I don’t get to nerd out about rocks very often, but last Tuesday I had a lot of fun talking to some local primary school kids about Volcanoes. Subsequently I have had some conversations which suggest that this kind of thing is not normal. There’s something in the air that tells us that God and science don’t go together.
In my world this is nonsense. Lots of my clerical colleagues have first degrees in scientific subjects. In fact I am not the only Baptist Minister in the West of England Baptist Association who has an earth sciences degree from the University of Sheffield and a Theology degree from London School of Theology! The previous minister of our local Methodist church was a former nuclear physicist. Bill Bryson’s brilliant popular history of science ‘A Brief History of Nearly Everything’ begins with a chapter called ‘Reverend Evans Universe’ about a genius Methodist minister who holds the world record for visual discoveries of supernovae. Clerics don’t seem to think that Science and religion are enemies…..
And neither do many scientists… Plenty of members of our churches have higher degrees and jobs involving science on a day to day basis. An atheist friend once told me that the Cambrian explosion of life does away with the need for the creation narratives of the bible. In response, I noted that one of the most senior palaeontologists in the UK with specific expertise in the Burgess Shale fauna (probably the most famous Cambrian explosion of life fossil fauna), Professor Simon Conway Morris, IS A PROFESSING CHRISTIAN. The most famous palaeontologist of them all (and as far as I know, the only one to appear in the Simpsons), Stephen Jay Gould said ‘Unless half of my collegaues are dunces, there can be – on the most raw and empirical grounds – no conflict between science and religion.’ Lots and lots and lots of scientists hold to the Christian faith and other faiths.
So how did we all learn that science and faith do not go together (every school kid seems to know this).
I’ve blogged previously about the rise of Young Earth Creationism in the 1920s, but that is only half of the story.
God is very inconvenient. He likes fair trade and equal treatment of human beings. He has standards for personal relationships, corporate finances and social care. So, if you’d like to justify infanticide or modern slavery, late payment of invoices, relationship-free sex or the neglect of the needy etc, God cannot be your pal. It would be much better for you to ignore him until you feel aggrieved about the cards the random universe has dealt you, briefly wheel him out of the cupboard as a scapegoat and then bolt the cupboard and carry on as before. It seems to me that this is precisely what popular secular humanism does. We’re all told that science has killed God (which means we can do as we please) and that it’s OK to simultaneously blame God for all the bad stuff people do. This seems to be a dominant meme (thanks Richard) derived from secular humanism in our culture, which allows us to do away with the inconvenience of God.
So Richard Dawkins shouts about science killing God and how we can now do as we please. Ken Ham shouts back about how the bible disproves science and how science leads to wickedness and depravity. And meanwhile normal, moral, sensible, Christians (some of whom are scientists) and normal, moral, sensible scientists (some of whom are Christians) quietly go about their daily lives. Maybe it’s time normal, moral, sensible people started shouting down this ridiculous meme. Meanwhile I was glad of the chance to talk Vulcanology with a bright eyed group of year 4s.