Thursday, February 03, 2005

Fundamentalists, Science, and the Conquest of Man:

I hold no brief for the theology of fundamentalism. But having been raised by two conservative Christians -- both of them smart, loving people -- I find it more than a little frustrating to see their faith maligned. It’s especially frustrating when they're put down for things that simply aren’t true.

Blogger Faithful Progressive claims today that one of the "common features of the religious right" is that "it is hostile to science."

Hostile to science? The accusation might apply to the Amish or to Christian Scientists. But people who make full use of modern medicine, drive cars, fly in airplanes, watch television, surf the internet, and marvel at photographs of the heavens can hardly be accused of bearing a hostility to either "science" or its achievements.

What many Christian conservatives are hostile to is not science, but those atheist scientists who overreach in their claim that life began and evolved via a completely random, blind process. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, the claim may well be true, but it's not the sort of thing that can be proven by the scientific method. It's not even the sort of thing that can be observed. How could one ever place a fossil under a microscope and determine that it is the product of blind chance rather than an intelligent creator? How, that is, unless one first crudely assumed that God's presence should be subject to detection by human instruments? Only then would it make sense to conclude from our inability to detect his presence that God does not exist. But no Christian assumes this. Even snake-handling Baptists in the deepest hollers of Appalachia know that God is spirit.

There are other things about scientists--as well as those who fund them and stand to profit from their work--that concern many Christians on both the left and the right. Embryonic stem-cell research, for instance, disturbs many of us because it commodifies human beings by turning embryos into mere tools for research. But human embryos are not white mice, and it dehumanizes us all when we treat them as though they were. This is so even if they are not (yet) human beings but only potential life. After all, there is not a person living who was not first an embryo -- and that includes those scientists who would destroy embryos in the name of science.

The most disturbing trend in modern science, however, is the revival of eugenics under the prettified guise of "genetic engineering." C.S. Lewis wrote about the "false conquest" that this project entails nearly half a century ago:

Human nature will be the last part of Nature to surrender to Man. The battle will then be won . . . But who, precisely, will have won it? For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please . . .

[T]he man-moulders of the new age will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique: we shall get at last a race of conditioners who really can cut out all posterity in what shape they please.

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