Rused Into Accommodationism

Michael Ruse paid a short visit to the University of Chicago on Thursday at a small meeting full of graduate students and Jimmy John’s sandwiches (which was a slight disappointment considering the overwhelming superiority of pretty much anything from Potbelly’s).

I normally show up to events like these to take advantage of an opportunity to ask armor-piercing questions. But this was more of a listening event. I first became interested in Prof. Ruse the person by reading The Darwinian Revolution: Science Red in Tooth and Claw, and I realized I really wanted to see the guy in person. It’s an excellent book by the way, and I recommend that anyone who really wants to understand the history of scientific progress to read it.

Michael Ruse has done wonderful work of not just advancing science, but fighting against creationism and its Trojan horses like intelligent design. He’s a leading scholar on the philosophy of science, and his coverage of the evolution/creationism debate has been followed by many around the world.

But of course, Michael Ruse is the Great Accommodationist. He has written articles on how the “new atheists are a bloody disaster,” and he has a new book on how science and faith are compatible. His positions, consequently, clash violently with my worldview. The utter incompatibility between scientific ways of knowing and faith-based ways of knowing are as clear to me as any basic proof by contradiction.

But I was listening, and he was speaking. As Chana Messinger from the UChicago Secular Alliance noted, Prof. Ruse, on multiple occasions, just loved say that he was a “conservative Protestant nonbeliever” who took the Bible more seriously than a lot of other Christians. Of course, in light of the prevalent relativism and intellectual dishonesty of many so-called modern-day “liberal Christians,” I couldn’t help but agree with Prof. Ruse on this one. People who claim to be Christians but don’t believe in the Resurrection, or in salvation by faith, or in Original Sin are as useless to serious intellectual discussion as non-chess-players are to chess theory. It’s a shame, unfortunately, that Prof. Ruse is only marginally better than these pseudo-Christians.

Prof. Ruse’s ultimate thesis is that because there are questions that science cannot touch—questions like “why is there something rather than nothing?” and “does a God love us?”—it is therefore perfectly alright for faith-based beliefs (like Christianity) to enter the discussion so long as they don’t blatantly trespass on science (in the form of creationism or the insane belief that Adam and Eve were actual people). His position seems at a two-second glance to hold some water, but once he gets questioned, one can clearly see the falling scenery behind his little show. One audience member noted that the Apostle’s Creed sums up Christian belief very well. Why then is Prof. Ruse so offended at the idea of a literal Adam and Eve but not at the idea of a human Resurrection or a virgin birth?

Prof. Ruse’s answer was that as long as Christians don’t try to make it a scientific claim, then it does not trespass on science. But a historical resurrection IS a scientific claim. There were physical cells and proteins involved in death and revitalization of a living body. A virgin birth is likewise a scientific claim. There are natural materials involved in the spontaneous fertilization of a female’s eggs. Prof. Ruse then tried to escape by citing Hume, who must have been rocking rather than rolling in his grave at that moment.

The overall problem is not that Prof. Ruse gives too much credence to religion, even though he does. The problem is that he knows and believes very much that religion and faith are incompatible in many ways. He even said very clearly that he thinks anyone who believes in a literal Resurrection is nuts and that “if science and religion are indeed incompatible, science will win every time.” It’s quite unfortunate that he holds these views but still doesn’t have the guts to go one deductive step further.

“Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.”
– Bertrand Russell

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Posted on November 11, 2011, in History, Religion, Science and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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