In a conversation with a new friend last night, I haltingly brought up some of the books I have downloaded on my computer about atheism. Well, on further inspection, I also have a lot of books written by various religious authors as well. One of these books, though very brief, tries to explain the relation between faith and science. It is called “The Harmony Between Christian Faith and Physical Science – A Chapter of Christian Philosophy” by T. Nelson Dale, Jr. Basically, he asserts that God is real, that Jesus is real, that both are infallible, that the Bible is the literal word of God and therefore the truth, and that God and Jesus are responsible for not only the physical representation of every human on the planet but also every blade of grass and stray molecule present. Using these flawed and unproven assertions, he tries to unite religion and science in some sort of universal plan set forth by his mythical Creator, insisting that the two can exist in harmony and even complement one another.
I have taken a few passages from this work and typed them out below (because they were in pdf format) in red quotations. These quotes make up the basis of his argument, and I, being the voice of reason, aim to tear them to bits. I figured I haven’t really done too much on my atheist beliefs for this blog, so this is kind of a test to see how well I can actually organize and communicate my thoughts.
“If in addition to an eye trained to discern beauty and a mind furnished with scientific knowledge, the person possesses a Christian mind, he will see the wisdom of this Heavenly Father displayed in the origin, history, structure, effect and beauty of the mountains, and as he reflects upon it he will find that his aesthetical philosophical, and religious natures are all harmonized and satisfied. This aspect would thus include all that a Ruskin, a Newton, a Humboldt, an Agassiz, or a Darwin have revealed to us of a nature, complemented and sanctified by that which a David and a John beheld it.
It will be readily seen what the practical effect of such and understanding of truth would be both upon Christian faith and upon scientific pursuits.
Christian faith may well be supplemented by a knowledge of the wisdom of her God, and thus add the grace of intellectual humility to her graces of the heart, and afford herself even more grounds for intelligent worship and praise. And on the other hand, just as a knowledge of botany is incomplete without knowing the source of the heat and light which sustain vegetable life, so a knowledge of physical law needs to be complimented by a knowledge of the Giver of physical law, though reasons much more momentous and tender than this are not lacking to induce the scientist to seek Him whose physical law he so well understands.”
Physical laws, such as that of Gravity, action and reaction, and chemical processes do not, however, remain solely in the physical sciences. Yes, they are a great basis for studying the earth’s strata, geology, botany, and other such things, but they also ripple out to affect the study of things like molecular biology, anatomy, fossil formation, carbon dating, and all of the sciences and principles that have accumulatively ruled out the existence of any supernatural beings. Yes, the Bible can paint a pretty picture with lovely words that tell about the beauty and majesty all around us, BUT that does not mean that this nearly two-thousand year old book has all the answers about how that same beauty and majesty was created, nor does it have any say whatsoever on how it is still all changing and evolving.
The beliefs held by this author are directly in line with any of the multiple variations of Creationists who exist, so I am assuming that this is also how many people in the world still view the relation between science and religion. However, this belief can only be held onto if a person has not read and understood anything of scientific value in the last few decades. It’s all well and good to say that a Creator must have purposefully designed something as complex as the eye or as mystifying as a caterpillar that turns into a butterfly inside a chrysalis, but that is only if you live in the era before the science explosion we have had of late. How can the eye be thought to be the purposeful, unique creation of a god after all that scientists have diligently put together about the evolution of the eye? We have every single intermediate form of the eye, we know all of the chemical processes used to develop all of the different types of eyes, and we also know that our eyes are the most ass-backward design possible. If the creator made humans in his image, and the creator is a perfect being, then why in the world would squids have better eyes than humans? Is there perhaps a squid god who sits above the Christian god? Ok, so now I’m just being ridiculous, but honestly there is NO WAY to reconcile the fairy tale biblical interpretation of the world and its history with the scientific progress that has been achieved. If scientists are truly as knowledgeable about their field as this author proclaims, then it is virtually impossible for them to hold onto their outdated religious beliefs.
Wait, that reminds me… you should look at this post on Gallup: http://www.gallup.com/poll/21811/american-beliefs-evolution-vs-bibles-explanation-human-origins.aspx
If you actually take the time to read through it, you will see what the population of the US believes as a whole, then you will also see (further down the page) the results of a survey done to correlate the beliefs of the common citizen to the beliefs of increasingly educated individuals. There is a definite linear relationship between education and belief in a personal god, and it goes downward. Of the most venerated scientists in our country, only 7% actually still hold on to some form of belief in a personal god, while nearly half of the general population believe in the literal truth of the Bible. It’s funny that Mr. Dale, Jr. can so nonchalantly assure his readers that it is entirely possible to meld religion with science, when all of the evidence points to exactly the opposite – science forces reason into the equation, and therefore forces the scientist to give up on any supernatural beliefs. The gaps in which a god can live are rapidly closing as science discovers and explains more and more of the natural world.
“When we consider the self-denying and patient researches, the unswerving loyalty to truth, the love of exactitude, and that beautiful intellectual humility begotten of much knowledge, which are so characteristic of the true man of science, one might think it was but a step from these to the exalted Christian morality set forth in the sermon on the mount and in the 13th Corinthians. But we must not forget that Christian faith is the only solid foundation of Christian morality.
We may gather some lessons of practical wisdom from the truth set forth. What should be the attitude of the Christian toward physical science, especially at the present time? Certainly not one of enmity! Nor that of indifference either.
We may deeply regret that such and such a man whom God has endowed with capacity and opportunity to understand His works, may not feel his need of an intelligent Christian faith; or that another may not guard language directed against a short-sighted interpretation of scripture from being understood as directed against inspiration itself; but we cannot refrain if we would from gladly welcoming the contributions of such men to scientific knowledge, or from admiring their intellectual gifts and acquirements.”
Here he exalts the personal attributes of the true scientist. Then he goes on to flush all of those positive attributes down the toilet by saying that it is only a false morality gained by denying the self, patience, unswerving loyalty to truth, love of exactitude, and intellectual humility. No, the only way to be truly moral is to base your morality in Christian faith. I don’t even know where to start with the inanity of this. Basically he is saying that no matter how good of a person one is, they are not truly good unless they compliment all of their good aspects with an unreasonable, biased, and totally unscientific belief in a being who doesn’t exist. A person is only good if he/she also happens to buy into myths that have no basis in fact whatsoever. How on earth does that make any sense?
Now, this is a question I always get when I “come out” to a religious person. How can you be good if you don’t believe in a personal god? How do you know what is right? Why don’t you just run around raping and murdering if you have nothing to fear? Yikes! So, basically, you are saying that if you, personally, didn’t have your god there in your life anymore, you would do all of these horrific things? Then by all means! Go pray and fast and do your silly little incantations with all the rest of your dangerously psychotic friends! If that is all that is keeping you from doing bad things, then do it. But what does that say about your character… your morality? You are only good because you are afraid of punishment, and not because you truly want to be good. You are good because you seek some sort of eternal reward, and not because it’s just the right thing to do. You are good because you are selfish. I, on the other hand, am not afraid for my soul. I am not constantly trying to please some omnipotent eye in the sky. I don’t believe in life after death, nor do I believe that what I say and project makes me a good or bad person. I believe that a good person is one who strives to help other people, to seek the truth no matter how hard it is to swallow, to persevere through bad times and celebrate the good times, to make the world a better place for future generations, and to use reason to solve life’s many problems. A good person does not simply say they are good or act good for the sake of impressing someone else – a good person finds joy in making everyone and everything around them happy. A good person does not help others because they are told to or expected to – a good person helps others because it’s the right thing to do. A good person treats others how they would wish to be treated. A good person does not judge, malign, or take from their fellows. A good person always strives to become something better, and is truly sorrowful if their actions cause pain for others.
I know a lot of truly good people who just happen to be religious, but on the other hand I know a lot of very amoral and awful people who belong to the same religions. I have been treated to words filled with honey before I let my atheism be known, only to taste the bitter bile of rejection and disrespect when I reveal myself. How can anyone so duplicitous and hypocritical ever hope to be a truly good person? Seriously, sometimes I wonder how such outright hatred, hostility, and condemnation could possibly be reconciled with their supposed high standards of morality. I have had religious people go right from saying that they don’t judge right to saying that I am going to Hell all in one breath. Do they really not see the contradiction? Yes, people can be good, can have proper morals, without a personal god. I think the question more people should ask is how a person can truly be good if they only do what they do and act how they act because they think someone is watching. That mindset is okay if you are a toddler, but I think it’s time for society to grow up and start taking on some personal responsibility.
“If science should by legitimate reasoning transfer the greater portion of the history of the physical universe from the domain of the supernatural into that of the natural, it will be no less Divine in its origin and development. Nor do the scriptures teach otherwise. What warrant have we for interpreting the simple figure of a workman, by which the Creator is generally represented to us in the Bible, as standing for one who did not make natural laws as tools to execute His concepts in that early morning of the world!”
Um, yes, it will be less Divine in its origin and development. The Bible claims that the world is 6000 or so years old, that everything we know was created in six days, and that everything (down to the tiniest atom) is part of some immense, unknowable, untestable, godly plan. That is not at all what science states. In fact, the two ideas could not be any more dissimilar than what they are. They are two utterly opposing world views, and entirely incompatible with one another. Science documents what has happened and what is happening based on testable hypotheses and theories. A scientific theory is not simply something that a few scientists get together and brainstorm to come up with. It is something that has stood the test of time against all experimentation, adversity, and analysis. A theory is not simply an idea – it is an idea that has been scrutinized by all of the most educated minds in the field of science and found to be flawless. To say that something like evolution is “just a theory” and is therefore not true is a gross misunderstanding of the way science is done. Gravity is still a theory, yet I don’t see religious people throwing fits about the teaching of gravitational principles in schools. Science has given us medicine, technology, longer life spans, lower infant mortality rates, more and better food, better healthcare, worldwide communication, hope, dignity, and equal rights for all people no matter their color or social status. Science has given us so much, but… honestly… what has religion given us? A whole gaggle of religious texts telling us how to live our lives according to the base knowledge and raucous societal mores of generations to lived thousands of years ago. Why on earth is it so difficult for people to let go of that outdated rubbish and accept what science has to tell us?
“But even if we are unable to convince science of her need of God, we may insist that she shall be true to herself. As we insist upon a sound physical science and then cordially accept her revelations.”
As you insist. Still waiting for the cordial acceptance, though. Let me know as soon as that happens, okay?