Sunday, February 7, 2010

Science, Faith, and Miracles

I'm currently involved in yet another vigorous exchange of views with a friend who apparently has no choice other than Creation Science on the one hand and loss of faith on the other. Creation Science, he says, allows him to disbelieve evolution and thus to believe Genesis.

I admit I don't get it myself.

We agree that evolution and Genesis don't get on well together. I've seen attempts to harmonize them, and those attempts amount to wishful thinking. They also usually involve effectively dismissing those parts of Genesis that seem inconvenient.

But I disagree that cobbling together a "science" is the only way to "save" Genesis. Bear in mind that science is a system of generalizations about what usually happens and why. And consider that science (indeed, the humbler Everyday Experience) tells us that virgins don't get pregnant without changing their status and that dead people don't get better after a few days in a tomb.

In other words, if we must have a scientific alternative (Creation Science) to evolution, we must have a scientific alternative (Virgin Birth Science) to conception and another (Resurrection Science) to postmortem decay. For without such alternatives, we must follow science rather than scripture, apparently, and these doctrines will be lost.

But science is about what usually happens--pretty much always, in fact. And the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection were one-time events, though to be sure the latter presages a much more widespread repeat. In other words, they were miracles, and because miracles are abnormal, they can't be generalized into science.

So what about Creation? Does the opening of Genesis happen a lot? Not so far as we can tell. It's characterized by God speaking and things happening. In other words, it's a miracle. But that means it can't be made into a science.

And that should be okay. The alternative is to say that there are no miracles, which is not something a Christian can agree with. But it suggests a syncretism--a mixture of proper belief with outside views--that is common and troubling. I'll hit that next, all going well.

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