To all the many practical and pleasurable reasons anyone has to explore the sciences and to be excited and enthralled by science, evangelical Christians can add one more: It’s God’s world, God’s cosmos. God made it. God is redeeming it. God loves it. Anyone who loves God ought to love the world as well — and to love learning about the world.But alas, Houston, we have a problem. He goes on
We Christians ought to be famous for our love and devotion to the best, deepest, broadest and most ambitious science. We ought to be known for the same half-goofy, starry-eyed wonderment that the late Carl Sagan showed toward science.
Perversely, the opposite is true. …And for American evangelical Christians the track record is even worse. American evangelicals tend to treat science as the enemy and to regard scientists as guilty until proven innocent. This is due to a host of reasons, foremost among them being the perception that evolution poses a threat to the Bible.And so, as we move into election season, we are treated once again to the spectacle of Republican candidates for president denying evolution, climate change, and science. Think about it. People who want to be President of the US are setting themselves as deniers of rational, fact-driven evaluations. They will be making choices by treating science as just another interest group.
Physicist Karl Giberson blames the Discovery Institute
The rhetorical strategy employed by the Discovery Institute does a great disservice to American evangelicals who, understandably, are drawn to faith-friendly discussions of science. In their eagerness to dismantle scientific objections to intelligent design the Discovery Institute drives yet another wedge between evangelicals and the scientific community, making it harder for religious believers to distinguish science from pseudoscience, in particular, and real knowledge claims from fake ones in general.He goes on to explains how the attacks on evolution have led to rejection of science overall, with profound consequences for our political debate
The relentless assaults on the integrity of science by groups like the Discovery Institute have made it impossible for many people to understand the significance of a "scientific consensus." If the members of the National Academy of Sciences are just another political group with their own agenda -- left-wing Tea Partiers with Ph.Ds -- we are under no obligation to take them seriously. We can even compare ourselves to Galileo for opposing them, as Rick Perry did in explaining why he rejected the scientific consensus on climate change.
In our new book, "The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age," historian Randall Stephens and I look at the widespread and disturbing inability of American evangelicals to distinguish between real knowledge claims, rooted in serious research and endorsed by credible knowledge communities, and pseudo-claims made by unqualified groups and leaders that offer "faith-friendly" alternatives. Across the board we find evangelical Christians attracted to indefensible views in many areas: American history (the Founding Fathers intended America to be a Christian nation), sexual orientation (you can "pray away the gay"), climate change (not happening), evolution (never happened), cosmology (Big Bang is a big joke) and even biblical studies (the bible tells us what is about to happen in the Middle East).
The tragedy is that nothing within the faith commitments of evangelicals requires the adoption of these various knowledge-denying views.How did we get to this point? Alex Knapp steps back, after reading Karen Armstrong:
The problem is that with the success of the Enlightenment, science, and our modern culture, we seem to have discarded the idea of mythos as part of our mainstream culture. As a consequence, there are those of faith who confuse mythos with logos - that is, they read a story or sacred text and interpret what is intended to be a symbolic aspect of spiritual life and treat it literally, as though the story happened historically or happened exactly as described. And in rejecting religious belief, a lot of atheists make the same mistake.Philosopher John Gray agrees:
This is not to say that I want to reject reason or science – quite the contrary! My point here is that understanding distinction between these truths of mythos and logos points the way towards realizing the compatibility of scientific and religious thought. We need them both. They don’t have to be enemies, as they represent different aspects of the human search for truth.
If you go back to St. Augustine or before, to the Jewish scholars who talk about these issues, they never regard the Genesis story as a theory. Augustine says explicitly that it should not be interpreted explicitly, that it's a way of accessing truths which can't really be formulated by the human mind in any rational way. It's a way of accessing mysterious features which will remain mysterious. So it was always seen right up to the rise of modern science—as a myth, not a theory."I wonder if it is significant that the science-denying Biblical literalists tend to be from a very different practice of Christianity. It seems to me that mainline Protestants and Catholics are more comfortable in balancing "the mysteries of faith" and the concrete facts of the real world. Think about trans-substantiation: that's simply wild as a concept. To believe in that is to believe in a sort of suspension of "real" world laws, that is so extreme, that of course it's in a different realm. Christian faith traditions that are full of paradox and mystery are by this argument, far more able to keep faith and science apart, rather than attempting to impose black-white conformity. Because if there has to be conformity, as in the more literalist views, then religion and science really are the same thing.
John Gray agrees
What these creationists are doing is retreating, they're accepting the view of religion promoted by scientific enemies of religion, and saying, no, we have got science and it's better than your science.And of course, black and white conformity is what the anti-thesists offer as well--those are the ones I would call "scientific enemies of religion". (As we have discussed before at some length, most scientists are simply not interested in religion or faith issues, so this is not a science v. religion, much as Dawkins and his ilk might like to make it so.)
Whether these experiences are simply all in our heads (as in the patterns of neuronal behavior) or not is, in the end, utterly irrelevant. Can we experience mystery, ambiguity, and transcendence, yet still recognize the facts of the "real world"? I believe that we can, and must. After all, a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"