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Perspectives...on science, theology, and medicine

Science and religion

From the July 1997 issue of The Christian Science Journal

John Hueffner found much at the conference to be unfamiliar territory. "When I found that delegates would be discussing topics such as 'Godel's Incompleteness Theorems and Swinburn's Cumulative Case for Theism,' I had to overcome an initial sense of separation between my world and the world of scholarship. But I could also see that the conference would be asking the question of God's place in science, and I felt strongly that we have our own expertise that should be part of this front-line discussion. Maybe there would be unfamiliar language to be dealt with, but we can't avoid any segment of society in our efforts to break down 'the middle wall of partition.'" Eph. 2:14.

There was no academic jargon in the opening talk by Phillip E. Johnson. A law professor and graduate of Harvard Law School, Johnson has stirred the scientific community with his analysis of how scientists talk about the evolution of life on earth. Johnson contends that scientists regularly mix fact and opinion and present both to the public as established science. Furthermore, he contends that many scientists use their standing to promote a personal philosophy that is anti-religious.

Michael Ruse, a philosopher of biology who gave the last major talk at the conference, agrees that Johnson is partially right in his criticism. In 1993, Ruse told an audience at the American Association for the Advancement of Science that "evolution, akin to religion, involves making certain a priori or metaphysical assumptions, which at some level cannot be proven empirically," and that for some scientists "evolution functioned, at a level, as a kind of religion." Quoted in Raymond E. Grizzle, "Darwin, Darwinism, and Religion," Bioscience, Vol. 44, No. 8, September 1994. But Ruse would not go so far as to say, with Johnson, that science should be open to all hypotheses—even ones that propose a supernatural explanation for natural events. In fact, Ruse defends the almost universally accepted view that science is the search for material explanations and that supernatural explanations do not belong.

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