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Ending the War Between Science and Religion
By John H. Calvert, J.D., and William S. Harris, Ph.D. (1)
November 8, 2001
Published by Intelligent Design network, inc.Copyright © 2001
by Intelligent Design network, inc.
In his excellent article, The Science and Religion Wars, (Phi Delta
Kappan, 2000), Mano Singham,(2) has identified a number of the
root causes of the "war" between
science and religion. He ends the analysis with this observation: "As
long as the debate continues in its present adversarial form, we are unlikely
to make much progress. What is clear, however, is that a solution to this
seeming incompatibility between the scientific and religious world views
remains extremely elusive."
We would like to propose a solution to the dilemma, but let's first briefly
review Dr. Singham's conclusions.
According to Dr. Singham, "to the casual observer" the battle
is between science and religion over evolution. However, the real issue
is not evolution and the opposing armies are not so easily labeled. Dr.
Singham claims that the war actually involves a coalition of "Elite
Science" and "Elite Religion" against "Popular Science" and "Popular
He describes Elite Science as consisting of those who control the universities,
research institutes and journals. They hold that the "progress of
knowledge rigidly requires that no non-physical postulate ever be admitted
in connection with the study of physical phenomena." Elite Science
has formed an alliance with Elite Religion. He describes Elite Religion
as consisting of theologians of "mainstream" religions who hold
that, "while a creator exists, the creator does not directly intervene
(or intervenes only rarely) to change the course of everyday events, thus
violating scientific laws." This portrays a creator that only operates
in a "spiritual" or non physical realm. By adopting this view,
and agreeing to stay out of each other's exclusive "realm," Elite
Religion and Elite Science seemingly share no conflict and can form a powerful
alliance against religious fundamentalism.
Dr. Singham suggests that casual observers of the conflict view those
in Popular Science as adherents of "fringe beliefs" such as "superstitions,
astrology, magic, witchcraft, psychokinesis, extrasensory perception, and
the like." They appear(3) on the same side as Popular Religion, whose
adherents "believe in a personal God, a creator who can and does intervene
when and if the creator sees fit. The fundamentalist strains of most major
religions fall into this category."
It is unclear how Dr. Singham would categorize scientists who reject
both fringe beliefs and the irrebuttable naturalistic assumption of Elite
Most in the Intelligent Design movement would fall into this category.
Indeed, as Dr. Singham's analysis shows, it is this group that is the
real thorn in the side of Elite Science.
Dr. Singham explains that the war is superficially described as one in
which the Populists argue that creation science(4) and evolution are
unproven and that fairness requires the teaching of both. The Elites
argue that creation science is religion while evolution is science. Since the courts
have outlawed creation science and endorsed evolution, the former can
not be taught while the latter can.
This characterization paints a picture of a few intellectual "elites," with
the law on their side, dominating the masses of red-neck, bible thumping
simpletons. However, Dr. Singham correctly points out that this is a very
superficial and inaccurate view of the real controversy.
The underlying issues involving science and religion are not really so
simple" as they are portrayed.
His article reveals that the real debate, which is poorly recognized
by the public, is not over "evolution" per se. The conflict does
not arise from a debate over whether natural selection can operate in a
replicating population to produce variation. The conflict arises over the
insistence of Elite Science to "rigidly require[s] that no non-physical
postulate [such as the intervention of a mind or some form of intelligence]
ever be admitted in connection with the study of physical phenomena." This "rigid" exclusion
of "non-physical postulates" is technically labeled Methodological
Naturalism.(5) Essentially, it is an irrebuttable philosophical assumption
that rules out intervention by an intelligent agent as a cause of life
and its diversity, without objective consideration of the relevant evidence.
It is this exclusionary "Rule" that creates the conflict:
understand the creationist' argument, we must go beyond the superficialities
that are frequently used in describing them. If there is one common
thread that all creationists share, it is the view that the world as
we know it
now is too complex and subtle to have come about without the active
and repeated intervention of an external agent or deity, acting outside
laws of science. It is this unifying belief .....[that] is the
source of the fundamental conflict with science."
"Creationism is not some narrow sectarian
grouping, but incorporates major elements of mainstream Christianity, Judaism,
Hinduism, Islam, and
other theistic religions. They differ only in their beliefs about the
and nature of this divine intervention."This description of "creationism" essentially
describes the Design Hypothesis - that phenomena result from a combination
of all of the three possible causes - chance, natural law (the laws of
physics and chemistry) and design (by a mind or other form of intelligence).
to Dr. Singham, the naturalistic exclusion of all non-physical postulates "undermines" both
Popular Religion and traditional mainstream religions as well. "If
there is to be no divine intervention at all, what is left for religion?" If
there is no tangible evidence that a spiritual world also exists "what
would be the point of believing in a deity if the spiritual and non-physical
world occupied by the deity
could have no influence whatsoever in the physical world we actually live
in." Why pray? On the other hand, if there is tangible evidence that
a spiritual world exists, then the naturalistic view is wrong. Tangible
evidence for the existence of a spiritual or non-physical world would imply
that the realms of science and religion overlap and cannot be separated.
Unfortunately, Dr. Singham's paper does not discuss the fact that there
is indeed an extraordinary amount of tangible evidence that events may
be ordered by design - a non-physical postulate.(6) Perhaps, the reason
the evidence is not discussed is that the exclusionary Rule (Methodological
Naturalism) used by Elite Science does not permit the discussion. This
leads to another difficulty: so long as the Rule is used by "science" then
we will never know the extent of the scientific evidence for a non-physical
The existence of non-physical phenomena and the need for its investigation
has recently been discussed by a highly regarded theoretical physicist,
Paul Davies(7):"Snowflakes contain syntactic information in the specific
arrangement of their hexagonal shapes, but these patterns have no semantic
content, no meaning for anything beyond the structure itself. By contrast,
the distinctive feature of biological information is that it is replete
with meaning. DNA stores the instructions needed to build a functioning
organism; it is a blueprint or an algorithm for a specified, predetermined
product. Snowflakes don't code for or symbolize anything, whereas genes
most definitely do. To explain life fully, it is not enough simply to identify
a source of free energy, or negative entropy, to provide biological information.
We also have to understand how semantic information comes into being. It
is the quality, not the mere existence, of information that is the real
mystery here." (emphasis added)Design theory has recently been billed
by the New York Times and the Kansas City Star as a "New Theory of
Origins." In truth it derives from antiquity and our intuition. It
has been labeled "new" because only within the past 50 years
has the true complexity of biochemical systems been discovered. These new
findings draw us inexorably to a design inference. This was recently illustrated
in a report in the San Francisco Chronicle in which one of the scientists
working on the Human Genome Project was interviewed:"Now, with the
pressure off, this former University of Arizona professor waxed philosophical
on the code his team had cracked.
" 'What really astounds me is the architecture of life,' he said. 'The system
is extremely complex. It's like it was designed.'"
" My ears perked up.
" Designed? Doesn't that imply a designer, an intelligence, something more
than the fortuitous bumping together of chemicals in the primordial slime?
Myers thought before he replied. 'There's a huge intelligence there. I
don't see that as being unscientific. Others may, but not me.'"(8)According
to Dr. Singham, the response by the Science establishment to the attack
on its core value has been troublesome. It has been a "bitter and
mean-spirited" counter attack that lacks much substance. Rather than
articulate a valid counter argument regarding the conflict between science
and religion, they merely contend that there is no incompatibility between
science and religion because many scientists are religious. This is inadequate
because many religious scientists may not complain about a conflict simply
for the politics of keeping peace. Dr. Singham also points out that many
ardent evolutionary biologists claim the alliance between Elite Science
and Elite Religion is "a cowardly cop-out." Richard Dawkins thinks "it's
an attempt to woo the sophisticated theological lobby and to get them into
our camp and put the creationists into another camp. It's good politics.
But it's intellectually disreputable."(9)
Dr. Singham concludes that both sides are guilty of "vitriolic tactics" that
are alienating the public. This is rightly disconcerting to him because "the
issues raised are deeply interesting and have profound implications."
He concludes with a plea for a "solution to this seeming incompatibility
between the scientific and religious world views [,which] remains extremely
Let's End the Conflict
Key to an end to the conflict is the recognition that the conflict is
confined only to "origins science," - a historical science that has a
major impact on religion. Purely empirical sciences such as physics and
chemistry which deal with what is happening "now" rather then
what happened in the past, need not be affected. That being the case, the
remedy to the problem need only concern itself with the narrow area of
this historical science.
Origins science focuses on the investigation, analysis and explanation
of past events - the origin of the universe, the origin of life and the
origin of the diversity of life. The eminent evolutionary biologist Dr.
Ernst Mayr explains that the distinction between this historical science
and physics and chemistry is that the explanations provided by the historical
scientist can not be validated by laws and experiments. They are essentially
historical narratives constructed by subjective minds about unobservable
past events based on an analysis of circumstantial evidence:" Evolutionary
biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science
-- the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have
already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques
for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs
a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the
particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain." (emphasis
added) [Ernst Mayr, "Darwin's Influence on Modern Thought," p.
80, (July 2000, Scientific American)].Our suggestion for ending the conflict
is to abandon in origins science the use of the Rule - the practice used
by Elite Science that rigidly requires that no non-physical postulate ever
Generally, few members of Popular Science or Religion complain about
the use of the Rule in physics, chemistry and other purely empirical
that deal with the present rather than the past. Indeed, due to real
time laboratory tests and experiments that are available to validate
there is no need for an assumption against non-physical causes in physics
and chemistry. Furthermore, the operation of the physical and chemical
laws and the properties of matter and energy do not generally "touch" religious
issues. Scientists doing basic research and applied science in creating
new technologies and devising improved medical strategies are frequently
heard to say that "evolution" never comes up - it is a non-issue
in that arena.
In contrast, the use of an irrebuttable assumption that no "non-physical" causes
are involved in our origins, as pointed out by Dr. Singham, is inherently
problematic in this historical science. The answer to the question: where
do we come from? is fundamental to all major theistic religions. We are
designs or we are merely natural occurrences. An irrebuttable naturalistic
assumption permits only one of the two possible answers - we are occurrences
and not designs. Elite science dictates that we must irrebuttably assume
we are not designed! This is inconsistent with logic, the scientific method
and indeed - a significant body of relevant evidence!
The use of an irrebuttable assumption to craft "historical narratives" that
cannot be tested by experiment makes it impossible for the explanation
given to ever have any credibility. The only way to reach a satisfying
explanation regarding the cause of a past event, where testing and experiment
is not possible, is to base it on an objective and unbiased - a no-holds
barred - investigation and analysis of the "best available" evidence.
The "semantic" characteristic of biological information discussed
by Paul Davies is a "non-physical" phenomena. Although Dr. Davies
pleads for an explanation for this non-physical phenomena, the use of the
irrebuttable presumption that disallows any non-physical postulate, precludes
any discussion or objective consideration of it. Use of an irrebuttable
presumption against "non-physical postulates" would consign the
evidence of a non-physical cause to an intellectual black hole.
These logical, scientific and evidentiary reasons would seem to dictate
the abandonment of the irrebuttable assumption as to the conduct of origins
science. In this area, scientists should be encouraged to entertain the
possibility of both physical and non-physical causes, particularly in
light of the extensive evidence for the existence of non-physical and
intangible phenomena and the inability of science to explain the origin
of that phenomena.
Finally, legal necessity also seems to dictate an abandonment of governmental
use of the Rule (methodological naturalism) in the conduct and teaching
of origins science. As pointed out by Dr. Singham's discussion of the
subject, the practice of allowing "no-nonphysical postulate" is one that
clearly "touches" religion. In the Supreme Court Case of Lemon
v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), the Court ruled that a governmental "practice
which touches upon religion " violates the establishment clause
of the U.S. Constitution if the practice fails to satisfy any of the
1. The practice "must have a secular purpose;"
2. The practice "must neither advance nor inhibit religion in its
principal or primary effect;" and
3. The practice "must not foster an excessive entanglement with
added)The use of Methodological Naturalism to censor the evidence
of design, which provides the foundation for all theistic religions,
each of the three prongs of the Lemon Test.
As discussed in Section
4.33 of Teaching Origins Science in Public Schools, there is no secular
purpose for using the rule in origins
only stated purpose for its use is to keep the notion of God
out of the scientific explanation of where we come from. That is not
because it is a purpose that relates to religion.
The practice also denigrates theistic beliefs while promoting
a belief in Naturalism - a "nonreligion."(10) As a consequence, the practice
destroys the requirement that government be neutral toward religion. A
Supreme Court case directly in point is Epperson v. Arkansas 393 U.S. 96,
103-106 (1968) where the Court held that a state statute that censored
the teaching of an alternative theory of origins (Darwinian evolution)
violated the required neutrality of the Establishment Clause:
In reaching its decision the Epperson Court said:
" Government in our democracy, state and nation, must be neutral in matters
of religious theory, doctrine, and practice. It may not be hostile to any
religion or to the advocacy of no-religion; and it may not aid, or foster
or promote one religion or religious theory against another or even against
the militant opposite. The First Amendment mandates government neutrality
between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.
The use of Methodological Naturalism to censor "non-physical postulate"s
(the Design Hypothesis) is no different than the statute that was used
by Arkansas to censor the teaching of evolution. Hence, its use by schools
to indoctrinate students in Naturalism/"nonreligion" would appear
to be a clear and fundamental violation of the Establishment clause.
The use of the rule would also seem to foster an excessive entanglement
of the state in religion. Dr. Singham's description of the conflict
between religion and state sponsored science as "war" merely is indicative
of the existence of a real entanglement of the state in religion.
We suggest that a good solution that will resolve the conflict
consistent with logic, good science, and the law is to eliminate
presumption against "non-physical postulates" in origins science.
This will allow origins science to be conducted and taught as it should
- with objectivity and without religious, philosophic or naturalistic bias.
We predict that careful adherence to this standard should bring us closer
to the truth about non-physical causes and enhance the effectiveness and
credibility of science and science education.
1. Mr. Calvert is a lawyer who has a degree in geology
from the University of Missouri. He retired after 33 years of private
practice to help organize
and manage Intelligent Design network, inc., a non-profit organization
focused on origins science. Dr. Harris, holds an endowed Chair in Metabolism
and Vascular Biology and is a Professor of Medicine, University of Missouri
- Kansas City. He is also Director of the Lipoprotein Research Laboratory
at Saint Luke's Hospital and is a Managing Director of Intelligent Design
network, inc. He has a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University
of Minnesota, has been conducting scientific research for the last 20
years and has published over 70 scientific papers. Harris and Calvert
of Teaching Origins Science in Public Schools, (2001), which may be obtained
2. Associate director of the University Center for Innovations in Teaching
and Education, Case Western University.
3. Dr. Singham says: "Popular science and popular religion generally
have no problems with each other." However, many traditional Christians
would disagree with most of the beliefs attributed to "Popular Science" -
astrology, magic, witchcraft, etc. Also, members of the Intelligent Design
movement generally do not fit under the label of popular science or "creation
science" as discussed in the following note.
4. Dr. Singham's paper fails to make a critical distinction between "creation
science" and what he calls "creationism." Creation science
has been defined by the courts to be science that seeks to validate the
Genesis account contained in the Bible. It operates on the assumption that
the Biblical description of origins is correct. "Creationism" described
by Dr. Singham, essentially reflects the Design Hypothesis. That hypothesis
holds that some combination of design, together with chance and natural
law, are responsible for all phenomena. This hypothesis is not derived
from the Bible or any religious text. It is based solely on the observation
and analysis of patterns which occur in nature per the scientific method.
5. Naturalism is "the doctrine that cause-and-effect laws (as of physics
and chemistry) are adequate to account for all phenomena and that teleological
[design] conceptions of nature are invalid" (Webster's Third New International
Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged, 1993). Naturalism is synonymous
with scientific materialism. Naturalism is a philosophy and not a proven
scientific theory or fact. Modern science claims that it uses naturalism
merely as an assumption as a part of the "method" of doing science
so as to enhance the objectivity of scientific explanation and sometimes
refers to it as "Methodological Naturalism." Although Elite Science
claims that it does not seek to imbue its audience with a belief in philosophical
naturalism, the undisclosed use of the assumption in origins science destroys
rather than enhances objective explanations and does amount to indoctrination
in philosophical naturalism.
6. For a detailed discussion of some of the evidence of design, see:
Teaching Origins Science In Public Schools, by John H. Calvert, J.D.
S. Harris, Ph.D., p. 5-16 (Intelligent Design network, inc. 2001). The
full text is shown at http://www.IntelligentDesignNetwork.org/legalopinion.htm.
7. Paul Davies, "The Fifth Miracle - The Search for the Origin and
Meaning of Life," at page 60 (Simon & Schuster, 1999)
8. Tom Abate, "Human Genome Map Has Scientists Talking About the Divine.
Surprisingly Low Number of Genes Raises Big Questions," [San Francisco
Chronicle (February 19, 2001)].
9. Mano Singham, The Science and Religion Wars, p. 431 (Phi Delta Kappan,
10. See Section 4.41 of Teaching Origins Science in Public Schools.