A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar

Science and Religion Walk Into a Bar

March 09, 2023 Randy Knie & Kyle Whitaker Season 3 Episode 17
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
Science and Religion Walk Into a Bar
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Are science and religion compatible? Should there be any crossover whatsoever? Why is it dangerous when we try to make our science fit into our religion? These are questions that Randy and Kyle chat about in our latest episode. Kyle strongly thinks that science and religion are in completely different categories and should almost never mix. Randy likes the "almost" in that statement.

The guys really, honestly tried to have a debate in this episode...we'll see if they were successful.

The resources mentioned in this episode are:

The whiskey we tasted in this episode is the outstanding (for the price) Smoke and Sea by Oppidan.

To skip the tasting, go to 8:26.

You can find the transcript for this episode here.

Content note: this episode contains some mild profanity.


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NOTE: This transcript was auto-generated by an artificial intelligence and has not been reviewed by a human. Please forgive and disregard any inaccuracies, misattributions, or misspellings.

Kyle  00:02

So, Randy, we've been seeing quite a few new listeners recently. You kidding me? No, we got like probably several 1000 new subscribers. That's amazing. It's really amazing. And if you happen to be one of those people that's listening to the show for the first or second or third time, we just want to let you know, we're super glad you're here and just want to tell you a little bit about ourselves. Yeah, we're so grateful that you give us your time that is so precious. We're so grateful that you just want to listen to our conversations, whether it's just the two of us or whether it's guests. We are grateful you're here, and we'd love to hear from you. So whether that's getting in touch with us via email, social media, giving us guest recommendations, book recommendations, or if you have just any question for us about things that we talked about, we'd love to hear from you, because we want to cultivate community. So welcome to the community friends. Yeah, welcome to the community. If you do want to get in touch look in the show notes, our contact info is there or just stay tuned to the end of the episode. I'm Randy, the pastor half of the podcast, and my friend Kyle is a philosopher. This podcast hosts conversations at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and spirituality. We also invite experts to join us, making public space that we've often enjoyed off-air around the proverbial table with a good drink in the back corner of a dark pub. Thanks for joining us, and welcome to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. we've got a fun episode, an episode of actually where Kyle and I disagree about something. Yeah, it's not super uncommon, I don't think but you know, I thought it would be more common when you started this. I was a little bit yeah, yeah, no, I thought there were more things you were wrong about. So part of my journey in my spiritual evolution that I've, you know, been on, I feel like things have slowed down for me the changes to my maturing and evolution of my faith, that slowed down. But for the last several years, there's been a number of things that have influenced this faith evolution or spirituality journey that I've been on. And part of that is science, reading more about science and reading books that kind of intermingle science and theology and who God is compared to what we're learning about the universe and the cosmos. And I've been convinced that my view of God and our view of God needs to change and grow and mature along with our understanding of the universe and the understanding of the cosmos. Because the God that I was given that I was raised with, is not big enough to handle and hold all the new scientific understanding that we're learning and discovering right now that God cannot exist, compared to the James Webb telescope, you know, discoveries and Hubble telescope and all this stuff. We've been on this trajectory of scientific discovery for the last century, and it's just exponentially growing as we speak, you know, decades get faster and faster, and what we're learning about science and about the universe, about cosmology, about even biology, all this stuff, and I feel like we need a god that's big enough to hold it all. So that's been a fun concept for me to think about to read about all of that. And what it also does, it helps me worship actually, the more I learn about the universe, the more I learn about life, the more I learn about science, in many ways, the more I am in awe, of reality, of existence, and then of God, because I believe that there's an origin to all of it, that we call God, the ground of all being. And I like it when we have scientific conversations within church circles. I like it when we bring scientific fact or discovery into spiritual conversations. And Kyle, you're not such a big fan of it makes me uncomfortable. Yeah, I don't want to totally shit on everything you just said. But some of it does make me pretty uncomfortable. And I'm really cautious about taking that line of thinking too far in either direction, in the direction of sciences influencing my view of God, or my theology is influencing my view of science and its place in society and my life or whatever, I think you can go wrong real fast in both directions, you probably can't, we're going to talk about some examples of that. And I tend to think they should maintain a healthy distance from one another kind of like, I don't know, divorced parents who still get along and like go to the kid functions, but you don't want it to be any more intimate than that. You know what I'm saying? Like, each has their role to play. And we tried blending them in it didn't work out. So yeah, yeah. And I wouldn't be an advocate for blending them. But I would be an advocate for being a really good healthy, separated family. Okay, and we can well, we might end up a little closer than I expected, but some of the stuff you just said still made me a little uncomfortable. So we'll, we'll see how far you want to push it. Before we do that. Let's taste a beverage if you're joining us for the first time. One of the things we do around here is we take the bar part of our title really seriously, and we taste an adult beverage together to set the mood. And this time Randy brought it. Well, our friend Jake brought it he Hey, Jay, our friend Jake generously gave us some bourbon to share. I've had it and I want to tell you it's fun. It's opposite in smoke and see which I guess Elliot told me that we've already sampled up it in our earlier episodes. One was that like

Elliot  04:51

for grain or some Yeah, before grain mash.

Kyle  04:55

Producer Elliot, what did you say about the opinion that we had?

Elliot  04:59

Yeah, we had four grand. I don't think we liked it.

Kyle  05:01

I don't remember I thought one of us did. But I don't remember

Elliot  05:04

dusty library book, like a mile on the tongue is what I remember. Okay, okay, well, so it wasn't great, but that's mashbill As part of this, right?

Kyle  05:11

It is. So it's a combination of their four grains, straight bourbon and their Solera. Aged urban mashbill finished in French oak and peated. Islay Scotch barrels. Yeah, so that's why it's called smokin see? Yeah, and of course, it sounds suspect and weird, but let's have a go. Yeah. So right off the bat. You don't get any of the meat on the nose. Oh, yeah, I do. I don't maybe it's because I drink so much. I'll Scotch but looking for that. I don't smells like peated bourbon to me. Although technically, I guess it's finished bourbon. Not so much. Do you smell anything? Um,

Elliot  05:43

the French slopeside oak trees? No, I don't really

Kyle  05:46

smell. Yeah. Last time I was in South of France. That's exactly what it is the French oak more special than like, I've never Italian. No idea. I mean, I think it's got a little bit too much of the mason jar that it's been sitting in for the last couple of months. But it tastes like a mix of bourbon and scotch. It does. Yes. The peat is very present on the petal jackets.

Elliot  06:04

Yeah, like that. If we're going in blind. And you asked me to identify the spirit. I'm not sure i i would say Scotch

Kyle  06:10

is really everybody would say scotch and it would be a reasonable guess. Because it tastes like it's peated Yeah, it's it's pretty fun. But you get the Karmali rich sweetness of a bourbon. Yeah, match with that PD smokiness of a scotch. I think it's just hard to find in the world of scotch. It exists, but it's very expensive. Most of its like, just a totally different end of the flavor spectrum, right. And probably as surely long See, like notes. And it's yeah, it's old and important. So you're gonna pay a pretty penny for. So this is a nice blend. Do you know what the price point is on this? Yeah, I think it's like 40 or 45 bucks. So if you're looking for the flavor of a scotch and the sweetness of a bourbon and you don't want to pay $100 This is a Scotch This is it? Yeah, no, I got it as an experiment. I got it as a gift for my friend. And then as soon as I tasted, I was like, Do you mind if I have a few? Because it was fun. Yeah, exactly. He's that good of a friend that I'm able to do that. But yeah, if you see up in smoke and see wherever you see it, whether it's story OB KC, your local liquor store, grab it. Let us know what you think. Because we think it's fun. Yeah. Thanks, Jake. Cheers. Cheers. So we talk a lot about our Patreon supporters around here. That's because we're super grateful for them, love them. And every now and then we like to shout out one of our top shelf Patreon supporters. And so this time, we want to say hey to Greg Eklund, thanks so much for being a top shelf supporter. Greg Lind cheers to you. You're so grateful. God help us make this thing go. Another thing we'd like to do is thank people and read reviews. Thank you for writing reviews and leaving a review. And we got a new review. And we're grateful for it. So Frick, a frecker. I'm assuming that doesn't have anything to do with mining or anything but Fricker frackers says great show great conversations, and they say the guys are great and always have meaningful things to say. And the guests always welcomed me with their knowledge for cracker, thank you for leaving that review. Thanks. Your reviews don't have to be super long to make it on the show. You're a philosopher, you have your PhD to show, you know, give us proof that you're a philosopher. So you're not a scientist. I'm not I'm not even a philosopher of science. So I should say that at the outset. This is like a hobbyist interest. But when you take something up as a hobby, I know you well enough to know that like you don't mess around, you dive in deep. So this episode is gonna be basically, this is your episode. And I'm gonna tell you where I think you're wrong. Or I'm gonna ask you questions, and producer Elliot might do the same thing. But tell us why you are skeptical when you see science and religion. Yeah, mingled? Yeah, well, let me just claim at the beginning here, as I said, not a scientist, not a philosopher of science, not an expert in this field at all. And I'm well aware that everything we're going to talk about is enormous ly complicated. And I know that I'm skirting the surface of all of it. I'm gonna like maybe obliquely reference a difficulty here and there, and you're gonna think, Oh, that's not a big deal. He just solved it moving on. And any philosopher listening is gonna be like, holy shit. What did he like? Well, I mean, I don't presses. First of all, I don't really give a shit with the philosophers. Second of all, good news for you. I'm a pastor. So I'm an expert at everything. Oh, yes. We have a few episodes about that. Look back. I'm kidding. For those of you who are really pissed right now. I'm totally kidding. Yeah. So why am I annoyed by this? There's a couple of reasons. And I see it in both directions. As I was saying, in the introduction, one of the things that annoys me the most, and this seems to be the more popular version of this that I'm seeing in recent years. So the last I don't know five to 10 years is that a lot of religious people with you know, all sincerity as far as I can tell, think that some new discovery in science has confirmed or strengthened or for and their view of God somehow. And they get like really zealous about that and really excited about that and worked up about that and kind of evangelical about it. And then a few years later, let's say that scientific insight is overturned and you never hear anything from them, or just kind of fizzles proves to be the fad that you know that it was. And that seems to happen a lot, especially for some reason around quantum mechanics. People love quantum mechanics, I heard it. So this happens on a very popular level. But I also heard like a world renowned extraordinarily respected philosopher make an argument that routed a central premise of the argument in an A metaphor, or an analogy between quantum mechanics and God's nature that I thought was just hopelessly flawed. So there's sophisticated versions of this to that philosopher shall remain nameless, but it's big deal. But more often than not, it's these popular level things. I think it's because quantum mechanics particularly lends itself to mysterious weirdness. Yeah, because nobody knows what the hell's going on there. Right? There's all these theories about how you can make sense of it. And all of them have huge problems. And they're all super strange. Oh, it's not huge problems. They're all held together by love all exactly. But that's not such an easy move. Right. And so one of my good friends used to make fun of me for my love of the movie Interstellar. I don't know if you've seen this yet. Yeah, I'll defend that movie all day. But I understand one critique of it, which is that in the end spoiler, like Love is the answer to everything, including science, kind of, and that is a very common view amongst a certain kind of religious person. And that annoys me, because inevitably, the people making those claims have no clue what they're talking about at all. And the experts in those fields don't think that those two things have anything to say to each other. Almost always, there are exceptions. And we can talk about some of the exceptions, but the vast majority of experts in both physics, for example. And I think theology insofar as they're informed by like, you know, they keep track of what the physicists are doing. I don't think those things have much to do with each other. And I would, in fact, I can't name a single serious physicist who would think that those things that quantum mechanics has anything at all to do with like the nature of Jesus. Yeah. So now, of course, a physicist won't feel like, Oh, I'm getting really close now. And all of a sudden, they'll have this discovery of what holds atoms and particles together, whatever in Holy shit. I think it's the love of God. Obviously, that's not gonna happen. However, I think you can believe and not be diluted or stupid. You can believe it in Dumb Ways, maybe. But I think you can believe in like, I believe that God is love. That means that I believe that the ground of all being in what the origin of all life in the universe is love. And it's like all of sciences kind of like this, you can say, explaining how that came to be. But you can still believe that the universe is held together by love. Yes, but I'm gonna I want to make the case or, you know, defend the claim that when you believe that, as all humans must believe, all sorts of things at the same time. You're believing them in fundamentally different ways. Yes. And ways that you ought not to make the attempt to make them consonant. Yeah, you can say what I just said, as long as you say, this isn't scientific. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah, good. But a lot of people want it to be scientific. Right. And there are, you know, there are really well known exceptions to that kind of thing I'm saying. So, John Polkinghorne, for example, was a rare exception of someone who is a trained physicist, and also a trained theologian and thought there was a great deal of fruitful overlap. I'm not sure if he would take issue with the view I'm going to defend in this episode, but he might have people like Francis Collins is like a very well known example of a serious scientists. And then like, you know, head of the Human Genome Project and all the other stuff that he went on to do, who like very famously wrote a book about this, found God in his science in a significant way. And you know, people like Teilhard de Chardin, who's a Jesuit priest, and also a paleontologist, and yeah, speaks to a lot of what I just said, is in a lot of tell heart, and also Ilia delio. I'm trying really hard to get her on the show, while she still can. She's a scientist, PhD in both science and theology. So she has a fun voice. Yeah, I think there are voices that mix these two together and kind of a very unique and striking view of reality. And it's informed by both sides of their education. Yeah, so that definitely happens. And you know, I'm obviously not trying to discount all those people or anything like that. But I do think the temptation to take that kind of syncretism is what I'll call it later tendency to take that too far. It's just very tempting. And often the thing that happens with journalists a lot, especially in science journalism, also happens when people get a little overexcited about the two things that they're interested in coming together. And the thing that happens with journalists is, you'll have a really sensational headline about some, like recent scientific discovery, and then if they're careful journalists, you won't find any justification or support for that headline in the body of the article, or the whole article will be sensationalist, and like you ask the actual scientist who made the discovery What do you think of this? article about it. And then they won't even recognize the discovery in the article, right? Because you want to get clicks and you want to sell papers or whatever. So that same tendency happens when people get super excited about these two things. I love being compatible with each other. Um, so that's one thing that annoys me in the other direction, a thing that annoys has annoyed me for years. And this is a little older. I noticed this more when I was in college in the early 2000s. But I guess it's still around. And that is the kind of atheists types new atheist types who think that science has disproven religion, the conversation between them is important. And everyone should be having it. And it comes out only one way. And that is that religious people are dumb, you're deluded, right? That is also a very annoying mistake that ironically, puts them closer together than I think they should be. Because it assumes they're doing the same kind of project, and that science is doing it way better. And so the religious people need to just get out of it. Yeah. And to the scientists or new atheist defense, I think they're critiquing a brand of Christianity that actually does think that they're doing work of science, you know, that's totally fair. And that should be critiqued. I mean, and that's the thing. I think all three of us grew up in a world that we were given like a young earth creationism, where you guys Yeah. And that means that we were given a not accurate version of science. You know, I went to Christian grade school, middle school, high school, and all of the science that I was given was heavily edited. And I was kind of warned as I was heading into college that like, this is what you're going to experience, you know, in that should be critiqued. Yeah, if that's your world, we love you. We're really glad you're listening. And we want to just humbly say, maybe that's not real science. I'm trying to be really kind. Yeah, no, that Yeah, we were literally all all there. All of us were raised. I mean, I was adamant. I mean, I was also a child, right. No idea what I'm talking about. But yeah, young earth creation. I was the kid who tried to like argue with the professor freshman year. So like, you know, we understand what it's like to be there. Totally.

Elliot  17:03

Yeah, it seems like young earth creationist. It's kind of a, like a proxy for this greater debate, like so much gets tied up here. But then it's extended. So if you come up in that type of upbringing, and then you go into those college classes, and you say, it's a thoughtful, more scientifically minded kid, they're like, oh, everything I've been told was a lie. And so then they have to discard that entire the Bible, God, their upbringing, everything goes out the window. So that's on one side becomes a proxy for something much larger. Or on the other side, that distrust of science can extend so far, and we've seen the effects of that in massive ways, the last several years, where those who are going to cling to Scripture as science textbook, have to then apply it in some really absurd ways far beyond young earth.

Kyle  17:52

Great. Yeah, I mean, I think what we found in the last couple of years with anti vaxxers, turning into anti COVID, vaxxers, and then turning into anti massacres, and all, you know, anti Fauci people anti science, is there is a consequence, there's a real societal consequence to distrusting science and being told and brainwashed that you can't trust academia, you can't trust experts, you can't trust scientists. We lived through that real life consequence, when half of our country didn't believe the experts that were telling us how to combat this pandemic. I was saying to my wife all along, like of course, this happened because I've listened to people that I know that I'm close with for years, talk about how my kids are gonna get autism, if we give them a vaccine, or, you know, they believe in essential oils more than actual medicine and all that stuff. And I'm not saying essential oils are terrible. I'm just saying, we were kind of built to not believe experts when we really needed the most Yeah, built by, in many ways, the young earth creationists, or at least the structures that produced the on Earth kind of where it came from. Anybody that lived through Answers in Genesis as a teenager was not surprised by the backlash against the elite establishment of experts during COVID. at all, it was a trajectory, it was a logical conclusion, you have the trajectory that a lot of people in the country have been on for a long time, not just in the US, actually, it's a global phenomena. And here's a question. I've thought of this for a while all of us will be processing COVID and all that went down during COVID For decades, right. But one thing that I've been thinking about and what would you say as a philosopher, in Christians are my people, like I'm a Christian, I'm a Christ follower. But I think Christians slash religious people are particularly susceptible to brainwashing and manipulation and conspiracy theories. Would you agree with that? Yeah, I mean, I'm not a sociologist. So I don't have like data on how much more susceptible they are to it than other people. I think there is data on like sort of rigid cognitive processes or habits that are associated with fundamentalist religious belief that are correlated strongly with belief in misinformation and concern Here's the theories. I'm pretty sure that is if not established, at least strongly supported. sociologically, we talked with teen when, a while back, if you haven't listened to that episode, go check it out. So fun his theory about that, when we broach the question with him, is that it has to do with this like feeling of having solved something or figured something out being knowledgeable or pleasurable. Yeah, right. Yep. And we've kind of been habituated into that in our religious spaces. Because, you know, for better or worse, whether it's true or not the religious hypothesis, of course, there's more than one. But I mean, the idea that there is a grand meaning to it all, and that there's a person behind, it all makes sense of a lot of stuff that would otherwise be extraordinarily stressful in life, right? All the stuff that gave the existentialist 1000s of pages to write. If you're a theist, it's not such a big deal, because there's a ready explanation for a lot of it. As regardless if you're a Christian, or not just just being a theist and thinking, somebody's behind this guiding it, that helps a lot. And it feels psychologically nice to be able to kind of punt to that. And so if you're already kind of primed to that, then when you encounter a grand explanation in the form of conspiracy theory, it's the sort of thing that you've experienced before, and you're going to naturally gravitate to it. Whereas if, you know, if you've grown up in an environment where everything is questioned, everybody's suspicious, nothing is for sure, that would be stressful on a lot of ways. But until it also prime you to be a little more suspicious of like, new grand theories as well. Yep. And maybe Big Pharma, like? So we've, we've strayed quite a bit we have, let's say, tangent. Yeah. So you know, we were talking about evolution. So this is a good example. So we could say there's maybe two ways you could go wrong here with the relationship between science and religion, you could think they're too similar. They'll be syncretism, which we'll talk about a little bit later. You could also think that there's this conflict that there's this hostility between them, and that's where I want to spend most of our time, this idea that religion and science are in conflict. I don't think they are, but not for the reasons that you often hear that they're not usually the answer to why are they not in conflict is some version of syncretism. Yeah, I can already feel that actually get along. I can already feel it, though, Kyle, we're not going to disagree as much as we hoped. Maybe maybe we'll see. When we get to some stuff. I'll try. I will try. So that's what I want to spend most of our time on end. Like there's good and bad ways to make that conflict claim. Right? So there's some bad reasons, some not so good reasons for thinking there's conflict between science and religion. One of them is what we're just talking about. The scientists are partisan untrustworthy, elite cabal of, you know, experts that are running the world or whatever. That's a bad reason. young earth creationism, obviously, is kind of a bad reason. Even with respect to evolution, specifically, there's a couple of different ways you can go there's like, kind of a good faith version of that kind of objection, that, you know, you can be a reasonable person and relatively informed and think that evolution poses a problem for religious belief. You could also do that in a really uninformed in bad faith way. I think the young earth creationist I'm not a monkey is a bad faith objection. Because yes, I mean, that's just not what evolution is. It doesn't really have anything to do with what he said. But a more good faith version of that kind of objection or worry would be something like, Well, isn't evolution random? Right? If you ask a scientist to explain evolutionary theory, we had an episode specifically about evolution and creation, if you want to hear more about that, but you know, you're gonna get something along the lines of there are these random genetic mutations that fuel natural selection and various other selective processes aimed only at adaptiveness to one's environment and sexual reproduction. And so fitness for the purpose of reproduction, and that's all the purpose there is. And at bottom, it's random. And that does sound a little inconsistent on the surface with how most intelligent religious people think about the world. Even if you don't go as far as ID, right. You just think that there's a God behind it all and a purpose behind it? Yeah, a purpose going in some direction that's meaningful. That does sound inconsistent. So that's a more kind of principled objection. I don't think it's a genuine worry. I think if you look into what scientists actually mean, or should mean, when they're acting responsibly within their domain, by words like random, you don't actually run into a contradiction there. Random just means something like there's nothing within a single organism ensuring that it gets the adaptations or mutations that it needs to succeed in its environment. Yeah, it's not a foolproof pattern. No, no, in fact, you know, even though it might be a pattern, it might be but evolution can go in any direction that is required, right? So a mutation might just as well lead an organism to become less complex in order to fit its environment as they become more complex, which is one of the things that is younger the Christian It's never quite seemed to understand. It's not aimed at any specific like outcome. And that's all scientists mean. But I think that's perfectly compatible with theism. So that's like an in a more informed or good faith version of that objection. But still, I think, ultimately not a real worry. Sure. Another version of that would be something like evolution makes the problem of suffering really difficult. I mean, it's already really difficult, it makes it even more difficult, especially if you care at all about animals. But even if you don't you think that, you know, humans have been around for a couple of 100,000 years, and like 99.9% of that time was just abject suffering. That's difficult to square with Christianity. And so I don't want to downplay that either. But I would say there that we're not talking about a conflict between science and religion. We're talking about a conflict between the fact of the world revealed by science and a particular theology, which says the God is good. And that's a real problem, but it's not a problem with science. visa vie religion, it's Yeah, we didn't need to get into theodicy here. No, we'll have a whole separate episode on that eventually. So those are, you know, bad ways of describing the conflict. Another bad way is what the new atheists do, which we already mentioned. I don't need to name those people, but you know who they are. So that's kind of mostly from the religious side. I would put the New Atheists on the religious side, actually, because I think they're doing a very religious thing. From the science side, some not so good reasons for thinking there's a conflict. Here, I would name people like Neil deGrasse Tyson, who just seems like such a nice guy. I can't tell if you're being sarcastic. Oh, are you? Serious? Okay. Yeah. Just the most pretentious I couldn't agree with you. I don't know, maybe he has a nice guy in person. But like he wholesale subscribes not just, there's a whole cadre of people like this, to this view that science saved us from the dark ages of religion. Like literally, the first episode of the cosmos reboot is all about this. And he just takes you through the details of how, you know, the church persecuted Galileo, and that was just this microcosm of this larger thing that had been going on forever. And the church has resisted and persecuted scientific heroes at every turn, basically, just trying to claw them back from these discoveries, ignoring completely that many of those people were devout religious people themselves, yes. And that those larger contextual histories here, and that there's no such thing as a Dark Ages. Like, all this is a very common and pervasive view about the conflict of science for such a smart person. It's exactly my argument, it almost always comes from really smart people in their domain who are stepping outside their domain. I'm going to reference a paleontologist named Stephen Jay Gould here in a little bit. He wrote a book about this that I'm going to recommend. And in it, he uses this myth, and it's this idea that a lot of people's in his generation seemed to grow up with, which was the until Columbus, most people thought the world was flat. That you've heard of this, I would assume right? This was this admit that was around when you were a kid? Sure. Yeah. So I wonder how common that still is? Hopefully, not very, but it was at one point not very long ago, extraordinarily common. And it just plays into this whole warfare motif between science and religion, right? Because you had this intrepid discover who goes out and like disproves this thing, rooted and, you know, religious ignorance in the dark ages that the world is flat? Of course, that's false, right? Like, Aristotle had numerous arguments for the spherical shape of the earth. And like, it was demonstrated many times way before Christianity that the world was, and like no one believed otherwise. That's the thing. And so like, you have myths like this that arise, apparently just for the purpose of solidifying this view that science and religion are in conflict. Yeah. And that's so interesting, because this, there's been a new Rise of Flat Earthers, you know, and, in most of them seem I could be wrong, but most of the Flat Earthers that I've heard of are fundamentalist Christians. And that's concerning. It is concerning. And I just don't know where and why that came from in our modern era. Yeah. How could I just don't understand I'm sure the answer is some version of the internet. Yeah, it's the same thing of why we don't believe in, you know, why we think Fauci is out to get us and all that stuff. It's just, it confuses me. I mean, I remember, I remember when I was in college, I had a classmate who was just kind of goofy and funny, and somehow Flat Earth, you know, people came up, there was a Flat Earth Society at the time, but it wasn't as popular. Now, this was at my undergrad, and he was pretending to be a flat earther. And I was like, give me some proof, man. And he pulls out a quarter from his pocket and sets it up on stage and flicks it and it spins real fast. And of course, a quarter spinning real fast looks like a sphere. And he was like, yeah. And but you know, that was in when was that? And he was joking, of course, but, you know, that was in maybe 2006, something like that. An argument of that quality, in 2015 Say, can gain 1000s of people maybe even more than that. Seriously, take you know, taking it seriously on the internet in a way that couldn't have happened even to those insects, have you heard of birds aren't real? Yeah. It's just like that prime example that sort of thing. Yeah. Because, you know, whatever, we don't have to talk anymore about that. So that's, you know, that's a version, from the perspective of science, a bad version of this view that they're in conflict. There's also, you know, better, better versions of it from that side. To that we can talk about, there are responsible, careful, scientists who think that science has, at least the consensus of scientists has settled on some things that will be very difficult to square, with any extent, religious view of the world. And you could be a principal practicing scientist and believe something like that, again, I would think it would be a mistake and a little overblown, but it's possible, too big of a jump, but possible. Yeah, there's also the view that science somehow entails that religion is false, because science is naturalistic, that word naturalistic does all the work there. And this is something this is this is the place when I warned you at the beginning of the episode that I was gonna say something, and it was gonna sound simple. And then a lot of people were gonna get pissed if they knew anything about what I was talking about this is that there's a whole literature on naturalism and what it might mean, methodological versus metaphysical naturalism, that sort of thing. I'm going to say here, just for the purposes of this conversation, because I think it's true and enough cases that it makes it worth saying that when scientists talk about science being naturalistic, they're talking about it in a methodological sense, which means that for the purposes of the enterprise that we're engaged in, and the rules of that enterprise that we've agreed to, to get the kind of information that we're trying to get about the world, we're going to say at the outset, that we're going to assume there's nothing hokey, or supernatural or metaphysical. going on here. And we're just going to go based on our observations, and the experiments that we can make on our observations. And we're going to going to conclude, using the scientific method, whatever the hell that ends up being, at the end of the day, we're going to conclude what we know about the world based on that. And we're going to call that fact if it's really well established. And if it's not verifiable, according to that, in some sense of verifiable, then we're going to say, we're unsure if that's true about the world. And you know, that is naturalism, we call it naturalism, but it doesn't, it's not equivalent to the claim that the natural world is all there is. So that would be kind of metaphysical naturalism of the capital N. And that would entail atheism. Right? Unless you think, you know, unless you're pantheist, I guess. But if you're a classical theist, and you think God has made the world and is bigger than it, then that kind of naturalism would entail atheism. But those are different claims. They're obviously different claims that, you know, we're trying to settle this kind of question under these particular constraints in this context, is different from saying, whatever we find out from that method has got to be all there is. And there are lots of scientists who will speak loosely or very intentionally take that too far. And I think that's a mistake as well. Yeah. I mean, as you're talking about the naturalist stuff that makes sense that a scientist would have to do that would have to make a conscious decision to say, everything that we find is going to be evidence based, not exactly something going on evidence means a very specific thing in this context. Yeah. However, there are scientists who, in the act of that project, giving their life to it became believers in higher power, or God or whatever. And they were giants in their field, like Allan Sandage is one who was a really, really influential astronomer, who I just looked it up, because I studied him a little bit for some sermons that I did, which is gonna know this. But it says he published the first reliable measurement of the universe's expansion, right, like, Oh, interesting. He's a big deal. And he basically just said, The deeper I dug, the more complex things got, and the more related things got. And it made most sense to him at that point, to just believe in God, in a God. And I think he then went to Christianity. But that's fascinating to me that there's people like that as well, scientists who in the act of their of their field, and being experts in their field, they like, I think I need to believe in God. Now, yes, some of the thing that happened with Frank, I don't know if like Francis Collins was kind of conversion, but I think it was something like that it was, you know, through research that he came to see the enormous complexity and maybe design and in the universe, and that, that just made more sense of the whole thing instead, so yeah, I can, I can kind of respect that it really depends on what is then done with the two domains, because do you lean then too far into trying to make predictions about one from the other? I would hope not, that would be a mistake. Other people like very famously, George Lemaitre was a Jesuit priest, who was one of the first to solve Einstein's equations and predict the expansion of the universe and the existence black holes, I'm pretty sure. And this is before Einstein could accept that sort of thing, but has since been confirmed. I mean, and that's, you know, coming from a place of deep religious conviction practicing priest. So yeah, there's many, many examples of that sort of thing. Newton famously himself was I'm not only religious but might have don't quote me on this but might have flirt. He was a kind of biblical literalist and might have flirted with a kind of young earth. There's no way I think that might be true. I mean, that was a long time ago. Yeah, yeah, that's probably enough about bad ways of, I think thinking about the conflict between science and religion. A better way, I think, is what has been called non overlapping magisteria, Noma for short, by a paleontologist named Stephen Jay Gould. And interestingly, I recently revisited his view, because when I was a young, you know, budding apologist for Christian faith, like he got a bad rap. And interestingly, around the time that I was doing that Richard Dawkins came out with his book called The God Delusion. And he mentions golden, Noma at the beginning of the book, and says the very same thing about it that all the Christian apologists were saying, interesting, they had the exact same critique, but they all thought he was wrong. It's because they agreed that these two things should be in conversation, that they are in conflict, and that one of them wins. You know, the difference between Dawkins and the Christian evangelical apologists was that he thought, evolutionary science one, and they thought God want but there's a real conflict, and one eventually has to bow to the other. And Gould was out here saying, you know, back in the 80s, and 90s, these things probably shouldn't really even be talking much to each other. They're doing different things. They have magisteria, as he put it, which is, was a very carefully chosen word, it comes from Catholicism, and it's the teaching arm of Roman Catholicism, the teaching arm of the church. Okay, so the people who decide doctrine are the magisterium. Yeah, they have teaching authority. In other words, magistrates, and they have like methods that they use to arrive at their conclusions. And then once they pronounce on something, it's authoritative for adherence or followers. And so gold is using that as kind of an analogy to say, science and religion have their own sets of methods, and their own kinds of questions that they're dealing with. And sometimes those questions overlap, what doesn't and can't overlap is the way that they investigate them. They're styles of inquiry, their methods of inquiry, they're fundamentally different. And when you try to use the methods of one to reach conclusions about the other, you always make mistakes, it's a pretty kind of hardline view, they're non overlapping, that's the part of that. So separate magisteria. But interestingly, they're often talking about the same stuff. And they should be he was very insistent about this, they should be in constant conversation. And the conversation should be uncomfortable, and often intense. But what should never happen is that we try to use the methods of one to pronounce on the other, or try to blend the methods, they just can't happen. So he wrote this little book, which I recently read, just revisited called rocks of Ages. This is a nice little pod. He was paleontologist, and obviously there's some, you know, geological joke there as well. And so in, you know, he makes the case for Gnomon. That book highly recommended, it's like less than 100 pages. And in that he's, I'm going to quote him here. He says, each domain of inquiry so science and religion, frames its own rules and admissible questions, and sets its own criteria for judgment and resolution. In other words, it has its own kind of method. These accepted standards and the procedures developed for debating and resolving legitimate issues define the magisterium, or the teaching authority of any given realm. No single Magisterium can come close to encompassing all the troubling issues raised by any complex subject, especially one so rich as the meaning of our relationship with other forms of life. Instead of supposing that a single approach can satisfy our full set of concerns, we should prepare to visit a picture gallery, where we can commune with several different canvases, each circumscribed by a sturdy frame, frame being the method, right, the pictures in the gallery go together to form your experience, but they are distinct. And as part of their beauty of the experience, if you want to use that metaphor is their distinctiveness, right, is that you're experiencing them separately, and they're giving you different things. And I think I think this is right. I think he's unfairly maligned and misunderstood by both sides of the religion and science are in conflict crowd. And they Yeah, I think they both miss something really important here. And it's really just he admits this explicitly in this book. It's an extension of this very famous distinction in philosophy, called the is art distinction. That's another place where anybody philosophically informed is like, oh, what's he gonna say? Where's he gonna come down on this? And Gould knows that this is controversial, but I think he has a very long footnote where he's like, but it's right enough, isn't it guys? Like don't We don't we mostly agree about this. Like, it comes from Hume basically, who said you can't derive As an OT claim, something should be the case from an is claim, something is the case. So if I, you know, if I'm an evolutionary biologist, and I look into the history of human evolution, or animal evolution in general, and I say, you know, look at how all these things adapted to have these violent tendencies, survival of the fittest kind of thing, nature's written teeth and claws, they said back in the day, and then I want to extrapolate from that some claim about human morality. That's a mistake. I can't, because the domain of science is limited to description. And it cannot talk about prescription, which is how something should be, or ought to be from the other direction. Lots of moral philosophers have made the similar point that, you know, looking at nature is not really, even if it's a very careful and rigorous look, it's not really going to tell you anything about morality. It's just not suited for that it's doing a different kind of job. So Gould, at one point gives examples of questions, you know, that he thinks these should fall in the domain of religion? Are we worth more than bugs? Because we've evolved to more complex neurology? Do we ever have a right to drive a species to extinction? Do we violate a moral code when we use genetic technology to splice genes, that sort of thing, which has become even more much more relevant since he wrote that? He says, such questions simply cannot be answered or even much illuminated by factual data of any kind. And he's right about that, at least I'm gonna come down on the side saying he's right about that. Like, you know, Kant, a famous moral philosopher, big fan of said, look, the fundamental aspect of morality is obligation, there are obligations that we're all under, and you simply cannot opt out of them. That's what makes them an obligation. And you cannot explain an obligation like that with appeal to anything descriptive. Like I can't look around in the world and find a thing and say, aha, this is the thing this, you know, fact about our evolutionary past, or this fact about my psychological development, or whatever it might be this fact about societies and how they're formed, and use that to explain, justify or condemn this, you know, moral point. That's just not morality. Morality is about obligation and obligation is something you can't opt out of, as he said, it's categorical, not hypothetical. That's getting too nerdy. The point is, is an order different. And Gould thinks maybe we could press him on this, but gold thinks that science is about is, and religion is about art. Okay. And so he wants to make religion primarily ethical. I mean, religion is also about how what is came about, right? Yeah, so lots of religious people who had lots saved, right. So there are claims about the world and this is what riled up both the apologists and the New Atheists, about his view, which is that they both see religion as making factual claims about the world that can be disproven, or at least we can give evidence for or against them, the apologists thought we could prove them. And they theists thought we could disprove them. Right. But I think that's to not quite take his view, as fairly as, as you could. Because he's not denying that they pronounce upon the same questions often, and that the conversation between the two sides must be had, and that it will be contentious. He's denying that they're using the same methods yet again, right? We keep coming back to that. There's simply not so when, you know, when religious person makes a factual claim about the world? What would be a kind of factual claim? I mean, God, or the creation of the world have actual Yeah, God made the world would be in this is how he did it. So there we get de into dangerous territory. Yes. Right. So let's just stick with the God exists and make the world. That's metaphysics. That's okay. And that's fine. Because in you know, the sciences should really shouldn't have anything to say about that. It's just not within their domain. It's not within their toolset to make any claims about one way or another. If you think Big Bang cosmology proves that God created the world, you just don't know enough about Big Bang cosmology, like it just doesn't. And this comes from somebody who tried real hard to see how it did for several years. It just doesn't. And you can say similar things in the other direction. So that's a fine claim. God exists. I don't think there's any conflict there at all with science. God, did this very specific developmental thing begins to get a little different. Yes, right. Because that does become testable. If you want to say, this is something that Gould would have been really annoyed by. One of the things he was famous for was his theory. He tried to figure out why we can tell there have been many like mass extinction events and the just from the fossil record in the history of evolution, and then several like explosive development events, where a lot of new forms came sort of came into being all at once Like, within a few million years, but like super fast on evolutionary timescales. And so one of the things he researched and you know, formulated theories about was what? Explain that biologically speaking. And you know, it's so easy as a theist to look at that and say, Well, you know, God reached in and created some new organisms. That's a violation of Noma. Yeah, because you're, you're using the kind of methods of theology to make a conclusion about this very specific kind of question for which we already have a method for figuring out that question. Yeah. And the same thing could go in the other direction. I'm smiling, because I bet when you said we had mass extinction events, and then all of a sudden, a bunch of life burst into being in really quick, you know, really quickly, not but a bunch of people who were maybe still stuck in a little bit of young earth creation. We're like, yes, yes. And then all sudden, you said there's a wind over the course of a few million years and like, you know, a lot of us maybe this happened to you, we had kind of a slower trajectory out of young earth creationism, it wasn't straight into theistic evolution, or whatever from that. It was we were even microevolution. Yeah, then I believe in macro. Or we were old earth creationist for a while, yeah, some of us really liked Hugh Ross for a while, who very explicitly makes that kind of claim, like, you know, we can we can falsify this kind of scientific creationism. And like, one of the things that it states is that those bursts in growth are due to direct creative, creative acts by God. So we were all tempted by that for a little while. It's a journey. Yeah. So I think gold is right as basically what that comes down to. And it sounds right to me find a defend his view against it. And he makes the claim that things right about this, that he's defending what was at the time may be unpopular to the loudest voices, but has been the majority opinion of experts in both domains, for like ever since there's been science, right? I think he's right about that, too, if you're interested in more on that read the book. But he makes these two claims that I want to focus on just for a minute here. I think they're extremely fair and reasonable. One is that the magisteria are equal in importance. He's an agnostic, bordering on an atheist. And he is very careful and respectful to distinguish the bad exponents of religion from religion itself. And say, this is extraordinarily important to human life. And what my atheistic colleagues are doing in Melania is despicable. Yeah, that's cool. I mean, I think a lot of religious people would get pissed by saying they're equal. And a lot of scientists would get this by saying they're equal. And our goal should always be to piss off as many people equally as possible. That sounds like both sides ism right there, buddy. Yeah, that was a joke. So yeah, they're both super important and equal, and we're not privileging one over the other saying this, they each have their own domain, and each domain is essential to human life. Like you can't be have, like a full, I don't know, you can't experience everything human life has to offer fully, without engaging deeply in the questions that both of them deal with. Like, if you've ever seen the Big Bang Theory, or even just Star Trek, right? There's always these hyper logical characters who have gone completely in the direction of science at the expense of everything else. And they're farcical, they're comical characters, they're there to teach us that specific lesson that we need the other stuff, too. So they're both equally important, but also, they are logically distinct styles of inquiry and blending them as a mistake. And I think we can hold both things equally. And I think that's correct. And here's where it maybe gets uncomfortable for you, I don't know, the tendency to syncretism to make them, you know, pull them together. It's, it's, it's threatening that logical distinction. So here, here's an example of syncretism. He actually notes a few in the book, Quantum Mechanics reveals something about the nature of Jesus, like, you know, in quantum entanglement shows us something about like the dual nature of Christ or something like that, real claims that theologians have made, or that you see headlines about some thing in the Bible, pick your favorite thing that the Bible says is scientifically accurate, or scientifically prescient, or we find out some new thing about the world. It can be in cosmology, but could also be in like archaeology, right? And suddenly, we have a greater respect for the Bible, or we say, Oh, the Bible is right about that. The implication that God was like priming us for this discovery, or this fact or something like that. That's bordering on. Violating Noma. Science shows that if you want to come from a different direction, trying to piss off some liberals here, of which I am one, science shows somehow that all humans are the same and that therefore religion should be primarily like progressive liberal political action would also be a violation of Noma, on this view. Some new physical discovery proves God's existence like Big Bang cosmology, for example, or inflationary theory or whatever. And suddenly the universe has a beginning and therefore God ought to exist, because something had to begin at that All right. So there's all these things that you know, reasonable religious people want to do that fall prey to this distinction. So it's not a like a happy go lucky, friendly, let's all get along kind of view. It's each one has their domain and they should keep their damn mouth shut about the other one kind of you, but they must keep talking. Sure. Now I understand. And I think that's mostly true. But I think that stance let me just make it personal I think your skepticism you know, you've heard me talk about science and in sermons or you've heard me, you give a few examples, I don't remember exactly what they were. I think if the person let's just say from my perspective, the person or pastor or church leader or whatever, is trying to seem like an authority or equating scientific fact and discovery to religious like phenomena. Yeah, that might be too far. Right. Like that's taking one for one is, I think, that seems like syncretism. And it's too far, but looking at the origin and nature of the universe, and how things work and operate. And if you see or sense that like this seems consistent with what I know from the Scriptures about the nature of God, and what the life of Christ is like, and what we're called to me that I believe that God is love, and that created the world and love and all of it is heading towards somewhere good. If you see something within science that kind of says that hints at that. I think that's fun. And it doesn't have to be syncretism because we don't have to turn it into religious discovery. Now, my thought about that is that if you're in a very self aware way, using science to hint at that yourself, I'm okay. I think with that, I wouldn't do it. But I think I'm okay with it. But if you're saying that science is hinting at it, that's a different thing. No, I'm saying nature is hinting at it not science. Yeah. But you know about nature through science. Yeah, sure. Right. So I think that is a violation. Well, so for example, when we get all these new Webb telescope pictures out there, incredible. I think that next Sunday, I put them up on the large screen, and we like prayed our way through them and kind of worship their way through them anyways. Right? Yeah. And, and that's just because the new discoveries, the seven light years of did all this stuff, just as mind blowing, and we believe I believe my god it like, actually had a part of that, that process and is holding all that together. I mean, the Scripture say that, like Christ holds all things together that Hebrews it says in power of His Word, and Colossians, it says that Christ holds all things together in himself. And that has to that expand so much when all of a sudden we see these new images of what's going on in the universe that happened millions and millions of years ago. Right. And that I think, if you can use that for worship rather than fear, yeah. Why not? Yeah, yeah. I think it's the responsibility of the person using it in that way to make it clear that the tools that they're using to make the point do not themselves make the point. So you know, nothing about James Webb telescope? Are the people using it, or the people who designed it are the people who are drawing scientific conclusions on the basis of its findings has anything to do with the point that God holds all things together? Yeah. I mean, I saw people on Twitter saying things like the Webb telescope is an instrument of worship, you know, in the right, sense and context. I'm fine with it. If all they mean is I'm using it as an instrument of worship is great. Yep. It itself isn't. Yeah, of course. Guitar. Right. Exactly. Yeah. Yes. My axe is only an instrument of worship insofar as I shredded on soundstage in a church. Like, yeah, so yeah, where my hackles go up, is when we failed to make the distinction between the thing itself and the use of the thing to make a thoroughly religious point. There isn't anything scientific about that point, if you want to say, another worry about this, which is consonant with Noma. But honestly, it's consonant with a certain kind of more, reticent religiosity, like I've heard reformed theologians make this kind of point, like, they tend to be a little Reformed theology in general tends to be a little suspicious of new arguments for God's existence, especially ones that are related to science, because they, they think it's too shaky of a foundation to like, base your belief in God, because science changes, right? And so they're not they're not happy with that. So what happens if I've come out and said, you know, this new scientific discovery or this new scientific tool has supported this religious doctrine and then 10 or 50 or 100 years later that scientific discovery is overturned, and its opposite is now in vogue. Does that like undermine my theological view? If so, that's a concern. So like, you don't even have to be a proponent of Noma to be a little suspicious of uses of science in that way. Yeah. No, I completely saying basing your religious understanding He's off scientific understanding is a bad practice. Like that's going way too far. The nerdy part of me is also just it annoys me because the science is almost never accurate. Right now when it's James Webb, that's fine, because we can all look at the pictures. It's just a tool that helps us to see what we can't see with our naked eye. And what we can see with our naked eyes already. Extraordinary, right? So I'm fine with that. But like, almost every use of science, especially like recent scientific discoveries that only a handful of people in the world actually understand, that are used for religious purposes. Even if they're making a kind of vague or relatively innocuous religious point, the person speaking just doesn't know what they're talking about. No, yeah. If you asked the scientists, do you agree with this use of your view, and then be like, what? That should give us pause. Right? Yeah. Yeah, no, I mean, again, there's a difference between just reading the data that the scientists discovered and saying, Oh, my goodness, that's incredible. What does it say about our God? That's one thing, and then trying to try to interpret that data in some way, shape, or form or trying to pretend that I understand it. And it came about Rosa, two different things. Good. Okay. Well, maybe we didn't disagree as much as I'd hoped we would. Yeah, sorry, damn, it always happens. I just know, in my spiritual journey, that recently, especially in the last five or so years, the more I hear about, particularly astronomy and cosmology, the more I hear about discoveries in the universe, the more I'm filled with wonder, the more I'm filled with mystery, the more I'm filled with awe, and the more I'm filled with worship, and that has made me I think, a better follower of Jesus, it's made me a better Christian, and it's made me a better human being, because I get a real dose of humility, get a real dose of my place in the world, in the universe in history. And I get a real dose of also wonder, like, if there really is a God, like, I really think there is, and I've been spending my whole adult life talking about that being that, you know, ground of all being is just so so beyond my understanding that it actually makes me want to fall down and worship even more and, and also hold this, like the apophatic stuff that we talked about in the tradition to say, How could I ever hope to know you? You know, I mean, there's in that actually produces more affection and devotion and me to say, like, I've been so wrong for so long, because I thought I had a handle on God, I've been so wrong for so long, because I thought I had a handle on reality and the universe, which is a such a ridiculous thing to say, but many of us religious people do that. But the more scientific discovery comes about, the more I realize how little I know, and how little I am. But I still believe that there's a God who holds it all, who originated it all, and who will redeem it all. And I don't think those things are in tension. I think that is we can say yes, and amen. To both if we're very comfortable. Yeah, agreed, yeah, I'm fully on board with that, I totally fine saying and I wholeheartedly believe that God uses nature in various ways and uses, you know, the investigations of careful people who disagree with you in various ways to humble you, and to highlight how much you're not God. And I think that serves a very useful religious function. And I don't see any conflict there either. And Gould would agree you're living in impoverished human life, if you're not experiencing that kind of thing, whether you're a theist or not, there's totally secular versions of that, too, right? Where people have their own kind of existential experience, partially based on scientific discovery. And it doesn't lead them anywhere towards theism or religion. But nonetheless, there's something deeply human about recognizing just how small you are in this whole thing, but how meaningful your life is, in spite over because of that. Yeah, yeah. And I think going back to the beginning of our conversation, the bad arguments against, you know, other science or religion, and then coming back to this point where like, how about we just agree to whether it's in our spiritual journey, or in a yearning for scientific understanding, we just hold both things with humility. Yeah. And know how much we know, and know how much we don't know. And try not to cross pollinate too much. And try to try to let one and let those two things live separately, and also when they intermingle, praise the Lord. Great. But let's hold humility, like we've talked about recently on this podcast as well and not pretend we know what we don't know. Amen. Well, that's it for this episode of A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. 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Randy  59:53

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Kyle  1:00:05

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Kyle  1:00:29


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