Jim Bradley and Michael Ruse — The Evolution of the Science-Religion Debate
June 26, 2014

We tend to frame our cultural conversation about science and religion as a debate — two either/or ways of describing reality. With mathematician Jim Bradley and philosopher Michael Ruse, we trace a quieter evolution of science and religion in interplay — not a matter of competing answers, but of complementary questions with room for humanity, nuance, and humor.

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Comments

Great show. Entertaining and engaging. The definition of sin came up.
I find it useful to use the word 'separation ' as a synonym for sin.
It works on many levels. Try it.

ברוך יהוה ו שלום עליכם
The problem with all too many of these folks is that they consider their sects to be all of religion.

When speaking of religion, one should start with what is common to all religions.

Diamond Sutra - a new translation by Alex Johnson, Chapter 14:
http://www.diamond-sutra.com/diamond_sutra_text/page14.html

“they have ceased to cherish any arbitrary notions of their own selfhood, other selves, living beings, or a universal self. Why? Because if they continue to hold onto arbitrary conceptions as to their own selfhood, they will be holding onto something that is non-existent. It is the same with all arbitrary conceptions of other selves, living beings, or a universal self. These are all expressions of non-existent things.”

Or if one is a JuBu
Jewish Buddhist

one may start with
לא יהיה לך אלהים אחרים עלפני

"Science is not your enemy", Steven Pinker http://m.huffpost.com/ca/entry/3973038..

Thank you for yet one more show that engages my academic and my faith thinking and encourages them to dance.
And, thanks to your guests for the "black hat" joke. It struck me that the ironic parallel is with light, which manifests characteristics as both particle and wave. The hat is both there and not there, depending on which question is being asked. If one is searching for a physical presence that can be quantified, then it is not there. If one is searching for the resonance between the seeker and the hat, then it is there. Perhaps the dance between and with the questions is more important than its conclusion.

Oh my. The guest representing creationism just said that without his belief in a Divine One he could not have a moral system, an ethical code to follow. So his religion has taught him nothing.

The speakers seemed to frame the discussion from a traditional view of Christianity. New Thought Christianity, like Unity or Course in Miracles, would result in a different discussion. Assuming we are all viewing Christianity from the same perspective doesn't open listeners up to a wider point of view and one, I believe, integrates science and spirituality more compatibly.

Very much enjoyed this conversation. An especially AHA! moment came with the realization that the term "randomness" was not as rigorous as the term "opportunities" or "possibilities." It seems to me that both these terms accommodate and embellish upon the notion of "free will" in ways that few have previously appreciated or have been willing to explore with circumspection.
We expect our philosophers and theologians to consider the narrowest of experiences. However, really plunging into universals is neither that useful nor effective to proselytes. Universals offer us mysteries--instead of "beef."

I enjoyed this civil conversation. An interesting book which explores this same topic is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormon_Scientist. Thank you for organizing and presenting these thought-provoking programs.

Theological skeptics (e.g. Gould) argue that if the clock were rolled back millions of years, evolution would play forward in a different way and quite likely not lead to our present condition, a world seemingly made for us humans. Believers in any form of divine creation argue that humans are the final expression of God's intention for life. But, His creation may be about to change that. In warm climates, humans cool themselves when out of doors by sweat evaporation. But on very warm, humid days evaporation does not cool us, sweat runs off of our bodies. If the ambient temperature is near our body temperature (37C) and humidity is high, then we cannot cool and our body temperature will rise. This is called heat stroke an often fatal condition. Anthropogenic climate warming, if allowed to continue at the current rate, unabated, soon (in historical terms) will bring much of the terrestrial surface to over 37 degrees C for prolonged periods of time with vastly more water in the atmosphere (water holding capacity of air increases by 7% with each degree rise in temperature). In regions with high humidity such as the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, the Persian Gulf, Pacific Rim Asia, tropical Africa and the Mediterranean region, life without air conditioning will be untenable for humans. To deal with this, we will use a lot more energy for air conditioning and we will use fossil fuels to do so because that is the cheapest alternative (ignoring externalities like climate change), accelerating anthropogenic warming. Soon all of Earth except the Arctic and Antarctic zones will experience prolonged periods with temperatures above 37C and humidity too high for humans, indeed, mammalian life. If we retreat into a few enclaves of coolness the social structure we recognize now, will break down. We will not be importing computers from China as there will be no one to mine the rare earth metals needed to make them, no global economy to ship them, nor markets to buy and sell them. Human culture will wind down, fossil fuel production will cease (it takes a lot of out-door work for that), our power plants and AC units will fail and humans will return to a state of nature in a nature that is no longer hospitable and will not return to the climate condition that we have now, for millennia. The extinction of humans is not too far-fetched to contemplate. So, under this scenario, what will succeed us? Will God create his image in the very same form?

discussions, such as these, offer me an infusion of thought and feeling that expands my understanding and belief to new levels of consciousness and joy. What stimulation when people come together for the exercise of mental play in the many realms of words, concepts and perception. You might ask... Do these sessions have a purpose? All I can say... listen and decide or don't decide for yourself. I just add, don't get caught up in who is saying what... simply let the ideas flow over you like you might poetry, allowing a spark, now and then, to take fire and burn away the dead wood, revealing a new Ideascape that is all ours to experience in anyway that pleasures.

Very much enjoyed this conversation. An especially AHA! moment came with the realization that the term "randomness" was not as rigorous as the term "opportunities" or "possibilities." It seems to me that both these terms accommodate and embellish upon the notion of "free will" in ways that few have previously appreciated or have been willing to explore with circumspection.
We expect our philosophers and theologians to consider the narrowest of experiences. However, really plunging into universals is neither that useful nor effective to proselytes. Universals offer us mysteries--instead of "beef."

I knew this would be an interesting, provocative conversation with these two gentlemen. And it really was. I didn't know it would be delightfully humorous also. Thank you for this unedited conversation.

Towards the end of the discussion, Jim Bradley came out with this to Michael Ruse, "Maybe you just haven totally fallen in love with Jesus Christ". I cringed. Ruse said nothing, but I think a reasonable response from him might have been, "Jim, perhaps you have simply been more successful in convincing yourself of a mutually-loving, mutually-caring, interactive personal relationship with a mainly silent and hidden spiritual being than I have been able to."

By analogy, Ruse could have given a more mundane example of a Person A who is told by many others of another person off in the distance who really likes them (Person B). In fact, they are told, Person B really loves them and wants a serious long-term relationship with them , but is just a little shy in being direct and up front about the fact in person. In fact, due to the distance, aloofness and non-interactiveness of Person B, the reality of their true interest and feelings, or even their basic existence, is not objectively certain or provable by Person A directly. Nonetheless, because of the great desire of Person A for this two-way relationship to be true, they manage to convince themselves of the veracity of the relationship enough to decide that they have "fallen in love" with Person B. In fact, one sees this kind of asymmetrical love relationship happen all the time with online relationships where Person A manages to convince themselves of a great many things about Person B's intentions and feelings that are totally unverifiable, sometimes with tragic results.

I think some kind of response like the above from Ruse would have been compelling. Or even something like, "But Jim! It's all in your head!"

There is a lot of room here for the introduction of chaos theory, which as I understand it is not the same as pure randomness. Rather chaos is order which cannot be resolved into linear equations. Think fractals for instance. Everyone can distinguish between clouds in the sky and waves on the lake and could passably continue a picture of either beyond a photograph that was framed. It is not likely, however, that anyone would duplicate precisely how the actual clouds or waves took shape beyond the picture. Chaos is akin to what Jim Bradley calls "randomness within borders" but with more order to it. Chaos no more than randomness "proves" freedom, but it does provide the framework that Michael Ruse identifies as necessary for freedom to be meaningful while at the same time allowing the indeterminacy the makes it possible.

It is unfortunate that this particular show was billed as a discussion of the "science/religion debate." Actually, this was a discussion of a particular perspective on the philosophy of science and a more or less orthodox view of Christian Theism, pure and simple. Religion is a much broader topic of discussion than represented by Christian Theism, only. The show would have been a stronger one if some sort of disclaimer had been included at the top of the program stating that the discussion was not about religion, broadly conceived. For example, the whole assumption that religion automatically assumes a divine creator and some sort of ultimate purpose is misplaced. There are very religious people who find spirituality rooted in the mysteries of non-being or nothing-ness. Also, there are religious people who are non-realist in their epistemic perspectives with regards to deity. God, for these folks, may refer to certain human ideal notions or the object of ultimate commitments on the part of individuals or groups rather than a single metaphysical entity that does this or that in a literal fashion. These non-realists are still religious even if they are non-theistic in the classical sense. Perhaps in the future, this program would do better to not make such simplistic identifications of religion with orthodox Christian Theism, only. In addition, it might be more helpful to admit that there are many more approaches to theism than the classical Christian perspective. Theism, itself, comes in many shapes and brands, many of which have no issue with the work of scientists, whatsoever. Theistic naturalists come to mind, for example. And finally, something might have been said in today's program about how Darwinian thought and evolutionary theory actually shaped new perspectives on religion throughout the late 19th and early 20th century. It helped spark a very productive period of thought in which notions such as process, change, novelty in the midst of structure, contingency, creativity and possibility all became important theological/religious ideas within larger systems of thought which moved well beyond classical or orthodox theism to embrace scientific world views. To cast the "science/religion" discussion only in terms of a debate between scientists and orthodox Christian theists seems ill-informed and trivial, given the true complexity of religious and theological discussion in our contemporary world.

People in advanced societies are becoming less religious with fewer believing in God. This directly correlates with greater education and rational thought. "Miracles" of the past are easily explained by science today. Things we do not yet have answers to -- we one day will very likely have.

Given the atrocities that have occurred like the Holocaust and Rwanda massacre – belief or non-belief in God boils down to four choices:

1. There is no God. God is simply an abstract solution created by man to address unanswerable questions: "Why did a loved one die?" "Where did we come from?" “Help me with some unknown future outcome.” By creating religion with rules and traditions, and building churches and synagogues, the abstract become more tangible. But at the end of the day, God is an unproven abstract man-made concept.

2. There is a God. But this God allows terribly cruel things to happen. Why would you want to have anything to do with this bastard?

3. God is just. But if so, then 6 million people died in the Holocaust for a just cause. Obviously for those among them who were devout it counted for nothing. So why waste time praying to this God?

4. God gives man free will and does not control his activities. So why spend any time praying to this God?

Voices on the Radio

is a professor of philosophy at Florida State University. His books include The Darwinian Revolution: Science Red in Tooth and Claw and Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science.

is professor emeritus of mathematics at Calvin College. He’s currently helping lead a multi-year project called Randomness and Divine Providence.

Production Credits

Host/Executive Producer: Krista Tippett

Executive Editor: Trent Gilliss

Senior Producer: Lily Percy

Technical Director: Chris Heagle

Associate Producer: Mariah Helgeson

Production Intern: Julie Rawe