On a Chasm

Bill Nye (The Science Guy) is not only a media personality – he is also an advocate of good science education. Interestingly, Bill Nye will be coming to the Cincinnati area for an event at the Creation Museum. The president of the organization that runs the museum (Answers in Genesis) invited Bill to debate him about evolution. No – I don’t plan to attend the event.

Because the interchange between science and religion continues to stimulate my neurological pathways, I’ve been thinking about the opposite ends of the spectrum – the places where one end has nothing to do with the other. Consider these quotes.

From Ken Ham, President of Answers in Genesis

Certainly, we should celebrate when a person understands the gospel and is saved. But we should also pray for those fellow believers who have not only left biblical authority behind when it comes to origins, but who also have influence and are using it to spread evolution and millions of years in the church. I believe such people are leading many away from the Christian faith, including this current generation of young people—something they will have to answer to God for one day. Yes, God will judge—and He will have the last word!

From Sam Harris, cofounder and CEO of Project Reason

I am hopeful that the necessary transformation in our thinking will come about as our scientific understanding of ourselves matures. When we find reliable ways to make human beings more loving, less fearful, and genuinely enraptured by the fact of our appearance in the cosmos, we will have no need for divisive religious myths. Only then will the practice of raising our children to believe that they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu be broadly recognized as the ludicrous obscenity that it is. And only then will we stand a chance of healing the deepest and most dangerous fractures in our world.

Although neither Ken Ham nor Sam Harris speaks for the majority of humanity, these two individuals are important spokespersons for many. Interestingly, both are so set in their opposition to others who believe differently.

Let’s move on to Dr. Francis Collins, a highly respected scientist who happens to be the Director of National Institute of Health, and the former director of the Human Genome Project. Dr. Collins stated the following:

I would not want to look forward to a culture where science lost and religious faith became the dominating force for truth. I would not want to live in a culture where faith lost and science, with all of its reductionism and its materialism became the sole source of truth. I think we need both kinds of truth. I think we need both kinds of worldviews to the extent that scientists can help with that realization of a dual ways of finding answers to the appropriate kinds of questions that each worldview can ask, then I think that would be a good thing.

Lord Acton (1834-1902) stated, Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Does this apply to any to Ken Ham, Sam Harris, or Francis Collins?

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103 thoughts on “On a Chasm

  1. Is this a trick question, Frank?

    I have so very much respect for Francis Collins. If only we could get back to the point where we could all see both sides. Because it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

    I wish they would televise the debate. People might learn something. (Which, of course, is why they won’t televise it.)

  2. I like you and your blog Frank! I like the way your mind works – you ask a very good question……. my answer is I don’t know. But, like everyone I have an opinion. :-)
    It seems to me that as a collective race of human beings one of our responsibilities is to seek balance in all things. That then does away with all forms of radicalism, fundamentalism and even sheer bloody-mindedness. That’s just my view.

    • Pauline,
      Balance is an important word in your statement. History has plenty of examples of going to far, but in time, the pendulum of time swings away from that extreme.

      To use your example, I see Ken Ham’s and Sam Harris’ comments as one who don’t seek balance, thus neither would accept Dr. Collins on this issue. So some could conclude that the two most opposing views do fit Lord Acton’s statement.

      Thanks for the kind words.

  3. I really appreciate how you balance your thoughts and opinions with a variety of voices, and we can then draw from other viewpoints when applicable. I’ve mentioned before that I was raised with a very strict and literal evangelical view of biblical authority–meaning, creationism. That kind of turning away from scientific evidence produced a spiritual crisis when I went to college and was introduced to scientific theory. It was actually quite terrible for me, because then I had to wade through a lot, thinking that perhaps everything I’d ever believed was a lie. I think my personal faith was eventually strengthened when I began to to synthesize it all and recognize my beliefs could survive a non-literal biblical account of our beginnings. Asking children, or anyone, to disbelieve what they can observe, is very troubling. Thank you, as always, for the discussion here, Frank. I will pop back round to see what others share.

    • Debra,
      Thanks for sharing your personal story here for others to see. After all, everyone has a journey, and the 40+ posts on this subject has been a way for me to share my journey.

      Have you had a chance to start your reading?

      • I’m playing a little catch-up tonight, Frank. Yes, I have definitely started reading. I finished “The Evolution-Creation Struggle” and really enjoyed it. I’m slowly working through quite an assortment. It takes me a while to read books that require quite a bit of thinking because I’m usually reading late at night…doesn’t always work too well. :-) But I thank you!

  4. Frank, thought provoking quotes. I think religion is at the core of so much that is wrong in the world, but at the same time, I also think that both viewpoints should co-exist provided no one goes zealot and gets violent.

  5. Have to admit, I’d be tempted by that event. But, how, I ask, does one have a “creation museum.” What does that mean? Reminds me of my crazy days of teaching at Oral Roberts University. I know–don’t EVEN ask about it! Suppose I need to write about that, however.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

  6. I love that quote from Dr. Collins. Some days, I believe only in what can be seen, although I also believe human eyes see much less of what truly is than we understand. Other days I am full of faith. It used to bug me that I couldn’t just find my position and stay there, but now I am okay with this dynamic approach. I believe in the merits of loving faith and science alike.

    • Deborah,
      Dr. Collins’s view represents more people than one anticipates …. especially because some believe that the only choices are the extremes … but their is actually a spectrum of thoughts about the interchange between science and religion. It’s a high-interest area for me, thus why I’ve posted quite a bit about it.

  7. My god gave me the abilities to view the universe in reasoned analytical ways. It enhances my appreciation for both what I understand, and for the mysteries of things I don’t understand. To say I am also condemned because they guide my view of life, that is absurd.

    I’d like to see the debate if it is done fairly.

    • Jim,
      Sounds like you are much closer to Dr. Collins than the other two.

      A couple points about the debate. 1) Ken Ham is hosting , 2) BIll Nye will unquestionably (IMO) approach the topic for a what is science, science methodology, approach … he isn’t an evolutionary biologist.

  8. Sorry Frank two things I will not debate is religion and politics… I feel they are very personal to me and that I keep to myself… I have done the evolution thing and the religious thing… religion won and that is that… I still say everyone to their own, and I wish they would keep it to themselves sometimes…

      • Re: many people who don’t feel they have to choose sides – I’m one of those people. I’m not a scientist, but if you’ve been in school and studied facts for numerous years, I gotta say, I can’t ignore it! Same with religion. It can be very intellectual and a “science” all its own, if you look closely. :) My opinion.

      • I agree, Frank. It is likely fruitless to have a debate on creationism and science because that implies that it is a matter of reasoning. It isn’t. Faith means willful believing, not rationality, and its adherents will invariably equate argument with heresy. On the other hand, such a debate might be worthwhile occasionally just to demonstrate that alternate views exist. In Bulldog’s case, faith prevailed. I have corresponded with others with whom rationality won.

  9. I’ve thought for a while, this: when our technology surpasses our humanity, we’re screwed.
    I also think that happened a long time ago.

    It has always perplexed me, why, people insist on holding absolutes. Especially given impermanence, chaos, and movement.
    I’d love to see/listen to the debate; I’d imagine it will be uploaded to Youtube, in due time.
    The Lord Acton quote is one of my favorites, and I hear it often. ;-)

    • Victoria,
      You bring up an interesting point about technology … and we could expand that thought of thinking technology as much than an apparatus with a circuit board … such as antibiotics.

      Personally, I could drive to the event in less than an hour … but I don’t plan on attending.

  10. Both extremes can sound scary & in some cases hateful. I think people should just be respectful of life, differences, faith & realities. When power & greed take over – we’re in trouble. And – the way things look in this world – I think we are in trouble.
    But – at the same time – I hold on to my faith & do my best to do my part for the time that I am here. :)

    • RoSy,
      Respecting differences doesn’t mean agreement or compromise … it means respect … so good point. To me, the first two quotes have an edge, a particular bite in their tone … but, it would be interesting to hear the actual tone!

  11. I do not know either of these eminent individuals .. But I would say we all have the Divine Spark within each and everyone of us… Judgement in my own opinion comes not from God but from the God source within each of us.. We will be the ones who will look back over our lives and will judge whether we did the best we could, or maybe could have done better.. The video I posted today spoke volumes to me in its heading it said ( Love The New Religion ) to me Religion should be LOVE, not the indoctrinations of rules laid down by man in Fear of God.. God is all Love.. All Compassionate.. All Forgiving, and yet so many Religions teach the opposite, Telling us of the wrath of God, the Judgement, the Hell and Damnation, the Glory of vestal virgins etc etc.. God didnt invent Religion Man did.. We came from God who is Love.. it is we who do battle with our selves and use God as a weapon… Science tries to make sense of the God particle in us and yet can not explain the miraculous feeling of Love… and How Love makes one braver and how Love will empower us to give our life for another if we had to step in to save another we loved we would do it unthinking…
    Science likes to deal in facts and proving facts true or false… Each religion has its own image and ways of worship…
    I no longer go to any building to worship… Gods temple is the Earth… and I try and treat others how I would wish to be treated… With love in our hearts and trying not to judge as we embrace each other as one. For what I do, affects another and so on and so forth.. We need to be changing our ways, and I feel as we each do we are seeing the old ways of religion is being seen in a different light.. .. There is no right or wrong way…
    The only way is through Love.. learning to tolerate, be less judgemental, to hold compassion in our hearts and to bring the care and kindness back..
    Our Namesake is called Mankind…. We have forgotten how to be Kind… and this is our undoing… This is why I write as I do Frank… many have lost sight of why we incarnated onto Earth.. We have become materialistic and forgotten the old ways… whereby we shared and co-operated with Nature… Instead now we plunder and destroy, polluting not only the earth but the minds of the young..
    The Earth is giving us all chance to Change in her wake up calls, but still we think we are superior..
    Thats why I so loved your Universe videos and posts… We are specs within the Cosmos, and are infantile in our scientific knowledge of the Matrix of Energy which is Creation… But we are all of us here to learn and progress… and this experiment is a about to get interesting as we end another cycle of time…

    I hope you will forgive a Dreamwalker and her views, but sometimes the hands take on a life of their own over the keyboard :-)

    Great Post :-) Sue

    • Sue,
      First of all, no need to apologize because you have handled your points with respect … and if you go to About > Testimonials, you will note comments about the way I respectfully handle this subject. So no worries! :)

      As you know, I saw the post you are referring to, which helped me understand your thoughtful point. interestingly, there are some scientists who also promote a similar viewpoint when discussing the interchange between science and religion.

      From your comment, I’ve got the feeling that each of the extreme views cause you to shake your head.

      BTW – you should copy/paste your answer hear because you have a draft for a post.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  12. What a wonderful post! As a psychotherapist I can’t help but recognize that dogmatic religious people and dogmatic atheists are psychologically similar. Each are true believers in their dogma and each strongly repudiates the other.

  13. It should perhaps not be a surprise that I find myself uncomfortable until a middle ground is found. That said, I’m impressed not only with the way that you present the ideas across the spectrum, but also as your commenters present theirs across their spectrums. It really highlights the need for multiple viewpoints to be considered as reasonable.

    • Twixt,
      There is actually a very large middle ground already established. While some may say its one side or the other, there is a quite the continuum of thought that has already been established.

      Given the number of posts I’ve done on the religion-science interchange, they will you determine your point on the continuum.

      Here’s a post where I show four points on the continuum. Ken Ham and Sam Harris would be at opposite side in the first model. The second model is quite rigid. The third and fourth models are were all the action is with varying thoughts. http://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/on-the-models-between-science-and-theology/

      • While I “know” that the middle ground does exist, it is refreshing to see it presented, I would probably subscribe either to a represented!

        Given how the models you described are highly-overlapping Third Model or a Fourth Model with a question mark. As I see God as the author/designer of all things science studies and observes, I could argue that to study one you are really studying the other. However, in practical applications, I see the benefit of scientists and theologians each having their separate goals and processes.

        • Definite separate goals and processes, mainly because they have different questions. Gould’s NOMA model is interesting, but their is a distinct wall, thus zero overlap. In #3, there is the range of how much overlap. I think you would enjoy reading John Polkinghorne.

  14. Oh Frank. You do such a great job at making us all think. I appreciate Collins’ view. Any view on the extremes that dismisses others and takes on the judgment many say is reserved for God just seems, well, extreme. I favor the realization that there are many sides to any question, lots of grays and no absolute black and white distinctions. Therefore, I favor balance and tolerance, and advocate spirituality and reason, love for others, doing good deeds.

    • Patti,
      Thanks for the kind words. As one who has been around here for some time, you know that I openly address this time in a way contrary to the first two quotes in this post. Cheers to your favor for balance, tolerance, and more!

    • Wayne,
      Welcome first-time commenter. One question … D? More info please.

      I’m not a fan of the Creation Museum, thus have no plans to support it in any way. Given that the event sold out 800 tickets in 20 minutes at $25 per ticket shows that, there are at least 800 people who don’t think like me.

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