Are Science And Religion Compatible?

Yesterday, this blogger had the opportunity of attending a private gathering with Richard Carrier prior to his lecture at UNCG sponsored by the UNCG Atheist, Agnostics & Skeptics entitled Are Science and Religion Compatible? I was impressed with Dr. Carrier's wide and deep knowledge. Although his areas of expertise are in philosophy and Greco-Roman history, he spoke with authority regarding the history and current controversies in biology and evolution.

Following were some of the main points of his lecture, which he also gave in 2009 to the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix and are reported on here:
  • There was a creation/evolution debate in ancient Rome that had interesting similarities and differences to the current creation/evolution debate.
  • He discussed Michael Behe's irreducibly complexity argument for intelligent design using the bacterial flagellum, and mentioned that 2,000 years ago, Galen made the same argument using the human hand and other aspects of human and animal anatomy.
  • Behe, Carrier said, hasn't done what you'd expect a scientist to do with respect to his theory. He hasn't looked at the genes that code the flagellum and tried to identify correlate genes in other microbes, for example.
  • The difference between Galen's views and those of the Christians was that Galen thought of theology as a scientific theory that had to be adjusted according to facts, that facts about God are inferred from observations, and those facts entail either divine malice or a limited divinity.
  • Galen supported the scientific values of curiosity as a moral good, empiricism as the primary mode of discovery, and progress as both possible and valuable, while Christianity denigrated or opposes these.
  • The views of early church fathers were such that once Christianity gained power, it not only put a halt to scientific progress, it caused significant losses of knowledge that had already been accumulated.
  • Eusebius, the first historian of the Christian church, said that all are agreed that only scriptural knowledge is worthwhile, anything contrary to scripture is false, and pursuing scientific explanations is to risk damnation.
  • Carrier compared these Christian views to specific displays at the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Kentucky, which compared "human reason" to "God's word."
  • Galen's faith didn't condemn fundamental scientific values; Galen's creationism was science-based.
  • Carrier concluded that our present knowledge of science and evolution effectively marginalizes the concept of god.
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While this blogger has not read any of Dr. Carrier's books, I have been exposed to his ideas for years on the internet. I highly recommend both perusing his work on the internet and reading his books.

Also of note were Dr. Carrier's comments in our private gathering criticizing modern philosophy. An example of his opinions may be found here.

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