Tag Archives: Philosophy of religion

Is Keith Ward really that naive about science?

Credit: Jesus and Mo

I am really amazed by some of the rubbish theologians and philosophers of religion think they can get away with when talking about science.

The Guardian article Religion answers the factual questions science neglects is just one recent example. It’s written by Keith Ward, a professorial research fellow in the philosophy of religion at Heythrop College, London. With these qualifications I would have expected something much better.

He loosely bases his arguments on Stephen Jay Gould’s concept of Non-overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) (see my post Overlapping Magisteria? for a brief description of NOMA). Ward claims:

“Many religious statements are naturally construed as statements of fact – Jesus healed the sick, and rose from death, and these are factual claims. So Stephen Gould’s suggestion that religion only deals with value and meaning is incorrect, though it is correct that scientists do not usually deal with such questions.”

Here are some points

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Not about Einstein

Book Review: Einstein’s God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit by Krista Tippett

Price: US$10.88; NZ$12.97
Paperback:
304 pages
Publisher:
Penguin (Non-Classics) (February 23, 2010)
Language:
English
ISBN-10:
0143116770
ISBN-13:
978-0143116776

The media reports of Stephen Hawking’s new book with co-author Leonard Mlodinow (The Grand Design) attracted hostile reaction from some theological quarters (see The Grand Design – neither God nor 42). This reminds me of similar treatment meted out to Albert Einstein in his time.

Einstein had many religious critics for an article of his on the philosophy of religion in 1940. An Episcopalian responded “to give up the doctrine of a personal God . . . .  shows the good Doctor, when it comes to the practicalities of life, is full of jellybeans”. He was accused of providing fuel for the fanatical antisemitism of religious bigots and told that he should “stick to his science” and stop delving into philosophy (sound familiar). And this from the founder of the Calvary tabernacle Association in Oklahoma City “Professor Einstein, every Christian in America will immediately reply to you, ‘Take your crazy, fallacious theory of evolution and go back to Germany where you came from.”

Perhaps some of today’s scientists who hesitate to respond to their theological critics could learn from Einstein’s reaction. While criticising atheist reaction he described his theological critics as “numerous dogs who are earning their food guarding ignorance and superstition for the benefit of those who profit from it.”

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