Saturday, June 27, 2009

More Pearls from the World Science Festival

Edward O. Wilson was not the only leading light at the World Science Festival. The sophistry was also in the air at the Festival's "Science, Faith and Religion" panel discussion, which sported two evolutionists debating two other evolutionists about profound matters. As reported yesterday in the Wall Street Journal by Lawrence Krauss, who was one of the debaters and is director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University, philosopher Colin McGinn "began by commenting that it was eminently rational to suppose that Santa Claus doesn't exist even if one cannot definitively prove that he doesn't. Likewise, he argued, we can apply the same logic to the supposed existence of God." Fascinating stuff.

For his part Krauss confronted the two faithful evolutionists on the panel with the miracle of the virgin birth and asked how they could reconcile this with basic biology. "I was ultimately told," reports Krauss, "that perhaps this biblical claim merely meant to emphasize what an important event the birth was." You can see we have much to learn from these evolutionists.

Krauss' main point, however, was not the debate so much as the gnosticism that he so faithfully promotes. Krauss is always quick to point out that he is not religious. After all, he believes religious beliefs are wrong. Following such eminent evolutionists as J.B.S. Haldane and Isaac Asimov, Krauss explains that science and religion cannot be mixed. A scientist can be a believer in private, but once he dons that clean white lab coat he must leave all such beliefs behind. Krauss approvingly quotes this pearl of wisdom from Haldane's 1934 book Fact and Faith:

My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.

While others struggled to understand why nature is uniform and how there could be natural laws, Haldane was able to see past such philosophical nuisances. His great insight was we can safely ignore such fine points.

And as Krauss points out, the very success of science which justified Haldane continues to justify our confidence today. You know, like evolution's finding that life just happened to arise from a muddy pond (or maybe from an ocean vent, or maybe from outer space), and that a multitude of universes can solve any apparent problem with this story. It's that kind of hard science that leads today's scientists to react as Haldane did. As Krauss methodically explains, they extrapolate the atheism of science to a more general atheism. This is not the shallow end folks--these truths may be a bit rough on some folks, but they certainly are truths. What we see here is cold, hard logic at work.

And for those who do harbor doubts about all this, Krauss has some very sobering and cogent insights:

Finally, it is worth pointing out that these issues are not purely academic. The current crisis in Iran has laid bare the striking inconsistency between a world built on reason and a world built on religious dogma. Perhaps the most important contribution an honest assessment of the incompatibility between science and religious doctrine can provide is to make it starkly clear that in human affairs -- as well as in the rest of the physical world -- reason is the better guide.

That really puts it all in the right perspective. You can be an evolutionist or you can oppose reason. Religion drives science, and it matters.