Can Darwinian evolution withstand the criticisms of Christians who believe that it contradicts the creation account in the Book of Genesis?
God Vs. Science
1. Read the article God vs. Science.
2. In your own words, provide a summary of the article and its two main arguments.
3. Offer your opinion about each argument; that is, the pluses and minuses of each argument.
4. Tell me on which side of the argument you stand and why.
5. Your written assignment should not exceed two pages.
God vs. Science
By Dan Cray
There are two great debates under the broad heading of Science vs. God. The more familiar over the past few years is the narrower of the two: Can Darwinian evolution withstand the criticisms of Christians who believe that it contradicts the creation account in the Book of Genesis? In recent years, creationism took on new currency as the spiritual progenitor of intelligent design (I.D.), a scientifically worded attempt to show that blanks in the evolutionary narrative are more meaningful than its very convincing totality. I.D. lost some of its journalistic heat when a federal judge dismissed it as pseudoscience unsuitable for teaching in Pennsylvania schools.
But in fact creationism and I.D. are intimately related to a larger unresolved question, in which the aggressors role is reversed: Can religion stand up to the progress of science? This debate long predates Darwin, but the antireligion position is being promoted with increasing insistence by scientists angered by intelligent design and excited, perhaps intoxicated, by their disciplines increasing ability to map, quantify and change the nature of human experience. Brain imaging illustratesin color!the physical seat of the will and the passions, challenging the religious concept of a soul independent of glands and gristle. Brain chemists track imbalances that could account for the ecstatic states of visionary saints or, some suggest, of Jesus. Like Freudianism before it, the field of evolutionary psychology generates theories of altruism and even of religion that do not include God. Something called the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology speculates that ours may be but one in a cascade of universes, suddenly bettering the odds that life could have cropped up here accidentally, without divine intervention. (If the probabilities were 1 in a billion, and youve got 300 billion universes, why not?)
Roman Catholicisms Christoph Cardinal Schönborn has dubbed the most fervent of faith-challenging scientists followers of scientism or evolutionism, since they hope science, beyond being a measure, can replace religion as a worldview and a touchstone. It is not an epithet that fits everyone wielding a test tube. But a growing proportion of the profession is experiencing what one major researcher calls unprecedented outrage at perceived insults to research and rationality, ranging from the alleged influence of the Christian right on Bush Administration science policy to the fanatic faith of the 9/11 terrorists to intelligent designs ongoing claims. Some are radicalized enough to publicly pick an ancient scab: the idea that science and religion, far from being complementary responses to the unknown, are at utter oddsor, as Yale psychologist Paul Bloom has written bluntly, Religion and science will always clash. The market seems flooded with books by scientists describing a caged death match between science and Godwith science winning, or at least chipping away at faiths underlying verities.
Finding a spokesman for this side of the question was not hard, since Richard Dawkins, perhaps its foremost polemicist, has just come out with The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin), the rare volume whose position is so clear it forgoes a subtitle. The five-week New York Times best seller (now at No. 8) attacks faith philosophically and historically as well as scientifically, but leans heavily on Darwinian theory, which was Dawkins expertise as a young scientist and more recently as an explicator of evolutionary psychology so lucid that he occupies the Charles Simonyi professorship for the public understanding of science at Oxford University.
Dawkins rode the crest of an atheist literary wave. In 2004, The End of Faith, a multipronged indictment by neuroscience grad student Sam Harris, was published (over 400,000 copies in print). Harris has written a 96-page follow-up, Letter to a Christian Nation, which is now No. 14 on the Times list. Last February, Tufts University philosopher Daniel Dennett produced Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, which has sold fewer copies but has helped usher the discussion into the public arena.
If Dennett and Harris are almost-scientists (Dennett runs a multidisciplinary scientific-philosophic program), the authors of half a dozen aggressively secular volumes are card carriers: In Moral Minds, Harvard biologist Marc Hauser explores thenondivineorigins of our sense of right and wrong (September); in Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast (due in January) by self-described atheist-reductionist-materialist biologist Lewis Wolpert, religion is one of those impossible things; Victor Stenger, a physicist-astronomer, has a book coming out titled God: The Failed Hypothesis. Meanwhile, Ann Druyan, widow of archskeptical astrophysicist Carl Sagan, has edited Sagans unpublished lectures on God and his absence into a book, The Varieties of Scientific Experience, out this month.