Monday, 9 February 2009

Reconciliation? (Part Two)

In my previous post (Reconciliation) I mentioned that Giberson had a couple questions in his response. I now want to focus on his other main question, which is as follows:
Empirical science does indeed trump revealed truth about the world as Galileo and Darwin showed only too clearly. But empirical science also trumps other empirical science. Einstein's dethronement of Newton was not the wholesale undermining of the scientific enterprise, even though it showed that science was clearly in error. It was, rather, a glorious and appropriately celebrated advance for science, albeit one not understood by most people. Why is this different than modern theology's near universal rejection of the tyrannical anthropomorphic deity of the Old Testament, so eloquently skewered by Dawkins? How is it that "science" is allowed to toss its historical baggage overboard when its best informed leaders decide to do so, even though the ideas continue to circulate on main street, but religion must forever be defined by the ancient baggage carried by its least informed?

First off, I want to point out that in his very first sentence, he explicitly admits that science is a better than revealed truth. Period. I'd also like to point out that his assertion of Einstein "dethroning" Newton is not quite correct. Newton's laws are correct, so long as one is within the correct regime for them to function properly. Once you leave that regime, quantum mechanics is needed to more accurately represent the natural world. It's a mistake, however, to claim "that science was clearly in error," in this instance. Never-the-less, science has been in error before, so we can proceed to his actual question.

So, why do we allow science to evolve and get better, but not extend the same "courtesy" to religion? Once again, the answer is really quite simple. Science is an iterative process, while religion is not. When scientists go through the process of the scientific method, they search for data, refine hypotheses, re-test, etc. As more and more data are gathered, science can better explain and predict natural events (more accurately). When god comes to you and gives you revealed "truth" about the world, however, what iterative process would one use? god has essentially come down from on high and given the final answer.

Further, when modern theologians reject the god of the OT for the sadistic, cruel beast that he is, they claim to have better theological knowledge, but from whence does it come? Did they do experiments to figure out that god is kind? Did they gather data of any kind? No, they simply proclaimed that this is what they believe. Once again, I'm left wondering how their beliefs are any more authoritative than the beliefs of those who still hold to the god of the OT.

This argument also leads to a certain kind of philosophical arrogance as well. Does Giberson think that he understood the revealed message of god better than the person that it was revealed to? What does this say about god that he can't put forth a message that the recipient can follow as well as someone thousands of years hence? Or, is Giberson saying that god put forth a message that was cruel and vindictive to those people because that's all they would understand (hence the extreme arrogance of this position, as it assumes all the people then were barbarians that could not be otherwise - and once again what kind of god forms people like that and then tries to give them a moral code?) Or, maybe Giberson is saying that god intended his message to evolve over the ages to the modern ideas we have now about morality. But, this suffers from (at least) two problems. The first is that if god's morality is dependent on our own evolved morality, then what do we need god's rules for? We are basically making our own morality in this situation. The second is that it puts god in the position of allowing immoral laws and practices.

So, we see that Giberson's complaints are both easily shot down and not very good arguments. Science and religion are very different things, and it's folly to complain that they receive different treatment because of those differences.

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