Of course I'm liberal, I believe in liberty.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

New Science Links

I've been meaning to write set of posts to demonstrate the true success of the theory of evolution and rebut the claims of the creationists, but I quickly discovered the debate had gotten more sophisticated since the last time I've looked into it. Sure, I can take on the easy stuff like false idea evolution violates the second law of thermal dynamics, but I don't have a great understanding of, say, mitochondrial DNA versus nuclear DNA in determining the phylogeny of organisms1. Anyway, while trying to track down the many answers I needed I found several fantastic sites on evolution that have no problem getting down and dirty with the creationists to fight the good fight for truth, justice and so forth. I've linked those that made the best first impression over on the left under the title Science along with the godfather of blogs, Edge.

For tonight let me link to a fantastic post dealing with the relationship between science and religion:
Is religion consistent with science? Well, it obviously is in one sense, as many scientists have religious commitments of various kinds. The question is, are scientists with religious convictions, or believers who accept science, rational in their views? Strong and strident atheists say no.

An article that was quoted on talk.origins, included this statement:
Was the world created exactly as it says in the book of Genesis, or is the theory of evolution a more accurate account? Not every faith that includes Genesis among its Scriptures feels compelled to debate the matter.

For the vast majority of Jews, any discrepancy between science and faith was pretty much settled 1,100 years ago, said Rabbi Steve Vale of Congregation Ha-Makom (The Jewish Community of Solano County).

Saadia Gaon, a Babylonian rabbi who helped codify Rabbinic Judaism, resolved the conflict, Vale said.

"Saaida Gaon said that if there is scientific evidence of something and it contradicts what Torah (Scripture) says, the Torah can't be wrong and science can't be wrong. I'm wrong. I'm interpreting it wrong," the rabbi explained.
Rabbi Gaon seems to me to represent here the rational reconciliation of a religion with a scientific claim that appears to contradict the foundation of the religion. It is a very rational approach to take. You have a community-supporting document that provides you with moral and cultural identity, which you don't want to lose (particularly if you are Jewish in an Islamic world, as the good Rabbi was); you have a commitment to learning about the world through investigation. The only way to rationally reconcile these is to assume that you are the source of the problem. Kuhn noted a similar issue in science - the failure of a cherished theory would be blamed on the tools and tool user, rather than the theory.

This has allowed most theist communities to adapt to information about the world, albeit slowly and reluctantly in many cases. This is why theists do not have to reject evolution - since truth cannot contradict truth on their approach (i.e., the world is coherent and rational... think of the impact of that on the western evolution of science), they must be making the wrong interpretations. Personally I think that's a very good way to deal with the incommensurability of the two "sources" of knowledge.
If neither can be wrong, I must be wrong. Beautiful. Even if you believe God is unchanging that doesn't mean we are unchanging; we are growing up.

1Heck, I didn't even know what phylogeny meant2 a few days ago, but don't tell anyone. That sentence makes me look really smart.

2Although I certainly knew the difference between mitochondria and nuclear DNA; I wasn't born in the back woods yesterday or anything!