science and religion

This is part of my theology series of 2010. Previous posts:
putting a label on it
setting our sights on the 1st century
what makes a messiah?

Have you ever heard or been a part of a science and religion debate?  (Usually described as an Evolution vs Creation debate)  They are usually terrible.  Stupidly argued on both sides.  Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson recently said as much on The Daily Show (and in her new book.)

I've been saying this for years.  But I take a different angle than Robinson.  My slant mainly comes from my scientific areas of interest.  I'm more of a physics guy than a biology guy.  So while I don't subscribe to the anti-evolutionary rhetoric that comes from much of Christian apologists, I also don't care that much.  So creation/evolution is a non-starter with me.

BTW, scientists themselves generally don't see the conflict as much as is generally reported.

I used to be a old-earth creationist but over time I've moved into the theistic evolution family.  Both of those views are broadly compatible with modern science.  (Depending of course on the individual slant on the system.)  And you wouldn't know it by listening to the popular press but both are considered orthodox by the Catholic Church and most Protestant denominations.

I still like a lot about the old-earth creationism system but people there are so stridently anti-evolution that it turns me off.  I guess I just don't like defining myself in such anti-this-or-that terms.

Speaking of, I recently came across a positional statement of a group that describes themselves as Neo-Humanists.  It wasn't too bad.  Obviously not me, but not bad.  They also want to be defined positively (things they are for) rather than negatively (things they are against) wherever possible.  (read: they're not going to come out and say they are absolutely against belief in God.)

One statement did catch my eye.  "support the democratic way of life."  It's funny because when people ask "how can you know your religion is right?" I usually respond with a political analogy.

Here's a silly example: we can agree that the US system of government is better than North Korea's.  That doesn't mean the US system is absolutely perfect or that we can get 100% of the people to agree.  But you and I can agree that the US system is better.  Similarly, we can use rational means to evaluate differing religious claims.  And then I go on to the specific objection...

But the humanists seem to claim that they can know that democratic politics are more "true" but we can't know when it comes to religion.

Back to science.  My view is that my religious beliefs and secular beliefs must be integrated.  If they aren't meshing in some way, one or the other must be wrong.

A few decades ago, the cyclical model was popular among cosmologists.  That's the model that the universe expands (big bang) and then contracts, then expands again, etc.  This model integrated well with some Eastern religions but much less well with a Judeo-Christian worldview.  It could have been integrated with cleverness but it was not a natural fit with creation ex nihilo. But over time this theory fell into disfavor because it violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  Not good news for the theory.  Though Stephen Hawking recently made news by saying God is unnecessary, he won a Nobel Prize for proving that the Universe originated in a singularity given that General Relativity is true.

That time science moved.  My views of religion have changed many times as well.  I'd love to bring up Inerrancy now, but that deserves its own blog post so that will have to wait.