Thursday, November 16, 2006

Reading assignment

Reading assignment for all of you.  This regarding the constant battle between secularists (read:  science and logic vs. religion) and religion in the political sphere.

The first is by Donald Sensing, who argues that modern western science is, in fact, at it’s core a religion.

      And so, following Polanyi's line, we have a culture that is scientistic as well as scientific. Scientism is faith in science. As the dominant world view of the West, it is considered self-validating. Scientism makes two major claims, neither of which, however, are testable using the scientific method:

      (1) only science reveals the Real and only science can discover truth;
      (2) scientific knowledge of reality is exhaustive, not inherently limited, is holistic and sees reality as reality really is.

      Early modernity’s mechanistic view of creation was originally proposed as a way to preserve God’s agency. This view was soon supplanted by the view that knowledge about the world beyond the self was limited to what could be known through sense-perception of material things. The materialism of the modern world view is its central feature. Thus, “the modern world view simply has no natural place for God in it,” as philosopher of science Langdon Gilkey put it.

There are very few Christians (and western based Muslims) who feel that science has no place in religion.  They can coexist in harmony, as long as scientific revelation consists of honesty, instead of pretending it has foundational truths instead of what it actually has, which are theories about how the universe operates.

      The tension between Islam's historic traditions and modern pressures of scientific modernity is found throughout the Muslim world. Many Arab intellectuals know that their countries have fallen behind most of the rest of the world. They want to gain the benefits of technological society, but without the cultural baggage that comes with it. They want to modernize their societies but not Westernize them. Their vision of modernization is mostly technological, such as communications, medical science, education, transportation, and consumer goods. They want our DVD players but not our DVDs. Even al Qaeda will accept the trappings of technology, they just reject the foundation.

Contrast that with this article from the Washington Post about a new think tank in Washington designed to promote “rationalism” as the basis of public policy.

      The brainchild of Paul Kurtz, founder of the Center for Inquiry-Transnational, the small public policy office will lobby and sometimes litigate on behalf of science-based decision making and against religion in government affairs.

There’s a list of issues that the article brings up in regards to “faith based” governing that they are concerned with, but I must print this quote first.

      While the speakers at the National Press Club unveiling were highly critical of Bush administration policies regarding stem cell research, global warming, abstinence-only sex education and the teaching of "intelligent design," they said that their group was nonpartisan and that many Democrats were hostile to keeping religion out of public policy.

First of all, I’m not sure what the global warming issue has to do with “faith.”  Both Darwinism and Global warming have a lot to do with perception of facts and limited knowledge of the limited data that gets force fed to Americans.  The dispute is the interpretation of data by many scientists who believe that the warming going on is mostly natural and cyclical.

Abstinence-only is more of a moral issue, but it needs to be studied further to see if it works well.  I can’t see how it would be such an anathema to scientists when if the plan were followed, it would indeed curtail the spread of HIV and other STDs.  There’s even some evidence that it does work.

Stem cell research plods on, but the issues involved circle around the use of a particular type.  This is less religious (unless you consider fetuses just useless tissue when not used for stem cell research) than it is ethics related.  We should be cautious when rocketing down new scientific paths, lest the ethical horrors happen after significant study has been made.

      "In the current climate there is an implicit, if demonstrably false, sense that if your actions are based on a belief in God you are good person, and if they are not you are a bad person," Krauss said. "We should be very concerned that our political system reinforces the notion that the more you pray for guidance, the better suited you are to govern."

I’m not sure where this angst is coming from.  Where in the current culture do you see people arguing that doing anything in particular just out of faith in God automatically makes you a good person?  On the contrary, never in our history has religion been so non-mainstream and subject to scrutiny than in the present.

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