TIME magazine on Science vs. God

TIME magazine had an immensely stupid article called “God vs. Science” on the cover of its Nov. 13, 2006 issue. They couldn’t even decide who the combatants were in this supposed duel. Right off the bat, they confuse science with “Darwinism” and religion with “God”. Then they make the ludicrous suggestion that science might not be able to “withstand the criticisms” of Christians.

The article does make the somewhat useful point, however, that the “debate” may be becoming more polarized (as in my opinion it should), although there are also now more “informed conciliators”, by which Time apparently means people who believe in magic but have letters like PhD after their names.

Unfortunately, Time chose not to actually report further on the subject—which encompasses minor topics such as, oh, how a scientific explanation of religious belief and experience could affect the history of the world, including Islamic terrorism. Instead, it printed a painful dialog between Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins (Wikipedia), eminent genome decoder and devout Christian.

Painful because of how stupid Collins sounds. He starts off by rolling out the tired old theory about God setting the machine in motion, “activating evolution” at the moment of creation of the universe (or at least all parts of it other than Himself), but in this contorted version apparently having foreknowledge of everything including the ridiculous discussion itself. Somehow, this is supposed to reconcile God’s omniscience with free will. Of course, God didn’t want to make things too easy for us, so he hid all the clues to His existence—which is why Dawkins can’t see them! God tweaked the universal physical constants so we could exist (what were they set to before?). The existence of God satisifies Occam’s razor, since it’s such a simple explanation—God made everything! Collins accuses Dawkins of holding an “impoverished view of the kinds of questions we humans can ask, such as ‘Is there a God?’”. But if by this he means Dawkins thinks such questions are invalid, he’s just wrong. Of course Dawkins’s view is that humans can ask such questions. He simply answers them in the negative.

But wait! Collins now zigzags and says God, instead of being the Guy that sets up the model train layout and twiddles the knobs, is actually “something incredibly grand and incomprehensible and beyond our present understanding.” But if that were the case, how could we understand Him fiddling with the gravitational constant or setting evolution in motion? And then suddenly he has God not just setting things up at the beginning, but micromanaging miracles like the virgin birth, because “it was a particularly significant moment for him to do so.” Collins is also apparently ignorant of all the recent research on human ethics and altruism, continuing to flog the old notion that only God can make us ethical.

Collins concludes:

…there are answers that science isn’t able to provide about the natural world—the questions about why instead of the questions about how. I’m interested in the whys. I find many of those answers in the spiritual realm. That in no way compromises my ability to think rigorously as a scientist.

So now, finally, God is reduced to the concept of all the Unknown Stuff Out There. And it doesn’t compromise Collins’ ability to think rigorously that he believes in the resurrection (but not, of course, in the creation story in Genesis; which he says cannot be interpreted “narrowly”, was not “intended as a science textbook”, and is actually “very consistent with the Big Bang”).

Collins asserts that God provides the answer to the “why” questions, presumably of the “why are we here” variety. But he never explains what those answers are, how there could be such answers, or what the nature of those answers might be.

Collins should have followed the advice he quotes St. Augustine as giving, warning against a very narrow perspective that will put our faith at risk of looking ridiculous. If he had, he would have skipped this whole discussion. That would have let Time do what it should have in the first place, which is to actually report on the issue.

9 Responses to “TIME magazine on Science vs. God”

  1. Seven Star Hand (LW Page) Says:

    Hello Bob and all,

    Here’s my two bits on this intractable debate. Hope you and others can appreciate my efforts to provide a key to a true solution for humanity’s seemingly never-ending cycle of struggle and despair.

    Analyzing the Creator Debate

    Did you ever consider that atheism arose because certain people saw that religious characterizations about the nature of an omnipotent “God” were seriously flawed and then concluded that religion and the Creator were the same things? This is the exact same conclusion at the base of religious beliefs; namely that the Creator and religion are inseparable. Consequently, both atheists and religious followers are arguing over a flawed assumption without considering that other possibilities negate the common core conclusion of both groups. These arguments are actually over religion and whether it represents a reliable model of reality. The answer to this question is of course not. Religion is not only flawed, it is purposely deceptive! Though atheists are certainly sincere in their conclusions, the fact remains that they and religious followers are locked in a debate that cannot be won by either side because both base their positions upon whether the same flawed premise is the truth. In order for this debate to conclude with a truthful answer, a greater level of discernment is required.

    One apt clarifying question is, if someone tells lies about you, does that negate you or make you a liar or a lie? Certainly, the image cast about you would be a false one, but that is their image, not the real you. Consequently, faulty religious assertions about the Creator of this universe do not negate the existence of a Creator. Considering the possibility that this universe is not by chance leaves the door open to how it arose, which leads us to seek what could have created and maintained it. Since neither religion nor science has yet adequately answered this question, it is safe to conclude that those who argue about the Creator based on either are most certainly wrong about one or more aspects. Therefore, another point of view and additional knowledge are required.

    Read More…

  2. DavidD Says:

    It’s true what was said in the above comment. No religion is reliable. Its stories break down for anyone of normal skepticism sooner or later, to be papered over by some mystery one can accept or reject.

    Then atheism has its limits, too, though those limits are far away from everyday life.

    So what is one to do? I think it is useful for Time to have published Francis Collins’ attempt to have both evolution and a micromanaging God in his world view. I don’t think that works, as your criticisms illustrate. It’s good for people to see that.

    I wish there was anyone, theist or atheist who would write a book I can agree with completely. Yet they all seem to lack some experience I have had, technical or spiritual, and seem to see people like me as their enemy, whether theist or atheist. At some point I gave up looking for a good book any more than I look now for a good theory of everything from physics. If one comes along, I’ll hear about it. I might be content to be an atheist now having lived my life in science, but in my thirties I started praying for help for problems in my career and marriage. And help came. Anyone can insult that as anecdotal, but it wasn’t anecdotal to me. And as a scientific observer of human behavior, it’s not something trivial that will just disappear from human culture.

    That help has continued through something I don’t understand, but call God. I doubt that God created the universe, but who knows? We only know what we touch somehow, even if only in our consciousness. To have faith in anything beyond that requires something we touch be trustworthy. Francis Collins isn’t that for me. No author is, except for some bits and pieces they say that I’m sure are true, but only because of what I already know, not faith.

    I have faith in God. God has been trustworthy for me to create that faith, God being whoever and whatever it was that answered when I prayed, “God help me!” If that is my delusion, OK. If not, it is something that is not going away.

  3. Juuniji Says:

    People should learn the truth about god. They can’t hide under the covers. People shouldn’t believe in what’s not real.

  4. EdZehoo Says:

    I usually find arguments of this sort inconclusive in any way. The truth is, no one will know for sure, and no one will ever find out. Period. To exert one’s opinion over another, by force or by logical argument is a waste of time as it proves nothing.

    For me at least, science is a good teacher to turn to for answers logical as far as the mind can accept, and religion a good therapist for the soul when there is nothing else to turn to.

  5. alex Says:

    sir,
    i am a deaf and i have suffer a lot in my life because of deafness but God have done nothing to me but let me suffer. But now my deaf is partially cured due to science and i now fully support science and i hate God.
    Than k you,
    yourfaithfully,
    alex rongmai

  6. Sam Says:

    Science and God,
    If u look at god, if u look at the Bible, the Qu’ran, etc etc, and u try and follow it logically, you will go in circles, and circles, never finding a down to earth answer.
    Now look at science, yes, i will give people who believe in God, science can not prove everything, and somtimes science is proven wrong, but what science tells us, has FACT behind it. god does not have fact.god has faith, and if u follow ur life through faith, it is like walking across the road with ur eyes closed, ur trusting that the other person will stop.
    You can live ur life like that if u want, but i will rather trust fact, not faith, and look to see any cars that are coming down the street, it is alot less dangerous, agree?
    But. what god, religion in general does teach us, is how to act, now, to me that is self degrading, You should know that killing somone is wrong, stealing is wrong, sleeping with ur neighbours wife is wrong too, etc etc, then again it isnt that simple is it?
    So all in all, science and religion go hand in hand, if we follow science, trusting in our facts, but also know when science can goto far, example,human cloning.
    that to me is how the two groups should act.

  7. RulingClass Says:

    David. WE are the gods. When you prayed and things got better, what you didn’t realize is that you were actually praying to yourself. Praying is tantamount to a big pep talk to yourself, except just in a round about way which goes full circle. Why do we have so many questions? I’ll toss you a theory: We have been everywhere for millenium. Done so much, seen almost everything there is to see. Know virtually all there is to know. I can imagine that would get boring after a while plus it’s more enjoyable having a body ie. sex, food, drink, smoke etc. So we create a game. We hitchhike a body in vitro. because after all, we’re beings without substance ie. flesh, we are souls. The game is to forget everything, an amnesia if you will, learn everything anew. Game ends when we die but we can always re-enter the game when we get bored again. Kind’ve like a WestWorld or such. Where did we come from? Who cares. It is an incontrovertible fact that we’re here. Plus, we’ll know everything again, as soon as this game is over. I think of life as a fun game because that’s precisely what it is, a game. Because I do not believe in “One God”, I believe we are all Gods, and our actions give or take away from the next embodiment, that keeps me from bad acts. Karma really does stick with us, that I know.

  8. get1949 Says:

    Well, I’m a bit perplexed. First of in the original post…I stopped reading as I got tired of the sophomoric ad hominem attack. If one is smart enough to bring ideas and words from ones ‘brain’ (and can use a keyboard and spellchecker) then how about attacking the subject rather than the person pecking on the keyboard?

    “Science Vs God”? So what’s so bad about that subject? It certainly is in the news lately especially with the WMAP and COBE satellite experiments. Then there are too very interesting DVD’s out “The Privileged Planet” and “The Case for a Creator” (dial the names into Google and be a curious human with an open mind and an inquisitive ‘spirit’).

    Then how about the science with the irreducible complexity and the books by Michael Behe?

    and lastly (mainly because I think most of you are narrow minded – especially the “deaf” guy who “hates God”…by the way then God must exist…seeing as how you’ve given Him your ability to target for hatred!)…there is a very interesting current best seller out there on the market. called “What’s So Great about Christianity” it is by Dinesh D’Souza. and it is very open minded and looks back at history with some very interesting insight. If you are all so prejudice (about God…mainly) I hope will at least give Dinesh a chance and not think him incapable of writing or speaking seeing as how you have all certainly figured out that with such a name he ‘must’ speak and think funny. Then IF this be the case put his name into http://www.youtube.com and look and listen to his conference debates and when he was on Hannity and Combes. I think even the likes of you all will find him worth the time.

    (for the ‘deaf’ guy…go research on the internet WHY there is evil in the word and with the subject of “fairness” to.). Frankly, if you think you’ve got it so bad then you need to go look at the children’s cancer ward in Boston. I believe all you really need is some cheese and crackers to go along with your whine…ing. The best way to get out of your complaining is to go do something for someone else (you won’t do that…this I know) but IT IS THE WAY OUT. We humans are very interesting creatures able to appreciate music and art and imagine and love and hate (your focus)….we have a concept of fairness (now just what is ‘fairness’ when the world is just a big wind-up-toy that has no thought for anything. As meandering molecular mistakes that randomly hiccupped itself into ‘existence’ why are any of you even concerned about this subject? You should be doing your Darwinian ‘thing’ to better your ‘stay’ here on this chancy orb called Earth and rape pillage and burn to better your chances to extend your line of the species and then to diminish those of your rivals. Come on you apes-from-hell why are you even caring about anything…if you must ‘think’ then think of this: Why is there something rather than nothing?…and then go ask the stars for the meaning of why you are the former rather than the later.

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