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Such a beautiful night…

October 14, 2009

… at COSI, the Columbus, Ohio science center.

As you know, dear readers, I’m on fire about the idea that science and faith can be conversation partners rather than adversaries. I think they answer different questions, the how and the why, but there is no reason they can’t have a conversation. As long as both recognize certain boundaries, the conversation can be beautiful.

That’s exactly what happend tonight at COSI with a panal discussion sponsored by COSI/WOSU/The Ohio State University. Neal Conan, host of the NPR’s talk of the nation moderated a panal discussion that included the following: Dr. Denis Lamoureux, scientist, theologian, evangelical who accepts evolution, Dr Eugenie Scott, anthropologist and nontheist and Dr. Francisco Ayala, Catholic, former member of President’s committee of advisors on science.

The amazing thing was how much they all agreed on the nature of science and faith discussions. They drew a hard and fast line between what science could and couldn’t do. Basically, their essential argument was that science ought to be concerned with the natural order and figuring out how the natural order works. All of them, especially during the question and answer time, kept coming back to this essential point. The panelists wouldn’t allow people to say any more than that. They all felt that the question of God’s existence or nonexistence was outside what science can tell us. 

Eugenie Scott had a great metaphor to explain this as she said, “We don’t have a Theomonitor. There is no test I can conceive of that would enable us to prove or disprove God’s existence.”

Refreshing honesty and I loved it.

Denis and Fransisco had great discussions on their faith and their work as scientists. But, I’m going to focus on Denis’ comments, as he represents my world (evangelical Christians). More than once, he affirmed his belief that the Bible is God’s word, and how that didn’t contradict his acceptance of evolution. He tackled some pretty difficult questions. I wish he wasn’t Canadian, because he could be a huge help to the conversation here in the state.

I left the discussion pumped and a vision for the way forward. I hope to play that out more in future posts. It made me want to go back to school and get a science degree, palentology to be specific. You know how I love fossils. And Jesus.

Oh, by the way, the Darwin posts are a bit delayed. Soon. Promise.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Ray S. permalink
    October 14, 2009 11:16 pm

    What does it mean to say that something exists, but we have no way to detect it? How is such a condition different from non-existence?

  2. erp permalink
    October 14, 2009 11:35 pm

    Dr. Lamoureux has an essay Evolutionary Creation online.

    Dr. Ayala should have been quite interesting; I keep hoping he’ll wend his way up to Stanford for a talk.

  3. erp permalink
    October 15, 2009 12:13 am

    Also it appears that the University of Notre Dame is having a conference on Darwin in the 21st Century: Nature, Humanity, and God on November 1–3, 2009 which could be interesting for theists. Not free ($70 for students no meals, $125 full no meals (Notre Dame students and faculty free)). The site has links to some abstracts. Francisco Ayala and Kenneth Miller will be speaking (no Dawkins:-).

  4. Sam Jones permalink
    October 15, 2009 4:46 am

    ” They all felt that the question of God’s existence or nonexistence was outside what science can tell us”

    Science tells us that there is no evidence for god, not a single shred. If there was even one piece of actual evidence, I dont think any of us would be having this discussion, but there isnt. Everything that has ever been attributed to ‘god’ has been proven to have at least a rational and usually verifiable and replicatable explanation. How anyone with even a basic education can continue to ascribe to the ramblings of an ancient people is not rational. Their beliefs have no relevance to our modern world and most of their assumptions have been roundly discredited. We dont understand everything yet, there is still more to discover, but what we do know points to what we dont, especially in the areas of cosmology and physics. We know the nature of particles, we dont know exactly how they interact but that discovery is just around the corner. One thing is for certain, no god is necessary to facilitate these explanations. We will discover them in time. The places for god to hide are rapidly disappearing and I really think there will come a time when we all strug off these childish fantasies and continue to live in the real world, where we belong.

  5. Ash permalink
    October 15, 2009 4:56 am

    “I think they answer different questions, the how and the why”

    Except they don’t. For me, the idea of god/s answering why is akin to the child in the ‘but why…?’ stage; it’s used as the ultimate ‘just because’ response. If god/s really answered the ‘why?’ we would not be able to have an infinite regression; as it is no-one can do this by using god/s as an excuse. For example, ‘but why this god/s?’, ‘but why would they want that?’ ‘but why is that good?’, ‘but why would they do it that way?’ etc…God/s are then used as the ‘just because’, often with the non-clarifying ‘mysterious’ ‘ineffable’ or ‘unknowable’ thrown in for good measure. It answers absolutely nothing unless you are willing to swallow non-answers as reasonable ‘explanations’ – in which case, why even bother asking?

  6. Ash permalink
    October 15, 2009 5:05 am

    “why even bother asking?”

    …which in itself can be approached by both science and religion; hard science and it’s related disciplines can point us to understanding our nature, personalities, the way the human brain is wired, etc.; religion can answer god/s made us that way. Neither is a definitive answer, but one at least begins to deal with the subject whilst the other attempts to close down further conversation…

  7. Matheus permalink
    October 15, 2009 3:45 pm

    Well, this has already been partly said, but to several readers here, theology has not been established as a legitimate way to gain knowledge about the world. Nor has it been established that asking “why” in an objective sense is not absurd at all.

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