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Science and Religion

Thinking and Unthinking Faith

Ross Douthat is a conservative American writer whose recent opinion piece in the New York Times constitutes a digest of present-day Christian apologetics, one written by a respected layman and published on the front page of a major newspaper. As such, that piece cries out for a reply. This essay thus constitutes Michael Reynolds' response to and analysis of the common apologetic themes that Douthat parrots.

Trust Science

Science's answers to the ultimate mysteries of existence are almost as baffling and logic-defying as the mumbo-jumbo of churches. They can seem nearly as absurd as the miracle claims of religion. But there's a crucial difference: science is honest. Nothing is accepted on blind faith. Every claim is challenged, tested, double-tested, and triple-tested until it fails or survives. New evidence often alters former conclusions. Honest thinkers have little choice but to trust science as the only reliable search for believable answers.

Thank God for the Atheist

In this article, H. J. van der Meer points out that although much of the world believes in some sort of divine being/s, believers seem perfectly happy to use scientific creations like modern medicines, artificial fertilizers, or mobile phones. He points out that these products could only have arisen from a manner of thinking that has also led us to understand the natural world as a product of evolutionary processes. Although this scientific (or naturalistic) view of the world is incomplete and the world is not fully comprehensible, the worldview is the logical consequence of the methodology. Nevertheless, many Christians believe in a 'god of the gaps' that is called upon when scientific explanations fail, and they may even advocate Intelligent Design creationism. At least traditional (young-earth) creationists, Jews, and Muslims, he notes, are less hypocritical in their rejection of scientific theories about the evolution of life and the universe: they stick to their belief in a divine Creator in the teeth of the evidence. But what is it that causes people to cling so firmly to their religion, and become so suspicious of science, in the first place?

Miraculous Cures?

Many claims for miraculous cures concern recovery from cancer. These are highly impressive and dramatic, and to many people they seem to provide incontrovertible evidence for a miracle. But how often does cancer remit spontaneously outside a religious context? And how do such spontaneous remissions come about? While medical events that could not be accommodated within the realm of the natural can easily be imagined, such as the regrowth of an amputated limb or the restoration of sight lost through glaucoma, in this article Anthony Campbell divulges that he is unaware of the documentation of any such case.

Why Would Anyone Believe Justin Barrett’s Theistic Arguments?

Christian psychologist Justin Barrett argues that belief in immaterial minds is similar to and justifies belief in God. In this essay Michael D. Reynolds demonstrates that Barrett's concept of mind is outmoded. Moreover, Barrett does not distinguish between innate beliefs in other people's mental abilities and the cultural concept of mind, which is learned, not innate. The belief that other people think, have emotions, and so forth is supported by evidence, but there is no evidence for the existence of God.

Barrett presumes that "atheism" is difficult to maintain because innate ways of thinking promote belief in spirits. In response, Reynolds provides some of the reasons for nontheism and refutes Barrett's arguments that having moral principles and confidence in one's beliefs pose special problems for nontheists. Reynolds concludes that, to the contrary, living as a nontheist is not difficult and does not require social and cultural segregation to sustain it.

How to Know Deepak Chopra’s God

Deepak Chopra operates a business that offers "life-changing retreats" and courses instructing clients in meditation and "alternative medicine," especially Indian techniques. In How to Know God he postulates seven responses of the brain to God. From this notion he constructs a detailed theistic scheme. A prominent theme of the book is an attempt to relate his ideas to quantum physics. Readers and reviewers have heaped praise on the work, but it contains numerous errors of fact and logic. In this essay Michael D. Reynolds demonstrates some of the errors in the foundational first chapter of the book.

Social Realism

"Based solely on scientific principles and research, a book could be written counseling us humans about how to treat each other ethically. This book might contain a scientifically based purpose for humanity. Science-based principles of effective parenting could be taught in public schools so that all future parents would learn them."

The Nature of Reality, and Vice Versa

What is real, and how do we know it? Religions and science put forward quite different answers to those questions, the gap becoming wider as the religious thinking becomes more fundamental. A comparison of the workings of religion and science shows which one we should trust for answers, even if we don't always have the interest or the patience to learn about and understand scientific discoveries (or to wade through religious rhetoric).

Ignorance and Identity

"By most religious reckoning, history is and always has been a foregone conclusion. All wisdom, all grace, all law was bestowed upon human beings long before the arrival of any now present, and so there is nothing for the living to do but fulfill someone else's plan for them. We are relieved of the burden of free will and responsibility for our misdeeds by a simple act of repentance. In effect, God finished us, and long ago. When a human being rejects this conception of the universe, they simultaneously reject the hubris and vanity required to create it in favor of a universe where real choice reigns, along with real possibility, opportunity, discovery, maturity and the right to know."

Scientist-Believers: Troublesome Routes Across the Compatibility Chasm

As part of my coming out as an atheist, the pastor at my church challenged me to review the work of believer scientists, to look at how they had found Christianity compatible with their scientific work. What follows is my best shot, as a layman, at a difficult subject, based on careful thought and reflection. Its value, if any, is in showing how some well-known scientist-believers (John Polkinghorne, William Pollard, and Francis Collins) make the compatibility arguments in ways they would never accept in their scientific day jobs, and end up tangled up in, or in downright conflict with, the methods of science and the claims of theism.

I’m a Believer!

"There is a pervasive and somewhat lopsided tendency in our society to separate fellow humans into the categories of being either 'believers' or 'nonbelievers.' The not-so-subtle implication is usually that there is something wrong with you if you are a 'nonbeliever.' Let's play a little game; I'll take the position that there really is something wrong with nonbelievers. But first, let's swap the traditional idea of who is a believer and who is a nonbeliever..."

The Shroud of Turin: The Great Gothic Art Fraud — Because If It’s Real the Brain of Jesus Was the Size of a Protohuman’s!

This note is intended to describe why, from an artistic and anatomical perspective, the shroud image is an embarrassingly obvious fraud committed by a Gothic artist following the standard conventions of his time. The artistic errors are so severe that it is impossible for the shroud to record the image of an actual human body—unless it was a very seriously pathological person with a brain the size of a Homo erectus.