As I noted yesterday, Dr. Jennifer Wiseman is not only an astronomer with NASA, but director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) Templeton-funded program, “Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion” (DoSER). She’s also on the executive board of the American Scientific Affiliation, a group of evangelical Christian Scientists with fairly hard-core beliefs (the group refuses, for instance, to take a stand on the truth of evolution.) The aim of the AAAS’s DoSER program is “to facilitate communication between scientific and religious communities.”
As I’ve said before, Wiseman is free to believe what she wants and to say what she chooses as a private citizen, but her statements and interviews do bespeak a distinctly unscientific attitude. These questions and answers are from an interview with Wiseman at the UK’s Rejesus site:
You constantly seek to expand the final frontier of space. Are the biggest challenges to your faith from within science?
No, I am troubled when I see the innocent suffer, whether that’s innocent children in a war zone or innocent animals being abused. I often join the chorus in crying out: ‘God, why are you allowing this? Why don’t you intervene?’
I believe in miracles. I believe God answers prayer. So when tragedy strikes I struggle with this question of why. But I also know that God is always present in troublesome situations and he can change people’s hearts and minds in amazing ways. I have witnessed enough of God’s faithfulness and presence and responses to cries for help to be convinced that God is real and that the gospel is true.
She also believes that God answers prayer (empirical study shows that this isn’t true), and her theodicy is incoherent. God is “present in troublesome situations” like tragedies, but apparently He chooses, in those tragedies, to allow some people to die or experience unimaginable suffering. (And we’re not even talking about animal suffering here, which is equally problematic.) Why is that? And when people “change their minds in amazing ways,” some of them change their minds in bad ways and do evil. How does she know which cases of mind-change are caused by God, and which occur by other means (presumably Satan?)
How does your scientific view relate to what you read in the Bible about creation?
As a Christian, I believe the Bible is inspired by God. I have a great respect for the Bible. Respecting the scriptures includes understanding the kind of literature that was being written and what is being read. We need to be humble and respectful in trying to understand what it is that God is teaching us through each book and each passage. Every book has a different type of literature, a different historical time frame and a different initial audience.
The opening words of Genesis are very powerful – ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ – because they set the stage for a theology which says that everything is created by one God.
If we read Genesis as a text of scientific detail, I think we misunderstand its purpose. God was not giving us the details of how he created things. If it was that kind of text it would have been a much longer book. I find it amazing that the stages of Creation in Genesis match fairly well with what scientists understand to be the way things have come into being.
Here is the stages of creation as given in Genesis; remember that there are two versions of Genesis showing different orders of “creation”:
- Light and dark
- Seas, dry land, plants (herbs and trees and grasses)
- Stars, the sun and the moon
- Sea creatures and flying creatures
- Land animals
Well, there’s a bit of discrepancy there, as stars came before the seas, dry land on Earth, and plants. Further, sea creatures came before plants. And the stars and light were presumably coincident. Finally, land animals (amphibians and reptiles) came before birds.
The second chapter of Genesis gives a different order:
- Earth and heavens
- Plants of the field and herbs
- Water (how were the plants and herbs growing before this?)
- Male human (Adam)
- Beasts and fowls
- Female human (Eve)
In Genesis 2.0, humans appear before other creatures, and plants appear before water. If Wiseman “find[s] it amazing that the stages of Creation in Genesis match fairly well with what scientists understand to be the way things have come into being,” which version of Genesis is she talking about? And does she use that (non) coincidence as a way of comporting her Christianity with comic and biological evolution?
These answers constitute a prime example of the incompatibility between science and faith, and it amazes me that someone who operates as a scientist during the day can believe in this kind of stuff in their off-hours. Genesis is not compatible with cosmic and biological evolution, and an omnipotent and benevolent god is not compatible with evils and tragedies.
When there’s this kind of discord, the religious scientist simply makes stuff up so that the two magisteria once again harmonize. In science, when your hypothesis is at odds with the facts, you discard the hypothesis. Are those methods compatible?