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Regarding “Truth” September 16, 2009

Posted by Treehopper in astronomy, catholic, opinion.
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Who’s Truth Is It Anyway?

As I’ve stated elsewhere, I’m neither a scientist nor a theology scholar.  I do, however, have my feet solidly in both camps as a serious student of both astronomy and Catholic Christian theology.  This often leads to a precarious balancing act, especially when in full view of the prevailing academic atheism that has been so popular in our institutions of higher learning for the past several generations.  So to echo Pilate’s rather indelicate question, just what is truth?  Does one side or the other have an exclusive claim to truth?  Does a person of faith today have to travel incognito with regard to his religious beliefs or be prepared to take one on the chin by his irreligious peers?

Science or Faith?

Science or Faith?

At the very end of the August 2009 issue of Sky & Telescope in the “Focal Point” editorial article (page 86), a trio of astronomers from the University of Texas at Austin collectively penned an opinion piece titled, “Keeping Science Safe.”  These authors use such charged terms as “insidious” to describe the efforts of so-called “Intelligent Design” proponents, and referred to their worldview as “antiquated” and “antiscientific.”  To these astronomers and their “worldview”, one must flash their skeptic’s credentials at the door before being admitted to the halls of “true science.”  The irony here is that while accusing the opposing camp of running an agenda, their own pre-conceptions are laid bare.  To wit, there is no room in modern academia for faith in a Creator.

Such a notion runs face-on into the historical record of such luminaries in the field of astronomy such as Copernicus, Galileo, Brahe, Kepler, Newton, et al.  Go beyond astronomy into other fields, and you’ll find a small army of equally notable names; all whose contribution to science is undisputed, and all of whom expressed a religious faith.  One need not argue too vehemently that the scientific method itself owes a great deal of its foundations to men whose consciences were formed by fervent faith in God.

Who owns the deed on truth?

Certainly if you approach many of today’s scientists and scholars, they will boldly assert that the methodology and modes of science are squarely in the territory of the learned skeptic.  Many of those in the scientific community who do have a latent belief in the supernatural are encouraged to keep it buried, if for no other reason than job security.  If you happen to be so brazen as to suggest equal time or fair treatment to the “keepers of the truth”, you’ll be broadly painted with the pejoratives (and worse) such as used in the S&T article referenced above.

There should be more than ample territory for both science and theology.  When you get down to it, there isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) scientific truth over there, theological truth over here, and never the twain shall meet.  Truth is truth. The two camps have slightly different aims and purposes, and while faith can’t answer the very pointed scientific questions, it’s equally true to say that science cannot address the broader questions of existence (why are we here, what is our purpose, etc.?)  Like faith and reason, science and theology almost need one another to compliment and complete one another.

Who’s Side Are You On?

Brother Guy Consolmango, author of best-selling astronomy volume titled “Turn Left At Orion” and himself a man of both science and faith, made a statement in a video I recently viewed.  He said, “Science does not seek to prove anything. Science only observes.”  Assuming for the sake of argument this statement is accurate, then it seems to me that a great number of assertions are made by the scientific community that do not fit this criteria.  Among these are evolutionary mechanics; while I don’t whole-heartedly embrace the “irreducible complexity” model, there is merit to some of their protests—namely, how can evolutionary processes (which many state take hundreds or even thousands of generations to take place) adequately address the environmental requirements of species before they die off waiting for those changes to take place?

Now geneticists are quick to chime in on how much DNA we have in common with primates, and how this “proves” Darwinian-flavored evolution.  What often gets left out is that we also share a great deal of DNA with certain flora as well…neither of which is prima facie evidence that I am a monkey’s uncle or a distant relative of the rutabaga.

My point is, there’s enough wiggle room on the scientific side of the scales for honest inquiries (and yes, even protests) from folks who have alternative theories (many of which fit the observations of the established sciences better than the accepted models.)  No one is suggesting that we shoe-horn flat-earthers into the classrooms in the interest of equal time.  What is being put forth is the notion that, in the absence of irrefutable empirical evidence, other theories (even opposing theories) be allowed to be aired for consideration without a prejudiced rush to label opponents as “antiscientific” or “antiquated.”

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Comments»

1. Andy - April 26, 2010

I’ll bite…

I think much of the ‘outrage about intelligent design’ is in the fact that it is being taught in science class. Science class is not the place for religious/spiritual/philosophical issues. I personally take issue with various boards of education changing science curriculum to include ID. The reason behind such changes is veiled in ‘teaching kids that darwinian evolution isn’t the only explaination’, but what about all the other creation myths?

If educators feel the need to inform children about various other possible explainations for the universe, they must then either include them all, such as the hindu belief that the world is but a dream of a demigod sitting on a lotus flower (which I think is one of the most beautifully appealing philosophies actually) or none at all. And in any case, it should be presented in a comparative religion or philosophy class as religion is not science.

As it is currently, requiring ID to be taught in school under the greater scope of ‘science eduation’ sure smacks of a form of religious indoctrination that should be the domain of a church (or similar institution) and not of acadamia.

I do STRONGLY think that some kind of comparative religion or philosophy class should be part of all high school education however. The exposure to various world views would go a long way to at least partially eliminating the various forms of bigotry we see today. At my own high school, there were a few such classes offered as electives, and I was lucky enough to have a very well versed teacher on the subject.

I would however put some money on most of the powers behind the “ID in biology education” are not so much trying to expand young minds as it is to undermine the theory of evolution (sciences best explanation for the diversity of life as well as fossils and speciation, and a theory which has only been further reenforced through continued scientific discovery, i.e. DNA and genetics. The roots of which stretch all the way back to religious scientists such as Gregor Mendel)

And to the shared DNA between humans and flora, the basic building blocks of life (i.e. proteins) are fairly universal amongst organisms and thus the DNA coding for such chemicals will be universal amongst organisms, further evidence to support the idea of common ancestry as these chemicals are present in the most basic/’oldest’ known organisms. (I’m a bio-pharm major, 1/2 of my education is in DNA and genetics)


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