Science, Faith, and Politics
I was watching CSPAN today and came across a discussion on the “Politics of Faith.” Of course I was interested in the topic and decided to watch for a few moments. After hearing about five minutes of comments I had to turn off the program. One of the authors opined that there was a conspiracy going on between corporate America and evangelical Christianity—if you can convince the dimwitted employees of Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart that they are “right with Jesus” and that He will take care of you, you can pay them bad wages and terminate their jobs. This is why, according to this particular author, that these companies have chaplains.
Another author frothed that America was one of the only countries in the world that has a “faith based” approach to abortion and stem-cells. Another railed that Americans love the benefits of technology gained via science, but they don’t want to embrace the very foundation of science itself: Darwinism! This last point would be a surprise to many chemists and physicists that I know! To my mind, and to the minds of many scientists, the foundation of modern science is not Darwinism, but the belief in a rational, coherent, and orderly world that can be at least be partially dissected by the mind of man. Without this presupposition, the practice of science makes no sense.
In the background I could hear the echo of the late Christopher Reeve: “When matters of public policy are debated, no religions should have a seat at the table." People with moral convictions based upon religious principle, you see, are too moronic to seriously think about these issues objectively. It is this parody, this horrible caricature of religious belief, that offends so many Christians—perhaps it is the reason Christians are not even invited to discussions such as these, for fear they couldn’t stop drooling long enough to issue a coherent verbal utterance. This is not the manner of Christianity most classical Anglicans know, if they are familiar with the writings of C.S. Lewis, Thomas Aquinas, William Temple, G.K. Chesterton, or the philosophical writings of modern Roman Catholic thinkers such as John Paul II and Pope Benedict and Reformed thinkers like Alvin Plantinga.
It is from philosophic and theological foundations that science operates, and since these foundations grew within the Christian tradition and gave rise to modern science it is the Christian tradition that must have a seat at the table when the moral issues raised by science and its applications are addressed. From these very foundations we believe in an ordered creation with man as the creature with the intellect to uncover such order; we also believe in the inherent dignity of man. This is really the major problem for the CSPAN authors alluded to above—Christians believe in the dignity of human beings at all stages of development. As long as it is human and living, it has value and worth. Yes, this is a conviction based on religion and philosophy. But how is the conviction that an embryo or a fetus does not have value any different? How is this any less a philosophical or religious position? I have yet to hear that issue addressed.