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…on science and religion

Ben Stein says …

Einstein worked within the framework of believing there was a God. Newton worked within the framework of believing there was a God. For gosh sakes, Darwin worked within the framework of believing there was a God. And yet, somehow today you’re not allowed to believe in it. Why can’t we have as much freedom as Darwin had? – interview on The O’Reilly Factor, October 22, 2007

and John-Peter Etcheber replies

It’s true that many scientists of the past believed in God, but that’s also true of scientists today. There are a few vocal atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, who aggressively attack religion, but most scientists don’t hinge their faith on the fact that we are ignorant of some aspects of nature. In fact, some see the human propensity to challenge old assumptions and use the scientific method to better understand the world as more evidence for the existence of the divine, rather than evidence against.The idea of the mutual exclusivity of scientists and religious people is a false dichotomy, perpetrated by people who have a simplified worldview and desperately need to have “sides” to choose from. They have one view of the supernatural and any person who challenges this is a heretic and must be silenced. It is important, in any debate, to not let one side dictate the rules of the game. It would be equally fallacious if Richard Dawkins said that all religious people are incapable of scientific thought.

and Charlie in Iowa adds

When Stein says “Darwinism,” he seems to mean methodological naturalism, the cornerstone of objective science. Methodological naturalism does not ask us to believe anything; that is its greatest strength. Properly applied, it has shown us that selection (not random chance) can generate complexity. It has shown us that the gulf between the first cells and intelligent life spans billions of years. It has shown us that gene duplication events, retroviruses and other mechanisms can add genetic material to a genome, and that they have done so many times throughout the history of life. Methodological naturalism does not ask us to reject the possibility of a God. It only asks us to recognize that humility, curiosity, and diligence will take us farther than intuition or wishful thinking. It asks us to seek out all the available evidence and to follow that evidence wherever it may lead, before making up our minds (and before comparing those who disagree to Nazis!). It asks us to respond to unsolved problems by continuing to investigate and seeking new models, not by throwing up our hands and saying “This can never be explained; God must have done it.”

Ben Stein says …

Einstein worked within the framework of believing there was a God. interview on The O’Reilly Factor, October 22, 2007

Some of the greatest scientists of all time, including Galileo, Newton, Einstein, operated under the hypothesis that their work was to understand the principles and phenomena as designed by a creator. – blog entry “Ben Stein’s Introductory Blog,” August 21, 2007

and Glen Davidson notes that he misrepresents Einstein’s views:

I cannot then believe in this concept of an anthropomorphic God who has the powers of interfering with these natural laws. As I said before, the most beautiful and most profound religious emotion that we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. And this mysticality is the power of all true science. If there is any such concept as a God, it is a subtle spirit, not an image of a man that so many have fixed in their minds. – Albert Einstein, in conversation with Gustav Bucky

To assume the existence of an unperceivable being … does not facilitate understanding the orderliness we find in the perceivable world. – Albert Einstein, responding to an Iowa student who asked, “What is God?” July 1953; Einstein Archive 59-085

Ben Stein says …

And for me, it’s pretty clear-cut that until we learn some better explanation for how life began, there is a God who always existed and created the heavens and the earth. And until somebody gives me a better explanation, I’ll go for it. – interview with Christianity Today, April 15, 2008

and Michael T. Kinnison replies

This statement shows that Ben adheres to the “God of the gaps” philosophy that has long characterized creationist arguments. The gap argument is simply that any phenomenon not yet definitively explained by natural processes allows for a supernatural creator/designer. This argument entwines several logical fallacies. It presupposes that science proceeds to a point at which there is definitive proof, but science always allows for new evidence to revise theory. It imposes a false dichotomy by assuming that any organismal feature not yet explained naturally is proof of a supernatural designer when a
third alternative exists – further naturalistic explanations. Finally, it relies upon a shifting goal post so that each time scientists provide evidence for a naturalistic explanation, proponents of the supernatural shift their demands to more temporally distant challenges. At present, ID proponents have pushed their challenges to evolution back ca. 4 billion years to the very origins of life.

Alas, here lies the terrible consequences for adherents to the gap argument – the perpetual reduction of the supernatural domain. Given that Ben believes the supposed designing force is God, this philosophy represents a self-imposed threat to faith, the same perceived threat that has fueled most religious objections to science. This is not just my assertion. The concept of a “God of the gaps” was not coined by a scheming evolutionary biologist, but by the popular 19th-century evangelical Henry Drummond who admonished people of faith to not invoke gap arguments for just this reason.