February 23, 2020

Perspectives on Science and Faith for 2019

Perspectives on Science and Faith for 2019

I thought I’d review the relationship between science and the Christian faith for the past year.  This is strictly from my own perspective as chronicler of things science-y and faith-y for Internet Monk and I don’t purport to be exhaustive or even statistically significant (hah, hah, see what I did there).  Commentators are always welcome to weigh in with their opinions.

Let’s review the bad news first, so we can end this review on a high note.  First and maybe worst is the ignoring or outright opposition to scientific thinking by the Trump administration.  From climate-change denialism to meeting with a vaccine critic while planning a commission on autism (Trump himself has tweeted that there are “many cases” of children who become autistic after receiving vaccinations) to rollbacks on environmental protections; it seems some of this anti-scientific attitude reflects accommodating Trump’s so-called “evangelical” supporters.

Perhaps the most potentially devastating proposal came last November where the administration is preparing to significantly limit the scientific and medical research that the government can use to determine public health regulations, overriding protests from scientists and physicians who say the new rule would undermine the scientific underpinnings of government policy making including invalidating studies that have been used for decades to show, for example, that mercury from power plants impairs brain development, or that lead in paint dust is tied to behavioral disorders in children — might be inadmissible when existing regulations come up for renewal.

flat earth model

Next up would be the rise in flat-earthism.  As I wrote here in Part 6 of the review of Wallace’s book, Love and Quasars:

“Apparently, the Flat-Earth movement is growing , especially in America, and especially among millennials, but also around the world.”

What does this trend signify?  I shudder to think.  It simply amazes and dismays me to realize this has become a thing. Although there appears to be a religious component to this; some proponents assert flat earth is what the bible says, flat earthism seems mostly to be a psychological phenomenon associated with “conspiracy theory” thinking.

In July, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) passed a resolution at their convention affirming the belief that God created the Earth “in six natural days”.  I posted on the topic here.  The LCMS is the eleventh largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., with about 2.3 million members.  I have to admit I don’t really know why they did it.  LCMS member and Imonk commentator, Miguel Ruiz, seems to think it was more a theological issue than a scientific one.  To be fair, the vote was 662 in favor and 309 against, so there was quite a bit of dissent about the resolution. Dissenting members decried the lack of clarity in that what the heck is a “natural” day before there was any sun in the sky.  How do you have an “evening and a morning” without a sun, because, remember, the Genesis account says the sun wasn’t created until the FOURTH DAY? My rant was probably uncharitable, nevertheless, it was disappointing to see a major Protestant denomination take such an obvious unscientific stance.

According the Friendly Atheist ticket sales for the Ark Encounter were up in July but down slightly in October.  I couldn’t find comparable numbers for the Creation Museum, but it looks like Ken Ham’s odes to pseudoscience are still humming along (for now anyway).

And now, for the good news.  A recent Gallup poll regarding American views on creation and evolution showed the acceptance of Creationism, the belief that God made humans as they are today and did so roughly 10,000 years ago, has hit its lowest point since Gallup began asking the question 35 years ago .

According to this 2015 Slate article, the people responsible for this shift are the young. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, 73 percent of American adults younger than 30 expressed some sort of belief in evolution, a jump from 61 percent in 2009, the first year in which the question was asked.

Francis Collins

I believe this trend is due to the number of Christian scientists speaking out on the issue.  This began in earnest with Francis Collins. He led the Human Genome Project and now directs the National Institutes of Health. In 2006, he wrote the best-selling book The Language of God in which he tells his journey from atheism to Christian belief, showing that science is not in conflict with the Bible, but actually enhances faith.  In 2009, he launched the Biologos Forum and Biologos sponsors a number of conferences across the country that address science-faith issues.

There have been a number of books by believing scientists, several of which I’ve reviewed here, that support orthodox Christianity along with acceptance of modern science.  These include Adam and the Genome, Purpose in Biology, Faith Across the Multiverse , Mere Science and Christian Faith , A World From Dust, Minds, Brains, Souls, and Gods, Finding God in the Waves, The Grand Canyon and the Flood, and our current review of “Love and Quasars: An Astrophysicist Reconciles Faith and Science” by Paul Wallace that began here.

There are also a number of science and faith blogs by believing scientists that also cover the science/faith issue.  These include RJS at Jesus Creed, Science and Religion: A View from an Evolutionary Creationist by Jim Kidder, NATURALIS HISTORIA by Joel Duff, and regular podcasts by “Science Mike” McHargue.  Finally, there is the venerable American Scientific Affiliation, or ASA, that was founded in 1941 as an international network of Christians in the sciences, who publish the quarterly Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith journal.

My overall perspective is that slowly acceptance of science by American evangelicals is gaining ground.  Sure, there is some doubling down by fundamentalists, and some of the acceptance of science is due to the overall increasing trend of secularization in American society at the expense of Christian belief.  Nevertheless, the young people who continue to follow Christ seem to be more receptive to scientific reality than ever before.  I remain cautiously optimistic.

Comments

  1. “the administration is preparing to significantly limit the scientific and medical research that the government can use to determine public health regulations”

    Along the same lines, you have states
    passing laws demanding the reimplantation of ectopic pregnancies
    , despite the fact that this is medically impossible.

    • They might as well demand a flight to Mars. Are the legislators really that ignorant, or they feigning it to exploit the medical ignorance and antipathy to abortion rights of the general public? I suspect it is the latter.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > Are the legislators really that ignorant

        Sadly, as badly as I want to say No, Yes, many are. Speaking as someone who talks to legislators. Many of them are deeply ignorant people.

        “Willful ignorance” is also very much a thing. When you need answer X talk to people who will give you answer X. So, of course, X.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Vain Imaginings of Man(TM) and Science Falsely So-Called(TM), or WORD! OF GAWD!

        Note the linkage this creates between Christ and baggage.

  2. RJS at Jesus Creed is an exemplary example. She is a professor at U of Michigan who honors the word of God by consistently seeking the intended message.

    • Michael Bell says

      I have a spouse of a cousin, who recently started teaching at U of Michigan.

      Could you confirm the name of RJS so I can possibly connect them?

      mike[dot]kim[dot]bell@gmail[dot]com

  3. Adam Tauno Williams says

    > I remain cautiously optimistic.

    I want to be. I’ve given up. Optimism is too much work.

    What I see are institutions ostracizing their best-and-brightest. I don’t see how they rebound.

    • thatotherjean says

      I wish that I didn’t agree with you. I hope this downturn in respect and support for scientific institutions can be reversed in the next administration, but I fear that it may take longer than i have left on earth. I have hope, but not optimism.

  4. I have moments of cautious optimism myself. Perhaps Trump or someone like him is necessary. The “last hurrah” of a certain mindset before it is swept away forever. He definitely functions as a barometer and if he wins re-election we will know something fundamental in our democracy is broken.

    • –> “…we will know something fundamental in our democracy is broken.”

      You mean, we don’t already know that?

      (The two-party element has been broken for YEARS…LOL.)

    • Burro (Mule) says

      –> “The “last hurrah” of a certain mindset before it is swept away forever.”

      Is the unspoken assumption here that whatever mindset which supplants it will be an improvement? And what, pray tell, are the component propositions of this ‘certain mindset’ that has such a gloomy prognosis?

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    (Trump himself has tweeted that there are “many cases” of children who become autistic after receiving vaccinations)

    Watch for Anti-Vaxx to become the newest Litmus Test of Salvation…

  6. Science Mike is not a scientist but a thoughtful curator of some aspects of science information as it relates to religion. I read his book and later attended when he came to Memphis a couple of years ago. For example, in a podcast where he discussed investigations of people with surgically split brains, he related that one side of the brain can believe one thing and the other have a different, conflicting belief. In such cases, what can we say that the person actually believes? How does it matter? He is of a different generation than me but I can relate to his particular faith journey.

    • My understand is that Science Mike’s area of scientific expertise is geology.

      • His LinkedIn page lists Tallahassee Community College and my memory seems to recall his saying he took some geology courses. But he did not finish and has not worked as a scientist by doing field work or research and publishing papers. That is no dig on him. He is a person of unique perception and communication ability from whom I’m happy to learn.

  7. Is the LCMS considered a fundamentalist organization, Does science recognize any other sexes beside male and female? Is it normal, healthy and beneficial to kill your unborn child? . Science denial is not uncommon for people to bolster there point of view. Personally , I think some Christians do not worry , ponder or give a lot of thought about the science vs. faith conflict, they have resolved the issue to their emotional satisfaction just as the strident on the other side see no value in faith that created the social, cultural world we live in. Al Gore did a lot of disservice to the climate change movement with his predications, actions and accumulation of wealth from the issue. China/India biggest problem, feed the people or save the future? tough call

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Al Gore did a lot of disservice to the climate change movement with his predications, actions and accumulation of wealth from the issue.

      Which ended up discrediting his own cause.
      Then all the More-SJW-Woke-Than-Thou Activists looking for a Cause jumped on the bandwagon and their antics further discredited their own Cause.

      There are people I cannot even mention the word “climate” to without triggering an automatic gut response of:
      “GLOBAL WARMING HOAX! GLOBAL WARMING SCAM! THE CLINTONS! THE CLINTONS! THE CLINTONS!” And once it gets into “THE CLINTONS! THE CLINTONS! THE CLINTONS!”, it ALWAYS ends up with “TRUMP CAN DO NO WRONG! HAIL TRUMP!!! HAIL TRUMP!!!!! HAIL TRUMP!!!!!!!”

      Did I go Batsh*t Crazy, or did everyone else?????

      • “(Al Gore)… ended up discrediting his own cause.”

        OTOH, facing up to the truths and demands of the climate crisis would demand much – far too much – from too many people, so I suspect any stick would have sufficed to beat that cur. If Al Gore hadn’t supplied the excuse, it would have been found elsewhere, or invented.

        • https://moneyinc.com/al-gore-net-worth/

          A pretty fair evaluation of Al Gore accumulation of wealth. I am a capitalist and Gore is an excellent business man. If Al Gore was just one of the first to jump on the climate change issue to make personal gains. So of course many on this site will always tie anything back to Trump to not address issues such as Gore making a lot of money off climate change because Trump made him and Trump is not an activist like Al Gore, who has a massive carbon footprint .

          • I’ll tie climate change to the science, and call out deniers no matter what end of the spectrum they live on (looking at you Joe Biden). The fact that Trump is a climate change denier is, IMHO, one of the *least* of his flaws.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > Which ended up discrediting his own cause.

        Nah. If that discredits him on the issue it was with people shopping for a reason to write him off; they didn’t matter either way.

    • “Does science recognize any other sexes beside male and female?”

      It is a recognized fact that some people are born with undeveloped or ambiguous genitalia. Science can say what is *typical* (male & female, and the reproductive functions they play), but that knowledge in and of itself does not imply social or ethical imperatives.

  8. The whole thing is alarming. Incongruity and partisan insanity neatly and carefully relabeled as prudence, sound thinking and efficiency with the full expectation that it will all be swallowed unflinchingly by just enough people to keep him in office while our leadership and standing in the eyes of the world, clearly never his concern, becomes ever more laughable and suspect.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      “Our leadership and standing in the eyes of the world…”

      Gimme a break. Amidst the current gaggle of rogues, poltroons, and outright privateers currently composing the leadership of the august and honorable “international community” my greatest fear is that our current leadership doesn’t have the cohesity and cerebral wattage to out-rogue them.

      • And if the only foreign policy option available to us is “out-rogueing” the bad guys… we’re well and truly screwed.

      • I’m not talking about Russia, Iran, The Philippines, China and others hell-bent on dominating, manipulating and forcefully coercing. Many of those guys have a healthy respect for our guy’s stab at being like them, whether friend or foe. I’m talking about Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Ukraine, Ireland, South Korea, Belgium, South Africa, Vietnam, Jordan, Czech Republic, yada, yada, yada. Countries that either partner with us or depend upon us for leadership. We are abdicating. He thinks that’s good. He has neither the mental capacity nor the interest to contend with the complexities so he embraces the me first (he’s thoroughly versed in that and it flows seamlessly) isolationism. I’m not going to countenance this with anything further because I’m still on Christmas vacation and don’t need the noise, which is what Don is, so pardon me for not replying if you have something else. I said only as much as I feel like expending energy on today.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Ever since I read Strauss & Howe’s 13th Gen in the late Eighties, I’ve been expecting some kind of “America First!” lashback. I remember a passage about Gen-Xers being lectured by their Boomer “Multi-Culti” professors that the USA should Never, Ever act in its own interests but ‘always defer to International Decision Making Bodies’ (presumably the UN). This when “DEATH TO AMERICA!” was the mantra of all those Third World countries receiving our foreign aid money (interspersed with praise to and adoration of the USSR).

          The longer you simmer THAT in the pressure cooker (and silence the little people/dissenters), the more the resentment will build, and the bigger the lashback is going to be when the pressure cooker finally bursts.

          “Rome never looks where she treads;
          Always her heavy hooves fall
          On our stomachs, our hands, and our heads;
          And Rome never hears when we bawl —

          “We are the little folk, we,
          Too little to love or to hate;
          Leave us alone and you’ll see
          How fast we can pull down your State…”
          — Rudyard Kipling, “A Pict’s Song”

          • Burro (Mule) says

            “But are the beasts as wise as the men?” said the chief.

            “They obey, as the men do. Mule, horse, elephant, or bullock, he obeys his driver, and the driver his sergeant, and the sergeant his lieutenant, and the lieutenant his captain, and the captain his major, and the major his colonel, and the colonel his brigadier commanding three regiments, and the brigadier his general, who obeys the Viceroy, who is the servant of the Empress. Thus it is done.”

            “Would it were so in Afghanistan!” said the chief; “for there we obey only our own wills.”

            “And for that reason,” said the native officer, twirling his moustache, “your Amir whom you do not obey must come here and take orders from our Viceroy.”

            Love Kipling.

            • And yet, the Afghans outlasted the British. And the Russians. And us. There’s something else going on here, I think.

              • Mule (Burro) says

                Yeah. We should leave ’em alone to revel in their pederasty and vendettas.
                Solzhenitsyn said as much as well.

  9. Mike Bell:
    I’m old and can’t figure out how to e-mail you
    Our e-mail is….scottandcathy.gay@icloud.com

    E-mail me and I probably can respond with professor RJS’s name

  10. senecagriggs says

    Who’s more likely to lie? A “scientist” or a plumber?
    ______

    There is a tendency to deify scientists. I propose that their reliability for telling the truth is no higher than the reliability of plumbers; whom we don’t deify.

    The big difference between plumbers and scientists; plumbers don’t get grants.

    I’m pretty sceptical about so very much of the scientific community and their findings.

    https://psmag.com/education/scientists-are-wrong-a-lot

    https://www.npr.org/2015/08/28/435416046/research-results-often-fail-to-be-replicated-researchers-say

    Finally is the scientific community still schlepping some version of Darwinism to explain how mankind came into being and how everything exists?

    If you’re not a cynic, I think you should be. Don’t forget, IQ does not equal wisdom.

    IQ is just about processing speed, not truth.

    • –> “There is a tendency to deify scientists.”

      I haven’t seen that here. I’m not even sure I’ve seen it with any of my friends, be they atheist, agnostic or believers. I HAVE seen scientists deify themselves. Just like every walk of life and job.

      –> “If you’re not a cynic…”

      You’ve been around this site long enough to know it’s loaded with cynics.

      –> “Don’t forget, IQ does not equal wisdom.”

      You’ve been around this site long enough to know that it’s loaded with people who know that.

      I’d venture to guess most here at iMonk–even those scientifically inclined–are wary of bad science and the wobbles of the scientific community.

    • “The big difference between plumbers and scientists; plumbers don’t get grants.”

      Plumbers probably, on average, make more than scientists.

      • thatotherjean says

        Plumbers don’t get peer-reviewed, either. Those reviews tend to catch errors and/or lies–but I’m reasonably sure they’re mostly mistakes. If the result of an experiment can’t be replicated, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the first experimenter was lying. He may have set up the experiment badly, or made an error somewhere, unintentionally.

        • senecagriggs says

          Actually Jean, some recent disturbing revelations indicate the “peer review” is quite often a GREAT CON.

          You just can never fully trust them.

  11. senecagriggs says

    A beer salesman approaches a scientist and say he will give him a personal grant of $500,000 to suggest that their new, improved beer may actually have a positive impact on liver function.

    After 5 minutes of contemplation the scientists says he can probably do that.

    The beer salesman ask; “will you do it for $10.00? “

    The immediately aggrieved scientist draws himself up to his full height and intones; “Do you take me for a cheap scientific whore?”

    The salesman replies; “We already established your profession, now we’re just dickering over the price.”

    ___________

    Beware the moral impact of the “grant” upon scientific findings fellow I-monkers.

  12. senecagriggs says

    No, I don’t believe in a flat earth. I’ve seen the pictures.

    What’s the factor in seemingly increased autism? I think that’s actually kind of up for grabs myself. Not willing, at this point, to give a total pass to the meds given to the young.

    Who’s the cause of all problems in the world today?

    ANSWER: “Orange man bad.” dryly

    Trump’s actual genius is exposing the “elites” as very ordinary people; just like him.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      As someone who has been lectured many times about Trump’s Great Genius(TM), SOMEONE HAS TO COUNTER THE “TRUMP IS LOOOORD!” SALVATION-LEVEL DOGMA OF AMERICAN CHRISTIANS.

    • “Who’s the cause of all problems in the world today?

      ANSWER: “Orange man bad.” dryly”

      He is *a* problem, but also, in the final analysis, mostly a symptom. Symptoms should be dealt with, certainly, but to treat the symptom and ignore the underlying disease is effort wasted.

  13. senecagriggs says

    “Peer Review: A flawed process at the heart of science and journals”

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1420798/

    • As usual, you extrapolate too far from a single source. Reality is complicated.

      http://theconversation.com/when-to-trust-and-not-to-trust-peer-reviewed-science-99365

      • senecagriggs says

        Then you agree it’s not to be universally trusted. In other words, it is flawed. Saying “peer review” doesn’t necessarily mean crap.

        BTW, there are a LOT of other article impugning the current state of “peer review.” But I ain’t doing a dissertation here; I’m writing a blog comment.

        • You will keep and use the scientific findings (and technological spinoffs from them) that you like, and jettison the ones you don’t (but still keep the technological spinoffs from them that you like).

          • senecagriggs says

            And everybody else doesn’t?

            • Believe it or not, O Cynic of the Ages, everybody is not the same as you, or me. Some people are truly seeking truth, and not just a few of them are scientists who practice their discipline with integrity.

  14. Norma Cenva says

    I still think that science and the Bible suffer from the same two ills.
    Not giving them the credence they deserve at one extreme, and making way too much of them at the other.