" -- without any help at all from any kind of Creator -- commit a grievous intellectual sin: the sin of omission. For, while they faithfully report some facts relating to the evolution of physics theory, they studiously edit out that which fails to serve their postulates (or, worse, that has the potential of undermining them altogether).
Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Einstein -- they were all seeking to reveal the hand of God, not to disprove it. They were all believers in a Supreme Being, one who they (devoutly) reckoned created the universe. They were all attempting to "read the mind of God," as Einstein (and perhaps Kepler before him) put it. (Stephen Hawking often repeats that phrase -- usually without attribution -- in discussing the Holy Grail of present-day physics: the so-called Unified Theory, the "theory of everything.")…
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… But I do know one thing. Too many scientists hold theologians to standards to which they, themselves, do not adhere.
For far too many physicists, astronomers, and biologists it's presently a case of "wrong in part, wrong in toto" when it comes to theology. According to them, if there was no actual Garden of Eden (and if there is any chance at all that life exists elsewhere in the universe), then the religious types are all wet.
What if scientists were held to that same standard? They've been wrong many, many times over the centuries. Copernicus (and Aristarchus) proved Ptolemy wrong about his earth-centric system. Kepler corrected the errant notion of circular orbits for planets. Newton likewise altered some earlier-held beliefs while refining his theories about gravitation. Einstein revised Newton and Maxwell. Today, many physicists are hard at work in their efforts to go beyond Einstein, to add to or modify the ideas of Field, Relativity, and Quanta.
In the past, scientists often thought they "knew" things, only to be proved -- at least partially -- wrong by those who followed in their footsteps. If members of society now said to scientists (as many of them are saying to theologians): "Sorry, if you're wrong even a little, you're wrong completely ...and you have nothing to say to us," would they deem it reasonable?
It would be wrong to attack scientists' laudable efforts at observation, experimentation, and contemplation in formulating hypotheses and theories that seek to move our understanding of the physical world forward. It is just as wrong, in my judgment, for scientists to engage in religion-bashing. Regardless of one's personal beliefs on the subject of theology, such activity is uncalled for. Counterproductive, even.
Moreover, a great many of history's giants, working in a variety of scientific fields, have sought to prove God's handiwork -- not to dispel it. To use them today, deceptively (directly or indirectly), in the service of religious detraction is more than heresy. It is intellectual dishonesty.
Copyright ©2006 Michael F. Murray