The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest scientific organization and publisher of Science, one of the two premier science journals in the world (the other is Nature). Unfortunately, this important organization has gone the accommodationist route big time, sponsoring a “Dialogue on Science, Religion, and Ethics” (DoSER) program that is largely concerned with showing people that religion and science are completely compatible. As I’ve posted before, DoSER is sponsored by not only the AAAS, but by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Smithsonian Institution. These are government organizations, so some of your tax dollars may be going to support a brand of theology. And, of course, the whole shebang is funded by the Templeton Foundation to the tune of 5.3 million dollars.
DoSER is headed by Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, Senior Project Scientist in charge of the NASA Hubble Space Telescope, and, notably, the former head and now Executive Board member of the American Scientific Affiliation, an association of evangelical Christian scientists. The organization is pretty hard-line, for it takes some bizarre stands for an organization of scientists, especially one that includes Wiseman with her AAAS program meant to reconcile the truths of modern science with the beliefs of the faithful. The problem is that the ASA doesn’t seem to accept those truths:
- According to their website, “The ASA has no official position on evolution; its members hold a diversity of views with varying degrees of intensity. “
- The ASA publishes the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (download pdf at the link), which has some pretty weird articles. Alert reader Sigmund, who called it to my attention, describes the latest issue thusly: “As you might expect from a Christian evangelical organization that refuses to take a stance on the scientific consensus for things like evolution, it’s all over the place. It has articles on the RNA world hypothesis (science), information from an Intelligent Design viewpoint (pseudoscientific creationism), and the use of chaos theory to explain demonology (complete lunacy —written by a physician called Janet Warren who describes herself as ‘a family physician in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, with a special interest in counseling and deliverance.’ A special interest in deliverance?”
- The journal has also one of the primary papers that has been used as a justification for trying to ‘”cure” homosexuals, “A Biblical perspective an [sic] homosexuality and Its healing. When was the last time you hugged a homosexual?” by Michael A. Campion and Alfred R. Barrow. It’s on the ASA website, and while this may not be an official position of the organization, they appear (as they do with evolution) to avoid taking a stand on the issue.
- The ASA endorses its “Four Pillars” of faith, to wit:
As an organization, the ASA does not take a position when there is honest disagreement between Christians on an issue. We are committed to providing an open forum where controversies can be discussed without fear of unjust condemnation. Legitimate differences of opinion among Christians who have studied both the Bible and science are freely expressed within the Affiliation in a context of Christian love and concern for truth.Our platform of faith has four important planks:We accept the divine inspiration, trustworthiness and authority of the Bible in matters of faith and conduct.We confess the Triune God affirmed in the Nicene and Apostles’ creeds, which we accept as brief, faithful statements of Christian doctrine based upon Scripture.We believe that in creating and preserving the universe God has endowed it with contingent order and intelligibility, the basis of scientific investigation.We recognize our responsibility, as stewards of God’s creation, to use science and technology for the good of humanity and the whole world.
These four statements of faith spell out the distinctive character of the ASA, and we uphold them in every activity and publication of the Affiliation.
And yet I believe it is important to rejuvenate our congregations with a sense of joy and unity in contemplating the magnificence of Creation, with forefront scientific knowledge. . .While science itself cannot address or prove the existence or non-existence of God, there are other compelling reasons, looking at nature and experience as a whole, for many people to believe in God. And from that perspective of faith, the Creation itself will reflect the nature of God. So what could we learn about the character of the Creator God by what we have discovered in the universe? This is subjective, but I believe there are several characteristics of the Creator that one could glean (not scientifically) by considering the universe in which we live, so let me elaborate on these points.
Power is hard to describe, but when we consider that there are over 100 billion galaxies in the universe, most with hundreds of billions of stars, all the eventual result of an enormously energetic initial flash of energy over 13 billion years ago, great power is evident.
Of course, that power was entirely the result of the Big Bang, and says nothing about God.
Creativity is seen in the very processes themselves. Stars, for example, are not only shining balls of gas; they are also factories where heavier elements that we rely on for life are produced. What a brilliant mechanism!
Yes, but there are many more stars than needed to produce all the elements necessary for life on Earth. And, of course, stars are also the result of the ineluctable physical processes initiated by the Big Bang.
Beauty can be seen in everything from spiral galaxies to snail shells to mathematical equations of motion. The fact that beauty exists and that we are able to recognize and appreciate it has interesting implications for the purposes of Creation.
“Interesting implications”? What, exactly, are they? Did God produce all those spiral galaxies simply so we could admire them from our small blue dot?
Patience is implied as we now can see, through careful astronomical study, the slow (to us) formation and maturation of galaxies and stars over billions of years, leading to our life-bearing planet, where fossils and formations tell a tale of a slowly changing Earth. Yet faith reminds us that God has been in charge this whole unimaginable time, knowing that each of us, and our Savior, would eventually appear.
This is making a virtue of necessity. Why did God wait ten billion years after He created the universe to bring life into existence? Note as well the unscientific assertion that humans were programmed into the Universe from the very beginning, and the claim that the “Savior” appeared on only one planet in the billions in our universe. Why the excess? Was there no Intergalactic Jesus?
Faithfulness is implied by the very stability of the universe, and the fact that we can study it knowing that fundamental forces and principles like cause and effect are stable and reliable, making our lives possible and meaningful. In fact we live in what appears to be a very finely tuned universe.
The problem here is that our own planet isn’t faithful: it’s going to be incinerated in about five billion years, so Earth is hardly “stable and reliable.” And I don’t know any physicist who would describe “cause and effect” as a fundamental “force” or principle of the field.
Wiseman also endorses two other wonky religious conclusions that are supposed to come from science:
Within that framework of faithfulness, however, we see basic principles allowing freedom and its resulting good and bad consequences; quantum mechanics and chaos theory have revealed a world of uncertain or unpredictable outcomes at fundamental levels of the physical world.
The “freedom” of quantum mechanics has nothing to do with human “freedom” as conceived by Christianity, nor with the “free will” that is supposed to account for “bad consequences,” aka “evil.” She’s blaming the evils of the world on quantum indeterminacy? And chaos theory, of course, is deterministic: it shows that certain processes, while unpredictable, are nevertheless ineluctably deterministic, and therefore can’t instantiate freedom.
And, like Francis Collins, head of the NIH, Wiseman sees fine-tuning as evidence for God:
The physical constants that describe how the forces of nature work with high quantitative accuracy are exactly right to allow life to exist and evolve and thrive for a meaningful length of time. Even tiny deviations from their measured values would have precluded life. One could (and many do) try to explain this away by imagining that there could be a very large number of other universes, each with different fundamental constants and forces, so that this one that enables life as we know it is a statistical accident. If that were true, it would still be incredible that this “multi-verse” would be of such special character that even one universe within it would be a birthplace for life.
Her conclusion from scientific observation of the universe?
This all points to a God who loves, who desires living beings to exist, to recognize beauty and wonder in the universe, and to eventually respond in personal relationship to their Creator.
It’s funny that other astronomers who have the same data aren’t on board with Wiseman’s conclusion. The reason, of course, is that Wiseman, like all liberal theologians or believers, is simply using science as a post facto rationalization of what they already believe. They aren’t drawing conclusions about God from the universe, but forcing the characteristics of the universe into the Procrustean bed of their faith. There is in fact no observation about the universe that someone like Wiseman couldn’t comport with their faith. And that’s the difference between science and religion.
Despite Wiseman’s caveat, these kind of pronouncements do nothing less than use her authority of a scientist to endorse the existence of a creator, and imply that scientific observations give us a clue about the nature of a creator.
As a citizen, Wiseman of course has the right to believe what she wants, and to publish this unscientific tripe in the guise of science. But as a representative of NASA and the AAAS (her affiliations are noted in the BioLogos piece), she’s an embarrassment, for her activities show an unseemly infusion of religion into science. Science doesn’t need this kind of magical thinking! And, in fact, that’s what Wiseman’s DoSER program is all about. If you’re a member of the AAAS and object to this program, you can write to Alan Leshner, CEO of the AAAS, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Since Leshner seems to be an enthusiastic sponsor of DoSER, this may be useless. Or you could resign, but of course then you wouldn’t get your issue of Science.