September 26, 2009

Quoting Philip E. Johnson

So, it appears that I am on a streak here, for better or worse, in talking about this whole creationism vs. evolution topic.

First of all, just an observation: the Intelligent Design creationists are pushing for equal time creationism, right? But not all creationism, just theirs. And they want to be included in the science classroom. But they don't want all creationism to be in the science classroom, just theirs.

Noted.

Question: what do these American creationists think about other creation stories? Do they have respect for them? Do they regard those as "science" as well? Just wondering. I have never heard any American creationist argue that Hindu conceptions of reality should be taught in evolutionary biology courses. Hmm. Why is that?

You know, I just don't understand you guys. And I certainly do NOT take a hard-line position about this in the way that Dawkins does. Not even close. Still, I remain perplexed about the overall motives and logic by these folks.

My argument is that world religions would be a great subject to add to public education. That was one of my favorite classes of all time when I first went back to college. Absolutely. Interestingly, I was able to take the course without being brainwashed into believing ANYTHING! Imagine that!

Ok, so here is the promised quote. It is about the 1987 Edward vs. Aguillard case:

"As a legal scholar, one point that attracted my attention in the Supreme Court case was the way terms like "science" and "religion" are used to imply conclusions that judges and educators might be unwilling to state explicitly. If we say that naturalistic evolution is science, and supernatural creation is religion, the effect is not very different from saying that the former is true and the latter is fantasy. When the doctrines of science are taught as fact, then whatever those doctrines include cannot be true. By the use of labels, objections to naturalistic evolution can be dismissed without a fair hearing."

-from the book Darwin on Trial (pg. 7).

There is no reason to assume that equating religion with the supernatural means that it is absolute fantasy. Supernatural means, by definition, that it exists outside of observable, and therefore questionable, analysis. That's why religion is about faith--either you believe or you do not. There is no way to provide evidence or prove anything one way or another. Material explanations of human history and all life on earth are the only explanations that scientists can work with. What else would be even remotely possible? At the same time, using religion as a means to probe scientific questions beyond a kind of philosophical debate makes no sense.

While religion and science attempt to answer some of the same fundamental questions about life on earth, they do so through completely different frameworks and means of investigation. They exist on two completely different planes. And for that reason, I do not even see the need for conflict.

2 comments:

Stacie Gilmore said...

Now I see what you meant by your creationist/evolution kick! :)

So here's a question: this difference between science being observable and religion existing in a different sphere... do you think it applies to all religions?
For Christianity, I agree - the dividing line between the spiritual and the material world is pretty clear.

I'm thinking, for instance, of the Lakota vision quest, or sacred space/landscape, where religion and the observable, or the 'material world' and the 'spiritual', are more intertwined.

On science/truth versus religion/fantasy, I saw a parallel when I was doing research on the K'iche Maya text the Popol Vuh for an environmental history course.

This one historian insisted on separating out "myth" from true "history," but the whole text could also be read as a K'iche account of human-environment relations starting at their version of creation. The mythic parts weren't exactly "supernatural." It all took place in this same world that humans live in today. But, the accounts were so far off from Western standards of history that the historian didn't consider the early parts as "history." In that sense, it felt to me like a misleading separation of truth and myth by the historian that can't exactly be explained away by saying the early parts of the K'iche account are based on faith or beyond material explanation.

Hope that makes sense.

http://anthropologicalprism.blogspot.com

Ryan Anderson said...

"So here's a question: this difference between science being observable and religion existing in a different sphere... do you think it applies to all religions?"

Hmmm. Good questions. Not necessarily. I suppose it depends on some of the basic assumptions, and the different ways that space, time, history, truth, and reality are constructed.

"I'm thinking, for instance, of the Lakota vision quest, or sacred space/landscape, where religion and the observable, or the 'material world' and the 'spiritual', are more intertwined."

You're right, since in some cases very different things are considered observable. A lot is dependent upon being accustomed to a certain way of looking at the world. Science is based upon a whole set of philosophies and assumptions, of course.

"On science/truth versus religion/fantasy, I saw a parallel when I was doing research on the K'iche Maya text the Popol Vuh for an environmental history course."

See, but I wouldn't even want to class religion with fantasy. Not really that simple. Maybe in some cases. But in others, well, it's hard to explain. It can just be a completely different way of looking at reality, humanity, etc. But none of this makes religion absolutely contradictory to science. That seems to only come about when there are disagreements over specific issues...like the actual historical origin of humanity.

You bring up a good point about the Maya case, since there are different ways of constructing and relaying histories. You're always making me ask more questions!