From Peter M. J. Hess, Catholic theologian and director of the “Faith Project” of the National Center for Science Education, comes this trenchant analysis of the faith/science dichotomy. Quote of the week in bold:
Evolution can certainly be compatible with religious faith. Because the evidence for evolution is so overwhelming, we must consider it to be a truth about the natural world — the world which we as people of faith believe was created by God, and the world made understandable by the reason and natural senses given to us by God. Denying science is a profoundly unsound theological position. Science and faith are but two ways of searching for the same truths.
Lordy, I’m so tired of hearing this statement over and over again from accommodationists (over at The Intersection, Chris Mooney praises Hess’s “great column”). We’re both searching for the same truths? That’s news to me. I didn’t know faith was trying to find out where the genes are for reproductive isolating barriers between species of fruit fly. Or that the faithful are praying for some revelation about dark matter. Likewise, I don’t know many scientists who are working on the Big Question of whether unbaptized babies go to limbo.
Really, we need to think about statements like Hess’s. They may sound good — for a nanosecond — but they’re intellectual pablum. They are balm for believers, Panglossian tactics meant to reassure everyone that, hey folks, we’re all in the Big Search for Truth together!
As I’ve maintained repeatedly, religion is neither set up for finding truth nor very good at finding truth. Let me correct that — faith is incapable of finding truth, or at least no more capable than is astrology. The methods of ascertaining “truth” via faith are either revelation or acceptance of dogma. These methods have produced “truths” like a 6,000-year-old Earth and the Great Flood. Not a very good track record. In fact, I have yet to find a single truth about humans, Earth, or the universe that has come uniquely from faith. If you have one, please send it to me! If faith did hit on truths, the tenets of all the world’s religions would not be in irresolvable conflict. But they are.
In all these debates about the compatibility of science and faith, I have yet to see an intellectually respectable answer to this ultimate dichotomy between “ways of knowing.” Instead, people like Mooney go after us for our tone, for polarizing people, and so on. Does Mooney sign on to Hess’s statement that the faithful and the scientists are all really engaged in the same endeavor? If not, why does he call Hess’s column “great”? Instead of beefing about our “militancy,” why don’t accommodationists start addressing the question of whether faith can tell us anything that’s true? Let’s hear about whether you can coherently accept a Resurrection on Sunday and then go to the lab the next day and doggedly refuse to accept any claim that lacks evidence. Now that would raise the tone of this debate.