Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

The Lie of No Conflict Between Science and Religion

Posted by Clamence/The Chaplain on August 7, 2009

I ran across this great article by Sam Harris that addresses the Christian insistence that science and Christianity are not in conflict:
“The Strange Case of Francis Collins.”

Here is an excerpt:

Here is how Collins, as a scientist and educator, currently summarizes his understanding of the universe for the general public (what follows are a series of slides, presented in order, from a lecture that Collins gave at the University of California, Berkeley in 2008):

Slide 1
Almighty God, who is not limited in space or time, created a universe 13.7 billion years ago with its parameters precisely tuned to allow the development of complexity over long periods of time.

Slide 2
God’s plan included the mechanism of evolution to create the marvelous diversity of living things on our planet. Most especially, that creative plan included human beings.

Slide 3
After evolution had prepared a sufficiently advanced “house” (the human brain), God gifted humanity with the knowledge of good and evil (the Moral Law), with free will, and with an immortal soul.

Slide 4
We humans use our free will to break the moral law, leading to our estrangement from God. For Christians, Jesus is the solution to that estrangement.

Slide 5
If the Moral Law is just a side effect of evolution, then there is no such thing as good or evil. It’s all an illusion. We’ve been hoodwinked. Are any of us, especially the strong atheists, really prepared to live our lives within that worldview?

Is it really so difficult to perceive a conflict between Collins’ science and his religion? Just imagine how scientific it would seem if Collins, as a devout Hindu, informed his audience that Lord Brahma had created the universe and now sleeps; Lord Vishnu sustains it and tinkers with our DNA (in a way that respects the law of karma and rebirth); and Lord Shiva will eventually destroy it in a great conflagration…


3 Responses to “The Lie of No Conflict Between Science and Religion”

  1. Paulo said

    Slide 5
    If the Moral Law is just a side effect of evolution, then there is no such thing as good or evil. It’s all an illusion. We’ve been hoodwinked. Are any of us, especially the strong atheists, really prepared to live our lives within that worldview?


    • We immoralists!–This world that concerns us, in which we fear and love, this almost invisible and inaudible world of subtle commanding and subtle obeying, in every way a world of the “almost,” involved, captious, peaked, and tender–indeed, it is defended well against clumsy spectators and familiar curiosity. We have been spun into a severe yarn and shirt of duties and cannot get out of that–and in this we are “men of duty,” we, too. Occasionally, that is true, we dance in our “chains” and between our “swords”; more often, that is no less true, we gnash our teeth and feel impatient with all the secret hardness of our destiny. But we can do what we like–the dolts and appearances speak against us, saying: “These are men without duty.” We always have the dolts and appearances against us.


  2. Harris has a way with words:

    It is on this basis that the future head of the NIH recommends that we believe the following propositions:

    1. Jesus Christ, a carpenter by trade, was born of a virgin, ritually murdered as a scapegoat for the collective sins of his species, and then resurrected from death after an interval of three days.

    2. He promptly ascended, bodily, to “heaven”—where, for two millennia, he has eavesdropped upon (and, on occasion, even answered) the simultaneous prayers of billions of beleaguered human beings.

    3. Not content to maintain this numinous arrangement indefinitely, this invisible carpenter will one day return to earth to judge humanity for its sexual indiscretions and skeptical doubts, at which time he will grant immortality to anyone who has had the good fortune to be convinced, on mother’s knee, that this baffling litany of miracles is the most important series of truth-claims ever revealed about the cosmos.

    4. Every other member of our species, past and present, from Cleopatra to Einstein, no matter what his or her terrestrial accomplishments, will be consigned to a far less desirable fate, best left unspecified.

    5. In the meantime, God/Jesus may or may not intervene in our world, as He pleases, curing the occasional end-stage cancer (or not), answering an especially earnest prayer for guidance (or not), consoling the bereaved (or not), through His perfectly wise and loving agency.

    And to think, all it takes is belief in this…

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