Sunday, February 10, 2008

Where Science, Religion Meet?

This news article reports on a noble effort of trying to present the middle ground between science and religion as part of what they call the Evolution weekend. I'm sure they had good intentions here in doing this, and certainly, having such dialog could possibly help. However, and maybe this is simply the skeptic in me talking, I think they're missing a lot of important aspect here, which is understandable if they only think of "religion" as being "christianity".

For example:

"Neither science nor faith can fully prove how the world came to be, so they are complimentary to each other," said Bennet Brabson, a professor of physics at Indiana University in Bloomington.

"(Religion and science) have a shared inquiry, not necessarily a shared certitude," said Mark Engle, a retired rector from a Marquette church. "The journey of truth in scriptures is never done without science."

Whenever someone says something like this, he/she is forgetting one important thing. In science, when something is accepted to be valid, there is usually ONE set of formulation or description that we all agreed on. It doesn't matter if you are an American, a European, a Russian, a Chinese, a christian, a buddhist, a muslim, an athiest, etc... It is the SAME scientific theory and description. The theory of conventional superconductivity, for example, isn't different for a Canadian than it is for a Japanese, no matter what their social and cultural differences are. Even something that is still being highly studied, such as the Big Bang Theory, has a rather large and uniform consensus, even though there are small groups of cosmologist that may disagree with it. What may differ, for instance, among those who do accept the Big Bang, is the details. They may disagree on the "exact" age of the universe, let's say, but it's a matter of it being 4 billion, 6, billion, of 12 billion years old. The difference certainly not between 10 billion and 10,000 years old. If better evidence come along, accepted science evolves to match the evidence.

The same can't be said about religion and its view of the universe. The Judeo-Christian-Islam view of the universe varies WIDELY from the Hindu/Buddhist/Taoist/etc. view of the universe. One can also say that even within the Judeo-Christian-Islam religion, there are also significant differences in the description of the universe. Don't believe me? Read Maurice Bucaille's "The Bible, The Quran, and Science". They do not agree on the fundamental formation of the universe and its age. Even among the Christians themselves, you get one that accepts the age of the universe from Cosmology as being in the billions of years, while there are these "Young Earth" followers who still think the earth is only of the order of 10,000 years old! That's a major, major discrepancy in my book.

So I find it strange that whenever people say that both science and religion can meet, and that one compliments the other in our understanding of the universe, this major disagreement between various religious views are never mentioned, as if "religion" is only one version of Christianity, and as if "religion" means "Christianity" only. There is NO ONE ACCEPTED VERSION of the universe in religion. That's a fallacy.

Not only that, the other reason why I think events like this may not be that effective is because you get someone like this who can't see the fault in what they believe in:

Fred Betz, 63, of Galesburg told the panelists he took the words of the Bible at face value, and his understanding of scripture disproved evolution.

"What's wrong with my simplistic view of reading the Bible?" Betz asked.

Panelists said nothing was wrong and pointed to the central themes of Evolution Weekend: open-mindedness and discussion.

"The way we deal with each other is more important than any of our individual theories," Brabson answered.

Betz wasn't convinced.

"It's sad we're having (this discussion) in a church," he said after the event. "The Bible is the inherent word of God. It's sad I had to explain the same things to them I had to explain to my atheist friend."

How come no one points out that what this guy accepts "at face value" is nothing more than a product of SEVERAL TRANSLATIONS of human memorization over hundreds of years? Did he think that the bible was written in English outright? How secure are you at accepting "at face value" something that had been translated from several ancient languages across several different cultures? How many languages does this guy know? Has he ever done any kind of translation and see how a lot of meanings get lost when one does that? I mean, c'mon! Why are we missing something this obvious here?

When all the religions of the world get their act together and come up with a coherent picture, when maybe this "science meet religion" affair might produce something worthwhile. Till then, all this is doing is trying to merge science with something that is ill-defined. I see this as a futile effort.



Anonymous said...

fantastic post, double-z.

an atheist said...

"Neither science nor faith can fully prove how the world came to be, so they are complimentary to each other," looks to me like he's saying that we should believe something until it's disproven - the exact opposite of scientific method. Science provides an incomplete (but proven) explanation, religion provides a complete (but imaginary) explanation...the two are about as "complimentary" as grammar and sandwiches.