Friday, June 26, 2009


It's true that science and religion are inconsistent and incompatible.

It's also true that there are no small few people, such as Francis Collins, Ken Miller, and Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno, who are respected scientists and devoutly religious.

The conclusion: people can hold inconsistent and incompatible beliefs.

Shocking news, innit?


  1. Ken Miller is the most surprising, for me. The guy is great at defending evolution from creationists, but in the end he is bordering on being a creationist himself.

    Granted, I've never read his books, and rely only on commentary elsewhere, but I've heard he believes that human evolution was inevitable, that God planned for humans to arise. That's just sheer nonsense. One of the major tenets of biology is that mutations are random, that existing species are the result of historical accidents, and so on. How Miller can believe otherwise is beyond me. Historically speaking, any view that sees mankind as somehow special has been notrious for being falsified. This doesn't bode well for Miller's beliefs.

  2. I haven't read Miller either, but ISTM that you can probably always find some gap (preferably one that science cannot investigate, even in principle) to hide your favorite deity's activities in (tinkering with the mutations or something), allowing you to have your naturalistic science AND still hang on to your Sky Daddy, with minimal inconsistency. Then whatever the outcome (eg: us), you can retrospectively hail it as fulfillment of God's Plan.

    Note that this is not the same (indeed, it's almost the opposite) of traditional creationist appeal to "God of the gaps", as the motivation in that case is to magnify the gaps and claim them as revelations of God.

  3. Ken Miller is not a "Creationist" if by creationist we mean a person who takes the Genesis story literally. He is a creationist if by creationist we mean a person who believes a god created the universe.

    The first usage is overwhelmingly more common. Hence, to use the word in the later sense is to be a language deviant. Which is fine. Just be prepared to be misunderstood.

    Ken Miller puzzles me more than Collins. Collins to me just seems like a pretty dim bulb. I have "Finding Darwin's God". I guess I should read it.

    From reading other things by Miller, he is careful to make religious statements that are unfalsifiable.

  4. These days I use "creationist" to mean: anyone who thinks God left visible fingerprints on the Universe, that we can point at to "prove" his existence (including allegedly inexplicable "gaps", when so invoked). I take this to be their defining characteristic. Theists who don't insist that this or that aspect of Nature requires God as an explanation are not creationists in this sense (though they may be in a wider, theological, sense).

    My definition takes in everyone from the YECs to the IDists. It also, alas, includes Francis Collins, who seems to think that altruism is otherwise inexplicable. Like the previous commenter, I am under the imprecise impression that Miller has avoided falling into this trap.

  5. Collins invokes C.S Lewis, which reveals his low standard for philosophical arguments. I get the feeling Miller is more of a cultural Christian. I've never seen him engage in apologetics, which I guess is something.

    I was mistaken, I have Miller's book "Only A Theory". Elsewhere he opines that science cannot disprove God, which is true if you keep you definition of God content free. Collins on the other hand defends fine tuning, which Miller does not.

    I waffle on this accommodationist issue. Human beings for the most part have a religious tendency. To force people to make a choice between accepting the scientific method or deny their human nature is a project that is doomed to fail.

  6. To force people to make a choice...

    No one is forcing anyone to do anything. The anti-accommodationists are merely making the argument that the two modes of thought are indeed incompatible and inconsistent, and the accommodationists are asking us not to make that argument.


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