Thursday, April 26, 2007

The God disunion: there is a place for faith in science, insists Winston

The God disunion: there is a place for faith in science, insists Winston, The Guardian, James Randerson, April 25, 2007 ...

[Left: Lord Winston: Lecture The Science Delusion, University of Dundee]

His nickname is Darwin's Rottweiler and he earned it - and a reputation that spans the globe - with his pugnacious defence of the theory of evolution. But Professor Richard Dawkins' strident views, and the way with which they are delivered, came under surprise attack yesterday from an equally eminent scientist, though one better known for his more avuncular style. Lord Winston condemned Prof Dawkins for what he called his "patronising" and "insulting" attitude to religious faith, and argued that he and others like him were in danger of damaging the public's trust in science. He particularly objected to Prof Dawkins' latest book, The God Delusion, which is an outright attack on religion. "I find the title of 'The God Delusion' rather insulting," said Lord Winston, "I have a huge respect for Richard Dawkins but I think it is very patronising to call a serious book about other peoples' views of the universe and everything a delusion. I don't think that is helpful and I think it portrays science in a bad light."

Lord Winston, an IVF pioneer well known as the presenter of science documentaries ... will argue for a more conciliatory approach to religion in a public lecture at the University of Dundee tonight. Entitled The Science Delusion, it is part of the university's Greatest Minds lecture series. "The reason I've called it the Science Delusion is because I think there is a body of scientific opinion from my scientific colleagues who seem to believe that science is the absolute truth and that religious and spiritual values are to be discounted," said Lord Winston. "Some people, both scientists and religious people, deal with uncertainty by being certain. That is dangerous in the fundamentalists and it is dangerous in the fundamentalist scientists."

Lord Winston, who is a practising Jew, said the tone adopted by Prof Dawkins and others was counterproductive. "Unfortunately the neo-Darwinists, and I don't just mean Dawkins, I mean [the philosopher] Daniel Dennett in particular and [neuroscientist] Steven Pinker are extremely arrogant. I think scientific arrogance really does give a great degree of distrust. I think people begin to think that scientists like to believe that they can run the universe. He added: "I have a huge admiration for Richard Dawkins. But I'm not sure that his way of approaching his view of the universe is wise. Dawkins is not an arrogant man, but I think he does portray certainty in a way that sometimes sounds arrogant".

Prof Dawkins declined to comment on Lord Winston's criticisms until he had seen the full text of the lecture. However, Prof Dennett at Tufts University in the US, said, the dangers of religion had been "swept under the rug" for centuries and needed to be exposed. "[I] think it is time to risk offence and not mince words. Let's find out just how good, or bad, religion actually is," he said. The philosopher AC Grayling at Birkbeck College, London, dismissed Lord Winston's arguments as "tiresome guff". "Belief in supernatural entities in the universe ... is false, and in the light of increasing scientific knowledge about nature has definitely come to be delusional," he said. ... [Lord Winston's criticism of hardline atheist Darwinists like Dawkins, Pinker and Dennett is welcome, and indeed is correct "that he and others like him were in danger of damaging the public's trust in science" (since the vast majority of the public are theists).

However if he was a consistent "practising Jew," Prof. Winston would accept that there is a God and He has supernaturally intervened in human history, including appearing to "Moses ... Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel" (see `tagline' quote).

This is the dilemma that theists like Winston have in modern science, which is overwhelming dominated by atheist/agnostics. If they affirm that God is real and has in fact intervened supernaturally in human history, then they are also affirming that the twin metaphysical pillars of modern science: materialism (i.e. "that the only thing that can truly be said to exist is matter") and naturalism (i.e. "nature is all there is, and all things supernatural ... do not exist") are false.

As for Prof. Grayling's claim that "Belief in supernatural entities ... is false, and ... delusional," it cuts both ways. If there is in fact a God and He did in fact appear to "Moses ... Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel" (not to mention all the other supernatural interventions of God in human history documented in the Bible), then it is Prof. Grayling and his scientific materialistic-naturalistic ilk who are "delusional"! And since Christianity is true, it is Prof. Grayling, along with all those who deny that fact, who are, to that extent,"delusional"!]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).

Exodus 24:1, 9-10. 1Then he said to Moses, "Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, ... 9Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. 11But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

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