Thursday, June 07, 2007

EDGE: Don't Know Much Biology

An essay by Jerry Coyne in response to Senator Brownback's statements about science, faith, and evolution.

Whether he knows it or not, Brownback's forthright declarations, denying any possibility that empirical matters of fact might differ from those assumed by his creed, amount to nothing less than a rejection of the whole institution of science. Who is "we", and where did "our" conviction and certainty come from? Would Brownback believe these "spiritual truths" if he hadn't been taught them as a child, or brought up in the United States instead of China?

According to Brownback, we should reject scientific findings if they conflict with our faith, but accept them if they're compatible. But the scientific evidence says that humans are big-brained, highly conscious apes that began evolving on the African savannah four million years ago. Are we supposed to reject this as "atheistic theology" (an oxymoron if there ever was one)?

By Jerry Coyne

JERRY COYNE is a professor in the department of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, where he works on diverse areas of evolutionary genetics. He is the author (with H. Allen Orr) of Speciation.

Jerry Coyne's Edge Bio Page

Read the article.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Professor Coyne,
I also don't agree with Brownback's rules for himself regarding possible faith-shattering findings. From an integrated, Lotus-focused understanding of science, I think of it this way: Brownback says that you can discount the "scientific evidence [that] says that humans are big-brained, highly conscious apes ..." simply because it is possible to do this. Brownback can value something else that waves faith before his every decision. Equally, it is possible to dismiss Brownback's faith when stacked against particular scientific facts, the facts given preference.
The Lotus teaches to harmonize the extremes. I don't think science and faith are too different under this principle. Just as Zhiyi can say that "there is no devil other than the buddha," we can say there is no faith other than science, no science other than faith. The two worlds interpenetrate at the same time they are completely different.