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Science and Religion and the Mufti and Me

September 26th, 2008by Haim Watzman · 3 Comments · Judaism and Religion

Haim Watzman

Readers interested in the science (specifically evolution) and religion debate might be interested in the exchange I’ve been participating in with the Grand Mufti and others over on Jewlicious. The GM defines the problem well, and I’ve tried to help him dispel some misconceptions. The gist is that it’s an error to say that belief in God is compatible with scientific explanations of the world–if what you mean by that is that God can somehow be inserted into science as some sort of meta-explanation for physical phenomena. However, in my view (though not the GM’s, as best I understand him), we can bring God into the world in other ways. I hope to expand on these thoughts here in the near future.

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Grand Muffti // Sep 26, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Muffti hates to disagree with people trying to agree with him, but to clarify:

    - belief in God IS compatible, at the level of logic not probability, without scientific theories. What is inconsistent is the stories told about creation, god’s intervention into the goings-on of the world with those theories. Evolution can’t show that there is no God, but it can show that if there is a God, he’s not responsible for the development of species.

    If science is incompatible with anything, its trying to find a way in which God does anything that he is traditionally supposed to do in his meddling with the world. Scientific theory so far has progressed in a manner that makes the world comprehensible (sort of!) in impersonal terms of forces and fields (though notice that comprehensibility does not necessarily require deterministic explanations). God seems to act, at elast as he’s portrayed, a lot like a person – the right level of explaining things if you think God is responsible is at the level of what he wants and how he acts accordingly. That’s what seems to go by the wayside.

    Muffti doesn’t think you CAN’T work God back into this picture somehow; he just thinks it massively implausible and so it’s only responsible to think that, sans more evidence, you have very little reason to believe in such a being.

  • 2 No one important // Sep 28, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    “Evolution can’t show that there is no God, but it can show that if there is a God, he’s not responsible for the development of species.”

    Strictly speaking, not exactly. It can’t show that a god it not responsible for the development of species, but it can show that a god is not necessary for the development of species. In swoops Occam’s razor…

    “Muffti doesn’t think you CAN’T work God back into this picture somehow; he just thinks it massively implausible and so it’s only responsible to think that, sans more evidence, you have very little reason to believe in such a being.”

    Exactly, which is why scientifically well-educated people are almost never traditional religious believers, not even the ones who write books about reconciling religion and science (e.g. Gould, Miller, Collins, etc.).

  • 3 fiddler // Sep 30, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Chris Dashiell, whom I find frequently inspiring, goes on at length about this here: http://cdashiell.blogspot.com/2008/09/god-crash-course.html
    In short, he argues against encroaching of science and religion upon each other’s territory, in particular against literalist reading of religious texts, and that a personal God is incompatible with an absolute one:
    “When religion claimed literal truth for itself, it staked its fortunes on unfruitful ground. It committed the error of misplaced absoluteness—asserting that the limited (mythology, scriptures, symbols) was absolute, while at the same time proclaiming that the absolute (God) was limited (an external being).”

    Read the whole thing, it’s worthwhile.

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