Brooking No Debate

colson2 The late Stephen Jay Gould at Harvard used to describe religion and science as occupying “non-overlapping magisterial authority,” or what he called NOMA. That is, science and religion occupied different “domains,” or areas of life, in which each held “the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution.” There were many problems with Gould’s approach, but at least a lack of respect for religion and religious people wasn’t one of them. Not so with some of today’s scientists. The New York Times reported on a conference recently held in Costa Mesa, California, that turned into the secular materialist equivalent of a revival meeting. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg told attendees that “the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief.” According to Weinberg, “anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.” Another Nobel laureate, chemist Sir Harold Kroto, suggested that the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion be given to Richard Dawkins for his new book The God Delusion. Continuing the theme, Carolyn Porco of the Space Science Institute called for teaching “our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty.” In case you were in doubt about which worldview would inform this “catechesis,” she then added: “It is already so much more glorious and awesome—and even comforting—than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know.” Attempts at a Gould-like détente between religion and science didn’t sit well with this crowd. A presentation by Stanford biologist Joan Roughgarden on how to make evolution more acceptable to Christians was disrupted by Dawkins himself who called it “bad poetry.” After a while, the rancor and stridency got to be too much for some of the attendees. One scientist called it a “den of vipers” where the only debate is “should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?” Another, physicist Lawrence Krauss, chided them, saying “science does not make it impossible to believe in God . . . [and] we should recognize that fact . . . and stop being so pompous about it.” Fat chance. What’s behind all of this animosity? It is a worldview known as “scientism,” the belief that there is no supernatural, only a material world. And it will not countenance any rivals. It is a “jealous god.” As Weinberg’s comments illustrate, it regards any other belief system other than scientism as irrational and the enemy of progress. Given the chance, as in the former Soviet Union, it wants to eliminate its rivals. It is no respecter of pluralism. But this really exposes the difference between the worldviews of these scientists and Christians. We welcome science; it’s the healthy exploration of God’s world. The greatest scientists in history have been Christians who believe science was possible only in a world that was orderly and created by God. We don’t rule out any natural phenomenon. The naturalists, on the other hand, rule out even science that tends to show intelligence, because that might lead to a God. Now, who is narrow-minded?  
For Further Reading and Information
Today’s BreakPoint offer: Learn more about the new Wide Angle worldview curriculum and how you can purchase it. Richard A. Schweder, “Atheists Agonistes,” New York Times, 27 November 2006. Michael Ruse, “A Separate Peace: Stephen Jay Gould and the Limits of Tolerance,” Science & Spirit. Travis McSherley, “The Season for the Reason,” The Point, 13 November 2006. Catherine Claire, “An Unsurprising Revelation,” The Point, 14 November 2006. Catherina Hurlburt, “Easterbrook on Dawkins,” The Point, 14 November 2006. BreakPoint Commentary No. 031204, “We’ve Been Lied To: Christianity and the Rise of Science.”


Chuck Colson


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