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Re: Richard Dawkins, Knowledge, and Faith

Re: Richard Dawkins, Knowledge, and Faith

I’ve been editing something — a fictionalized three-way theological debate based on a conceit that long-time habitues of OST know all too well — and I took a break to have a look at what’s shaking over here. Lo and behold, the conversation on this thread could have been taken right out of what I was just editing. Here’s the part I was just working on…

I am well acquainted with this deification of science,” said the Preacher, frowning, “this replacement of an Almighty Father’s loving hand with the blind and brutal forces of nature. We agree on one thing, Sage: True Myth is an impossibility. Surely the proponents of that cowardly compromise seek some middle ground between faith and science. I care not whether God’s day lasts twenty-four hours or a billion years. There is no reason to assert that natural processes occurring today have held sway forever. No scientist can probe places where man has never been or times before man appeared on earth. God said it; He did it: end of debate.”

With barely detectable movement the Emergentist raised his left index finger from the table and waggled it vaguely toward the Preacher. “You remain locked in the same paradigm as our unconventional friend here. Both of you insist on reading the text literally, as if it were raw data and you were theological scientists. Of course we may accept the contemporary view that life emerged gradually and incrementally from simpler forms. We may affirm that the material universe itself erupted in a vast outpouring that organized itself over countless billions of years. Still, beyond all scientific probes and before every sophisticated device designed to measure inconceivably vast stretches of space and time, there stands the primal Source of all stability and change. Why fuss over the details when the overall thrust has always been clear to even the most primitive and intuitive of minds? The text is true beyond all empirical verification.”

The Emergentist took a sip from his tea, then pushed it aside. “Why not simply accept that religion and science are two separate domains? Each should be encouraged to operate freely within its own purview. Religion deals with matters of meaning and purpose, of morality and community, of God. Science concerns the investigation, explanation and technological control of the material world. Religion is not a scientific enterprise, nor is the Bible a scientific textbook. In like manner, natural science can offer no knowledge or insights about morality or meaning or purpose. Science is observational, experimental, hypothetical, whereas religion occupies intangible realms of faith and spirit in which there can be no hard evidence. Rather than breaking down the walls between these two magisteria, we should embrace their intrinsic incommensurability. We are prepared to acknowledge the truth claims and the pragmatic value of science. Evolution? Yes, of course. However, we dismiss as intellectually crude those empirical fundamentalists who insist on subjecting spirit to matter, who scoff at the lack of tangible evidence for phenomena that transcend evidence.”

The Emergentist and the Preacher exchanged glances as the Sage offered a tentative summary: “So far it seems that, although the two of you disagree in many respects, fundamentally you are in accord.” He held up his cup, hoping to catch the attention of the server who was passing by.


Richard Dawkins, Knowledge, and Faith By: Jacob (60 replies) 6 February, 2010 - 01:49