The Great Divide

The war isn’t going to end anytime soon. I think thats become apparent in the last series of articles that I’ve posted over the last few months. Science and religion seem to be at odds with one another despite however much I wish they weren’t. So far in this series, I have been focusing on the evangelical Christians and the fundamentalist Christians and their steps that have kept the virtual divide not only open, but widening in their wake. I have not said much about the other side of the fence though. That is, I haven’t made any strides to talk about how science as a community is helping to keep this divide between itself and religion open and widening. So in this last article focusing on science for a while, Id like to present something more personal as I find myself more and more on the science side of the chasm that separates us.

divide1.jpgI am often asked by people of both camps what my true beliefs are. I can firmly say that I have no idea. It is true I was raised a Christian but not as an evangelical one. That is, I wasn’t brought up with God and spirituality permeating every facet of my life. To me, God was simply there, just like air is there, just like the sun is there. It was one of those facts that just seemed to be without forcing itself into matters that had nothing to to with church. And so, without the constraint of religion interjecting itself into anything other than my spiritual life, I was free to study science as much as I wanted without finding myself at odds with my creator.

In fact, as the more I learned about creation and the universe as a whole, as well as how it all worked, I began to appreciate more and more how God had crafted such a universe that would give rise to us. I began to understand something fundamental that separates my form of Christianity from the evangelical fundamentalists. That fact I found out is probably the definition that divides Christians into two major camps, which I will get to in a bit. I realized that God did not create the universe because he loved us. He created the universe and then he loved us. In other words, he did not create the universe for our meager little species on some backwater planet, rather, the universe was created and we came alone, whether by natural phenomena or not, and God decided to show us love. Our species on a no name planet out back of nowhere received love from the creator of the universe.

divide2.jpgThis fact forces me at least to view Christianity’s creation standpoint from one of two camps. Those who think we are special, and those who think we aren’t special. To those who think we are, it frames their whole worldview, from their politics to their social life. To those who think humanity is special see their religion as the specialists of the special. In other words, they see Christianity (or islam or whatever) as the people who are chosen from the special people and therefore are above everyone else. This does not mean they are egotistical; though some undoubtedly are, but rather that they have some obligation to show everyone else how humanity is special and that we should all just know that we are the chosen of creation. The other side of this are those of us who see humanity as nothing special in terms of nature, but rather we are special only because God love us out of all of creation. I believe, as I think others do, that creation came first and that we came about in some manner God ordained but were not necessarily thought of before it all started. Therefore, we may have just been an after thought and God decided that maybe we could truly love him. I don’t know if thats a fact or not, but it would make us more humble if it were. Humility is the fact that governs these camps. One has humility because they are told to, the other just has it.

So how does this tie in with science? To me, the connection seems simple, science, by and large, is much like the second group I mentioned. They believe that humanity is nothing special, but not because of anything theological, simply because they can see how everything works and empirically deduce that if it happened here, why not somewhere else? That is to say, why should earth be the only planet out of countless trillions of planets with life on it? It is this empirical method that sets them apart from the first group I mentioned: the evangelicals. Evangelicals seem to like everything told to them, where as scientists want to find everything out. This difference is the second source of the divide, only between not just Christians.

divide3.jpgGive a true scientist a bucket of water and they will want to know what its made of, why does the water spin differently than the bucket if you spin the two, why does water behave that way, why why why? Scientists are fixed to a scheme of solving problems through observation. And on their side of the fence this is their source of the divide, though to be truthful, it’s of no fault of their own. Scientists want to measure and test. You by definition cannot measure or test god. Therefore God is not part of science. This does not mean scientists to not believe in god, some do, but it does mean God does not factor into experiments or theories. Why should he? If humans announced they could test God or measure him, how arrogant would we be? We would be admitting level with omnipotence. Scientists will admit their true goal in life is simply to describe how the world around us works. They do not postulate on why the universe is here or what our purpose in life is. They leave that to philosophy.

As one of a scientific mindset, I have no problem separating God from science because God does not factor into gravity, or air, or temperature. God is not a natural being, if he was, he wouldn’t be god. So I can see the scientist’s argument where “leave to Caesar what is Caesar’s” or “leave to God what is God’s.” God only factors into why were are here and where we are going. To say otherwise just doesn’t make sense. But I can see the point the evangelicals make too. They say science is atheistic and hostile to religion. To some extent, they are right. Science is at its basest level, skepticism. God is untestable so he’s also unverifiable. It’s hard to convince a skeptic to believe in something inherently unprovable. Despite what the bible says, you still must have faith in God to believe the bible. Faith in the unknowable disturbs scientists.

divide4.jpgBut scientists could use some yelling at from those of us in the middle. Just as I yell at the young earth creationists all the time, I should really spend more time yelling at the scientists and those of the scientific mind set like myself. But the major difference between the yellings at is the fact that to move creationists to the center you only need to get them to think analytically and not accept everything at face value. On the other hand to move a scientist to the middle require to get them to give up just a shred of analytical thought, something even I have a lot of problems doing. As analytical people we tend to miss the forest for the trees. Science gets bogged down in the details and sometimes misses the overall picture, especially when its not related specifically to science. It’s like looking at the old cliche of the pocket watch in the desert. The scientist would take the watch apart, see how it worked, note how the pieces were made and what from, try to find out when the watch was made, etc etc. He becomes so engrossed with finding these things out; I think he misses the bigger picture. He doesn’t once stop to think, who made it and why is it out in the desert? And if he does, the could use the old cop out, “well thats for the philosophers to debate.” That’s true, but for the person of the scientist I don’t think its good enough. Not to sound like an evangelist, but as a person, are you letting your lab coat dictate your personal beliefs in the spiritual? Just because they are untestable does not mean they do not hold merit. Some scientists have tried to evade the issue altogether by suggestion religion and spirituality are somehow biological. Maybe, but spirituality is not a natural phenomenon, at least in my mind, and should at least be given some credit. Because of our spirituality and our ability to envision something so much bigger than ourselves such as god, we identify ourselves are separate from the animals. I know there are other reasons scientists would say we see ourselves separate, but you have to admit, spirituality is something we can definitely point to as “human.”

Scientists may see things the way those of us in the middle ground see things, as far as how humanity is nothing special. However they either cant, or wont ask the important questions that are personally applicable to them. Its all well and good you know how the first cells might have formed from folding proteins, but will that help your personal life? Its great you know the universe is expanding, but will that help you in death? So many scientific friends I know are afraid of death because they believe in no god. But not because they are afraid of hell, they are afraid of mortality being the finality of existence. They are scared of not existing and all that entails: a missed opportunity to make a mark on civilization. In some ways this view of spirituality not pertaining to them or not being intelligent thought is the key to why they help split society.

divide5.jpgTheir side of the divide is to look down on those who use faith too much. Granted some of us use faith where faith is necessary, but we don’t use it to facilitate every aspect of our lives simply because we are told something by a preacher. Unfortunately, a vast majority of Christians are like the evangelicals. As a result they fuel the stereotype of Christians being anti-intelligent bible thumpers. Science looks down on them because they don’t use any thought at all for their worldview. Science on the other hand perpetuates its own stereotype of being ivory tower people who refuse to look at anything other then facts and trying to discredit religion (even though they don’t directly) by scoffing at those who are in religion. And in-between there are those of us who look at both sides and shake our heads. Science discriminates against religion because they don’t like faith-based assumptions. Religion discriminates science by making claims that go beyond the scope of what religion teaches (i.e.. creation science). As a result, both camps refuse to talk to each other and have taken to throwing mud. So many souls and so many minds could be saved here if they just got along.

In the end, there’s not a whole lot I, nor probably any one person, can do about it. Science people will continue to hate Christians because of the lot that tries to wedge the two apart. Christians will continue to hate scientists because science wants to be skeptical of everything, including god. In the end, I don’t think either side is “right” but if I had to pick one thats more right than the other, id pick the scientists simply because I’m sure there is a way to prove God through logic at least, not necessarily experimentation. The evangelicals only offer canned arguments and irrationality. But I think, really, that if the two sides at least agreed to disagree on a few little issues than both would benefit monumentally from each other. That’s just my opinion though.

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  1. #1 by drdillo on April 1, 2006 - 8:39 am

    Probably one of your best articles.

  2. #2 by Morris Cromer on April 1, 2006 - 12:08 pm

    well thought.

  3. #3 by Ryan on April 3, 2006 - 12:15 am

    If you say something exists, but I can’t prove it, that it’s purely a matter of faith, then there is no difference in life between believing in that entity and not believing in it at all. Only after I have died, if you were right, would I not only find out but experience retribution against my sins in life.

    If it’s one thing I believe, it’s that a realization of Descartes’ prisoner’s dilemma (as applied to believe in God) does not force one into believing in God. I can acknowledge the gravity of my doom (given that there is a God and I do not believe in him) all I want; but if I truly, truly, truly do not believe, then I’m just as screwed then as I would be if I had complete ignorance of Descartes’ argument.

    And indeed, even if I say to you, “Oh! I do believe! I do believe!”, and I truly do believe that there is a God, but I only believed because you instilled fear into me with the argument, “Well, if you die w/o believing in Him, you’re screwed,” then I still maintain that I’m a-goin’ to Hell because my faith is still motivated by selfish aims, not by a true selfless love for and belief in God.

    So we come back to the important question: how do you get a scientist (by which we mean one with the mindset of, and not specifically one whose profession is scientific) to believe in something which is just as possibly fake and just as possibly real as Santa Claus? “Well, Santa Claus is made up to make children have a happier Christmas,” you might say.

    “Well, God is made up to make humans have a happier life on Earth,” I might retort.

    You can’t make me believe, so how do you awaken me? Or am I perpetually doomed to damnation? Am I lost with no hope for salvation? In which case, why do I exist? Why does a rational mind exist if it is to be condemned from the beginning?

(will not be published)