Sunday, November 7

Science vs Christianity (redux)

I wrote on this once before (here). However one issue I skirted. In the previous essay I argued that while Science and Christianity are often loggerheads (especially over subjects like evolution). They have no cause for this disagreement. In short, Christians are urged by Augustine (and Aquinas) that one can worship God's creation by trying to understand it. Scientists should be reminded that their field of study is in the business of model building, not describing the "real". It should also steer clear of ethical and moral teachings, which are outside of its desmesne.

However, the Bible does come down with authority in a unmistakable way on the ultimate end of science. Genesis 11 v1-9 directly speaks about the works of Men and technology and what we can expect to accomplish. I will give a brief synopsis of the point made by the author of Genesis. Here I summarize a discussion from Leon Kass' excellent book on Genesis. In the story the people desire to build a city with a tower in the heavens, so that they may "make themselves a name" and not be scattered. God replies that, "As one people with one language for all, if this is what they have begun to do, then nothing they plot will elude them." What is going on here? Mr Kass argues that the plan to raise themselves to the heavens is doomed to failure, and God scatters the people because of this. But if the plan in itself is doomed, why did he stop it? The reason is that God wants us to know that these plans are doomed, and that we needn't guess or try vainly. It is pretty clear looking at modern science that mathematics (and perhaps now English) make a common language for our efforts (in science and engineering at least) at making ourselves to be as gods ourselves. In the biological sciences especially, we aim to ape God and try to make of ourselves meat for our technological gristmill.

What does this mean? I am not a luddite and I do not think it is a message that all research should cease. I do however, we should pay careful attention to what it is that we do, and ponder the moral and ethical implications of our actions especially in the bio-medical field. Commissions like the "Presidents Committee on Bio-Ethics", and the issues raised by them should not be on the back-burner. Genesis warns us that these projects are fraught with peril. We should tread lightly and with care.