6/16/2007

OPENING THE FLOODGATES!

One of the things that has prompted many to urge me to start my own blog are the discussions I've had with others, many non-believers, regarding the possible interactions between (on the one hand) science and evidence-based decision-making and (on the other) religion and faith-based claims.

Obviously, this topic has no small bearing on the question of how evolutionary biology should be presented in different fora. Perhaps less obviously, this is not just an intellectual challenge to me, but a personal one, and I should put my cards on the table: I'm an enthusiastic Darwinian. I'm also a Christian (Methodist). How can I square this circle? In a sense, the question of whether (as Michael Ruse has put it) "Can A Darwinian be a Christian?" is a subset of a larger question, which is whether or not it is really possible to bring science and faith into some sort of concord.

If that wasn't sufficiently challenging, then I should add that at present, I'm trying to work out other aspects of belief, to reexamine the question 'What does it mean to be a Christian?' My views are not, as you might think, set in stone: I think it is possible that I might, in fact, reject other aspects of conventional belief, or faith itself. That possibility has to be on the table, I think, in order for this to be something more than intellectual fencing.

And so, it will be.

6 comments:

QEDlin said...

Congratulations for initiating the site, I wish you the best results in what I believe to be your desire to engage in civil, rational discourse. Forgive me, but I find the order of your "confession" interesting: Darwinian first, Christian second, and a sectarian religious qualifier third; The first transient and evolving, the second transcendant and eternal, the third irrelevant.

With the expectation of true rational discourse, I look forward to your posting of the true objective scientific delineation of the full scope of the Darwinian theory, vis a vis, the present ideological naturalist philosopy of Darwinism that presently filters and strangles life sciences.

Congratulations.

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Welcome, qedlin!

Many people like to know exactly what a person means when they say that they are a 'Christian'. For me, the fourfold 'Wesleyan table' of Methodism is integral to any attempt I might make to discuss science and faith. It is relevant to me, in other words.

I would quibble with the way you couched your second paragraph: while my thought is Darwinian, I don't really think that there is such a thing as 'the Darwinian theory'. As for 'Darwinism', this term appears in the writings of UK scientists as a gloss for 'evolution through natural selection', but that's usually not the sense that it's used in the USA, where it seems to be perceived as part and parcel of a belief system. I sense this is how you are using it, since you couple it with 'ideological naturalist philosophy', in the manner of Philip Johnson.

QEDlin said...

Disappointing that there is confusion about what it means to be a Christian, unfortunately, sectarian beliefs are the source of much of it. Since there are no Methodists in Heaven and Christ's Church on earth is the preparation ground for eternity, you are in a wonderful position to speak the truth...

You spoke of being Darwinian, implying agreement with Darwin's Theory, the rest is semantics. I encourage you to define it succintly to remove any confusion, especially the differentiation from the belief system that has perjoratively become known as Darwinism: Just the science, no ideology.

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

OK. Sorry to post this so late, I'm not used to blogging yet.

To me, 'Darwinian' means that I look at life from the perspective of Charles Darwin: I think in terms of populations, interacting with their environment. I tend to interpret all changes to be, if not necessarily optimal, as a product of many forces, chief among them natural selection. I don't rule out the possibility of some other agency at work, but as a scientist I confine myself to natural causes as a formal matter.

This is not the same thing, however, as a metaphysical commitment. There is a difference between methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism. The former is the way that most things (not just science) are routinely accomplished. Plumbing, for example: the plumber does not typically invoke supernatural causes for the moisture on the floor or in the walls, but busies him or her self with the task for determining which pipe is amiss. We all routinely assume natural causes for almost all sorts of activity or phenomena; science merely codifies this assumption as a boundary condition for doing science.

Hmmm. This may be a fruitful post topic.

Lifewish said...

I realise that I'm two months late in responding to this post, but I've just come across your blog (via Imago Dei).

I too would be very interested to see how you "square the circle". I'm an atheist myself, and my perception of religion is that at best it's unparsimonious. Since you seem to have the same attitude to evidence as me, I'm looking forward to finding out how you deal with this philosophical issue.

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Welcome, Lifewish!

As I mentioned over at Mandi's site, I'm not troubled by the failure of imperfect people to develop an account of reality that's either complete or coherent. As far as 'squaring the circle' goes, I don't claim to be there, or to even expect to be there. I don't regard my personal experience as 'evidence' and I don't think that my faith can be justified on the basis of evidence, any way. Personal religious experience, I think, contains a real element of fantasy as far as 'squaring the circle' goes, in which we invariably must insert our impressions/wishes etc. into the process without any real assurance that the connection we perceive is real. I think that just goes with the territory.

However, just as a myth can contain great truths without being literally true, religious experience seems to lead us to affirm what we perceive as connecting us with truth, with the core of our being. Whether how we perceive it is literally true is another matter, of course---but I greatly cherish the process.