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Science and Religion

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Written by Basil on 12/15/2003 7:18 PM. Filed under:

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This is in reference to a discussion about the Intelligent Design movement also ocurring on OrthodoxyToday Blog. S.F. Danckaert writes in response to Fr. Hans Jacobse’s response to my comment on an earlier post.

I guess, at some point, we must define our terms. What is Darwinism? Who are Darwinists? Most biologists would not, I think, describe themselves as “Darwinists,” even though natural selection is an inveterate part of their science.

I recognized that we were talking about more than simply natural selection when Fr. Jacobse identified “Darwinism” as a cosmology. Natural selection, as a model for evolution, does not entail spontaneous generation (though Lamarck’s acquired inheritance, an earlier model of evolution, explicitly entailed spontaneous generation in large measure) or anything else before the dawn of biological life.

Philosophically, the quesion always comes down to: What kind of knowlege do the natural sciences give us? And how do they acquire that knowledge? Currently the answer is, “Through empirical data and experimentation,” except for sciences like archaeology and paleontology which obviously gather data outside of experimentation. Thus, the primary feature of scientific knowledge is its empirical verifiability.

Thus, you can see that a philosophical question requires an answer a priori, if only implicitly, before we can begin the scientific enterprise. To answer this question about empirical verifiability in the positive excludes non-empirical realities like God, souls, angels, demons, and the like. Not because they are not real or not subjects of true knowledge but because they are not empirical.

What is the weight of God? What is the appearance of the soul? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? These questions are silly not because their subjects are silly, but because they are absurd, like asking, “What shape is blue?”

Science attempts to describe the natural world in terms of the natural world. Is such an enterprise incompatible with religion? Is it consonant with religion? The battle over “evolution and creation,” however it gets hashed out, regardless of which labels are used, seems to be mostly about prolonging the Modernism/Fundamentalism debate. Both sides were aberrant in that fight. It seems that those who are still fighting in terms of “Darwinism” or “evolution” versus creation (as if they were opposed) are trying to find some middle ground: some scientific pursuits are compatible with religion, but some are not.

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5 Responses to “Science and Religion”

  1. pete Says:

    this is a well-tated reflection. my only question is: what are you doing in the military? you should be at seminary.

  2. Chris J. Davis Says:

    Seminary does not a Priest make. God makes priest’s we just follow along behind and say, “oh yeah, look at that he is a priest.”

    Basil is doing the work needed to start down that road of servitude and “lowering” to the priesthood, and it is good, hard work, not to be entered into lightly or hastily.

  3. basil Says:

    Indeed. Both of you speak well. It is certainly flattering for a seminarian to tell me that he thinks I would do well in that environment. However, I need to take care of my debts and then, if it is God’s will, I will pursue seminary. I fully intend to attend a seminary, simply because I believe that to be the next step, in view of my own strengths and interests. But, every Orthodox seminary makes it clear that ordination is not automatic with the granting of the degree. St. Vladimir’s states it in this manner: “The degree of Master of Divinity does not make a student automatically eligible for ordination in the Orthodox Church. In questions of ordination, the various Orthodox ecclesiastical jurisdictions are governed first of all by the universal canons of the Church. In addition, each jurisdiction may set further requirements which must be met by its candidates for holy orders. While the seminary faculty may recommend a seminary graduate for ordination, the final decision rests exclusively with the hierarchy of the Church.”

  4. pete Says:

    yes–seminary does not a priest make. but there are other reasons to go to seminary besides becoming a priest. i didn’t go to seminary to become a pastor, for example. seminary is primarily (at least, it was for me) a good place to spend some time doing some serious thinking and studying about God–which is what “theology” at its root really is.

    if your only goal is the priesthood, and not also your own personal and spiritual formation, i would suggest that you rethink your direction, as seminary isn’t the same as, say, a technical college.

  5. basil Says:

    Excellent advice. Very well said.