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Monday, 21 December 2009

Science & Christianity

Notice that I do not say Science & Religion. Nor do I say Science and Catholicism but that would suit my purpose nearly as well.

Listening to The Infinite Monkey Cage on Radio 4 this afternoon, I was appalled by the dismal quality of the ‘debate’. The Dean of Guildford, I think, was the ‘Christian’. He led the laughter at the unctuousness of his voice ‘the way a dean should sound’, as though an Anglican clergyman had an obligation to live up to the popular stereotype as well as to be utterly bland and vacuous. He was both. He probably likes being called ‘Rev’.

Anyway, The Vacuous Dean volunteered that ‘religious people’ have a tendency to claim that they have the whole truth, than which nothing could be further from the truth if by ‘religious’ he meant Christian. If anything, this is the claim of the atheistic materialists, who declare that Nature is all there is and that Science is the only means of understanding the World. They know that the Darwinian mechanism (random mutation and natural selection) is how earthworms came to be earthworms and nuns came to be nuns (not just women, but nuns).

Darwinism explains, they tell us, ‘Everything’: earthworms, nuns, fascists, emperors, slavery, tenderness, abortion, Mathematics, rape, heroism, sadism, Democracy, atheism, Music. Everything! Everything and its opposite.

I digress. The atheists on the programme would have it that there was a ‘tension’ between Science and Religion, their way of saying that the former negated the latter. Our clergyman, on the other hand, told a little story about some American students at a service in St Paul’s. He had pointed out to them that Darwin was buried beneath their feet – so they could go back to Arkansas and tell the rednecks that at least Anglicans believed in Science and not creationism. I am paraphrasing; but I swear that he mentioned Arkansas.

Why am I being so rough on the Bland Dean? Shouldn’t I have it in for the atheists, rather than for him? Well, I am pretty contemptuous of materialism and I may return to it in a later post. My contempt for materialists is largely due to the fact is that they have swallowed the myth that Science has defeated Christianity. This is an unconsidered myth, for which there is not the merest scintilla of evidence. ‘Not even close,’ as the non-believer David Berlinski has put it.

My animus against the Unctuous Dean is that he didn’t point out to the unwashed atheists that Science is the Daughter of Christianity, that the Glories of Copernican Astronomy, of Kepler’s planetary Geometry, of Galileo’s observations, of Newton’s magnificent laws and the mindset that underpinned them, were outgrowths of Christianity. The assumptions that gave rise to the Scientific Method were deeply theological. The theology was Judeo-Christian.

Christianity holds that everything emanates from the Mind of God, that humans, made in the image of God, have minds which are fitted for understanding Nature, that the Laws of Nature, products of God’s Mind are, astonishingly accessible to our minds. We Christians expect to be able to make sense of Nature because (as we increasingly discover) Nature makes sublime sense. It is not capricious as an animist would believe. Our minds are capable of getting ever closer to understanding the products of God’s Mind. We wouldn’t have started doing Science if we had not believed that Reason was built into the World’s substance and that Reason is inherent in human thought.

It is anti-scientific to suppose that our ability to detect order in the Universe is the result of random mutations in our brains. Doing science only makes sense if we know what sense is. And we do know; our understanding of things depends upon logic and mathematics being ‘given’ and not random. Coherent thought seems to me impossible if Reason is the product of randomness.

Reason and Faith are absurdly placed in contradiction to each other. We can’t do Science, we can’t think coherently unless we have Faith in the transcendence of Reason.

I can think of no area in which I believe good Science is in opposition to Faith – not one. What we do see is bad Science in opposition to good Science or (more often) honest ignorance in opposition to bad Science, arrogant conjecture or bullying consensus.

I believe that Science is no threat to Christianity and that it never has been. I believe that thoughtful observation of Nature has always been on the side of Faith (see Psalm 19) – more so than ever before. The Big Bang Theory (now, I think, universally accepted) is profoundly theological in its implications. But we still have much to learn about it. What I also believe is that the potential (even the inevitability) of minds existing in Time and Space came into being with the Big Bang, that there are Laws of Nature, which Science may discover, which guide and have guided not only the formation of the galaxies, but the formation of thinking animals with minds and the ability to reason and by Reason and Faith dimly to know the Ultimate Mind.

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