I have a few words in response to Linda’s comments in the My Turn article ‘GOD BLESS AMERICA’? I JUST LIKE THE TUNE (Newsweek Dec 10).
While it is unfortunate that Linda feels uncomfortable with the current religious air that is more apparent in our society right now, (e.g. President Bush talking about God so openly and having a prayer meeting in the White House prior to delivering speeches), she now has an idea how many Christians (and those of other faiths) have likely felt over the last decade or so. (Since I myself am Christian, I will limit my response to that from a Christian perspective and will not assume to know what other religious perspectives may say regarding Linda’s article, though I imagine they may have similar thoughts.) I feel like I can’t even say “God bless you” to somebody when they sneeze without possibly causing somebody nearby to tell me I’m not being PC. It has even gotten to the point where I don’t know if I can simply say, “bless you.” If I’m in a crowded place, I may not say anything at all. I hope that Linda takes note of what she’s feeling right now so that she may be empathetic in the future when the pendulum comes reeling back her way. I don’t think Linda has anything to worry about when it comes to freedom from religion. I know that I would never want to live in a society where a religion was forced upon me, even if it was one I happened to agree with philosophically. However, I don’t think that many people understand that there should also be freedom to practice religion. But, this is not my main concern with the article Linda wrote.
It is interesting to note that it appears at least one impetus for Linda’s article is that she feels slighted, to some degree or in some fashion, based on the President’s lack of suggesting methods other than prayer for dealing with the current crisis of our nation. Linda must therefore be referring to some “universal” appropriateness [certainly, she wouldn’t think that she is the only one who “feels” uncomfortable with the apparent religious fervor currently prevalent in our nation] that she feels the President didn’t follow. To suggest that this ethic, if you will, was simply passed on by parents and societal influences doesn’t really answer the important question of where this concept first originated. The reason for this line of reasoning lies in the generally held view that, by and large, our current civilization tends to be more moral than past civilizations, though there is still room for improvement. But, how can one say that one civilization is more moral than another or can still improve? There must be some standard being utilized to make such a statement. C. S. Lewis deals with this concept quite well in his book Mere Christianity, so I won’t bother to try and restate his argument for something beyond our “natural” existence. Besides, Linda not looking at this particular root (or underlying logic) of her opposition to Bush’s statements is not what I am interested in as a main concern.
Linda made a comment regarding her father’s profession as being one based on physics and logic, since he was a scientist. Furthermore, her father taught her about the solar system and Newton’s laws of motion. The manner in which these statements are made suggest that she believes these concepts (i.e. science and logic) to be incompatible with Christianity, or at least religion. In other words, I imagine she subscribes to the following statement (or something close to it in meaning): science deals with empirical facts, whereas faith and religion are matters of the heart (i.e. beliefs devoid of factual basis). While certainly faith, by definition, means belief without proof, to think that there is nothing beyond this concept of faith for Christians is incorrect. My main contention is that science and religion are compatible pursuits.
To see how I could possibly suggest this (in light of the way society currently understands “science” [e.g. Judge William Overton’s opinion in McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, 1981 - science is primarily a study of naturalistic causes]), I first want to start with a point of irony. In Linda’s statement regarding learning, from her father (a scientist, she points out), Newton’s laws of motion, I notice that she didn’t mention this fact (perhaps her father didn’t tell her or was unaware himself): Isaac Newton was a Christian. In fact, Newton spent a great deal of time studying the bible: he devised rules for its interpretation and wrote of fulfillment of biblical prophecy in the events of human history. It may surprise many that the eminent scientist credited with laying the groundwork for our currently used scientific method, Sir Francis Bacon, was also a Christian. Following is a brief list of other well known “forefathers” to our enlightened understanding of the sciences who believed in God: Rene Descartes (I think, therefore I am), Johannes Kepler (astronomy), Blaise Pascal (fluid mechanics and geometry), Galileo Galilei (astronomy), Michael Faraday (electromagnetism and electrochemistry - it’s worth noting that Faraday desired to inspire a sense of awe and wonder of God in his lectures and demonstrations), James Clerk Maxwell (his work in electricity and magnetism eventually gave rise to what is now considered to be the basic equations of electromagnetism: Maxwell’s equations). I don’t think any of these scientists believed they had to “check their brain” at the door as they entered a church - a common view among many people. Even Charles Darwin, considered to be the founder (though others before him [e.g. Lamarck] had similar ideas) of evolution (in all its elastic usage) was Christian, albeit an angst-ridden one. Except for Darwin, none of the aforementioned scientists had any problems with reconciling their scientific understanding with a belief in God.
I’d like to now to make a note about Darwin and his theory of common descent or evolution. I’m sure Linda subscribes to the belief (yes, I would say belief, not fact) that human beings came into being billions of years ago by some chemicals coming together while sloshing around in some prebiotic soup that was zapped by lightning. Certainly, Urey-Miller’s 1953 experiment proves this, doesn’t it? Well, after nearly fifty years of repeating these experiments, I believe the scientists have only been able to come up with four amino acids (that’s four out of the twenty or so required for life). Once this experiment was publicized, all the naturalists gloated that they were right all along - we humans are nothing more than a chance occurrence in the constant historical tinkering of evolution. But, this is like claiming you’ve finished a puzzle when you have just a few pieces clumped together here and there. Nearly 150 years after Darwin’s work, where is the “inconceivable” number of transition fossils that should be present in the fossil record containing approximately 250000 species? Why would such prominent scientists as Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge come up with a theory of punctuated equilibrium? I think it’s because the fossil record does not support neo-Darwinist’s view of evolution: over nearly five billion years, the gradualistic transition of micromutations lead, eventually, to macromutations which brought about all the forms of life we see on earth. In fact, when we begin to look at life at the molecular level, it is extremely complex. Not only complex, but irreducibly complex, as molecular biologist Dr. Michael Behe notes in his book Darwin’s Black Box. Irreducibly complex systems, such as the blood clotting mechanism, cannot function without all of its components. In other words, there are no “simpler versions” from which the blood clotting mechanism can “evolve”. Recall that in general, naturalists claim that we came from simpler beginnings, but that natural selection took advantage of various random mutations and, therefore, provided the driving force for the complexity that we see now. But irreducibly complex systems, such as the eye and how vision actually occurs, fly in the face of such a statement: there are no simpler versions of these systems from which to begin the evolutionary process.
With the recently achieved milestone in the human genome project and our ability to clone biological entities, naturalists claim that there are not many “big items” to be discovered; it’s just a matter of filling in the details. However, there still has not been any reasonable method by which DNA could be formed in the first place. Recall that what gives DNA its incredible codifying power is the ability for the four bases to be in any sequence; that is, there is nothing dictating which base must come after a previous base. This is contrary to typical molecules or crystals that exist in their most stable arrangement. Given this information, how does a chromosome come into existence in the first place? Certainly the nucleotides and how they bond their adjacent chromosomal neighbor is interesting and worth detailed understanding. However, scientists’ reductionist view causes them to overlook the most obvious: the sequence of the nucleotides contains information similar to that of the Morse code.
One could say that the genetic code is an example of complex specified information. Using this letter as an example of the important point, the information contained within it does not depend on the medium. I could view this letter on a screen made up of pixels, print out a hard copy with ink on paper and even transfer the information in the form of data on a diskette. The form of medium doesn’t change the information (though it certainly changes how one may view or obtain the information), nor is it the underlying cause of the information. Therefore, to suggest that based on our reductionist knowledge of genes and their constituents that there is nothing else to learn about how life occurs is missing the big picture! How does information come into being? If we were talking about a sentence formed by the Morse code, we would quickly say that some type of intelligence was the originator. Why can’t the same be said with biological systems?
This is what the Intelligent Design (ID) movement is all about. ID is forcing the naturalists to lay their hand on the table and say how Darwinian processes may bring about the complexity so evident in life. In the past, neo-Darwinists just made grandiose statements and relied on what is effectively a circular argument to support their statement. They still do this, but realize that as more is learned about the biochemical complexity of life, the more it is apparent that Darwinian processes are not capable of producing what is seen and understood.
A final comment I’d like to make regarding Linda’s exposure to Christianity. It is apparent that her mother attended what I would refer to as a “fire and brimstone” church. Certainly, if that was all that was ever preached, I probably wouldn’t be a Christian either. To focus on God’s justice and separate it from His love I think is a big mistake that many of these churches often commit. In fact, after talking with a friend, I would come to agree with what he mentioned regarding posting of the ten commandments at public school or other state institutions: don’t do it. The ten commandments are purely judgmental with the way in which they are often presented, and lose some of their context when the passages in the bible just prior to them are neglected which deal with God’s love for his people. Furthermore, for Linda to base her view on this limited childhood exposure to Christianity seems a bit ludicrous - I would say you shouldn’t judge a philosophy by its abusers (and I think that “fire and brimstone” churches often abuse the Word of God and use it like a club to hit people as opposed to educate).