Science and Religion

1) Introduction

The Adventist Church, whatever distinctive doctrines it may have, is quite traditional in other theological positions, and well-aligned with conservative – especially fundamentalist – segments of Christianity. Adventism believes in a recent creation, considers homosexuality to be sinful and has, at minimum, ambivalent understandings concerning the role of women. With many members leaning toward male headship. These beliefs each have the property that they are apparently somewhat at odds with science. Most notably, science is presently quite settled that the earth is very old (~ 4.54 billion years) and life has evolved (although the issue of abiogenesis is outside the scope of scientific purview). Yet Adventists officially accept ~ 6000 years since creation and are hostile to the concept of evolution. Regarding homosexuality there is more scientific ambiguity, but it is considered most often grounded in nature, not human perversity. If so, it would then be outside the scope of what should be labeled as sin, which involves choice. With women’s equality, this is less scientific than a socially-formed view. But it was also once thought that women were physically not just different, but inferior to men, in areas beyond the obvious category of strength. Thus “traditional” women’s subordination was a belief also supported by appealing to physiology.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11213
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Excellent!! These thoughts need wider dissemination.

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This is a beautiful description of the problem faced by the Adventist church. If the church fails to face it and come up with a defensible posture for preaching the Gospel in the twenty first century she will not be able to fulfil her mission. Universities are now to be found everywhere in what used to be called the Third Word. That only serves to intensify the church’s need to preach “Present Truth,” what needs to be preached now, now what was preached in the nineteenth century.

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I am so grateful that the author explains early on, that what he is going to address does not involve issues that are salvific. The church seems to take the position (at least from my experience) that ALL doctrines (28 Fundamental Beliefs) are salvific. This partly explains why a recent GC survey found that a significant percentage of SDAs in some areas of the world believe that what the church calls ‘health doctrine’ or diet, is in fact, salvific. And there seems to be no appetite (pun intended) to provide any clarity from church leadership.

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Adventism seems unwilling to wrestle with the question of epistemic grounding . That is, how do you warrant a belief?

This is the crux of the matter. But there is good reason why Adventism refuses to deal with epistemology - it would lead to a widespread questioning of many of the “sacred cows” of SDAism.

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Better than eating them. :wink:

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To paraphrase Marx, Church is Sominex for the soul, or Valium for the “virtue signalers” and people go there either to be reassured, through the incessant rehashing of 2,000 hearsay , that it’s okay to stay asleep, both scientifically and spiritually, or to take a physical nap.

The last thing “church people” want is to be disturbed or “woke”.

Just like believing in Santa Claus or being pregnant, religion is a binary condition and one is either okay with its basic assumptions or avoids it, accepting—as Jesus said of fiscal poverty—that putting one’s brain on cruise control, and allowing middlemen (Moses, Jesus, EGW, the local pastor, a popular politician, etc.) to manage one’s interactions with his creator, is an option which will always be available to everyone.

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What? Isn’t the appearance of life from lifeless chemicals the every essence of the question of “How did we get here?”. That “appearance” is by no means outside the purview of science and certainly not chemistry and biochemistry.

At the cellular level, life is, from a biochemist’s view: multiple, simultaneous, regulated, interrelated, non-spontaneous enzyme-catalyzed chemical reactions at nanoscale in a water solution at or close-to room temperature. The initial condition of a living cell having, literally, hundreds of non-spontaneous chemical reactions that are interrelated, inter-regulated and co-dependent is not one that will appear given enough time and/or statistical probability. That is the problem of abiogenesis.

The theory of evolution was invented by men in the 19th century that had no understanding of the biochemical complexity of a cell-any cell. According to them, life arose from a “warm pond”. 21st century biochemistry now understands that the “warm pond” cannot create life from the chemicals in that pond.

From the perspective of today’s biochemistry, the theory of evolution is completely inadequate to explain “how we got here”. It could be that so-called “hostility” to evolution by the church is actually healthy scepticism about a widely-held belief in a theory that, in reality, is wrong in the 21st century.

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When we understand religion as a school, and mankind as children in that school, we begin to realize that there are different grades of understanding. Abraham came to teach Grade 1; Moses came to teach Grade 2; Jesus taught Grade 3. In particular, Jesus said, “I have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now”. This can be understood as the 3rd grade teacher saying “In time, you will enter 4th grade, and be ready to understand more than you can understand right now.”

Holding too rigidly to the teachings of the previous teacher, is like the 4th grade student who loved his 3rd grade teacher so much that he refuses to accept new lessons from the new teacher. “My 3rd grade teacher taught only THE TRUTH, so therefore, I won’t listen to any other teacher!”

My own 3rd grade teacher taught me about “rational numbers” i.e. one whole number divided by another (aka a “ratio”.) She never mentioned anything beyond this type of number. I naturally assumed that all numbers were either whole numbers (integers) or rational numbers. Imagine my surprise when I got to 4th grade and my new teacher taught that there was a whole (infinite) set of irrational numbers (Pi & square roots, among others) which could not be exactly written down! I could have said, “You’re crazy! My 3rd grade teacher never said anything about that! Are you telling me she lied to me??” But fortunately I was old enough by that point to accept the new idea and take it in stride. (Maybe children can accept new ideas more readily than adults? Perhaps the adults have too much pride? Maybe that is why Jesus said (in Matt 18:3) that, unless you become as little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven.)

Separately: The assumption that science is closing “the gaps” so that God’s involvement in the world is less and less necessary is an interesting one. In the realm of near-death experiences, science seems to be opening the gaps instead i.e. as life-saving medical technology improves, the incidence of people reviving from, and remembering, a near-death experience is growing. The only problem here is that, while the large majority of people report that the next world is a glorious place, no one has found a correlation between belief in one particular religion and one’s condition in the next world.

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