Science and Values - September 23.pdf

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History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
Paul Thompson

HPS200: Science, Values, and Faith - this is a very large issue in the Unites States; not so much in Canada - also not very big in European countries - largely affects the practice of science in the USAand, consequentially, around the world - USAgets more money than any other country for science - comes from granting agencies/the Pentagon (and until recently, NASA) - advancements = internet, nanotechnology--very important What is the issue? - Science (evolution) challenges religious values - similarly, religious values encroach upon science - Evolution entails that all living things are the result of: – Aprocess of gradual change in organisms – Natural selection acting on individual differences - Fundamentalist, literalist Christianity claims that God is the creator of the universe and every kind of organism - For these believers, the Christian bible provides the basis for understanding the origin of living things Three Basic Darwinian Principles 1. Ancient Earth ‐ 4 billion years (controversial idea) = lots of time for evolution to have occurred 2. One Tree of Life ‐ All living things are linked by a process of descent with modification and hence have a common ancestor. 3. Natural Selection is the main cause of evolution ‐ Variation of traits in a population caused by random genetic mutation. ‐ Differential fitness cause by the advantage for survival and reproduction that the trait confers to the organism in an E. ‐ Heredity of adaptive traits across generations spreads the trait making it prevalent in a population Darwin's Tree - diagram from On the Origin of Species - Darwin believed that species branched off, and if you trace back far enough you will find a common ancestor that we all shared - The Christian bible has an old testament and a new testament - The old testament is essentially the Jewish scriptures - Genesis is the first book in the old testament - It begins with a description of the creation of the world and animals, including humans in six days; on the seventh God rested - this is why Saturday is the Sabbath in the Jewish religion -God is the creator of all things Three Attacks on Darwinism 1. Genesis Creationism ‐ Denies the three Darwinian principles ‐ Literal truth of the Genesis - Hold that the Bible was dictated by God - Simply denies evolution (1/3 of US citizens believe this) 2. Novelty Creationism ‐ Accepts an ancient earth, denies the universality of the tree of life and natural selection ‐ Major evolutionary transitions were ‘newly created’ - Believes that the earth is old, but denies natural selection and common ancestor - About another 20% of US citizens 3. Anti-selectionism ‐ Accepts ancient earth and tree of life but denies the sufficiency of natural selection to explain major transitions ‐ Is the official positing of the Intelligent Design (ID) theory - About 50% of US citizens Is there a conflict? - Can one be a Christian and accept evolution? - Methods of reconciliation: – Genesis is mythology - an attempt to understand a mysterious natural aspect of the world - similar to founding myth of the United States – A“day” in the Genesis story is not 24 hours – The entire bible is a spiritual document and not intended as history or science Most major religions have accept one or more of these reconciliations The Roman Catholic Church: Pope John Paul II (1988) • Both religion and science must preserve their own autonomy and their distinctiveness. Religion is not founded on science nor is science an extension of religion. Each should possess its own principles, its pattern of procedures, its diversities of interpretation and its own conclusions.... While each can and should support the other as distinct dimensions of a common human culture, neither ought to assume that it forms a necessary premise for the other. (p. 377) • For the truth of the matter is that the church and the scientific community will inevitably interact; their opinions do not include isolation. Christians will inevitably assimilate the prevailing ideas about the world, and today these are deeply shaped by science. The only question is whether they will do this critically or unreflectively, with depth and nuance or with a shallowness that debases the Gospel and leaves us ashamed before history. Scientists, like all human beings, will make decisions upon what ultimately gives meaning and value to their lives and to their work. This they will do well or poorly, with the reflective depth that theological wisdom can help them attain or with an unconsidered absolutizing of their results beyond their reasonable and proper limits. (p. 378) The Church of England takes a similar approach (Church of England, 2010). - Questions of science and religion touch the deepest issues of human existence and purpose. Scientists and theologians approach these questions in very different ways. Who cannot be amazed at the beauty, the complexity, the vastness of the created order and wonder at how it came to be? Wonder at the very question of why it exists at all. Or wonder at the fine tuning of the physical constants that allow carbon based life to exist in this order. Or puzzle about how we came to have consciousness and purpose. Or ponder the deep philosophical and religious questions of human existence which, contrary to the views of some well-‐known atheist scientists, are quite beyond the explanatory power of science and the scientific method. - The rate of scientific development in recent years, which enables us to understand so much more about the world and the universe in which we live, is breathtaking. Within a genera;on great progress has been made in our understanding of, for example, the nature of the universe, of atomic structure, of DNAand of the genome. These advances have resulted in overwhelming evidence for the truth of many scientific theories, such as the great age of the universe, measured in thousands of millions of years, or its vastness with billions of billions of stars. The discovery of DNAand recent work on genome sequencing is compelling evidence for the interrelatedness of all living things, and the mechanisms of genetic mutation and evolution are now well understood. There is no evidence of any abating in such rapid advances, new discoveries will continue to be made in many areas not least genetics and neuroscience. For the Christian trying to make sense of this new scientific knowledge, much hinges on how we read the scriptures and how we understand the truth of scripture. There is nothing new about this. When Galileo’s observations supported the Copernican theory that the earth and planets orbit the sun this was considered to be in conflict with the literal reading of texts such as Psalm 93:1 ‘The world is firmly established it cannot be moved’. Before the development of modern scientific method and the Enlightenment, questions of whether such a text was literally true in a scientific sense seldom arose. Now we understand that text as absolutely true in a theological and in a poetic sense but not attempting to make a scientific statement. Few today would try to use that text to refute the movement of the planets. Similar questions of interpretation challenge us in other Psalms or in the Genesis accounts of creation, as was noted by Augustine as early as the fifth century. Some will want to read these in a literal way but if we attempt to read scripture as a literal scientific account then inevitably conflict with science results. We do not have to read it that way. If we understand it as complementary to scientific understanding we see a truth no less real, no less important, which gives a completely different level of description to the scientific one. How we do that is an ongoing hermeneutic challenge. - There are many Christians, especially in the U.S. who take a literalist stance about the bible – The claims it makes are to be understood as the words of God - There are numerous problems with this – Scope’s trial example: Clarence Darrow & William Jennings Bryant - Scopes taught evolution in school contrary to law - was prosecuted for this - Bryant was asked if he believed every word of the bible - e.g. "making the sun stand still"--impossible - inspiration for Inherit the Wind – Internal inconsistencies • Creation of humans is written twice in Genesis • Cleansing of the temple - occurs at different periods in time in different gospels – Purposes of the authors is obvious - writing for a particular purpose - e.g. Matthew's gospel reinterprets old laws for the new age - Nonetheless literalists are abundant - For them, evolution must be false - Recent major conflicts between literalists and evolutionists have occurred in the U.S. - Separation of Church and State - there can be no state religion; no laws passed can give a privileged position to any religion - Hence, finding a way to make “creationism” a science (or at least not religion) is important for literalists - One wave was “creation science” in the 1970s – Held that there was evidence that supported the biblical view of organic origins – He
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