26 May 2010

When theologians play at being scientists (and vice-versa)

The two links below will take you to proof that the relationship between science and religion--when improperly understood--can lead to confusion in both science and religion.  

Belief in divine creation is not the same as "intelligent design."  The Intelligent Design Movement attempts to change the nature of normal science in order to account for divine creation, all the while claiming that this change is true to the nature of normal science. (H/T:  Mark Shea)

A physicist corrects Jebbie theologian's confusion regarding quantum physics and transubstantiation. When theologians play at being scientists, like making the latest discoveries in physics foundational to theological discourse, they risk undermining the whole point of theology and making science into God.  (H/T:  Curt Jester)

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  1. I do seem to recall, however, a story (perhaps apocryphal) that Heisenberg was directed to Aquinas' writings on the movement of angels by a Jesuit physicist at a physics conference where he (Heisenberg) presented some of his research.

    Heisenberg is reputed to have been stunned that a 13th century theologian so eloquently expressed the idea he was struggling to explain.

    But, having no interest in science or the fruits of scientific discoveries, that's all I know about the story and I've never attempted to verify it.

  2. Anonymous11:00 PM

    You wrote: "The Intelligent Design Movement attempts to change the nature of normal science in order to account for divine creation, all the while claiming that this change is true to the nature of normal science."

    I believe you might misunderstand ID. If you can, read some publications by Dr. Stephen Meyer. He recently authored a highly technical molecular biological analysis of the genetic code titled "Signature in the Cell" (over 800 pages), but he has also authored shorter articles. Meyer makes it clear that ID cannot identify or speculate about the nature of a designer; it can merely and only use evidence from scientific investigation and then reason that no known natural phenomena by themselves are adequate to explain the origin of genetic information encoded within the cell's nucleus.

    ID does not attempt to change the nature of normal science. It uses science's own methodology to argue that science is not adequate to answer the question about the origin of cellular life.

    Now, the origin of life did not have to happen via a miracle -- a direct intervention by God into the otherwise natural workings of nature -- as some opponents of ID seem to believe about ID's claims. The origin of life could have been planned for by divine providence from the very first moment of creation. The assemblage of the first cell, which might appear from the perspective of scientific methodology to be an inexplicable or chance occurrence, could have been the product of complex interactions completely foreseen and planned for by God as an inevitable product of the way creation was set into motion. To quote Bernard Lonergan, "From the standpoint of the unrestricted act of understanding, the nonsystematic vanishes."

    In that case, if God did design and produce life through a foreseen and deliberately initiated set of complex interactions from the first movement of the universe into being, then Aquinas' Fifth Way of the intelligibility of nature is not violated by ID. ID merely points out that the Creator's handiwork can be detected not only in the macro level of the universe's order and inherent intelligibility, it can also be detected in an event so unlikely to happen on its own that the most satisfactory way to explain its occurrence is to hypothesize that intelligence produced it. The production does not have to be a miracle or a God of the gaps tinkering with the universe.

    Even the article by Shea that you link to supports Meyer's "specified complexity" version of ID: "However, when somebody shows me highly specified complexity -- say, an Encyclopedia Britannica or a Boeing 747 -- I don't regard that as a product of dumb luck but as an artifact of Mind. So do engineers when they find a car, coroners when they find a bullet-riddled body, and my older brother when he found my name scrawled on his TV screen in my nine-year-old hand. And when I look at a cell -- the simplest of which dwarfs the Encyclopedia Britannica and a Boeing 747 in specified complexity -- I have exactly the same intuition. I have it so strongly that I can't even repeat Crick's creed with a straight face. I sense that, however that specified complexity arose through the meandering course of evolution over three billion years, it still puts me in a place where the veil between this world and the next looks exceptionally thin. "

    If you read some of Meyer's articles, I believe you might revise your opinion of ID.

  3. Anon., Meyer's version of ID may be acceptable from a scientific viewpoint. I've not read his work.

    In both theology and science, there are literally hundreds of schools of thought on exactly what it is that scientists and theologians think that they are doing. My guess is that ID is no different.

    I'll give Meyers a look.

  4. Anonymous9:23 AM

    I found this article that summarizes well Meyer's ID argument based on the information content of DNA:


    And here is a link to someone whose mind was changed by Meyer regarding whether ID is within the realm of science:


  5. Anonymous2:52 PM

    I used to be of the Ben Stiller mind about ID: stop locking it out of the university, but let it live or die by competing in the marketplace of ideas.

    After Dembski said:

    ID’s critique of naturalism and Darwinism should not be viewed as offering a metaphysics of nature but rather as a subversive strategy for unseating naturalism/Darwinism on their own terms

    I'm now of the mind that if I saw ID floundering around in the water about to go over a cliff, I'm not throwing it a life ring. :)

  6. Anonymous3:02 PM

    So you let snarky remarks (romishgraffiti) that provide no argument remain but you censor out posts that take such moronic posts to task?

  7. Anon., what are you talking about?

    BTW, let's see a name on your comments.