The Good News About Science, Scientists, and Everything Else

(system) #1
In a world full of conflict, scorn, and exploitation, Christians should offer a different vision of what Creation is meant to be.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(George Brooks) #2

I find Andy Crouch’s article is a little confusing. He writes:

“Why is the “conflict thesis”—the idea of a “warfare” between science and religion—so entrenched, even though it has been so comprehensively debunked?”

How could I go any further with this article?

What has been debunked are three (maybe four?) clichéd instances of “Fake News in History” where some heroic individual has persevered (or been martyred) just because of his science - - and the “bad guy” is usually presented as the Roman Catholic church.

But this is not the same as de-bunking the entire “Conflict Thesis”. Why?
A) Because the Roman Catholic Church threw a pretty large net over people who wrote science books. And they maintained a list of banned books until the 1940’s or so. [I do not have a specific date for when the last book of science was taken off the banned list, if ever.]

B) Several Evangelical denominations have stepped into the place of the Roman Catholic Church to continue the conflict between Science and Religion. Which is ironic since the Vatican has become a relatively enthusiastic supporter of Science and scientific themes (including Evolution!).

For the sake of completeness, let me list the de-bunked examples of Conflict Thesis so that we can better understand what is left of the conflict:

  1. Christopher Columbus did not fight against “flat earthers”, his geographical battle was between “Small Earthers” and “Big Earthers”. He thought it was small, and he and his crew all would have died if it wasn’t for the fact that North America was more or less where Columbus thought China should have been. Instead of being a champion of science, we might venture the idea that Columbus was the Luckiest Man Alive. Despite being incredibly wrong, he managed to survive his bad calculations. However, he still retains (and deserves) the old adage about him:

“Columbus: He didn’t know where he was going when he set sail. He didn’t know where he was he got there. And to his dying day he didn’t know where he had been once he got back!”

  1. Bruno was not burned alive by the Church [just] because of Bruno’s views on science. He was executed in this monstrous way because he was a Religious Heretic. Since the Conflict Thesis is restricted solely to questions of science, that gives Bruno the sad distinction of being the most famous person, horribly murdered, that “Conflict Deniers” don’t cry over because he mixed his religion with his science [which, ironically, is what we here on BioLogos boards also do on a daily basis].

  2. The great Library of Alexandria is not to be mourned for its destruction by Christian rioters - - not because there weren’t Christian rioters but because most of the destruction to that library had been wreaked generations earlier:
    the bulk of the Library’s collection was lost in fires (intentionally or unintentionally) during Emperor Aurelian (270–275) suppression of Queen Zenobia of Palmyra who ruled Egypt for 5 years (AD 269–274). Of course, there is no disputing the fact that any public library collection of pagan works that still existed at the time of the riots would have been destroyed then anyway.

Setting these three notorious episodes aside (and maybe 1 or 2 others that escape my memory for the moment), it would appear the trauma of Conflict is still alive and well… at the hands of Protestants rather than the Vatican!

How do we know? Because a group like BioLogos has to exist!

(Albert Leo) #3

Our doctrine is also not a machine. Christian doctrine is not a set of rules that rigidly and repeatedly generate exactly the same results in every time and every place. Of course, we have powerful evidence of God as known in Christ. But we are still learning, and should still be learning. We don’t have a mechanical doctrinal system, and we should not if God is really a living God. Because machines, as Dorothy Sayers put it, are dead. They are fixed. But God is not the God of the dead, he is the God of the living.

It is so reassuring–but rare–to find this Truth so clearly expressed by a reputable Christian scholar like Andy Crouch. [quote=“gbrooks9, post:2, topic:36161”]
“Why is the “conflict thesis”—the idea of a “warfare” between science and religion—so entrenched, even though it has been so comprehensively debunked?”
I can understand why George took exception to Andy’s statement that the ‘conflict’ between science and religion has been debunked. The key here is the tense. Only lately has it been debunked. If I dared to express my current beliefs in the Rome of the year 1600 (and had the influence of Giordano Bruno), I would have risked the wrath of the Inquisition. I consider myself fortunate that in today’s intellectual climate, the charge of heresy is not punishable by immolation. At worst I am charged with being a “cafeteria Catholic” or I subscribe to “situation ethics”, but I’m not considered a danger to society. What actually IS a danger to society is the _inflexibility_ of the three ‘Abrahamic’ Faiths. In the current Atomic Age we must find ways to actually accommodate differences in beliefs, not merely give lip service to some unachievable ideal.
Al Leo

(George Brooks) #4


Great words. Great sentiment.

But I should mention that I am aggravated by the “debunked” sentence because the conflict has not been debunked. Some clichéd scenes may have been debunked… the really popular ones. But the problem remains completely intact - - that men of religion think that they know Natural Law better than scientists because of a 3000 year old book. The Conflict is red and raw still …

Karl Giberson used to tell me how there was really no conflict between Religion and Science. I would listen, and I would ask: “do you mean you are trying to convince people to end the conflict? Or that you really think there is no conflict?”

He nodded… “the latter”. “You’re kidding?” I said. He wasn’t. And yet, with this fundamental belief that there really wasn’t a conflict, he dedicated a magazine to fulfill that. And it was not fulfilled. And he left his position at his beloved school… because the conflict is still taking its victims.

In the Victorian era, men and women used religion to justify a new version of the Flat Earth theory. There was no Columbus. But there was also no Pope to blame. These people used every philosophical and quasi-naturalistic technique they could to prove and sustain that the Earth was flat - - Because the Bible Told them… and so they had to believe it.

This is the tragedy of what the Bible does to some people.

So I think about the basic wisdom and dignity of the average Christian Evolutionist who doesn’t do anything fancy … he or she doesn’t make any special equation of the mind, or assessment of Platonic images … they simply believe that Jesus doesn’t need for them to believe in 6 days of creation.

And in those millions of minds and millions of hearts … there is the core of salvation, without entanglements of what must have happened thousands of years before their arrival on this Earth.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #5

In our society there seems to be fascination with struggle and conflict.

We have faith and science, liberals and conservatives, Black and White, rich and poor. Darwin believed that evolution, life itself, was based on struggle and conflict.

It seems that Christianity is not based on conflict and struggle, but cooperation and harmony. Trump shows us where conflict leads us. Poeple need to stop listening to him, and listen to Jesus for a change.

Malthus and Darwin even managed to make God’s abundance the basis of conflict, which is. The problem is not the amount of resources, but the management of resources.