Posted October 12, 200
This article is aimed at summarizing the reviews of the books that purportedly assert the compatibility of the Bible with scientific data.
Among the reviewed books are those written by professional Christian preachers and Jewish rabbis, as well as by serious scientists who followed an urge to reconcile their scientific ken with their desire to believe. This is a strange company. At one extreme we see among the authors of the reviewed books some pseudo-scientists (like Drs. G. Schroeder or H. Ross) who try to disguise themselves as real scientists but betray their ignorance of science by propagandizing preposterous notions which they believe to meet scientific criteria but which actually only show their dilettante level of understanding of the topics under discussion. Some other writers (like L. Kelemen or G. Jeffrey) are more honest in that they do not pretend to be scientists themselves, but still offer various quasi-scientific arguments, often distorting scientific data, in favor of their prejudices and beliefs. At the other extreme we see some genuine scientists (like Professor N. Aviezer, Dr. L. Spetner or Dr. M. Behe) sometimes prominent in their fields of research, who try to make excursions into the dispute about the veracity of the biblical story, wherein they somehow lose the normal rigor of scientific discourse and resort to argumentation of the type to which they would never acquiesce in their professional fields.
There is a wide range of levels of discourse in the papers in question. In some of the reviewed books we see egregiously meaningless statements stemming from the writer's profound scientific illiteracy (e.g. Schroeder, Ross, Jeffrey). The authors of some other books (Aviezer, Spetner, Behe) avoid gross misinterpretation of fundamental facts of science but offer conclusions based not on the evidence but rather on the writers' strong desire to keep their religious faith even though it contradicts the elementary requirements of evidence-based veracity.
Such variations within the group of writers in question testify to the variety of motivations behind the efforts of those writers. Some of them make their living exploiting the popularity of religious beliefs and prejudices. Others satisfy their personal desire to find proofs supporting whatever they wish to believe.
Science and religion are both purely human endeavors providing outlets, one to the curiosity which seems to be an inseparable part of the human nature, and the other to a hope that human life is something more than a purely biological existence without reason and purpose and that the tragedy of unavoidable death can somehow be rationalized.
The records of both science and religion are mixed. Science, driven by curiosity, and its offspring – technical inventions- opened the way to an enormous improvement of living standards and of well being of billions of men and women, conquering many diseases, immensely enhancing food supplies, increasing manifold the time available for pleasure, freeing many people from the drudgery of monotonous, boring and tiring jobs. On the other hand, science opened the way to Man's unprecedented ability to conduct mass killings and, along with the increase in Man's ability to master the forces of nature, has done very little to make people behave more reasonably. Religion arguably served to improve the moral fiber of society by instilling in people notions like those succinctly presented in the Ten Commandments. On the other hand, religions are to blame for explosions of hatred, senseless murders of those who dare to believe differently, suppressions of the progress of scientific exploration and, as a side effect, the development of hypocrisy, which accompanies every religion as a doppelganger.
The fact that some scientists invest considerable effort in trying to reconcile science with the Bible testifies to a lack of the bravery necessary to face the possibility that there is no higher purpose in our life and that death means the complete disappearance of an individual conscience.
The fear of a possible absence of any higher meaning to our life is quite understandable. How immensely better it is to know that our life means something above and beyond mere biological existence and that death will not exterminate that whole world which each person has inside his or her soul. However, the desire to believe in that higher meaning is very far from actual proofs of religion's claims. The desire in question itself creates an extremely powerful incentive to ignore any evidence negating religious beliefs and to adhere to faith against reason. No convincing proofs of their veracity have so far been discovered by any of the thousands of religions which contradict each other and whose tenets are so obviously inherently contradictory even at a perfunctory glance.
On the other hand, atheists may be suspected of another kind of fear. We all know that each of us, in the course of lifetime, has committed a multitude of small and sometimes not so small misdeeds, meeting the definition of sin according to religious beliefs. Refusing to admit the existence of God, whom everyone is destined to face and to possibly pay in some way for his/her misdeeds, atheists play to their desire to avoid that responsibility toward the Supreme Being.
I believe the two questions – one regarding the existence or non-existence of God, and the other – the veracity of particular claims of this or that religion – are very different.
I suspect that the existence or non-existence of God is a dilemma that cannot be solved by any rational arguments, at least that is how the matter stands now. Predicting the future is a very unrewarding job (recall how many biblical prophets were stoned to death) and therefore I would not dare to insist that no rational proof of God's existence or non-existence will ever be found, though I suspect that, unfortunately, this may be the case. Therefore, believing either of two alternatives remains a matter of personal choice, while for those of a bent similar to myself, agnosticism is the third choice.
The question of the veracity of this or that religion or of some specific image of God is very different and seems to be within the human capacity for rational judgment. Having read many books and articles propagandizing various religious systems, I have formed a rather firm opinion that all of those systems have a purely human origin. I have not seen a single good reason to accept claims of any religion, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc., as plausible. All of them are too controversial within themselves and contradict well-established facts of science and/or of history.
Therefore, when I read the following statement by W. Dembski, made in his paper in the collection "Mere Creation" (InterVarsity Press, 1998, page 14) that "As Christians we know naturalism is wrong," it offends me as a display of arrogance and contempt for readers who may adhere to different beliefs (I include atheism among beliefs). If you "know," why do you bother to look for proofs of your alleged knowledge? If you already "know" then obviously your mind is closed to any arguments that may be against your alleged knowledge. Your statement means an end to the discussion, and renders all of the rest of your discourse suspicious in regard to your adherence to facts, and hence to truth.
In view of my assertion that I consider both religious faith and atheism equally irrational (while realizing that one of these two attitudes must be correct) a natural question seems to be: why are the reviews in this site critical only of those books which are squarely on the side of religious faiths? The reason is simple: whereas there is a multitude of books purportedly proving the religious viewpoint, there are very few books of the opposite slant and the latter rarely resort to such irrational arguments as those used by the adherents of the supernatural origin of the universe and of life. Atheism is not very popular, especially in the United States where every presidential candidate bends backwards over to show his heartfelt religiousness. Hence, books aimed at proving the religious viewpoint are much more likely to find readers and even become bestsellers, without entailing any risk for their authors to be disparaged by the mass audience. On the other hand, trying to offer a view denying religious claims can often cause various problems for their authors, starting with the considerable difficulty of finding a publisher. The latter prefer to play it safe.
Therefore, while viewing both religious faith and atheistic views equally irrational, I did not see a real need and have had no real opportunity to pounce on any false arguments proposed by the adherents of naturalism. Since the adherents of the theistic view normally do not miss a chance to disprove even those arguments of atheists which seem to be uncontroversial and based on indisputable facts, there is little chance that some false arguments by atheists have been missed and not yet demolished by believers in the supernatural Creation. Hence, there was not much for me to do in that direction.
In my reviews I intended to reveal the falsity or the insufficient substantiation of some particular arguments offered by the believers but did not try to assert any choice between the two opposite views in general.
I do not expect that my reviews will sway those readers who have already formed their own opinions in regard to the discussed questions. I hope only that those readers who are searching for a reasonable world look and find themselves in a shadow world of uncertainty will find in my reviews some food for thoughts, which may help some of them to make their own conclusions.
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