There were many religious influences within science in centuries past. In fact, theological concerns often guided and constrained scientific ideas and thought. A variety of such concerns were raised by different thinkers at different times. This makes them both easy to see but not necessarily easy to trace out. These ideas were prevalent but complex—there was no single religious tradition, no single theological concern, no leading thinker or even school of thought, at the interface between religion and science. What was the motivation for these religious ideas, how were they related, and importantly exactly what influence did these religious ideas have on science?
The answers to such questions are not simple but, on the other hand, they are not beyond our reach. There are strong connections between religion and science and recurring themes are obvious. Theological premises do not merely suggest possibilities or stimulate thinking—they are at times crucial in framing scientific thought. This book traces out these connections and their effects.
We begin in Chapter Two with a survey of several common religious influences in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. Most of them fall into four distinct categories: greater God theology, religious rationalism and deism, the problem of evil, and theological opposition to miracles. These categories are overarching. None of them represent a single tradition or concern, but rather a family of similar concerns. And these categories do not capture the totality of religious thought impinging on science. Other concerns that we will see in later chapters include the warning against anthropomorphizing God, the God of the gaps warning, and the intellectual necessity.
This history and framework gives helpful structure to the religion-science interface. As we shall see, these different theological traditions would circumscribe scientific activity by defining what types of solutions were, and were not, acceptable. Indeed, these theological mandates are common in the scientific literature.
There are, as it were, theological ground rules imposed on science. And although these theological concerns are varied, they all funnel toward a similar consequence. Put simply, the theological ground rules are that scientific explanations must be purely naturalistic. The term "naturalism" can take on different meanings when used by historians and philosophers of science. Here it is used to refer to this restriction of science to naturalistic explanations for religious reasons. We use a new term, theological naturalism, to clarify this and avoid ambiguity.
This term theological naturalism reminds us that the assumption of naturalism in science is neither a result of atheistic influence nor an empirically-based scientific finding. It is a consequence of metaphysical reasoning, and the implications for science are profound. Theological naturalism provides science with well defined universal criteria to which it conforms. Instead of merely following the data where ever it may lead, science has a framework already in place. The answer, to a certain extent, is already in place. This is a move toward rationalism and away from empiricism. The result is that science has a powerful philosophy of science but, as we explore in Chapter Three, it does not come without cost. Theological naturalism brings with it a blind spot.
A fascinating aspect of theological naturalism is that, on the one hand, it is obvious, but it can also be very subtle. Here is an example of how obvious theological naturalism can be:
Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution—paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce. No one understood this better than Darwin. Ernst Mayr has shown how Darwin, in defending evolution, consistently turned to organic parts and geographic distributions that make the least sense.—Stephen Jay Gould
This is a powerful argument that resonates with many. So powerful, in fact, that it seems to be in no need of defending. Is it not obvious and undeniable that “odd arrangements and funny solutions” disprove design? Is it not obvious that identical mutations in sister species must have arisen in a common ancestor? Is it not obvious that death and destruction in the biological world would have be part of an all-good divine plan?
The metaphysics seems so compelling and obvious that it goes overlooked. Evolutionists are convinced they are doing “just science.” And so the obvious theological naturalism becomes subtle. Darwin’s book on evolution was one long religious argument. Over and over he made religious claims about how the creator would never have created this creation. Evolution was the only answer.
But Darwin never felt the need to explain, justify or defend any of his religious claims. They were bare assertions, presented as simple and undeniable truths. And, importantly, his readers felt the same way. Even sophisticated challengers, such as Princeton’s Charles Hodge, weren’t quite able to pinpoint the message.
So evolutionists make their metaphysical claims casually, with no hesitation or concern. In the next breath they insist they are all about science. Here is an example from a leading textbook:
However, there are some homologies that do look positively disadvantageous. One of the cranial nerves goes from the brain to the larynx via a tube near the heart. In fish this is a direct route. But the same nerve in all species follows the same route, and in the giraffe it results in an absurd detour down and up the neck, so that the giraffe has to grow maybe 3-5 meters more nerve than it would with a direct connection. The “recurrent laryngeal nerve,” as it is called, is surely inefficient. It is easy to explain such an efficiency if giraffes have evolved in small stages from a fish-like ancestor; but why giraffes should have such a nerve if they originated independently … well, we can leave that to others to try to explain. …
In the scientific version of the theory which we are concerned with here, supernatural events do not take place … [Mark Ridley, Evolution, Blackwell, p. 50, 57, 1993]
Notice how easily the textbook slips into metaphysics. A scientific text, discussing scientific evidence, suddenly is doing metaphysics without warning or justification, as though it all is obviously true.
This is typical. Evolutionists insist evolution is a fact, and they arrive at this lofty conclusion via metaphysical proofs. As Alfred North Whitehead once advised, do not question someone on what he feels he needs to defend, but rather on what he takes for granted. The popular version goes like this: It isn’t what a man doesn’t know that scares me, but what he knows for sure.
The corollary to evolution’s theological naturalism is that those who do not adhere to their religious claims are, in fact, the religious ones. After all, such skeptics are allowing that god might have designed this obviously undesigned world. Isn’t that an obvious religious belief? So while evolutionists assert religious claims, those who are make no such claims are, according to evolutionists, religious. For the evolutionists, such fundamentalism is obviously not scientific and must be censored. This is the Alice-in-Wonderland world of evolution.
The CSC case
And so it is not surprising that evolutionists brand any skepticism, such as in the Darwin’s Dilemma film, as “religious.” The specter of its showing at the California Science Center’s IMAX theater prompted USC professor Hilary Schor to be “less troubled by the freedom of speech issues than why my tax dollars which support the California ‘Science’ Center are being spent on hosting religious propaganda.”
So where exactly is the “religious propaganda” in the Darwin’s Dilemma film? Of course there is none. Here is how one commenter here described the film:
I watched the documentary online and found it very scholarly and well presented. The narrator was very professional and I actually found the lack of creationism refreshing, because if in fact it was there, it would have been tough to mask. Most creationism films spend more time attacking Evolutionists than dealing with the science and of course most Evolutionist propaganda films do likewise.
I think the fact that it WAS well written and presented from the standpoint of asking logical skeptical scientific methodical questions instead of religiously accepting religious story telling is what actually infuriates the Darwin crowd. It's not a matter of allowing intelligent people to honestly ask for real world factual proofs [minus the massive amounts of story invention] as it is a matter of being skeptical and actually asking questions in the first place and not accepting through blind faith that the self-promoting geniuses have it right. As history has shown through the ages around the Earth, religious Ecclesiastical Hierarchies hate being questioned.
In fact there are no religious claims in the movie, those are in evolutionary thought. There are no metaphysical mandates or theological dictates. Again, those are in evolutionary thought. Evolutionists openly and consistently make religious claims and then blame it on the skeptics who are looking at the evidence. It is the height of hypocrisy.
But meanwhile an evolutionist accused me of misrepresenting the CSC case:
Let's look at what the press release actually said
"The debate over Darwin will come to California on October 25th, when the Smithsonian Institution's west coast affiliate premieres Darwin's Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record, a new intelligent design film which challenges Darwinian evolution."
By 'Smithsonian Institution's west coast affiliate' the AFA obviously meant the CSC. But the CSC wasn't premiering the film, the AFA was. The CSC and Smithsonian had nothing to do with the film save renting building space.
That's the sort of blatant dishonesty we've come to expect from the IDiots and the professional liars at the DI. You want to defend the wording of the press release CH?
As is typical, the evolutionist manipulates the evidence. He quotes from the first paragraph of the press release and cries foul. But only two sentences later the press release explicitly states who is sponsoring and hosting the event:
The screening is sponsored and hosted by the American Freedom Alliance.
The evolutionist uses a selective reading of the press release and then jumps to the usual ridicule and false accusations.
This is how evolutionists treat those who are not theological naturalists. This is how they treat those who do not, as they do, insist on religious truths that all must follow. This is how they treat those who are interested in the evidence, rather than dogma.
Religion drives science, and it matters.