Summary: Absentminded Professor Spreads Falsehoods Regarding Science & Religion
Throughout much of the modern era, one of the main slugfests with the draw of a Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper cage match of the 1980's has been the ongoing dispute between so-called science and religion Proponents of each side of the debate contend that their own viewpoint is the foundation upon which ultimate knowledge rests.
The science side of the controversy contends that religion isn't merely an alternative way of looking at the universe but rather instead a harmful mindset that must by stamped out by science's proclivity to rely upon experimentation and evidence rather than an unquestioning reliance upon faith and authority as is endemic to its epistemological adversary. However, Jerry Coyne in the 10/1/10 USA Today essay titled “Science And Religion Aren't Friends” relies on more untested assumptions than can be found in the average Sunday morning sermon.
It is only natural that Jerry Coyne would have the tendency to end up relying on those things he has bluntly labeled as threats to mankind to make his argument. He is, after all, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago.
Both of these disciplines practiced by Professor Coyne these days are as much about philosophy and politics more so than the collection of objective facts through observation and experimentation. The University of Chicago is to at least be commended for exercising a modicum of caution in quarantining those on the faculty payroll oriented towards imposing opinion rather than simply elaborating actual details of natural phenomena as would a true biologist worthy of recognition as such.
Early in the essay, Professor Coyne asserts, “Evolution took a huge bite a while back [he means out of religion], and recent work on the brain has shown no evidence for souls, spirits, or any part of our personality distinct from the lumps of jelly in our head.” From such an contention, he concludes, “We now know that the universe did not require a creator.”
That's quite a rambunctious leap on the part of the eager professor. It use to be thought that nothing existed below the level of the atom. However, eventually researchers discovered an entirely new kind of universe (if you will) existing in terms of even smaller particles and energy clouds at the subatomic level.
Why can't a similar position be held regarding the mind, soul, and spirit? Though it cannot be denied that these are somehow linked to the material brain, that does not mean these ephemeral building blocks of individuality and personality do not exist because those in lab coats haven't quite pinned them down and sliced them in half with a scalpel.
After all, it is doubtful scientists can conclusively tell us why a certain assemblage of chemicals has the spark of life coarsing through them and others do not. Since a number of their brethren have denied the existence of the Creator, perhaps a number of scientists will endeavor to convince that the phenomena that we call life does not exist either.