Monday, January 08, 2007

Are Science And Faith Strictly Incompatible?

This week's topic was whether or not Science and contemporary Christianity were strictly incompatible.

Opening Admissions
The minister, Rev. Hamilton, started the sermon saying Genesis 1 & 2 could not be taken as anything more than epic poetry, the world is obviously far more than 6,000 years old, and that evolution is a mechanism which explains how life changes over time.

Hamilton's Account of the Origin of New Atheism
The Reverand also sympathetically explained Dawkins's perspective: Dawkins sees fundamentalist Christians attacking science, even in our schools. Since Dawkins has been backed into a corner, he's naturally going to come out fighting, with what appears to be a crusade of atheism against all the faithful.

Ordinarily, I'd resent depictions of atheists as dogmatic crusaders, but here I think it's pretty explicative. Hamilton was basically admitting that Moderate Christians have been silent on Fundamentalist Christianity for far too long, and that explains a great deal of Harris's and Dawkins's ire over moderate Christianity.

Some Scientific Truths are Compatible with the Existence of God
After the intro, the Pastor explained how some scientific truths are compatible with the influence of a God. For example: Theists can look at the Big Bang and squeeze God in front of it. Theists can look at evolution as a guided process. Hamilton can look at the stars and understand their gaseous makeup, and yet marvel at Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."

Hamilton noted that someone with a theistic outlook will see the world as reaffirming God, someone with an atheistic outlook will not.

Some Scientists are Christians
Hamilton noted 6 successful scientist/theists.

That seals it. Even if this group of scientists is in the extreme minority, it proves his unambitious point for this first session: Science and Faith are not strictly incompatible.

(If he were using these scientists to suggest God exists, it would be a fallacious appeal to authority, but God's existence is not the topic for this week, so it's not as intellectually lazy at it might first appear.)

He adopted a very defensible (and somewhat unambitious) position (one which Harris rejects, and I have rejected before). But I now think he's right, and unequivocally so. There are people who have successfully compartmentalized their faith. That's just a fact about the world which happens to be true, though it has little to do with God's actual existence.

In other words, there are Christians who have built bridges, and their bridges have held.

Next week: Religious Wars and Violence