Yet another accommodationist book

Yes, it’s called Let there be SCIENCE: Why God loves Science and Science Needs God. The first part of the title presumes, without evidence, that there is a God, and the second part is just bogus: science operates best by ignoring God, operating as if gods did not exist. It’s appropriate that the book is coming out on April Fools’ Day of this year.

The authors? Amazon says this:

Tom McLeish is a physics professor, chair of the Royal Society’s education committee, and an Anglican lay reader. He is the author of Faith and Wisdom in Science. David Hutchings is a physics teacher.

Chair of the Royal Society’s education committee? What the bloody hell is a theist doing in that position?

Why, do you suppose, that people are always trying to comport religion with science instead of, say, religion with business or with sports? It’s obvious! Science and religion are both areas that make truth statements about the universe, and are in that sense competitors. But only science has a valid way of adjudicating its findings, and thus is infinitely superior to religion, which has no way to justify its “truths.” (Evidence: all religions have different truth statements about the universe, and they can’t be reconciled.)

At any rate, here’s part of the Amazon blurb, which is pretty truthful about science but tells two big lies about Christianity. (Any why are they comporting science with Christianity instead of some other religions?)

Too often, it would seem, science has been presented to the outside world as a robotic, detached, unemotional enterprise. Too often, Christianity is dismissed as being an ancient superstition. In reality, neither is the case. Science is a deeply human activity, and Christianity is deeply reasonable.

I suspect someone’s been reading Plantinga. Christianity is no more reasonable than Hindu mythology or the pantheon of Greek Gods.

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From the book’s website, we learn about the “fatal glass of beer“. Beware of the dregs!

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. . . and we get this palaver:

Like its background text, Faith and Wisdom in Science (good for further reading by the way), it’s main task is to blow away the myth that science and orthodox Christian faith are in any necessary conflict now, or at any time in history.

On the contrary, we find that throughout the ages, the faith required to do science, that our minds might just be up to the job of perceiving the inner structures of the universe, as well as its cosmic glories, is motivated by the same ‘Faith’ that dares to suppose that those very minds reflect in some way that of their Creator.

Furthermore, we find that the reason to do science is also theologically grounded.  Historically, the great scientists at the start of the early modern period when experimental science got off the ground, had a worked out theological reason for acquiring knowledge of the natural world.

There is of course no “religious-like faith” required to do science; there is confidence that the scientific toolkit—what I call “science broadly conceived”—will help us find truths about the cosmos and solve problems like curing diseases and landing rockets on comets. And unlike faith, which is belief without evidence, the confidence in science is there because, as they say, “Science works, bitches!” In other words, there’s evidence that science approaches the apprehension of truth. (See my article on this issue here.) In contrast, the faith that supposes that God created our minds is garden-variety religious faith: confident belief without sufficient evidence to command assent from all reasonable people (that’s philosopher Walter Kauffman’s definition).

Finally, while it may be true that some scientists like Newton had theological reasons for studying the natural world, that was by no means always true, even in the past: think of the ancient Greeks. And even if it were true, scientists no longer have religious reasons for doing science; in fact, most of us are atheists. We do science because we’re curious, because some of us want to help society or the afflicted, and so on; and the best way to do that, we’ve found, is to take no notice of gods.

h/t: Matthew Cobb

46 Comments

  1. jaxkayaker
    Posted January 21, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    These physicists could possibly be helped by some philosophy. I suggest they read Faith vs. Fact.

  2. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 21, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    It is ONE thing to claim that science can benefit from a semi-religious sense of the majesty of the cosmos (a la Einstein), but it another to say that science must be subject to some external creed or dogma.

    Einstein’s “cosmic religious feeling” never jeopardizes the autonomy of science, but in much of the history of religious interference from Galileo to creationism, science has been deeply jeopardized.

    Do the Pythagoreans count as religious? Perhaps broadly construed. But not so much the case of Archimedes or Democritus.

    The last time I read a book on “The Reasonableness of Christianity” it was the book of that title by John Locke, a Unitarian, whose Christianity contains none of the doctrines that fundamentalists insist are the rock-bottom basics.

    Some of Locke’s arguments have been appropriated by more classical apologists, never noting the absence of their core doctrines from Locke.

    • reasonshark
      Posted January 22, 2017 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      It is ONE thing to claim that science can benefit from a semi-religious sense of the majesty of the cosmos (a la Einstein),

      I wouldn’t even go that far. Strictly speaking, a heartless bastard is just as capable of producing competent science as a poetic feeling type. Science is basically applied reason: facts don’t care about people’s feelings.

      I mean, it would be nice if people took more of an interest in and were inspired by science, but we need to be clear about whether we’re doing competent science or we’re trying to evoke feelings from people. Blurring the distinction is a double-edged sword at best.

  3. Sastra
    Posted January 21, 2017 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Science is a deeply human activity, and Christianity is deeply reasonable.

    I play a little game when confronted with these science-and-religion accomodationist arguments. I mentally replace the words “religion,” “God,” “Christianity,” and/or “spirituality” with the words “passion,” “emotion,” “love,” and/or “hope.”

    Suddenly, the arguments all make sense. “Science is a deeply human activity, and passion is deeply reasonable.” All the statements are now nothing more than pushback against the idea that reason makes us uncaring robots. Which is a valid point.

    This gives us an important clue regarding what they’re doing, I think. It’s an Argument from Equivocation. Religion replaces all possibility of human passion and hope — and atheism means we’re uncaring robots.

    Screw them for this.

  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 21, 2017 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Let’s assume there is a god. How would we know he loves science when he communicates through vague media like burning bushes? And why make us figure shot out using science when he could just tell us the answers?

    • Paul S
      Posted January 21, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      I’ve been told God did give us answers. The fact that those answers are wrong is apparently irrelevant.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 21, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    I’m guessing the beer shout-out is an allusion to Bacon’s aphorism that “A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.”

    Or maybe it’s to A. Pope’s couplet about a little learning:

    There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
    And drinking largely sobers us again.

    I dunno. I never found such advice much use for avoiding hangovers, let alone for finding the Good Lord.

    • Billy Bl.
      Posted January 21, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Maybe it just means you can find God if you get drunk.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 21, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        Think I’ll stop short with a couple, ’til I’m feelin’ “spiritual” but not “religious.”

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 21, 2017 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        Get pissed, find God.

        Though sometimes it takes till next morning – ‘Oh God, my head…’

        cr

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted January 21, 2017 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

          THAts the slippery slope. We start punching Nazis & next thing you know, we’re punching programmers.

  6. Heather Hastie
    Posted January 21, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    The notion that any scientist would write a book like this is truly bizarre. The results of any science, no matter where it is conducted and no matter what your personal beliefs, are meaningless unless you assume there is no interference from a higher power.

  7. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted January 21, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Confirmation of the speed of light in a vacuum; experimental design.

    First: Make sure there are no gods, spirits, demons, or djin between the emitter and the receiver.

    Second: Make sure the emitter and receiver have been exorcised.

    Third…

    …Finally make sure that the value found cannot be described as miraculous.

    • Tom
      Posted January 21, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      At last a reasonable set of parameters for a truly Christian astrophysicist to follow.
      Those old estimates of the speed of light were always suspiciously pagan.

  8. Historian
    Posted January 21, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Books like these are written by religious scientists who have seen that science can discover profound truths about the universe without the need of any reference to the supernatural. Since they cannot psychologically escape the need for faith, they construct Rube Goldberg explanations, which, in their minds, allow religion and science to co-exist. The fact that some scientists cannot escape the grasp of religion demonstrates what a psychological hold it can have on some people.

  9. Claudia Baker
    Posted January 21, 2017 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    “Christianity is deeply reasonable” ???

    Ahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahaha

    OK, I feel better now.

  10. Posted January 21, 2017 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Science can and has progressed. Religion hasn’t and can’t progress. That’s why religionists are always trying to jump onto the science bandwagon, hold on for a moment or two and claim they were always there and are even driving it.

  11. serendipitydawg
    Posted January 21, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    What the bloody hell is a theist doing in that position?

    With respect, there is no reason why a theist shouldn’t be in that position. Just so long as they don’t use it to try and inject gods into science or bolster their own credentials promoting theism.

    • serendipitydawg
      Posted January 21, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, forgot the /irony tag in that comment.

      Someone needs to proof read their website judging by that screenshot… how can we here Richard Staples?

  12. Posted January 21, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Gods and religion were initially developed by human beings whose sensory apparatus conveyed information they could not interpret rationally. So, they combined discrete pieces of information to make up a rationale that they thought made sense. All phenomenon they couldn’t understand became godly and religious. Dead ancestors become objects of worship. The sun, mountains,weather, lightning, etc. ditto. We used to do that because we hadn’t the tools to figure things out scientifically. In our childhood, we believed unverifiable phenomenon. Once we had science, we should have been able to release our cobbled-together understandings of the universe. God is an outdated anachronism. Let him/her/it go.

  13. Filippo
    Posted January 21, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    “We do science because we’re curious, because some of us want to help society or the afflicted, and so on . . . .”

    Anymore I’m pretty cynical/suspicious whenever I hear a politician or Romneyesque venture capitalist English/Political Science/MBA/JD graduate-CEO type encourage/harangue youngsters to get a STEM BS/MS/PhD. For what reason – to help society? Or to maximize venture capitalists’ profits? Why didn’t these Ivy League law school capitalist-types themselves go into STEM career fields? Because one can’t make the Big Bucks working in STEM (no matter how otherwise reasonably remunerative they are).

  14. alexandra Moffat
    Posted January 21, 2017 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    “Christianity is deeply reasonable.”

    That’s the funniest thing I’ve read all day even after seeing what trump says

  15. Kevin
    Posted January 21, 2017 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    The premise is deeply juvenile.

    Physicists who believe in magic Gods. How petrified a life it must be that Monday through Friday it’s chalkboards and electrons and Sunday is supplication to Baby Jesus. The two never meet, brother…never.

  16. Posted January 21, 2017 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps not surprisingly, given his accommodationism, Tom McLeish is a trustee for the Templeton Foundation.

    https://www.templeton.org/who-we-are/our-team/board-of-trustees/tom-mcleish

    Because that organisation has such deep pockets it’s able to amplify the views of people like McLeish in a way that doesn’t have a parallel among other world views. And note that the Templeton agenda is primarily to promote reconciliation between Christianity and science, not other religions and science. Of course, they are free to do that, but it’s unfortunate that this misguided obsession robs the world of funds to do something useful.

    • Posted January 21, 2017 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      There is also an interesting exchange here between McLeish and a blogger:

      https://sergiograziosi.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/the-unsolvable-tension-faith-science-or-faith-in-evidence/

      McLeish says:

      A few final points on the Templeton funding. FIrst, as an academic and additioanlly as Pro-Vice-Chancellor of a research intensive university, I would never approve or accept funding from any organisation that inflected, filtered, biassed or controlled in any way the findings of a research project they funded. All funders have a declared sphere of interest – resaerch questions they will fund and things that they wont – and Templeton is no exception. But they do not determine the answers. People might also want to check winners of the Templeton prize – many are self-declared atheists or agnostics. Many colleagues also funded by them (including some in the same funded teams as me, are atheist).

      That is fair enough, but the problem is not about Templeton interfering in the results of any project they fund, but in the percentage of funds they allocate to projects that advance their mission (“derived from the late Sir John Templeton’s optimism about the possibility of acquiring “new spiritual information” and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship.”). They do so much funding that it gives a false impression of the relevance of religion to science. I mean, to my knowledge they don’t fund an institute of science and politics, or science and healthcare, or science and nutrition, at Cambridge University, but they do fund one for science and religion (by which they mostly mean Christianity – “The Faraday Institute has a Christian ethos”, https://www.faraday.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/Institute.php).

      This is a pretty remarkable and unhelpful non-subject to have an institute dedicated to, especially when there is so much else that needs sorting out in the world.

      • Vaal
        Posted January 23, 2017 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        I just read that exchange. The blogger makes a similar case for the incompatibility of McLeish’s religious beliefs with science that I (and others) have in this thread.

        McLeish essentially sidesteps the whole challenge (which is rather telling from someone who has produced a book purporting to reconcile them! We just gave some vague handwaving that he has some reasons to think his religious belief in Christianity is compatible with science, but provides no actual details or arguments for this.

        • Posted January 23, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

          The thread discusses the compatibility of science and theology, which I guess is slightly different to the conflict between science and religion, or religious beliefs. But, yes, it is difficult to follow his argument; the language he uses to reconcile science and theology descends into the sort of vagaries one might hear on Thought for the Day. But maybe his book gives a rigorous and well-supported exposition of the premises and conclusions of his argument.

          Given that framing, though, his explanation still seems to me to exemplify the incompatibility between science and theology, when he defines theology as “the study of everything in the light of God”, and further that “Theology is really good at purpose. Scinece [sic] doesnt really “do” it.”

          In light of these claims his talk of science and theology as “of each other” I struggle to make sense of. The metaphysical speculations of theology propose a variety of almost completely ad hoc teleological solutions for which we have little to no evidence and no principle for distinguishing between them; the only benefits of such speculations appear to be psychological, which casts some doubt on them, since the suspicion is that they simply spring from our human nature.

          The physical speculations of science propose a variety of hypotheses about reality from which we can derive predictions to test against empirical observation to distinguish between them; the benefit of these speculations is the ability to control our environment reliably and some psychological satisfaction at understanding reality more clearly. But the scientific approach can have psychological disadvantages too, which makes it unpopular to many, but also suggests that, being often counter-intuitive, the theories do not spring from our human nature.

          The incompatibility at that level seems complete. Perhaps he is saying that to compare these two activities as two ‘methods’ like this is simply wrong, but I would need some good reasons to think that, and I don’t see them atm.

  17. poltiser
    Posted January 22, 2017 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    “some scientists like Newton had theological reasons for studying the natural world, that was by no means always true, even in the past: think of the ancient Greeks.”

    Hold your horses! What about Anaximander and many others… Not to mention Epicure and few following thinkers of Islamic culture…?!

    Religion came later with strong need of control and antropomorphisation. In neolithic naturalism they coexist, most probably, building slowly methodology of understanding reality around. See neolithic art and abstract symbols in caves around the world…

    Self reassuring theologians simply wrote history backwards many times.

    “Creation Reveals A Lack of Sense

    You said, “A wise one created us “;
    That may be true, we would agree.
    “Outside of time and space,” you postulated.
    Then why not say at once that you
    Propound a mystery immense
    Which tells us of our lack of sense?”

    Al-Ma’arri (Aleppo & Bagdad XI century)

    Stanisław Jerzy Lec (XX century)wrote:
    “To think and believe with the same brain?”

    Best regards to all.

  18. Bogdan Enmire
    Posted January 22, 2017 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    If you have confidence that your astronomical model of the solar system is correct, you will expect the sun to rise every morning. If you merely have ‘faith’, you might have to start throwing people into a volcano, just to be sure.

  19. Vaal
    Posted January 22, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    This religious apologist trope that it was a belief in God that was necessary to seek to understand the world is ridiculous.

    God belief or not, there have always been innumerable regularities in nature for people to notice: the pattern of sun/day/night, that the moon went through regular phases over and over, that certain star formations kept appearing, and ending up here rather than there at certain times, that this fruit was always found under certain conditions, that things always fell “down,” that fire was always hot…that the world exhibited regularities one could categorize, and that this is USEFUL to do so, has always been there, and is there whether you posit a God or not.

    God was just one of the bad explanations people came up with when trying to explain the regularities they’d already observed and began to categorize. Science reasonably arose from our experience of regularities in the world and the fact that paying close attention to them, and trying to predict them, was a useful strategy for increasing our ability to thrive in this world.

  20. Robert Glen
    Posted January 22, 2017 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    The book has already been published this week over here in the UK, and as an atheist who has known (and regularly sparred informally with) Tom McLeish for many years, I repost the following (as left earlier today on FB and his blogpage for comment) on the theological underpinning for anyone who may be interested. [References to F&W in Science, are to Tom’s previous volume “Faith and Wisdom in Science”] :

    I have not yet had the chance to read the new book cover to cover, but a quick search through confirms a troubling issue that arose at the heart of its predecessor (F&W in Science). I address this not from my usual perspective of an atheist, but this time from within the Christian “bubble” as an attempt to understand how the case put forward – “why God loves Science, and Science needs God” emerges from the Book of Job.

    Pages 56-58 in the new book reiterate the central case from F&W in Science – that the Book of Job is an invitation to undertake scientific enquiry (or natural philosophy). In the Lord’s answer to Job, there is a set of questions, “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea … can you bind the chains of the Pleiades … who has the wisdom to count the clouds …” etc. In each and every case, the clear message is that Job is out of his depth, and any attempt on his part to answer will be futile. Indeed, these questions appear a little like Buddhist koans – counting clouds is as baffling as one hand clapping or counting the raindrops in the ocean. This is no invitation to do meteorological science, as the question put by God is of course scientifically meaningless – the sort of question that can only elicit a wry smile as the irrelevance of the question dawns on the person being asked.

    As the new book states on p57 “It is tempting to see this [God’s questions] as some sort of divine put-down – as God silencing Job by reminding him of how little he knows …” Actually, when you read the Lord’s answer, it comes across as precisely that. This simple message is reinforced by the ending of Job’s tale – when he humbly admits he is out of his depth and stops asking questions, he is richly rewarded for recognising his limitations. Presumably for centuries the simple moral of the tale has been taught on exactly this basis, and indeed the new book recognises this on p57 with “Some writers have said just this”. It raises the question of whether any other scholarly writers support this book’s unusual position on Job (perhaps its “unique selling point” ?) or whether it is completely out on a limb with this interpretation ?

    In the attempt to demonstrate that God loves science, we are told that “An alternative reading, which makes the whole thing hold together with marvellous consistency is this : God is reminding Job of a gift and an invitation.” As with the earlier construction of this key point in F&W in Science, there is no reasoning or textual support in the assertion that “God, wonderfully, is challenging Job to do some science”. The assertion just sits out there on its own. At no point does God suggest ways in which Job could count the clouds, start measuring the landscape, tame the Leviathan or indeed “do science” (or natural philosophy) in any way whatsoever. Moreover, Job is showered with divine good fortune when he remembers his place and desists from further questioning. Treating the Lord’s answer (the ultimate divine put-down) as an invitation to ask more questions appears to be on a par with insisting that the Black Knight’s “None shall pass” on p61, is not what it rather obviously seems, but is really an open invitation to freely cross the bridge.

    I am therefore completely bemused at the book’s counter-intuitive interpretation of Job which conjures the invitation to do science out of thin air. Whatever other references there may be elsewhere in the Bible in support of doing science, Job appears to be the very opposite.

    Back on the case for how “God loves science”, we are also reminded of the Genesis tale of the Tower of Babel, and what happened when humans tried to reach for the heavens (surely a metaphor for acquiring wisdom and with echoes of Icarus). This too was a clear divine warning to back off from scientific / technological activity. But surely the main Biblical message comes down from the act of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden – seeking God’s wisdom was the root of the original sin. How do we deal with the scriptural counter-case for science as simply a continuation of this dangerous path …?

    Consequently, I am left utterly mystified by the case that God loves science. Again and again the message of the Bible is clear – that faith (not testing with evidence or seeking proof by measurement) is the road to salvation, from the Garden of Eden to “Doubting Thomas”. The uncomfortable “truths” revealed by science (if there can be such things in philosophical terms), have been quietly accommodated by the mainstream of Christian thought over centuries to avoid the latter falling out of step with reality. The case for “God loves science” may be an attempt to reunify theology with science to legitimise the former, but the scriptural appeal to Job to support this case remains utterly baffling.

    • Vaal
      Posted January 22, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      Well done.

      The Biblical God constantly comes down on the idea of the wisdom of men. The desperate attempt to rend the opposite lesson is something to behold.

  21. reasonshark
    Posted January 22, 2017 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    These people don’t believe in faith. If they took it seriously, they’d realize it actually makes their position worse.

    For starters, if faith were at all required to make science work, it flat-out wouldn’t work. Science demands rigorous standards or you’re out of the club. Faith has no standards, no real ones, because as soon as you invoke one, you’re in the territory of science and can be judged by said standard.

    Anyone taking faith seriously – really seriously – would let through the gate a nigh-infinite number of positions. There would be no sensible way to discriminate among them because, without a standard, they would all be equally vacuous. Reason is standard; it is therefore the antithesis of faith.

    It’s reason that’s supposed to take the credit, because if you’re using reason to argue that you should not use reason, then you’re not uttering an eye-opening profundity; you’re uttering meaningless gibberish. It’s like saying the best way to communicate is to be in a situation where it’s impossible to communicate anything to anyone. Of course, you could argue that there are “other ways” of communicating, but in that case the whole point of reason is to adjudicate for or against that claim. You can’t claim you’re in the club and then refuse to show a badge proving your membership.

    Of course, advocates of religion don’t really follow faith to its nonsensical conclusion of contradiction, everything and nothing, because they don’t end up believing the nigh-infinite number of premises possible. They believe only in an infinitesimal subset, over and over, and they even boast about the emotional and psychological benefits.

    That makes it as clear as anything that faith as it is used here is not a serious epistemological position. It’s a glorified “Get Out of Jail Free” Card used only for long enough to support a predetermined favourite position that one has invested in. It’s a cheater’s tool to get into the club via the back entrance and pretend to be a member once inside.

    Once you put it like that, the disease of wishful thinking is easy to diagnose. And we would like to see your badge, please.

    • Vaal
      Posted January 22, 2017 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      But reasonshark, you have faith too, because are just putting faith in reason!

      So you have no grounds on which to criticize religious faith, if your position relies on faith as well!

      (That is honest-to-gawd the type of argument one Christian apologist whipped out in a debate against Hitchens).

      • reasonshark
        Posted January 22, 2017 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

        But Vaal, you are making that case by arguing – appealing to logic, to truth statements, to reason – that reason has no grounds, therefore reason-by-argument has no grounds, therefore your argument is invalid.

        But reasonshark, your reason-by-argument is based on faith, therefore it has no grounds, therefore my argument that reason has no grounds… has grounds!

        But Vaal, you are making that case by arguing… etc.

        You can see what kind of “This sentence is false” lunacy results from jumping off the cliff. We could do this all day.

        (“Honest-to-gawd”, heh. 🙂 No wonder Hitch was so no-nonsense and frank about his views. Against the sheer pseudo-philosophical inanity of a lot of apologist arguments, you pretty much HAVE to be.)

  22. tcbmcleish
    Posted January 22, 2017 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Tom McLeish here, having read with interest and as much empathy as I can muster, though little surprise, the original post and the comments below. I do admire the searing white hot love of science and of truth exhibited in just about everything said – values I share.

    I’ll address some of Jerry’s questions as best I can.

    (1) The one about why we don’t here about ‘religion and business or sports’. Actually there is a fair bit written about both. Charles Handy, to take just one example, takes an explicitly Christian approach to business. Among a lot of output his book ‘Understanding Organisations’ is a good start.
    On sport, try the edited volume ‘Sports and Christianity: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives’ eds. Nick J. Watson, Andrew Parker for starters.
    So don’t feel that science is picked out for any special treatment. Within a Christian worldview it is natural to want to explore the consequences of that worldview for anything you do – what it might mean to ‘think of others more highly than yourself’ for example.
    One book that inspired me to start thinking seriously along the tracks that led to ‘Faith and Wisdom in Science’ was Jeremy Begbie’s ‘Theology, Music and Time’, which asks ‘what does music do theologically?’ and I thought that was an interesting question to ask of science. Rather more interesting than ‘how do you reconcile science with religion’, which is in my view ill-posed.

    (2) What the bloody hell is a theist doing in that position? (Chair of the education committee of the Royal Society).
    Well, I was asked to do it by Paul Nurse when he was President of the Royal Society, so you could has him I suppose. But as to what I am doing, I am trying as best I can to use the position that the RS has in the UK to support science, maths and computing teachers, and the experience of pupils in STEM subjects. It’s a difficult situation here as education is highly ‘politicised’ with successive governments changing education policy (and even government ministers re-writing syllabi!). This has led, together with low funding and problematic accountability measures, so a lot of low morale in the teaching profession and to severe shortages of science teachers. But it’s a time of great opportunity to get really great science education supported and experienced – I am very keen to promote experimental and investigative science in schools (we are supporting this directly through the RS Partnership scheme, and indirectly though initiatives like the new Institute for Research in Schools). you can read more about the 20-year vision for STEM education by the Royal Society here https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/vision/ .

    I think that’s it for direct questions. There are a few other misconceptions reiterated that have been responded to so many times before I know it would be boring to reiterate them now. I am also painfully aware that the very title of Jerry’s Blog (Of COURSE evolution is true – whoever says it isn’t? (don’t answer that – I know)) points out that the situation does look very different in the US, where an appalling anti-science movement is yoked to a type of weirdly corrupted Christianity (and yes, creationism really is that – it’s a 20th century social phenomenon with very little to do with orthodox Christian belief). One of the reasons that I and others are writing books like FaWiS and LTBS is to show just how Biblical theology and history both point to accepting the findings of science in regard to the way the universe works. I’m not sure how much good it will do but I think I stand a greater chance than a historically and philosophically unsupported conflict stance.

    Thanks for your patience and your concern.

    • Posted January 22, 2017 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      1. There are a gazillion times more books trying to reconcile science and religion than religion and business or sport; I know that because I’ve looked. It’s a bit disingenuous for you to name a couple of the latter books as if to show that I’m wrong. You might as well admit that the main concern (as in your book) is science version religion, and, as I said, I think I know why.

      2. It doesn’t help to foster science education to at the same time foster a belief in the supernatural. I refer to the unevidenced and untenable claims of Christianity, to which you seem to adhere. There is no more evidence that that is the “right” religion than is, say, Islam or Hinduism; and at any rate, if you want to promote science, leave the spirituality and goddiness out of it. Science has never advanced one whit by accepting the supernatural, and in fact a penchant for “faith” (which you deliberately conflate between science and religion) is an impediment to doing science. Yes, straight science initiatives are admirable, but there’s no need to pollute them with some kind of approbation for religious faith: belief without evidence.

      3. I suspect you are a Christian not because there’s evidence for the claims of the New Testament (for crying out loud, there’s no extrabiblical evidence for the existence of Jesus) as oppose to falsified claims of, say, the Qur’an or the Bhagavad Gita, but because you were brought up one. That’s a lousy reason to foist accommodationism on the public.

      4. Until you adduce some genuine evidence for the truth of Christianity, as opposed to just citing how you were brought up, or what you were taught by your family or preachers, then there is absolutely no need to take it seriously, or to reconcile it with science. Science has produced truth, but we know nothing more about the divine than did Aquinas. To try to comport pure mythology with a refined method of finding out truth about the cosmos–a method that works–is a sheer waste of time.

      If you want to adduce evidence here that Christianity is TRUE, and its claims are truer than those of other religions, and in fact there is a God and was a divine Jesus Christ who was resurrected, be my guest. I suggest you do so without citing the Bible.

      Good luck!

      • reasonshark
        Posted January 22, 2017 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        “for crying out loud, there’s no extrabiblical evidence for the existence of Jesus”

        Assuming, of course, the New Testament counts as actual evidence anyway. Between the frankly ludicrous and motivated claims contained in it, and the wealth of modern psychological studies that show how easily such stories are believed on the flimsiest of pretexts – heck, taken at face value, the texts are on par with “I met a man in a pub” claims circulated by cultists – it’s more likely the texts themselves count against rather than for historical accuracy.

      • derekw
        Posted January 24, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        Science has never advanced one whit by accepting the supernatural, and in fact a penchant for “faith” (which you deliberately conflate between science and religion) is an impediment to doing science.
        How is this impediment exhibited in the cases of the Galielos, Pascals, Newtons, Faradays, Mendels, Lemaitres, Kelvins, Grays, Maxwells, Dobzhanskys, and Collins’ of the world? Given their significant contributions I guess I”m wondering how their faith negatively informed the way they approached their scientific research?

    • Vaal
      Posted January 22, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

      Mr. McLeish,

      The problem with a Christian trying to reconcile science with Christianity is that you have adopted your belief on a level of evidence, and a lowering of skepticism, that is irreconcilable with also accepting the virtues of scientific skepticism.

      First, it does not require “faith” to notice regularities in the world and in the universe, and to want to understand them, and to feel naturally compelled to want to predict our environment.

      More important: you would need to reconcile Christianity with the *reasons* why science operates as it does. Science arose out of fundamental epistemological concerns like “If there are variable possible causes, how do we assign more confidence to one cause over another?” And “If we can come up with multiple explanations for any phenomenon in our experience, how can we have good reasons to place more confidence in one explanation over another?” These are basic problems of knowledge about our experience itself and science arose as our most rigorous and fruitful method of answering the problems.
      It’s why science (at it’s best) is so honest and careful about acknowledging all the variables at play, including our own biases.

      So, consider:

      To undertake something as mundane as produce a new drug that controls blood pressure to some statistically reliable degree, it takes 10 or more years of research (and now, billions of dollars) – of carefully controlled studies, replication, vetting by other skeptical parties, etc. As you know, this isn’t simply a game – all of this arises from the long lessons we’ve learned concerning how difficult it is to wrangle reliable conclusions from many variables, and how our many biases work against our getting that information. That’s what it looks like when you are taking all the lessons we’ve learned seriously.
      If a Christian REALLY accepts science, he accepts why it is important to hold those skeptical virtues.

      And yet the Christian who claims to accept science turns around and proposes that he can determine from an ancient book that someone rose from the dead, 2000 years ago!!

      How can you not see the vast gulf there, just how thoroughly you have abandoned the skeptical virtues underlying science?
      This is about as far from compatible as one could get.

      You can accept science and the all that we’ve learned on the virtues of careful skeptical inquiry, and drop those virtues the moment you want to believe in the miracles within an ancient book. Any properly skeptical audience will notice this.

      • Vaal
        Posted January 22, 2017 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

        ^^^Should be:

        “You can NOT accept science and the all that we’ve learned on the virtues of careful skeptical inquiry, and drop those virtues the moment you want to believe in the miracles within an ancient book. “

      • Posted January 22, 2017 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

        Excellent response!

  23. Posted January 22, 2017 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    “Christianity is deeply reasonable.” Really?

  24. Posted January 23, 2017 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    such BS.  don’t you weary of fighting these assholes?

    From: Why Evolution Is True To: imlieb@yahoo.com Sent: Saturday, January 21, 2017 8:15 AM Subject: [New post] Yet another accommodationist book #yiv6496254329 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv6496254329 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv6496254329 a.yiv6496254329primaryactionlink:link, #yiv6496254329 a.yiv6496254329primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv6496254329 a.yiv6496254329primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv6496254329 a.yiv6496254329primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv6496254329 WordPress.com | whyevolutionistrue posted: “Yes, it’s called Let there be SCIENCE: Why God loves Science and Science Needs God. The first part of the title presumes, without evidence, that there is a God, and the second part is just bogus: science operates best by ignoring God, operating as if gods” | |

  25. Posted January 23, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Like its background text, Faith and Wisdom in Science (good for further reading by the way), it’s main task is

    Are we missing a [sic] here?

  26. Posted January 23, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    I don’t suppose he’s read anything recent about how all the “scientific revolution greats” were almost to a man heretics.


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