A Scientist Speaks: Keeping Compartments Separate

by Jim Baldwin

 
I've been following the intensifying debate between the "Intelligent Design" folks and the supporters of evolution. Intelligent_Design  

One of the sources is some online material from The New York Times. They recently had a collection of articles here: http://www.nytimes.com/pages/science/sciencespecial2/index.html  

(You might be required to register to gain access but it is free for now).  

Another NYT article I found interesting was by Cornelia Dean: "Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science". http://flavor.berkeley.edu/39/Dean-NYT%20copy.htm She reports that      

...members of the National Academy of Sciences, perhaps the nation's most eminent scientific organization--fewer than 10 percent  professed belief in a personal God or human immortality.       

In the article a scientist named Francis S. Collins is quoted. He has considerable stature in scientific circles as he heads up the US Government's Human Genome Project. He is a long-time member of the American Scientific Affiliation. He is also a Christian. What he had to say offered something for believer and non-believer alike as he was once an atheist.  

He delivered an address here: http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2003/PSCF9-03Collins.pdf  

He no doubt is well-grounded in his scientific pursuits but I would suggest his atheism was not that of one who spent any time studying the subject. When he realized he needed to "be a little better grounded in my atheism" he didn't turn to anything that would help him in that pursuit. He really had no interest in the atheist arguments. He turned to a Christian minister who suggested he read the Book of John and "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis. (That advice is a little like learning about Fords by talking to a Chevrolet dealer).  

John's Gospel presents its own problems spawning hundreds of clashing commentaries.   

The Lewis book, written to the choir, has been helpfully critiqued here: http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/books/merechristianity.html

So here is a scientist who is a Christian and his spiritual basis is, "I realized that if there was a God, he was holy and I was not". That's it! That led him to, "I gave in and surrendered". That is hardly a reason to trash the atheist position. It is pure unconvincing subjectivism. It is not based on a careful examination of the atheist position and finding it lacking.  

He also is practicing compartmentalism. This is an aspect of human psychology allowing one to live life holding different concepts of reality separate. We in the WCG saw this in the examples of Herbert and Ted Armstrong. Both were powerful motivational speakers concering one interpretation of the Bible while in their faith compartment. But both had their sexual compartments where one could seduce his daughter and the son could live as a serial adulterer. They had separate compartments of reality. They could alternately live as saints and sinners depending which compartment they were in. (Bill Clinton was an excellent recent example. He could function as a successful Bible-toting President in one compartment and a lying adulterer in another. And the public was forced to compartmentalize depending on which compartment they focused on--the liberals on his  official life--the conservatives on his immorality).  

Now, Dr. Colins also practices a less offensive compartmentalization and he says so:      

Science explores the natural world. Faith explores the supernatural world.  If I want to study genetics, I am going to use science. If I want to understand God's love then that is where the faith world comes in.  

Here is a brilliant scientist who was trained to critically think and carefully examine evidence relating to his scientific discipline. That is one compartment. But that is all pushed aside in favor of his spiritual compartment where      

...faith has become the guiding light of my life.  

I submit that the few scientists who are believers in one or more gods are practicing the same thing. It reminds me of the observation that a person schooled in quantum mechanics may not know anymore about philosophy than an auto mechanic.  

Lets move on with Dr. Collins' thinking in his rational scientific compartment.  

He believes in evolution:      

Evolution tells us that humans and mice diverged about 80 million years ago.      

We seem to be engaged in a contentious, destructive and wholly unnecessary debate about evolution and creation. From my perspective as a scientist working on the human genome, the evidence in favor of evolution is overwhelming.      

Outside of a time machine, Darwin could hardly have imagined a more powerful data set than human genomics to confirm his theory.  

He questions the Bible:      

Problematically, a literal translation of Gen. 1:1-2:4 brings one in direct conflict with the fundamental conclusions of geology, cosmology, and biology.  

On "Intelligent Design":      

While not offering strong evidence against Intelligent Design, the study of   genomes offers absolutely no support either.   I view Intelligent Design ideas as an intriguing set of proposals, but I do not view them as the kind of threat to evolution that its most vocal proponents imply.     

My brief examination here of what a scientist believes has been most helpful to me, a non-theist. Once again I am confirmed in my position because a highly educated scientist explains why he believes and it is irrational and emotional. It's all about feelings, not facts.  

Well, I don't want to compartmentalize as I did in the cult, keeping my critical thinking and my belief without evidence (faith) from clashing. For twenty-five years in the WCG  I lived in make-believe helping to keep inflated the Armstrong soap bubble. For me it finally popped in 1992.  

As always, I welcome all comments whether private or posted.  

Jim Baldwin [email protected]               

"Science should be taught not in order to support religion and not in order to destroy religion. Science should be taught simply ignoring religion".

                                                              Steven Weinberg
                                                            Physicist and Nobel Laureate