Monday, October 8, 2007

Can intelligence and faith coexist?

James Martin -- a Jesuit priest, not the former North Carolina governor -- writes in the International Herald Tribune that you don't have to choose between being intelligent and being religious.

"The heart of the atheist argument over the irrationality of religion," he writes, "is that it is foolish to believe in something that cannot be proven." His response: "Why should we believe that anything our reason cannot grasp does not exist?"

Exactly.

My reason fails to grasp many things, from quantum physics to how a teenager's brain works. The world is not always a rational place, and thank God for that. The irrational, the paradoxes, the surprises that require a leap of faith -- these are all things that give life its vibrancy and meaning.

Yes, intellect matters. Logic matters. I've never trusted any house of worship that required its members to leave their brains at home. But the beginning of faith is the acknowledgement that there is more to the universe than mere reason can comprehend.

That's not foolishness, it's humility.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lets just say that the amount of faith and amount of intelligence in a person are usually reciprocal numbers. The true intellectual is the agnostic, because he's smart enough to doubt without proof, and honest enough to keep an open mind despite that.

Who's the better person, someone who accepts religion on blind faith without question, or someone who searches all his life for the answer that he knows will never be proven, but wants to believe so badly that he never gives up searching?

And what is it with the fish symbols on cars? The worst drivers on the planet always have one.

Anonymous said...

The topic of the sermon at my church yesterday was Atheism, and the minister quoted an author (I forget his name, sorry) who said "I don't have enough faith to be an atheist." What he meant was that to be an atheist, one would have to believe that the earth and the entire universe, every animal and plant and human beings and the planets and invisible forces of nature, it's all random and that there's no unseen hand controlling or designing everything. And that's harder to believe than the idea that there is someone (God) with a grand plan, which is what I believe... and don't ask me why I believe that, there are just too many examples of when I reached out for help and He was there. Don't get me wrong, I've had plenty of crises of faith, and I still do have a lot of questions and doubts (mostly about what happens after we die.) But every time I've been questioning and just gave up and asked God to guide me, I've ended up doing the right thing.

Gamecock said...

Amen Jane

Humility is the point of Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Most of the colleges and universities in the US were founded by Christians.

Finally, one of the best expositions on the intersection of reason and the Christian faith was given by Pope Benedict XVI in his speech at Regensburg, Germany last year in which he was trying to convince Europes non-believers that they have a stake in judeo-christian values which made the tolerant society they love possible.

see link

http://www.guardian.co.uk/pope/story/0,,1873277,00.html

God bless

Anonymous said...

Why has no one brought up the Templeton Foundation yet? Sir John Templeton has been bringing all aspects of science and spirituality together for quite some time, with amazing results. Google his interview with Charlie Rose or check out the templeton foundation's website if you're interested(one way, or another).

Anonymous said...

I am reading your arguments and I am certain you all have faith in Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM for short), right? I am sure you are all Pastafarians, right?

No? Why not? Your reason cannot grasp it so does it exist? Based on your reasoning about God FSM must exist.

Jane, about quantum physics... just because you can't grasp it it doesn't mean someone else can't. That is the main difference between quantum physics and your God. And for the rest, just because we can't grasp something now it doesn't mean it is forever out of our reach. Science did great progress in last couple of hundred years and there is no reason (unless it gets repressed by religion as it was in the past or still is in some regions of the world) why it will not do more progress in next 200 years.

You can hide behind humility all you want if your arguments can be used in the same manner to defend the existence of FSM or Invisible Pink Unicorn, then you are bringing forth wrong arguments.

No, science and faith can not coexist, anyone doing both is forced to compartmentalize.

As far as the person who claimed that true intellectual is agnostic. That is not true. Just because we can't disprove thing it doesn't equally make it existing. Yes we can't disprove God, but we can't disprove FSM either. So are you agnostic in FSM too? Do you give any chance of existence of tooth fairies? After all, you can't disprove them either, so there is this chance they exist?

And for the one who had sermon on atheism, all I can tell it your minister has no clue really. No, things are not random. Evolution is not random, neither is universe. I would be happy to educate your minister so he can publicly apologize to his congregation on his ignorance. Is he willing to do so when I explain (so he can grasp) the difference between randomness of changes and selection process? (I am assuming that randomness was told in reference to evolution because in 99% it is.) I mean seriously, 90% of high school kids in Europe know better then this (educated?) minister.

Sincerely,
Iztok

D.J. said...

"The heart has its reasons which reason cannot know." - Blaise Pascal

If one says that intelligence and faith cannot coexist, one must be ignorant of the fact that modern science stands on the shoulders of giants such as Galileo, Newton, and Pascal (among many others), who were men of deep faith. The assertion that intelligence and faith cannot coexist is just downright silly, for it flies in the face of history and of reality.

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." - Psalm 19:1

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

"Wisdom is the knowledge of one's own ignorance."

Faith, be definition, is the acceptance of something that cannot be proven. Intelligence is the recognition of what has been proven.

Understanding the difference between knowledge and faith, you can easily believe evolution as science and intelligent design as philosophy. The two are easily reconciled if you understand that each belongs to a different (and specific) discipline.

(And we'll not get into creationism here. That's a whole other subject.)

Anonymous said...

DJ,

glad you've brought up Pascal. He is infamous for his Pascal's wager. As you well know it is not really a prime example of a smart thing to say. So just because Pascal was genius in his field doesn't make him right in everything. (Pascal's Wager is example of false dichotomy.)

Perhaps readers could benefit from term "Appeal to Authority".

Sincerely,
Iztok

D.J. said...

Iztok,

The point was, as you have affirmed, that Pascal was a genius. You asserted that science and faith cannot mix. Yet Pascal like countless others throughout history has embraced Christianity while demonstrating reason and great intelligence. I don't find Pascal's wager as the best argument for faith (the Christian life is more than a "get-out-of-hell-free card"), but that is immaterial - the topic under discussion is "Can faith and intelligence mix?" You say no, I say (and have demonstrated) that flies in the face of evidence.

BTW: I think another great thinking Christian, C.S. Lewis, took the underlying idea of "Pascal's Wager" and expressed it much better...

"Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, is of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important."

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

Iztok seems to have failed to grasp the definition of the agnostic.

"That is not true. Just because we can't disprove thing it doesn't equally make it existing." -Iztok

Agnostics do not draw conclusions. They admit they do not know the answer. And, yes, a true agnostic wouldn't totally dismiss the FSM's potential existence, although it wouldn't get a very high probability.

What I want to hear is a discourse on whether or not agnostics get into heaven.

Anonymous said...

Lets take a look at Bp. J.-S., the current Presideing Bishop of the Episcopal Church. She has a Ph.D. in (I think) Marine Biology, and is thus living proof that science and faith can coexist.

Science tells me what and how.
Philosophy tells me why.
Faith tells me who.

Anonymous said...

DJ, as I said, science and faith can only co-exist if person compartmentalizes. Lets fast forward from old times to today. How many members of The Royal Society or National Academy of Science are religious? Most likely very small percent. Where can we today find the most brilliant scientific minds? In US it is NAS.

How many published scientific research papers in peer reviewed magazines do we have from religious people?

Fact today is that top scientists either reject religion altogether or they are forced to compartmentalize.

Sincerely,
Iztok

D.J. said...

Iztok,

"DJ, as I said, science and faith can only co-exist if person compartmentalizes."

If you are going to make that assertion, let's see some evidence. How did Pascal compartmentalize his faith? Newton? What about modern minds like Dembski? Behe? On what grounds to you say that these highly educated individuals "compartmentalize" faith and science?

Just because you assert that you find science and faith incompatible does not make it so. Let's hear some specifics before we exclude people of faith from the scientific table.

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

DJ, are you seriously bringing Behe into a debate? If so, lets talk about him as he is good example. Show me list of his research papers posted in a peer reviewed scientific magazines so we can discuss them.

We don't know what Pascal (or Newton) would have done today but back then they didn't have much of a chance to say differently, did they? Just look at the story of Galileo when he was forced to admit something else then the truth when religion threatened him.

Now lets step back to Behe for a second:

http://www.lehigh.edu/~inbios/news/evolution.htm

"The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of "intelligent design." While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific."

So what do you say about Behe? His main "theory" is not even a scientific theory. So how can you claim he does scientific works if no other scientist on this planet involved in the same field of study would say that?

Faith by definition is unexamined...so in that sense it has to be among the shallowest of experiences. In science we don't deal with unexamined. Hence by default if you are proponent of both you have to compartmentalize.


Sincerely,
Iztok

D.J. said...

Let me get this right - since most of Behe's peers reject his work, it is thus unscientific? Because he was the "sole dissenter" in his department, he is wrong?

Let's go hypothetically back in time, shall we?

"The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of geocentricity, which has been supported by findings accumulated over 3000 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Galileo, is a well-known proponent of "solarcentricity." While we respect Prof. Galileo's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that "solarcentricity" has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific."

Keep in mind, Galileo was himself a Christian - it wasn't faith itself he fought, but a corrupt Roman Catholic church.

Your assertions do not hold up to reality. Faith is not unexamined." The Bible is testable historically and archaeologically. In fact, the New Testament is the most attested document of antiquity, with over 14,000 manuscripts in existence. 2nd place? Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey." Manuscripts in existence? 643. My faith is one rooted in historical truth, not the blind, stupid, "Flying Spaghetti Monster" caricature you paint.

You say that faith and science are incompatible, and that one who holds to both must compartmentalize. Yet many of the great scientific minds through the centuries have been drawn to science BECAUSE of their faith.

BTW: For those interested, a documentary is due for release in February exploring the refusal of Darwinistic scientists to even interact with the "intelligent design" crowd. Obviously I haven't seen it, but it looks interesting. www.expelledthemovie.com

Soli Deo Gloria

Cato said...

Faith by definition is unexamined...so in that sense it has to be among the shallowest of experiences.

Indeed! Why, just the other day I was listening to Bach's Mass in B minor and it occurred to me how shallow he must have been to have written such an inconsequential ditty...

Anonymous said...

DJ,

please show me just one published scientific article in scientific journal about intelligent design.

Behe didn't publish any, neither did Dembski. We have an established working system of research in science.

Further more neither Behe or Dembski ever formulated scientific theory out of Intelligent Design. They present no positive evidence for it.

As far as the Bible is concerned. What do you mean? No Jesus contemporary every recorded his miracles (all were written way after) and most later were shown as severely doubtful (some even known forgeries).

For example there is no evidence of 40 years "pilgrimages" in the desert (for merely 200 or so miles!). There is no recorded evidence of walking zombies in Jerusalem during resurrection. I've actually been to Jerusalem and seen places where things supposedly took place. There is a marble (or some form of stone I can't remember what type at this point) slab where Jesus supposed to be laid upon after he was taken from the cross. People are touching it and "feeling the presence of Jesus". When I've asked how did they determine this was the right stone, they told me that this is not the right one they just put something there. When I've asked how many artifacts that were shown in Jerusalem and Bethlehem claiming having something to do with Jesus are actually real, they've admitted that as far as they know the answer is zero. (That was actually a historian guide I've spoke to.)

There is zero evidence for validity of the Bible outside of the Bible. Even the events of Easter are conflicting within (about times, places, people ...).

Not to mention talking serpent! You can't really think that one is true, can you?

But lets return to Behe, please provide me a link to his scientific theory so we can see if we can talk science or not. (Document MUST fit the bill for proper scientific theory.)

For the person who said about "faith tells us who". Can you please tell us who and before you answer, make sure that at least most of people with the answer to the same question agree with you?

BTW: Expelled (the movie) authors really did an "honest" approach as they've lied to the people they interviewed about the real intentions. There are several prominent scientists that were coerced. I am sure you can find references on the web.

Sinerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

Iztok,

I know it consumes us Atheists at times - the need to explain to these people why they are so undeniably wrong. But believe me, give it up. In a thousand years they will still believe the same. If some guy walked across the water of Lake Norman and brought a drowned man back to life they would nail him to the cross all over again. It's all so very silly. Don't let it get to you like it use to get to me. Let them live their life and you go on living yours.

I am sure you have read Sam Harris ?

D.J. said...

I think its a bit odd to claim that since Behe and Dembski are shunned by the (thouroughly philosophically Darwinistic) scientific establishment that their ideas have no credibility. As I pointed out earlier, by your criteria Galileo wouldn't have qualified as a scientist in his day. Throughout human history, innovation has been pioneered by rebels, by those on the outside looking in. Either Behe and Dembski's critiques of Darwinism are correct or they are false. Truth, however, is not determined by a majority vote. Truth is truth.

On "Expelled," I was just bringing that to the attention of the curious reader. Haven't seen it (though I have read the criticisms you mention, and there are two sides to every story), just think it will be interesting.

I think I've already spoken to the Bible issues you raise. I'm going to purposely resist chasing that rabbit and keep this post on topic. Faith and reason can (and do) coexist. All truth is God's truth.

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

Soli Deo Gloria,

So says "you".

Doesn't mean it's so Bud.

D.J. said...

Anon,

Not really sure what you refer to. I assume its my assertion that faith and reason can coexist. Is that true because I say it is? Of course not. But I think I've provided some compelling examples of that truth at work in the real word. Considering those examples (Newton, Mendel, Galileo, Pascal, Decartes, Hooke, Boyle, Kepler, Dalton, Carver, Behe, Dembski), care to explain why its "not so?"

BTW: Soli Deo Gloria isn't a name, its a declaration of purpose - "to the glory of God alone."

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

DJ,

I take it you still can't produce a link to single instance of "ID Theory" by Behe and Dembski that would qualify as science?

C'mon if you claim they do scientific works, you could at least point us to their scientific explanation of "ID theory". Can you?

My $100 says you can't find any that would fit criteria of scientific theory and is published in a peer review scientific journal.

Even judge in the Dover case pointed this out.

What Behe and Dembski do is NOT science. (At least when it comes to ID.)

Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

http://ecusa.anglican.org/78694_ENG_HTM.htm?menupage=75517

I was not quite right. Her Ph.D. is in Oceanography, not Marine Biology; still, she is both a scientist and a woman of faith.

Anyone who wonders how these can coexist should take it up with her.

Anonymous said...

Here are some numbers:

28 percent: Atheists with post-graduate degrees or professional training.

15 percent: Non-atheists with post-graduate degrees or professional training.

1.3: Atheists' average number of children.

1.95: Non-atheists' average number of children.

3 percent: Atheists who are "strong Republicans."

16 percent: Non-atheists who are "strong Republicans."

Source: 2005 Baylor University Religion Survey and Barna Group

Also, oceanography is easy, as it doesn't contradict the holy writ. Have she been biologist it would be another story.

Sincerely,
Iztok

Stephen Lee said...

OK, so atheists have fewer children on average than non-atheists. Is that an example of natural selection or sexual selection?

And while I'm at it, I believe that I am a great scientist, like Behe. I've never published a peer-reviewed scientific paper, I've never managed to come up with a scientific theory, I believe in God, and while I wouldn't say that quite everything seems so intelligently designed, I think the universe is pretty slick.

As for compartmentalizing, well, that's pretty much how we all get on with life, work, family, etc.

The minister quoted didn't quite get it all right, in that no one really suggests that it all happens randomly. Things follow natural laws and principles, not that we know them all perfectly yet, but we keep working on it. That's what science is for. But I do agree with the basic point, because it is a real stretch for me not to see at least a design behind the orderliness.

Belief in God doesn't necessarily mean that you believe that God has to micromanage everything. Behe and his ilk use a bit more subtle form of the old "god of the gaps" argument that since there is something we don't understand, then there must be a god or FSM or something that takes care of it.

Now the ID folk say they don't really use this argument because they assert that we will never understand those gaps, that they are unknowable, but somehow the subtlety of that escapes me. And we've filled in so many of the gaps over the centuries that it is hard for me to accept than anything is ultimately unkowable.

But beyond that, the argument reduces the wisdom, majesty, and grandeur of God to a mere tinkerer who couldn't get it right on the first try and has to keep tweaking things to make them work right.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say but life exibits no design quality.

Just look at the human eye, if this is work of a designer, it is a mighty poor work at best. Yes it works, but who would have designed it such way that photo sensing area would be behind non-photo sensing? Show me an engineer that would do that. While human eye is a grand feat non the less it really doesn't show design features other then of a "blind watchmaker".

Sincerely,
Iztok

Anonymous said...

Iztok, according to this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oceanography, Oceanography includes biology and chemistry.

Anonymous said...

Interesting survey result:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20071011/od_nm/asteroid_dc;_ylt=AoqfOOeaHa2eMX4pUbbXoisSH9EA

When end is near only 3% turns to prayer.

Sincerely,
Iztok