Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I'll Take My Science Materialistically, Thanks

In my post about the Glendive (Montana) Dinosaur Museum, Doorman-Priest made this interesting comment:

I always find these discussions interesting from the perspective of a European vantage-point. We just don't tend to have this problem to the extent you folk do.

I recently did a four-post series on science and religion. It caused barely a ripple.

Yes, we have a lunatic fringe of evango-fundies, but no-one takes them seriously and they wield no significant influence.

I teach Religious Studies. It is a core element of our national curriculum and it is non-confessional: I don't teach religion, I teach about religions.

I teach a form of I.D. because it has a long standing tradition going back to Newton and Paley. I also look at the Big Bang Theory and Evolution together with the traditional creation myth and Aquinas's First Cause Theory.

My science colleagues would not dream of slipping I.D. into the science curriculum and the government would have industrial action on their hands if they tried to have it introduced.

What is it about the American and European experiences that the outcomes are so different?
D-P is too polite to say it but the Brits are laughing at us. And they may a bit concerned for us. I can't say why Americans and Europeans are different on this. Perhaps others can help with that.

Then I took a quick peek at an ID site, Uncommon Descent. It is a handsome website with smart looking folks. Here is the first sentence of what they hold:

Materialistic ideology has subverted the study of biological and cosmological origins so that the actual content of these sciences has become corrupted.

I am not sure what that means. What is the opposite of materialistic ideology? Immaterialistic ideology? Wouldn't that be some form of theology? Yes, science is materialistic. What else could it be?

When you visit a museum of natural history that is what you get, natural history, not supernatural history. For that, I suppose, you could go to a church and ask a theologian. The corruption of science occurs when it is confused with the supernatural.

Why does a ball roll down an incline plane?

A supernatural, immaterialistic explanation could be this: Because God wills it. That is a perfectly fine explanation. But it is not science. Why is it not science? Because you cannot disprove it. A scientist cannot say whether or not God (or the Devil) wills balls to roll down incline planes. A scientist would look for a materialistic explanation that would make sense of that phenomenon.

Let's say that one day a ball rolled up an incline plane. A supernatural explanation could be that the ball was disobedient to the will of God. Or perhaps on this one occasion, God changed her mind. Either could be a valid supernaturalistic explanation. You couldn't disprove either.

The scientist would look for a materialistic explanation that would make sense of this phenomenon. It could be that the scientist would have to say, "I don't know." Yet if she searched hard enough, perhaps with collaboration with colleagues, eventually, she would find a theory (that could be disproven or modified) without resorting to a supernatural explanation.

This principle of searching for materialistic explanations is the same for special relativity, quantum mechanics, cosmological theory, evolution or what have you. Theologians, supernaturalists, and immaterialists can find supernatural explanations for anything they want. That's fine. It's fun. It's poetic. It makes some people feel secure.

It simply isn't science.