Brownback and Me on Science and Faith
During the Republican Presidential debates, Senator Sam Brownback indicated he did not believe in evolution. Later, he wrote a letter to the NYT op-ed section expanding his views of science and faith, and evolution in particular.
I will parse that letter if only for the fun of it by responding with a letter of my own.
Dear Senator Brownback,
The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.
The notion that reason and spirituality are two different realms is not true. They are reinforcing if either are to have value. The issue is how and where they reinforce each other.
According to your faith the material and spiritual order were created by the same god. That is if god exists, or god coincidently is the god in whom you believe out of the galaxy of gods and supernatural agents on display by the faithful. Of course, your brand of faith denies spirituality to the religious skeptic. The religious skeptic in your view of the cosmos is doomed to eternal torment and damnation. If that is spirituality, I want no part of it. I would rather have a spirituality based on what Robert C. Solomon calls the thoughtful love of life. Senator, your spirituality deviates from that by a wide margin. Of course, you have the privileged position of being one of god’s elect in your own mind, so it is easy for you to believe just about anything whether miracle or ruthless, vicious, violent cosmic justice. You might respond that you indeed love me and look only to my spiritual welfare. Thanks for the kind and generous gesture, but trust me, I can take care of my own spirituality without your help.
Biologists will have their debates about man’s origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table. For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion. An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed. As science continues to explore the details of man’s origin, faith can do its part as well. The fundamental question for me is how these theories affect our understanding of the human person.Name one thing that religious belief has ever contributed to science. Show me one scientific hypothesis in the Bible, let alone a consistent and coherent scientific theory. Science does not inject supernatural agents and phenomena into its hypotheses, method, and theories. People like you, Senator, always try to obscure that boundary. The notion that the scientist of faith is using supernatural hypotheses in her scientific work to useful advantage is ludicrous and would be a denial of reason and any sensible notion of scientific research. After seemingly drawing a line between science and spirituality earlier in your letter, you hopelessly blur the distinctions and boundaries at this point.
The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.That every person has a special place in creation is a noble sentiment, Senator. Too bad mine as a religious skeptic is to live for eternity in torment and damnation according to your wonderful faith. Thanks, for showing me the love. Science, evolution in particular, does not undermine man’s essential dignity. Your imagination, Senator, undermines that dignity when scientific fact and theory conflicts with your faith based beliefs and when you dogmatically refuse evidence and reasoning. As for my being willed into existence for a purpose, please try to convince me. I am not a puppet. I don't need your divine will for meaning to my life even if it is a result of evolution.
While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.On the one hand, we have a scientific body of knowledge subject to challenge, further investigation, and refinement. On the other hand, we have your dogmas and doctrines, Senator, eternally unchangeable and not subject to experience, experiment, and evidence. Scientific endeavor must not tread on the toes of your faith. The only science we should believe is science that fits with your faith based muddled view of the cosmos. How convenient for you. It must be nice to be so damned right. I can scarcely imagine what our courts of law will become should you and your fundamentalist cohorts seize the absolute power and dominion over thought that you so ardently seek.
My religious skepticism deserves as much respect and dignity under the law as your religious faith. Why is it you so vociferously demand my respect for your faith while denigrating my spirituality? Yet you claim you will represent all Americans should you be elected rather than those whom espouse your brand of fundamentalism. Why should I trust you?
Frankly, I will be voting for a candidate who is more scientifically and spiritually literate than you are, Senator. I will also be looking for someone with a consistent set of beliefs, which you do not seem to have.