Topic: SCIENCE & NEWS
On certain Arguments to Bring Scientists to Court
A Short Note
Freedom of Religion versus freedom of Science has again become a hot issue. I have seen in the web-site of the Earth Science Associates that a certain man and a certain organisation have filed a suit against a number of individual scientists and academic institutions. I shall not quote the names of either party here, although the reader can access the web-site mentioned above and see them. The Plaintiffs demand trial by jury for a number of the issues pled, arguing that the Defendants have violated their civil rights, i.e., have infringed the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
As I do not know what really happened, I cannot comment on the case. But the web-site mentioned above contains a text with some of the main intellectual arguments of the Plaintiffs against the Defendants. I would like to consider two of such arguments from a more general point of view, not attached to the specific legal case. The two excerpts are from this link.
First, let me quote the part of their arguments that seems valid as an intellectual position:
Over the past several decades, the vast majority of both the academic and governmental science community has come to regard the "big bang" theory of the universe's creation as irrefutable fact. The scientific community has been extremely effective in disseminating this particular theory throughout the world. Until recently, this dissemination has occurred with virtually no dissent. Without such dissent, the major medias of the United States have reported this theory as scientific truth, influencing not only the taxpaying public, but also legislators in Congress who use this information as the basis for funding an increasing number of astrophysical projects. The federal and state governments have invested mammoth sums of money in such programs in the hope that the mysteries of the "big bang" theory will ultimately be revealed.
Now let me quote the part that for me sounds nonsensical:
Recently a small, but growing number of scientists, have advanced theories and offered evidence suggesting that the universe was indeed created in conformity with the literal text of the Bible. This "creationist" theory postulates that science and the Bible are not in conflict, and that indeed science supports the theory of a Biblical creation by God. These creationist theories have met with considerable skepticism, derision and open scorn by the mainstream scientific community. Many in this community see the creationist theory as not merely a philosophical threat to the "big bang" theory, but also a scientific threat, which if successfully validated would undermine the evolutionary science foundation, which has been considered the starting point for all astro-physical and cosmologist studies. Decades of "established" evolutionary theory would be subject to scientific refutation, potentially creating a scientific reawakening among the public and media. Consequently, there has been a concerted effort by academic and governmental theorists and researchers, as well as certain government officials, to suppress the creationist idea.
The first argument points to a real issue, specially in regard with the manner mass media tend to present scientific theories as absolute truths and unproblematic solutions. Perhaps, the big-bang theory is not better than any model of Universe that presupposed the existence of a giant turtle carrying our world on its backs, except for the crucial fact that the big-bang has been based on objective evidence and more complex theoretical reasoning. But the point is how the Plaintiffs establish a cause and consequence relation between the two arguments. They fail to do so on intellectual grounds.
Assume that a scientific theory T has problems p(1)...p(n). It does not follow from p(1)...p(n) that the best substitute for T is a religious taught. The fact that T has p(1)...p(n) problems only means that T has a number of problems to be considered. A solution to any of such problems must come from a precise formulation of the alternatives to T and not from the choice of the references.
Furthermore, for anthropological reasons, a holly book and its teachings cannot be reduced to a set of mere competitive scientific theories. Firstly because religious teachings and scientific hypotheses are not comparable things. Secondly and most importantly, religious teachings are and must be sacrosanct for the society wherein they are embraced, while scientific theories are not and cannot be. A scientific theory like the big-bang does not challenge any Religion and is not intended to do it. In the same manner, a sacred book like the Genesis does not offer an explanation to the formation of the Universe, nor is it intended to do so. It is not a book about Biology or Cosmology, as the Exodus is not a History book.
The general purposes of any holly writing are spiritual and ethical. The story of how Moses liberated the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt matters because of its meaning and not because it actually happened. Its message is clearly against slavery and unlimited power. In the same manner, the Genesis is about the spiritual questions that have been part of men's lives since ever. The story the expulsion of Adam and Eve, for instance, contains a very deep reflexion about human existence: man kind cannot live a paradisiacal existence, like the irrational animals, because humans know the difference between good and evil. None of these stories and their teachings can be compared or confronted with current scientific theories.
This is not a question of believers against atheist. An atheist can perfectly understand what a holly book says, whilst a believer may misunderstand it completely. In the case of those believers that want to reduce their sacred writings into scientific manuals, it can be said that they may have an abundance of faith, but, from my humble point of view, they seem to lack understanding in crucial aspects.
In any case, although the intellectual debate may be interesting, I would suggest that scientists tried to discuss their different points of view with humanity, dignity and mutual respect and comprehension among themselves and preferably out of Courts. And, perhaps, for the benefit of general audiences and the freedom of thought, it would be interesting if some independent organisation built an internet archive with papers by authors from several denominations (not only Christians), who want to propose their own creationist theories in accordance with their construal of their respective holly books.
Posted by Tony Marmo at 02:17 GMT
Updated: Thursday, 30 December 2004 02:32 GMT