Monday, November 30, 2009

And Your Point Is...

Today's Spokesman Review brings us a strange piece written by David Masci, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum. The title, "Science, Faith Aren't Mutually Exclusive," indicates to me it's about people who understand the science and have faith in a religion. Well, sort of.

A century and a half after Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection,” the overwhelming majority of scientists in the United States accept Darwinian evolution as the basis for understanding how life on Earth developed. But although evolutionary theory is often portrayed as antithetical to religion, it has not destroyed the religious faith of the scientific community.

Hmmm, so the main point of this article is the faith of the scientists.

According to a survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, conducted by the Pew Research Center in May and June this year, a majority of scientists (51 percent) say they believe in God or a higher power, while 41 percent say they do not.

Furthermore, scientists today are no less likely to believe in God than they were almost 100 years ago, when the scientific community was first polled on this issue. In 1914, 11 years before the Scopes “monkey” trial and four decades before the discovery of the structure of DNA, psychologist James Leuba asked 1,000 U.S. scientists about their views on God. He found the scientific community evenly divided, with 42 percent saying that they believed in a personal God and the same number saying they did not.

And it ends with this:

As for Darwin, his letters indicate that he was probably an agnostic who lost his faith not because his groundbreaking theory was incompatible with religion, but because of his grief after the 1851 death of his favorite child, his 10-year-old daughter, Annie. And even then, he may not have completely rejected the idea of a higher power. The concluding sentence of “Origin of Species” speaks of a “Creator” breathing life “into a few forms or into one.” The passage raises at least a little doubt as to how the father of modern evolutionary theory might have responded to the question on belief in Pew’s recent survey of scientists.

I'm baffled. What is the purpose of this article, get people to think that Darwin may have believed in God after all? That scientists may not be all wrong because some of them have faith or believe in God? What difference does that make? If you want to talk about the effect of faith on science and science on faith, then focus on this paragraph in the article.

And the public does not share scientists’ certainty about evolution. While 87 percent of scientists say that life evolved over time due to natural processes, only 32 percent of the public believes this to be true, according to a different Pew poll earlier this year.

Well, there's yer problem right there. Barely one-third of the American public believe the theory of evolution to be true. I could get into all the attempts the faithful have used to stifle the science involved, but that has been thoroughly documented over the years.

Interestingly, Buddhism gives its members a way to avoid the dogma trap. In "The Universe in a Single Atom", the Dalai Lama described how at age twenty he began a systematic study of Abhidharma cosmology, an important part of the Tibetan intellectual landscape. It describes a flat world around which the sun and moon revolve which he knew to be false.

He stated there is a dictum in Buddhist philosophy that to uphold a tenet that contradicts reason is to undermine one's credibility; to contradict empirical evidence is a still greater fallacy.

Now there's something you can believe in.

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