To: All Msg #152, Jul-14-93 10:42AM Subject: Re: Creationist fallacy (was Re: Yes-or-No: a

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

From: Matt McIrvin To: All Msg #152, Jul-14-93 10:42AM Subject: Re: Creationist fallacy (was Re: Yes-or-No: another try) From: mcirvin@husc8.harvard.edu (Matt McIrvin) Message-ID: Newsgroups: talk.origins jgacker@news.gsfc.nasa.gov (James G. Acker) writes: > I'd be interested in reading excerpts from this article if you >can post them. The article in question is "More scientists look to divine" by Anthony Flint, Boston _Globe_, 12 July 1993. It's actually a slightly balanced article, including, near the end, a number of quotes from scientists hesitant to endorse the supposed trend toward theology in science-- like most of those quoted, they were a cosmologist, and astronomer, and a physicist (Alan Guth, Margaret Geller, and Steven Weinberg). Only one identified biologist was quoted in the whole article. There's a lot about Smoot's famous remarks about COBE that's probably not of interest to the readership here; I'll quote some of the rest... [My comments are in square brackets.] ************************************************************* More Scientists Look to Divine Theology regaining new status in efforts to explain new data By Anthony Flint, Globe staff Later this month, equal numbers of scientists and theologians will gather on a breezy island off Portsmouth, N.H., for a seven-day conference. The subject: the increasingly frequent intersection of science and religion. Professors at Harvard and Gordon College, meanwhile, are working on a new documentary series for public television on the origin of the universe, which they describe as an answer to Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" with a slightly theistic spin. A Nobel laureate, noting how close subatomic physicists are to isolating the source of all matter, writes of finding the "God particle." [This is a garbled reference to the Higgs particle; Leon Lederman has written a book about it bafflingly entitled _The God Particle_, a title which enraged some people over on sci.physics.] Some evolutionary biologists conclude that the development of complex, conscious life was all but inevitable-- and, perhaps, the result of a grand design. [...Much text deleted, about cosmic background and the origin of the universe, slightly hyperbolic IMHO...Quotes from astronomer Owen Gingerich and physicist Joel Primack about the possibility of a role for interpretation and for theological issues...] A majority of scientists, however, scoff at the drift toward religious ponderings and scold colleagues who engage in it for wandering off the practical-thinking reservation. Almost everyone concedes that some scientists have thrown around religious metaphors and the term "God" as a way to draw publicity to their research or to sell books. The popular media are as coconspirators, all too willing to identify a brain-teasing trend. Some theologians are eager to promote a religious component for science. The most cynical observers say that certain church leaders are touting the interface of science and religion to reverse dwindling membership-- whether they be creationists or New Age reverends hawking holistic salvation. But for whatever reason, if the mantra for the '60s was God is Dead, in some ways in the '90s, God has never been so much alive. "There are more conferences going on this summer than there have been in 20 years," said Rev. Philip Hefner, director of the Chicago Center for Religion and Science at the Lutheran School of Theology and an organizer of the meeting of theologians and scientists on Star Island off New Hampshire later this month. "Is it now respectable for a scientist to admit he or she is interested in these questions? Yes," Hefner said. Although there is by no means consensus in the scientific community, he said, "it is for real. There are scientists who take this seriously, and they're not dummies." [...More about the cosmic background fluctuations deleted...Mention of George Smoot's famous comment about the face of God, and his subsequent embarrassment...Now, here's the part you've been waiting for...] Advances not only in cosmology but in other fields have contributed to the interest, scientists say. Some evolutionary biologists, for example, have been grappling with the question of how the molecules that led to intelligent, self-aware living things first formed-- and a consensus is growing that it wasn't entirely random. "Discoveries in biology in the last 20 years present a whole new world view, a whole new stage on which to think about origin and creation," said Ursula Goodenough, a geneticist at Washington University in St. Louis. Goodenough, president of the 40-year-old Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, said scientists should not be reluctant to consider the divine in studying the evolution of complex life. She likens overcoming this reticence as "bringing people out of the closet." Some mainstream scientists fervently disagree, saying that science and religion should remain strictly separate fields of inquiry[...] [Rest of article deleted] **************************************************** That's all the article has to say about biology; there are no opposing viewpoints presented from biologists about abiogenesis. The rest consists of statements about the lack of scientific connection to religion from Guth, Geller, and Weinberg, then a comment by Tufts physicist Robert Chaisson about how the whole business may make scientists less arrogant. Steven Weinberg's quote is particularly noteworthy: "I've been very careful to avoid any implication we're going to find out something about God thorugh scientific research... As far as we can tell, discovering the laws of nature at the deepest level... gives us no hint of anything like a personal God who's concerned with human beings." All in all, though it's written in newspaperese and has a dearth of opposing viewpoints on biological subjects (it's mostly concerned with cosmology), it's a less hysterical effort than could have been expected. However, in an inset box there's some less temperate text [my comments in brackets; the rest is from the page]: ****************************************************** Pushing the envelope Three fields where science is brushing up against the divine COSMOLOGY [Picture of spiral galaxy-like object emitting strange cartoon lines, like Nancy astonished at some gaffe of Sluggo's] The discovery of "wrinkles" in radiation last spring all but proved the Big Bang theory, giving scientists hard evidence of the expanding universe shortly after its initial explosion and whisking them closer to creation. But if everything started as a tiny hot ball, where did the ball come from? EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY [Silhouettes of-- you guessed it-- dinosaurs] Increasing evidence of a hyper-drive natural selection process, and new theories on the genetic development of such traits as flexibility, altruism and self-awareness, have led some to conclude that the evolution of complex systems was all but inevitable-- perhaps even pre-designed. PARTICLE PHYSICS [Picture of five spherical objects with arrows attached to them pointing in different directions, like a textbook illustration of the kinetic theory of gases] Scientists searching for the Higgs boson-- the ultimate form of matter, dubbed the "God particle" by one physicist-- may be on the verge of discovering fundamental new laws of nature. But will a "final theory" reduce all phenomena to explainable parts-- or suggest a mystical new whole? ******************************************************* That's it. I find it bizarre that people are calling the Higgs boson "the ultimate form of matter," but that's another story... -- Matt 01234567 <-- Indent-o-Meter (mod 8) McIrvin ^ The Hula Hoop of the 1990s!

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank