God versus Science

Now begins the blogging of the November 13th cover story of Time Magazine.

God vs. Science

We revere faith and scientific progress, hunger for miracles and for MRIs. But are the worldviews compatible? TIME convenes a debate
By DAVID VAN BIEMA

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 last December when a federal judge dismissed it as pseudoscience unsuitable for teaching in Pennsylvania schools.

I have reviewed the Pennsylvania decision and in my opinion it was entirely boneheaded and unscientific. I also think that we can immediately see from the phrase, “very convincing totality” that this article is being written with a definite pro-evolution slant. But that is to be expected from Time.

But in fact creationism and I.D. are intimately related to a larger unresolved question, in which the aggressor’s role is reversed: Can religion stand up to the progress of science?

This statement flies in the face of the fact that most early scientists were not only believers in God, but their belief that God was both orderly and logical and good allowed them to trust in certain rules of testing and evidence that remain in use today. Life is not random. Also, belief in God exists outside of one’s opinion about origins even if it may be related.

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.

Now the writer is gushing! He might want to consider writing advertising copy instead of a supposedly scientific treatise.

Brain imaging illustrates–in 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.

The above is speculative, of course, and when it comes to Jesus it is downright insulting to believers. The writer suggests to an extent that Jesus was simply experiencing chemical brain imbalances!!!!! Makes you wonder why those with imbalances these days don’t heal the sick, raise the dead and provide a basis for moral behavior for Western Civilization, right?

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 you’ve got 300 billion universes, why not?)

This is also remarkably speculative and doubtless thought up primarily because the odds against the creation of the Universe, life and other tenets of naturalistic thinking are so insurmountable otherwise. This is why odds against those things are no longer anything I pay much attention to, since evolutionists will just pull the multiverse thing out of their back pocket and the discussion can no longer continue. Once life was established on earth, though, the odds do pertain, but that is another discussion.

Roman Catholicism’s 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 design’s ongoing claims.

Really, I am surprised that evolutionists aren’t tearing their clothes and rioting in the streets! That this author ties Christians with murdering terrorists and then brings in ID in the same breath reveals that he is more than against God, he is downright hostile to God and all who believe. Intelligent Design makes many claims that evolutionists have made only the most pathetic and futile inroads against. School boards can be flummoxed by the problems involved but real scientists, at the very least, agree that there are uncounted ID problems that evolution has no good answer for, not the least of which is the process known as photosynthesis.

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 odds–or, 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 God–with science winning, or at least chipping away at faith’s underlying verities.

There are plenty of God-believers who also believe in evolution, and there are those who don’t buy either one. Christianity and evolution are not mutually exclusive. In my view, a careful consideration of evolution will bring you to a need to choose sides at some point but that is just me.

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.

Does anyone else find it funny that the author chooses a non-scientist to represent “Science” in his article while a genuine scientist takes the other side? In fact, the discussion is ongoing with scientists being on both sides. The actual title should be “Godless Science versus Science with God”, were the author being both honest and balanced.

Dawkins is riding 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 the–nondivine–origins 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 Sagan’s unpublished lectures on God and his absence into a book, The Varieties of Scientific Experience, out this month.

Fine, and I can find you plenty of books on Scientology, too. Or Astrology. Whatever. The sheer volume of books that are pro-evolution and hostile to God doesn’t make them right. The loudest voice isn’t necessarily the best.

Dawkins and his army have a swarm of articulate theological opponents, of course. But the most ardent of these don’t really care very much about science, and an argument in which one party stands immovable on Scripture and the other immobile on the periodic table doesn’t get anyone very far.

The above statement is either remarkably ignorant or deliberately false. There are hundreds of respected scientists who are pro-Creation and anti-evolution as anyone who has studied the subject or even simply read this blog would know without doubt.

Most Americans occupy the middle ground: we want it all. We want to cheer on science’s strides and still humble ourselves on the Sabbath. We want access to both MRIs and miracles. We want debates about issues like stem cells without conceding that the positions are so intrinsically inimical as to make discussion fruitless. And to balance formidable standard bearers like Dawkins, we seek those who possess religious conviction but also scientific achievements to credibly argue the widespread hope that science and God are in harmony–that, indeed, science is of God.

Well, my research indicates that the majority of the great scientists of the past, like Newton, were actually believers in a created Universe and believed that science was the study of God’s creation. More propaganda from the author. I am really looking forward to the dialogue between the two protagonists so that more than one point of view gets presented. Good grief!

Informed conciliators have recently become more vocal. Stanford University biologist Joan Roughgarden has just come out with Evolution and Christian Faith, which provides what she calls a “strong Christian defense” of evolutionary biology, illustrating the discipline’s major concepts with biblical passages. Entomologist Edward O. Wilson, a famous skeptic of standard faith, has written The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, urging believers and non-believers to unite over conservation. But foremost of those arguing for common ground is Francis Collins.

Uh-oh! Are we actually going to have a debate between an ardent evolutionist and an ardent Creationist or is this going to be black versus off-white?

Collins’ devotion to genetics is, if possible, greater than Dawkins’. Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute since 1993, he headed a multinational 2,400-scientist team that co-mapped the 3 billion biochemical letters of our genetic blueprint, a milestone that then President Bill Clinton honored in a 2000 White House ceremony, comparing the genome chart to Meriwether Lewis’ map of his fateful continental exploration. Collins continues to lead his institute in studying the genome and mining it for medical breakthroughs.

He is also a forthright Christian who converted from atheism at age 27 and now finds time to advise young evangelical scientists on how to declare their faith in science’s largely agnostic upper reaches. His summer best seller, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press), laid out some of the arguments he brought to bear in the 90-minute debate TIME arranged between Dawkins and Collins in our offices at the Time & Life Building in New York City on Sept. 30. Some excerpts from their spirited exchange:

Okay, maybe he will be okay…tomorrow we begin the actual debate between the two men concerning this issue. But look at how long this very slanted prologue went on! The author was determined to preconfigure the audience to take his side in the debate. Bad form, that! Furthermore, one side is represented by a non-scientist who just wrote a book, “The God Delusion” that by it’s very title is dismissive and arrogant. Meanwhile the God side seems to be represented by a balanced, non-hostile scientist. Knowing that this very slanted journalist is going to pick and choose portions of the debate between the men, one might expect that the result is going to favor evolution whether or not the actual discussion went quite that way. But curiosity drives us to review it anyway.

Now continues the blogging of the November 13th cover story of Time Magazine.

TIME: Professor Dawkins, if one truly understands science, is God then a delusion, as your book title suggests?

DAWKINS: The question of whether there exists a supernatural creator, a God, is one of the most important that we have to answer. I think that it is a scientific question. My answer is no.

Ah, the naturalist is given a leading question. He cannot perceive God by naturalistic methods, with a worldview that cannot see the supernatural, so it is no surprise he wants to assert that there is no God.

TIME: Dr. Collins, you believe that science is compatible with Christian faith.

COLLINS: Yes. God’s existence is either true or not. But calling it a scientific question implies that the tools of science can provide the answer. From my perspective, God cannot be completely contained within nature, and therefore God’s existence is outside of science’s ability to really weigh in.

Good answer. Science cannot either prove or disprove the existence of God, nor is it supposed to do so. Unfortunately people like Darwin and Dawkins have tried to use science to eliminate the concept of God and many laymen have been so deceived.

TIME: Stephen Jay Gould, a Harvard paleontologist, famously argued that religion and science can coexist, because they occupy separate, airtight boxes. You both seem to disagree.

COLLINS: Gould sets up an artificial wall between the two worldviews that doesn’t exist in my life. Because I do believe in God’s creative power in having brought it all into being in the first place, I find that studying the natural world is an opportunity to observe the majesty, the elegance, the intricacy of God’s creation.

DAWKINS: I think that Gould’s separate compartments was a purely political ploy to win middle-of-the-road religious people to the science camp. But it’s a very empty idea. There are plenty of places where religion does not keep off the scientific turf. Any belief in miracles is flat contradictory not just to the facts of science but to the spirit of science.

So Dawkins asserts here that there are no miracles. Hmmm. He must believe that the miracles performed by Jesus didn’t happen. The problem is that even the non-Christian Jews, who considered Jesus to be a problem, recorded that He had performed miracles. There were hundreds of witnesses to most of the miracles of Jesus and just because they are all dead now doesn’t change things. Dawkins wants us to ignore the New Testament scriptures and hundreds of witnesses and the witness of the non-believing Jews and claim that miracles are “flat contradictory not just to the facts of science but to the spirit of science.”

TIME: Professor Dawkins, you think Darwin’s theory of evolution does more than simply contradict the Genesis story.

DAWKINS: Yes. For centuries the most powerful argument for God’s existence from the physical world was the so-called argument from design: Living things are so beautiful and elegant and so apparently purposeful, they could only have been made by an intelligent designer. But Darwin provided a simpler explanation. His way is a gradual, incremental improvement starting from very simple beginnings and working up step by tiny incremental step to more complexity, more elegance, more adaptive perfection. Each step is not too improbable for us to countenance, but when you add them up cumulatively over millions of years, you get these monsters of improbability, like the human brain and the rain forest. It should warn us against ever again assuming that because something is complicated, God must have done it.

Darwin provided a simpler explanation largely because he had no concept of how complex life really is. Early 19th century scientists had just begun to absorb the work of pioneers like the Pasteurs, just begun to see that the makeup of living organisms consisted of far more complexity than previously imagined.

I have posted many times about a multitude of problems with Darwinian theory, and the ID argument is just one of them. There is no evidence of macroevolution ever being observed, by the way, so Dawkins is speaking of things that are speculative and not observed or proven.

COLLINS: I don’t see that Professor Dawkins’ basic account of evolution is incompatible with God’s having designed it.

ALARM! DIVEDIVEDIVE! Now here comes yet another problem with this article. I believe I have established that the author of this piece is predisposed to take the Darwin side of the question. But now we discover that the scientist he has chosen to take the Creation side isn’t acutally a pure Creationist! We aren’t being presented with black versus white, but rather as I feared it is black versus off-white.

TIME: When would this have occurred?

COLLINS: By being outside of nature, God is also outside of space and time. Hence, at the moment of the creation of the universe, God could also have activated evolution, with full knowledge of how it would turn out, perhaps even including our having this conversation. The idea that he could both foresee the future and also give us spirit and free will to carry out our own desires becomes entirely acceptable.

DAWKINS: I think that’s a tremendous cop-out. If God wanted to create life and create humans, it would be slightly odd that he should choose the extraordinarily roundabout way of waiting for 10 billion years before life got started and then waiting for another 4 billion years until you got human beings capable of worshipping and sinning and all the other things religious people are interested in.

Oh boy. Now I find myself agreeing with Richard Dawkins! I agree that such a view is a cop-out indeed. Collins runs away from the argument entirely.

COLLINS: Who are we to say that that was an odd way to do it? I don’t think that it is God’s purpose to make his intention absolutely obvious to us. If it suits him to be a deity that we must seek without being forced to, would it not have been sensible for him to use the mechanism of evolution without posting obvious road signs to reveal his role in creation?

Come on! Why would God come up with a way to bring about all current living things by producing untold generations of organisms dying and failing and struggling to adapt to a cruel world? That is a loving God? Plus, if the Genesis account of the Bible is not reliable, then doesn’t that mean that the Bible itself is unreliable? If we cannot believe that the Bible reveals God, then what good is it and how do we then know what God wants us to know?

TIME: Both your books suggest that if the universal constants, the six or more characteristics of our universe, had varied at all, it would have made life impossible. Dr. Collins, can you provide an example?

COLLINS: The gravitational constant, if it were off by one part in a hundred million million, then the expansion of the universe after the Big Bang would not have occurred in the fashion that was necessary for life to occur. When you look at that evidence, it is very difficult to adopt the view that this was just chance. But if you are willing to consider the possibility of a designer, this becomes a rather plausible explanation for what is otherwise an exceedingly improbable event–namely, our existence.

Weak example. Dr. Hugh Ross lists 154 examples of the incredibly narrow parameters required to allow life on Earth alone, as I have listed previously, and the list grows when you consider requirements for the existence of the Universe.

That Dr. Collins is a Big-Banger and also that he allows for evolution being driven by God means that he really doesn’t make a good debate opponent for Dawkins. Dr. Ken Ham is one of many hundreds of far better candidates. Alas, we have what we have for now.

DAWKINS: People who believe in God conclude there must have been a divine knob twiddler who twiddled the knobs of these half-dozen constants to get them exactly right. The problem is that this says, because something is vastly improbable, we need a God to explain it. But that God himself would be even more improbable. Physicists have come up with other explanations. One is to say that these six constants are not free to vary. Some unified theory will eventually show that they are as locked in as the circumference and the diameter of a circle. That reduces the odds of them all independently just happening to fit the bill. The other way is the multiverse way. That says that maybe the universe we are in is one of a very large number of universes. The vast majority will not contain life because they have the wrong gravitational constant or the wrong this constant or that constant. But as the number of universes climbs, the odds mount that a tiny minority of universes will have the right fine-tuning.

I am curious as to why Dawkins can assert that the existence of God is improbable and that statement goes unchallenged? The rules of logic dictate that the simplest explanation is the best and the existence of a Creator God is far and away the simplest explanation for the Universe and all of life having come about. You must being bringing in corrolary assumptions when you dismiss God. Dawkins in this case is counting on those 300 billion universes or whatever the theory is this week. Is there any real evidence for this, or was it thought up just out of necessity?

COLLINS: This is an interesting choice. Barring a theoretical resolution, which I think is unlikely, you either have to say there are zillions of parallel universes out there that we can’t observe at present or you have to say there was a plan. I actually find the argument of the existence of a God who did the planning more compelling than the bubbling of all these multiverses. So Occam’s razor–Occam says you should choose the explanation that is most simple and straightforward–leads me more to believe in God than in the multiverse, which seems quite a stretch of the imagination.

Yeah. Like I said. So why, Francis, not apply Occam’s to the evolution versus Creation question, too?

DAWKINS: I accept that there may be things far grander and more incomprehensible than we can possibly imagine. What I can’t understand is why you invoke improbability and yet you will not admit that you’re shooting yourself in the foot by postulating something just as improbable, magicking into existence the word God.

Gee, Dawk old boy, the idea of God was around a long time before either you or Collins were born. No “magicking” was involved. God was the first explanation for our existence, and the simplest and most logical. You simply can’t grok.

COLLINS: My God is not improbable to me. He has no need of a creation story for himself or to be fine-tuned by something else. God is the answer to all of those “How must it have come to be” questions.

DAWKINS: I think that’s the mother and father of all cop-outs. It’s an honest scientific quest to discover where this apparent improbability comes from. Now Dr. Collins says, “Well, God did it. And God needs no explanation because God is outside all this.” Well, what an incredible evasion of the responsibility to explain. Scientists don’t do that. Scientists say, “We’re working on it. We’re struggling to understand.”

Ah, but when Creation is the logical explanation, and more so as we learn more about life, then to me those who deny God are the ones who are doing the evading. Dawkins comes from the “ohnonotGod” school of thought, wherein God cannot be the answer no matter what. Meanwhile, believing scientists study to learn more about life without being hindered by such a prejudice.

COLLINS: Certainly science should continue to see whether we can find evidence for multiverses that might explain why our own universe seems to be so finely tuned. But I do object to the assumption that anything that might be outside of nature is ruled out of the conversation. That’s an impoverished view of the kinds of questions we humans can ask, such as “Why am I here?”, “What happens after we die?”, “Is there a God?” If you refuse to acknowledge their appropriateness, you end up with a zero probability of God after examining the natural world because it doesn’t convince you on a proof basis. But if your mind is open about whether God might exist, you can point to aspects of the universe that are consistent with that conclusion.

Hey, go ahead and study anything and everything that interests you! We all benefit from good research. Collin’s belief in God, which Dawkins sees as anti-science, has led to several great achievements. I quote from the National Human Genome Research Institute site: His research has led to the identification of genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington’s disease and Hutchison-Gilford progeria syndrome.

Dawkins has been credited with discoveries advancing the study of evolution, primarily. He is so hostile to God that it pretty well exhudes from his very pores. Allow me to give you an example:

Standing in the pulpit of the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Richard Dawkins introduced his “sermon” this way:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

The 600 people in attendance laughed and applauded, clearly excited to hear the author read from his new book, The God Delusion.

Dr. Dawkins has come to America to promote his book and expand the ranks of the “new atheists”—those who unashamedly “come out of the closet” to proclaim their atheism. According to Wired magazine’s Gary Wolf, they are “a band of intellectual brothers … mounting a crusade against belief in God.”

In my estimation, Collins has done more for mankind than Dawkins despite his “handicap” of belief.

COLLINS: Certainly science should continue to see whether we can find evidence for multiverses that might explain why our own universe seems to be so finely tuned. But I do object to the assumption that anything that might be outside of nature is ruled out of the conversation. That’s an impoverished view of the kinds of questions we humans can ask, such as “Why am I here?”, “What happens after we die?”, “Is there a God?” If you refuse to acknowledge their appropriateness, you end up with a zero probability of God after examining the natural world because it doesn’t convince you on a proof basis. But if your mind is open about whether God might exist, you can point to aspects of the universe that are consistent with that conclusion.

This is an idea I have expressed before and it seems like a powerful one: that when one refuses to consider the supernatural he automatically eliminates a subset that may include the answers to the questions being asked. Those who demand only naturalistic solutions may miss the actual solution entirely.

We go forward…

DAWKINS: To me, the right approach is to say we are profoundly ignorant of these matters. We need to work on them. But to suddenly say the answer is God–it’s that that seems to me to close off the discussion.

TIME: Could the answer be God?

DAWKINS: There could be something incredibly grand and incomprehensible and beyond our present understanding.

COLLINS: That’s God.

DAWKINS: Yes. But it could be any of a billion Gods. It could be God of the Martians or of the inhabitants of Alpha Centauri. The chance of its being a particular God, Yahweh, the God of Jesus, is vanishingly small–at the least, the onus is on you to demonstrate why you think that’s the case.

The onus is on who? Why not put the onus on Dawkins to show that God can’t apply to a situation? In fact, why put any special requirement on an argument from either God or not-God, but rather let suppositions stand or fall on their own.

When it comes to science, the idea is to seek truth not to justify a belief system. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is plausible to allow scientific discoveries to be applied to your belief systems. But when you do scientific research, the idea is to look for the answer. If the answer is that God created, there is no special requirement to get a note from your mother in order to say it.

To me, at the bottom of it all you either think Goddidit or chancedidit. Okay, either way, the job of most disciplines of science is to figure out how things work and how we can apply it to our lives more so than concentrating on which didit didit. Right?

TIME: The Book of Genesis has led many conservative Protestants to oppose evolution and some to insist that the earth is only 6,000 years old.

COLLINS: There are sincere believers who interpret Genesis 1 and 2 in a very literal way that is inconsistent, frankly, with our knowledge of the universe’s age or of how living organisms are related to each other. St. Augustine wrote that basically it is not possible to understand what was being described in Genesis. It was not intended as a science textbook. It was intended as a description of who God was, who we are and what our relationship is supposed to be with God. Augustine explicitly warns against a very narrow perspective that will put our faith at risk of looking ridiculous. If you step back from that one narrow interpretation, what the Bible describes is very consistent with the Big Bang.

This is why Collins is a bad choice to oppose Dawkins. He and Dawkins agree from the get-go on certain issues such as this one. There are plenty of believing scientists who don’t believe the Genesis account is incorrect.

DAWKINS: Physicists are working on the Big Bang, and one day they may or may not solve it. However, what Dr. Collins has just been–may I call you Francis?

COLLINS: Oh, please, Richard, do so.

DAWKINS: What Francis was just saying about Genesis was, of course, a little private quarrel between him and his Fundamentalist colleagues …

COLLINS: It’s not so private. It’s rather public. [Laughs.]

DAWKINS: … It would be unseemly for me to enter in except to suggest that he’d save himself an awful lot of trouble if he just simply ceased to give them the time of day. Why bother with these clowns?

COLLINS: Richard, I think we don’t do a service to dialogue between science and faith to characterize sincere people by calling them names. That inspires an even more dug-in position. Atheists sometimes come across as a bit arrogant in this regard, and characterizing faith as something only an idiot would attach themselves to is not likely to help your case.

A bit arrogant? The situation in Iraq is a bit sticky. Boxing is a bit violent.

TIME: Dr. Collins, the Resurrection is an essential argument of Christian faith, but doesn’t it, along with the virgin birth and lesser miracles, fatally undermine the scientific method, which depends on the constancy of natural laws?

Dumb question, incredibly slanted. Counsel is leading the witness, your honor!

COLLINS: If you’re willing to answer yes to a God outside of nature, then there’s nothing inconsistent with God on rare occasions choosing to invade the natural world in a way that appears miraculous. If God made the natural laws, why could he not violate them when it was a particularly significant moment for him to do so? And if you accept the idea that Christ was also divine, which I do, then his Resurrection is not in itself a great logical leap.

Well, duh. If God made the laws, any way in which He works is natural. Trust me, evolutionists depend on the idea that conditions on earth today have not always been the same and so do Creationists. We keep finding that there are addendums to the “Laws of Nature” as we learn more and more. Newtonian physics yielded to Einstein and Quantum Theory. The speed of light, we have recently discovered, is apparently NOT a constant.

TIME: Doesn’t the very notion of miracles throw off science?

COLLINS: Not at all. If you are in the camp I am, one place where science and faith could touch each other is in the investigation of supposedly miraculous events.

DAWKINS: If ever there was a slamming of the door in the face of constructive investigation, it is the word miracle. To a medieval peasant, a radio would have seemed like a miracle. All kinds of things may happen which we by the lights of today’s science would classify as a miracle just as medieval science might a Boeing 747. Francis keeps saying things like “From the perspective of a believer.” Once you buy into the position of faith, then suddenly you find yourself losing all of your natural skepticism and your scientific–really scientific–credibility. I’m sorry to be so blunt.

Too bad. The world wasn’t made to accomodate one man’s view of how scientific methods must be carried out. Belief in God didn’t stop Newton from making discoveries, or Crick, or Pasteur. Dawkins may see it as a hindrance but in fact history says that it is not.

COLLINS: Richard, I actually agree with the first part of what you said. But I would challenge the statement that my scientific instincts are any less rigorous than yours. The difference is that my presumption of the possibility of God and therefore the supernatural is not zero, and yours is.

Collins reiterates that very good point that Dawkins has failed to address.

TIME: Dr. Collins, you have described humanity’s moral sense not only as a gift from God but as a signpost that he exists.

COLLINS: There is a whole field of inquiry that has come up in the last 30 or 40 years–some call it sociobiology or evolutionary psychology–relating to where we get our moral sense and why we value the idea of altruism, and locating both answers in behavioral adaptations for the preservation of our genes. But if you believe, and Richard has been articulate in this, that natural selection operates on the individual, not on a group, then why would the individual risk his own DNA doing something selfless to help somebody in a way that might diminish his chance of reproducing? Granted, we may try to help our own family members because they share our DNA. Or help someone else in expectation that they will help us later. But when you look at what we admire as the most generous manifestations of altruism, they are not based on kin selection or reciprocity. An extreme example might be Oskar Schindler risking his life to save more than a thousand Jews from the gas chambers. That’s the opposite of saving his genes. We see less dramatic versions every day. Many of us think these qualities may come from God–especially since justice and morality are two of the attributes we most readily identify with God.

DAWKINS: Can I begin with an analogy? Most people understand that sexual lust has to do with propagating genes. Copulation in nature tends to lead to reproduction and so to more genetic copies. But in modern society, most copulations involve contraception, designed precisely to avoid reproduction. Altruism probably has origins like those of lust. In our prehistoric past, we would have lived in extended families, surrounded by kin whose interests we might have wanted to promote because they shared our genes. Now we live in big cities. We are not among kin nor people who will ever reciprocate our good deeds. It doesn’t matter. Just as people engaged in sex with contraception are not aware of being motivated by a drive to have babies, it doesn’t cross our mind that the reason for do-gooding is based in the fact that our primitive ancestors lived in small groups. But that seems to me to be a highly plausible account for where the desire for morality, the desire for goodness, comes from.

I have a highly plausible bridge to sell you, in Brooklyn. Dawkins is inventing genetic characteristics and predispositions out of whole cloth. It is clever obfuscation but it remains baseless speculation (BS for short)!

COLLINS: For you to argue that our noblest acts are a misfiring of Darwinian behavior does not do justice to the sense we all have about the absolutes that are involved here of good and evil. Evolution may explain some features of the moral law, but it can’t explain why it should have any real significance. If it is solely an evolutionary convenience, there is really no such thing as good or evil. But for me, it is much more than that. The moral law is a reason to think of God as plausible–not just a God who sets the universe in motion but a God who cares about human beings, because we seem uniquely amongst creatures on the planet to have this far-developed sense of morality. What you’ve said implies that outside of the human mind, tuned by evolutionary processes, good and evil have no meaning. Do you agree with that?

Stay tuned until tomorrow for the last part of this article. Collins leaves us with a great question, which Dawkins has presented to us in the midst of his assertions. Is there such a thing as good and evil? By what justification do those who believe in evolution assert that good and evil even exist? For in their world we are random beings formed by the workings of random and unthinking processes and neither good nor evil should be considered to exist, right?

How does one explain the inherent knowledge within the great majority of people that there is good and evil? How about the understanding inherent within normal folks that individual life has value? Only the few mutant souls among us are born without such knowledge and we call them sociopaths, moral monsters who easily become serial killers or totalitarian rulers. Yet evolution provides no evidence that such inherent knowledge should have ever come about.

(original link)

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