Science: Theists Need Not Apply

Religious bigotry is alive and well in the scientific community, as evidenced by its response to President Obama’s decision to appoint Dr. Francis Collins as the head of the National Institutes of Health.  Though renowned for leading the team of scientists that successfully mapped the human genome, Dr. Collins is making headlines for something else: his faith.  In spite of his professional qualifications and accomplishments, many in the scientific community are less than enthusiastic about the President’s decision to appoint a self-described evangelical Christian to lead the world’s leading organization for scientific research.

This skepticism results from a prejudice against a theistic worldview that has become entrenched in the scientific community—an irrational attitude born of historical ignorance and intellectual myopathy that is increasingly dismissive of moral questions and ethical concerns.

The idea that a tension exists between science and theism is relatively new.  The most brilliant philosophical minds of the western intellectual tradition—dating all the way back to the time of Plato and Aristotle—operated on the assumption that our existence came into being through the actions of a divine creator, described as the First Cause or Unmoved Mover.  For centuries after, theology reigned as queen of the sciences, and scientific inquiry was animated by the belief that human reason was a gift imparted by God so that man might gain knowledge about Him, His attributes, and the laws which govern His creation.

Without this belief that the physical world is the result of an intentional design governed by fixed laws—laws which we discover through reason and experience—there would have been little cause to engage in scientific pursuits.  Faith in the goodness of God’s creation and the intelligibility of its design inspired history’s great minds to forge ahead into new worlds of knowledge and discovery.

Indeed, many of the great heroes of science pioneered their discoveries under the auspices of this inspiration.  Groundbreaking advances in astronomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, genetics, and other fields of knowledge were made by men dedicated to systematically investigating God’s creation—men like Copernicus, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Kelvin, Mendel, and Faraday.

Over time, however, the scientific community came to question whether the advancement of human knowledge might be better served by separating itself from ethical constraints arising out of religious beliefs.  The idea that man should be guided by transcendent moral principles in his quest for answers to life’s mysteries, the idea that some boundaries should not be crossed, was an intolerable thought.  Scientists wanted to answer the question “can I?” without having to ask “should I?”

Hence today, when a man who professes faith in the Risen Christ is given the reigns of America’s preeminent scientific organization, eyebrows raise in skepticism.  Prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins go on late-night TV talk shows to denounce the ridiculous notion that any intelligent person, let alone a scientist, could actually embrace the fantastic teachings of the Bible.  Believing that the world is the result of an intentional act of creation on the part of a benevolent and loving God is likened to believing in unicorns or the tooth fairy—Peter Pan fantasies embraced by those too young or too dumb to cope with the cold hard facts of reality.

Regardless of the specifics of Dr. Collins’s Christian identity, the idea that his faith impedes his fitness to serve as the head of the NIH operates on the absurd premise that only atheists and agnostics are capable of being good scientists.  One might argue the precise opposite of this.  If, as previously stated, the origin of scientific inquiry was based upon the belief that the physical world operates according to fixed and intelligible laws, one might ask what kind of foundation underlies a scientific worldview which denies an intelligent design or an ultimate purpose?  If there’s no designer, no fixed laws, no first principles, then there is no real meaning—no context in which to evaluate the value and significance of newly acquired knowledge.  When there is no acknowledged moral source to draw a clear line between the permissible and the forbidden, then human curiosity and ambition are left as the only arbiters of science’s use.

Those who profess a commitment to science while rejecting a belief in God want to expand the breadth of scientific inquiry without being subject to ethical constraints.  Inevitably, this kind of thinking leads to manipulating or destroying the weaker among us in order to empower the stronger.  This is the philosophy that has animated some of our history’s most gruesome acts of scientific “experimentation,” and it is espoused today by none other than President Obama’s “science czar,” John Holdren, who has advocated forced abortion and mass sterilization in the name of environmental responsibility.

If this is the kind of ideology that results when the age-old relationship between faith and science is destroyed, then Dr. Collins’s “embrace” of religion is the least of America’s troubles.

Ken Connor

By

Ken Connor is the Chairman of the Center for a Just Society. An esteemed attorney, Connor is affiliated with the law firm of Marks, Balette, & Giessel, a firm nationally known for its successful representation of victims of nursing home abuse and neglect.

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  • Joe DeVet

    It amazes me to hear scientists and others say that belief in God is irrational because there’s “no evidence.” Can they not open their eyes and witness the evidence that their senses and their reason present to them all day every day?

    It seems to me that scientists of all people should be astounded at the incredible works of God and praise him night and day for placing into existence the things they study, as well as for their own ability and interest in pursuing that study.

    Now, a nit-pick: “…when a man who professes faith in the Risen Christ is given the reigns…” The word is “reins.”

  • bobxxxx

    “Science: Theists Need Not Apply”

    That’s good advice. People who have medieval superstitions (for example a childish belief in a god) are not likely to be competent scientists.

  • bobxxxx

    “Can they not open their eyes and witness the evidence that their senses and their reason present to them all day every day?”

    Joe DeVet, I don’t think you know what real evidence is. Your magic god fairy does not have one shred of it.

  • Terri Kimmel

    Dear Bob of Many X’s,

    I think the burden of proof is yours. Prove there is no God. You cannot because His presence and creative glory infuses every aspect of the universe. You can provide limited demonstration of His created systems, but disproving Him is something you will never accomplish because it is impossible.

  • bobxxxx

    “I think the burden of proof is yours. Prove there is no God.”

    Sorry Terri, you got it backwards.

    It is your invisible friend, not mine. I don’t have to disprove your fantasies.

    If you want to pretend there’s a magic man hiding in the clouds, you’re the one who has to provide evidence for it if you want to be taken seriously.

    Making assertions like “His created systems” is not evidence for anything.

    Your god idea is extremely childish and no real scientist would ever claim any evidence for it, not even Francis Collins would do that, unless he’s more crazy than I think he is.

    Even worse is your Jesus (I call him Jeebus). Son of God? Risen Christ? It’s all bull. Worse than childish. It’s just bloody insane to believe a human ape could have magical powers.

    Also, the Jeebus belief is provincial.

    I’m using this definition of provincial: Limited in perspective; narrow and self-centered.

    My point is there’s too much out there in the universe to take seriously the idea that a god sent a manifestation of itself (Jeebus) to this tiny insignificant planet in the middle of nowhere. Take a look at an astronomy magazine in your library. Read it and you will understand that the earth is a speck of virtually nothing.

    Christians have the crazy idea that the universe was magically created just for them. They are ridiculously wrong.

    By the way, kudos to catholicexchange.com for not censoring me. I’m usually censored when I visit Christian blogs.

  • Mary Kochan

    bobxxxx, to say that religious people cannot do science is just as dumb as saying poets or musicians or philosophers can’t.

    Science is not about these other disciplines. Oh, sure science can tell us how the ear works and how sound waves travel but science says nothing about the meaning of the music or meaning of the words of the poet. Science cannot help us distinguish between various philosophies.

    You are way too dismissive (and I caution you that if you continue to be disrespectful you WILL be removed) because you do not account for all the very intelligent people including many scientists who believed and believe in God.

    Science deals in what is observable in creation. It does not deal with the meaning of creation, nor does it deal with how creation came to be. Science can give no account of the coming into being of what is. Science does not even claim to be able to account for these things.

    As for the person of Jesus, your problem is that he belongs to historical phenomena as much as many other historical figures, and beyond that if you think he didn’t exist, you would need to come up with an alternative explanation for the existence of the Church.

    Have you ever worried that all the music that could be created has been created and that world will run out of music? If not, why not?

  • bobxxxx

    “(and I caution you that if you continue to be disrespectful you WILL be removed)”

    I quit reading your nonsense right there.

    Respect your childish beliefs?

    Not in a million years. Millions of us atheists won’t stop laughing at people like you until religious insanity is permanently eradicated from this planet.

    If you seriously think your fantasies deserve respect, then you’re a total waste of time.

  • bobxxxx

    By the way what real scientific evidence do you have for the resurrection of your Jeebus preacher man?

    Dead witnesses are not evidence.

    So let’s have it. Where’s your proof?

    It’s just an insane belief. Not one shred of evidence.

    A pathetic joke. Your Christian death cult is a joke.

  • Mary Kochan

    If dead witnesses are not of value, then most of history would have to be erased and in fact the entire enterprise of history would disappear as it all relies on dead witnesses.

    As for respect: we do not respect your beliefs either; we consider them ignorant, regressive, laughable, ill-considered, unscientific, unfounded, and juvenile. However, while your beliefs and opinions might not deserve respect, you, as a person, do. It is in fact, part of our belief system that human beings should be treated with respect. So since this is our board, we impose the rule that people will not be mocked and that conversations will be civil.

    Distortions of the name of Jesus are mere juvenile baiting and will not be tolerated.

  • Therese

    Dear Bobxxxx,

    You’re arguments are not thought through very well. What about all of the things science takes on “faith” because it cannot DIRECTLY see or measure it: gravity, atoms, electricity, just to name a few.

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