Posted tagged ‘science and religion’

A Cosmic Wrench in Our Power Grid

June 26, 2018


The podcast, Unbelievable, with host, Justin Brierley, is becoming a favorite food for thought. I just listened to Steven Pinker vs Nick Spencer: Have science, reason & humanism replaced faith? Pinker is an atheist professor of Psychology from Harvard, and Spencer is billed as a member of “the Christian think tank, Theos”. The subject was “Pinker’s recent book ‘Enlightenment Now’, addressing his claim that science, reason and humanism are the drivers of progress in the world, not religion”.

As with most of the episodes I have listened to, this one was a very civil and respectful “debate”, really more of a dialogue, on the respective points of view. This civility and respect sets Unbelievable apart from more reactive “discussions” of controversial topics.

In this particular discussion, the focus was on Pinker’s optimistic view of humanism bolstered by science and technology echoing the familiar theme that we are progressing as a species as we free ourselves from religion with the aid of science and technology carrying us forward. Pinker minimizes the influence of religion on the enlightenment and the sudden advancement of science that accompanied it, while Spencer argued that the influence of religion is what fundamentally motivated and shaped those movements.

Spencer agreed with much that Pinker says about the progress of modern man, though he disagrees that science has shaped the moral advances we have experienced. He says that the value of the individual and sanctity of human rights is at heart a religious concept. He even points out that Pinker has to resort to the religious term, sacred, to describe these concepts as some evidence of the religious influence.

I have long toyed with the notion that we are not as advanced, morally, as we think ourselves. The 20th Century was the bloodiest of all centuries. Characteristic of the 20th Century was the genocidal bloodshed and cruelty of the atheist regimes under Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot and others. Some would add Hitler to the hit list of atheist genocidal despots, but that point is often argued, with religionists foisting Hitler on the atheists, and the atheists pushing him back on the religionists.

Hitler is somewhat of an enigma, generating an almost religious following marked by a personality that modeled a religion-like fervor. Pinker and Spencer debated whether Hitler was influenced by Darwinism, with Pinker countering that Hitler despised Darwin.

Though the truth of Hitler’s motivations my remain a mystery, and despite the unprecedented genocides perpetuated in the 20th Century, Spencer agreed with Pinker that we have progressed morally into the 21st Century. We generally exhibit a higher morality, however you slice it, (at least in the western world) in modern times than ever before, and this higher morality tracks scientific and technological progress.

As the two men carried on the conversation about the relative influences of religion and scientific and technological advancement on that progress, some thoughts occurred to me that I hadn’t considered before. I would agree with Spencer that religion (principally Judeo-Christian principles in the west) has largely carried us to this place where, ironically, we are finding no more need of God.

This perspective, also, flows from those same Judeo-Christian roots that holds out human pride as the principal problem (sin) of humankind. Having achieved a degree of independence and comfort through the advancement of technology, we believe “can do this” on our own (to paraphrase the testosterone influenced enthusiasm of my former teenage boys).

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Inspiration or Artifice? Faith and Reason

December 7, 2017

From a presentation by Francis Collins at the Veritas Forum at the California Institute of Technology

Take a close look at the two images. What do they represent? We might say that one image represents science and the other represents religion (or faith). But which is which?

The images are similar, but one of them is manmade, and the other is something we find in nature. Do you know which is which? Is the manmade image the scientific one or the spiritual one?

I will answer these questions; at least I will answer them as they were described in a presentation given by Francis Collins, the manager of the Human Genome Project, at a Veritas Forum at Caltech University in 2009. In the process, we will explore the chief question examined by this eminent scientist: whether science and faith are compatible.

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What of Rupert Sheldrake?

August 16, 2015

Brooke Elkstrom Lake Sunset 2


This piece is a bit afield for me. I am embedding a “banned TED Talk” given by Rupert Sheldrake, a Cambridge, Harvard educated, scientist and bane of the scientific community. What of Rupert Sheldrake?

He is not necessarily a Christian, though he reportedly says the Our Father every day. Dr. Sheldrake “evolved” from a biochemist and cell biologist and later to a plant physiologist to researcher in the field of parapsychology,[5] known for his “morphic resonance” concept.[6] He is the darling of New Age adherents, not Christians. He is also labeled a “heretic” by his scientific fellows.

So why would I include a piece on Rupert Sheldrake on Christian-orientated blog site? (more…)

Theology, Science, Dreaming and Waking

July 20, 2015

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I am a great fan of C.S. Lewis. Not that I agree with everything he has written, I love his genius and insight that is marked by a truly Renaissance journey through all of the great classical literature, philosophy and rational, scientific discourse. He approaches Christianity from the opposite shore and provides a view that most churchgoers would never otherwise get.

I recently read his short essay (Is Theology Poetry?) that is published with the Weight of Glory and other addresses by Harper One. In classic Lewis style, he starts off with a very obscure, nuanced question (that few, if anyone, would even think to explore) and, from the seeming pedantry and narrow beginning, he opens up the discourse about half way through into a sweeping view of an eternal truth that is absolutely breathtaking. (more…)

Random Thoughts on Evolution

November 15, 2014

sad chimpanzee


I am fascinated by the Theory of Evolution, but it is more of a curiosity than anything else. How can so many scientific people be so religiously attached to one principle? I am no scientist. I will admit that; at the same time, I note that many rational people are downright dogmatic on this topic.

I have also not heard an evolutionary explanation of the origin of all things, including man, that makes sense to me.

I am not talking about evidence for evolution seen in the adaptation of species over relatively short periods of time. I think there is sufficient proof of evolution in that sense. I am talking about the big picture, the forest, not the trees. Evolution does not satisfactorily explain the big picture, not even close, and it seems to me that the forest gets lost in the trees. (more…)

Words have Power

July 13, 2014

The phrase Words Have Power on a Blackboard


I find reminders of God in science. This article, Scientific Evidence Thoughts & Intentions can Alter the Physical World Around Us, provides another link between science and religion, demonstrating the creative and destructive force of words/thoughts. Christians talk about the power of prayer, and science backs it up.

I do not believe that these scientists have any religious inclinations; at least none that I am aware. The experiments do not necessarily mean that God is behind the phenomena. The experiments do show, however, a positive correlation between positive words and positive thinking; and they show a correlation between negative words and negative thinking and decay and degeneration. (more…)


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