Sunday, November 30, 2008

December 1

December 1. One more week of classes and then final exams. After that it’ll be Christmas break. There’ll be a lot of work before then, though. The end of the semester is typically the hardest. This year won’t be quite so bad for me, though, because I had release time so that I only taught two classes instead of my usual three.

The release time was for a long-term project to write a book about science and religion, particularly where the conflict between evolution and creationism occurs. That conflict is a tremendous waste of energy in my opinion. In the first place, acceptance of the theory of evolution certainly does not require one to believe in God, but it doesn’t require that you disbelieve either. No scientific theory can require a belief in God. That’s just not the way science works. Science attempts to explain the physical world, and it applies to the physical world only. Science can answer many, many questions, but it does not tell us if there is an ultimate truth about the purpose of humankind. People of faith approach the great question of ultimate meaning from a different direction. Both ways of looking at the world are legitimate, and—-I believe—-can even compliment each other.

My project is not finished. I completed three chapters of the work, to go with seven chapters that I had previously finished. However, as I moved into the section on religion I found that I needed quite a bit more reading to ensure that I got the views right. That won’t be easy. Despite appearances, the creationism front is itself full of divergent views.

I did make good progress, though, and also managed to finish three reference articles in addition. Unfortunately, that didn’t leave much time for fiction. Maybe during the break I’ll be able to do some more of that.

In the meantime, with the holidays coming, don’t forget great gift ideas from the Charles Gramlich library: ;)

Cold in the Light

Swords of Talera

Wings Over Talera

Witch of Talera

Wanting the Mouth of a Lover. (See Sidebar to the Right. Scroll down just a bit.)



Lisa said...

That's some interesting stuff! As you know, I've been reading up on some similar issues. I'd love to have a chance to read it when it's finished to see how you're approaching the subject.

ANNA-LYS said...

I do not calibrate the religious Yule, but, I can give away gifts, any day of the year, just because giving gives such a warm feeling.

Glad You progress in Your work, Charles! It is an interesting field to anna-lyse, even if it can't result in the big answer.

To compare fiction or religion with science might be fruitful in the light of how thinkers through out history has fought on this battlefield. Mostly against their own systems of belifs.

Have a great December,


the walking man said...

I have believed that creationism and evolution go hand in hand and are supported in most all of the ancient texts.

First and foremost one would think God a scientist of the highest order, everyone who comes after seems to be trying to understand the base equations.

An interesting key is an exact and literal translation of the first line of Genesis.

ANNA-LYS said...

is a Freudian Slip of The Tongue :-)

I meant celebrate, of course

ANNA-LYS said...

I think The Walking Man introduce an interesting thought here; God as the first scientist.

On my way to work, and home again for lunch I have been thinking of Your post, Charles, and the question of The meaning of life.

I often find it fruitful to change subject, and see if I ask the right questions. Instead of asking if there is an ultimate truth about the purpose of humankind ... I ask from an ecological approach, the same question about the trees, the flowers and the bees. If the question only gives the answer such as "an important part of the ecological system on Earth" - then the question are wrongly asked :-D This sometimes turns out to be both funny and creative. Higher purpose? Whom or what decides what is higher than anything or anyone else ... to me rather racist thinking. Using the theory of autopoesis does invite us to a different thinking.

Miladysa said...

"Both ways of looking at the world are legitimate, and—-I believe—-can even compliment each other."

I agree - very interesting subject :D

This year is passing so quickly!

Vesper said...

You're writing about an interesting topic, Charles.
I am much more inclined towards science than towards religion, but this world is probably much too complex, too miraculous to be explained unilaterally. Unfortunately science, I find, is good at explaining effects, but not causes...

Thank you for the gift ideas! :-)

Anonymous said...

If religion is the pursuit of ultimate meaning then its really another name for philosophy and I agree that there is no conflict with science. However, religion normally means belief in a God who can circumvent the laws of physics so I don't understand how that can ever be can be compatible with science.

I certainly hope you get this book published because I'd be very interested in reading it.

laughingwolf said...

grats on the pending book, charles, hope to read it asap....

Heff said...

Nothing wrong with a blatant plug every one in awhile !

Lana Gramlich said...

Biting my tongue (hard) & wishing you the best of luck in your endeavors.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lisa, no problem. It probably won't be finished until at least the spring semester. I'll let you know.

Anna-lys, I do think it's useful to look at how religious folks seek answers in comparison to how science does it. It's good to pursue questions from all kinds of angles. Exploration with an open mind is the key.

Mark, your thinking coincides with mine pretty well.

Miladysa, I know. The year has gotten away from me.

Vesper, I generally lean more toward science as well, but i have many family members who are strongly religious and the topic needs to be looked at, I think.

Jon, I'm beginning to think that the "supernatural" concept of God is a mistaken one.

Laughingwolf, it'll probably be a while. But I'm making progress.

Heff, I don't have a lot of subtelty in me, unlike you and Wil. ;)

Lana, you should let "me" bite your tongue sweetness. ;)

BernardL said...

You're right, Charles, they can compliment each other quite well.

Sarah Hina said...

I agree that science and religion can complement each other, but it's in trying to forcibly marry the two--like intelligent design does--where I have problems, especially when people want to pass it off as a legitimate theory to our kids. Let them lead separate, respected lives. :)

Really interesting topic, Charles. I wish you the best of luck in completing it, and finding all the subtle distinctions.

David Cranmer said...

Well put. I have never had a problem of balancing the two either.

ivan said...

I think The Walking Man has something here.

Funny how we seem to write on the same topic from time to time.

I wrote an entire novel on it, Light Over Newmarket, where a scientist gone over the hill tackled the problem of unified theory and how it could apply to creationism and evolution.
What almost stopped me cold in my reseach was this:

From page 12, The Wonders of the World:

My thesis is that the foundational framework of modern science, with the key idea of the laws of nature, was born and bred in the theistic world vision. What's more, prior to this, and within a time window of 300 years, the four finest thinkers of Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam framed a meta-scientific Theory of Everything that underpins the scientific enterprise. This intellectual superstructure which we shall call The Matrix, provided a systematic rationale for the foundations of science. Its starting point and core principle was "an equation of God." Interestingly, the great scientists who founded modern science, Copernicus, Newton, Maxwell, Einstein, Planck, Heisenberg, Dirac and numerous others, were Prophets of the Matrix in the sense that they passionately proclaimed the root-and-fruit embeddedness of science and religion. The Matrix is the common platform that supports both science and religion.

---Abraham Varghese

I left this out of the first version of my novel, but kept it for the second.
I think in the next edition, I will leave it out and have the information come out in a kind of semantic noise.

steve on the slow train said...

Your earlier posts on the different kinds of creationism were fascinating. I agree with your premise that there science and religion can complement each other.

If you haven't already read it, Garry Wills' book "Head and Heart: American Christianities," might be a good one to read regarding the American religious tradition. He traces the influence of the Enlightenment and evangelicalism in American society from colonial times to the present.

I'm looking forward to reading your book when it comes out.

Scott said...


I agree with you- I never understood hy it has to be one side or the other. Maybe God( or Odin or Zeus or take your pick) gave a little nudge, sat back a few millenia with a cold one (or several) and watched as we evolved from shapeless protozoa to the messed-up lifeforms we are today.
And as the holiday season approaches remember..2008-Bringin' Back Krampus!

Rick said...

Anna-lys makes the point of God as the first scientist. In Masonry, we think of God as the first craftsman.

Religion is, I believe, as ill-served to attempt to control science as science is to try and control religion.

Interesting post!

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernardl, yup.

Sarah Hina, I believe part of the problem is impatience. Maybe if we just keep learning new things we'll eventually find a natural way to connect them. Forcing them together clearly isn't going to work.

David Cranmer, thanks.

Ivan, the book I'm reading now, Darwin's God, makes a very similar argument. It's an interesting one but I think it's natural that Darwin's theory had to start out being compared against the earlier creationist view.

Steve, I haven't read that one. Thanks for the tip. I'll check it out.

Scott, one thing that amazes me about religion is the sheer number of different religions down through the ages, although many of them do have some commonalities. Yeah Krampus.

Rick, I agree, and a lot of energy is wasted in attempting that control.

eric1313 said...

I wish I had wares to sell on my blog.

I need to work harder.

As for creationism v/ evolution, why couldn't God have set up the whole chain of dominoes? Makes perfect sense to me too.

Mary Witzl said...

I don't think a belief in God should make us reject what we learn about the world. It amuses me to hear both scientists and creationists trying to insist that their own beliefs are the only ones that are acceptable. If only they could see how much they have in common.

I'm hoping one day I'll be able to teach AND write too! As it is, I'm lucky to be able to write a weekly blog post and make a quick round of my favorite blogs.

Mary Witzl said...

I don't think a belief in God should make us reject what we learn about the world. It amuses me to hear both scientists and creationists trying to insist that their own beliefs are the only ones that are acceptable. If only they could see how much they have in common.

I'm hoping one day I'll be able to teach AND write too! As it is, I'm lucky to be able to write a weekly blog post and make a quick round of my favorite blogs.

Mary Witzl said..., I meant to say "...what we learn about the world through science." Jeesh.

L.A. Mitchell said...

Good luck fitting in all the things you need to accomplish in this busy season :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Eric1313, nothing says he couldn't have.

Mary Witzl, hey, we all have those days. Don't sweat the small stuff. :)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, I always wonder if Intelligent Design is really different from Creationism or just an attempt to escape criticism.

SQT said...

One thing I thought was so interesting in A.J. Jacob's book about following the bible literally was the amount of energy creationists will go to in order to continue with that belief. The mental gymnastics involved is incredible. But I suppose the scientific side is prone to doing the same thing. I can't wait to read what you have to say about the whole argument.

Miles McClagan said...

Interesting, although when we did science at school, it was entirely in the pursuit of mixing A with B to make things blow up...

Aine said...

Sounds like an interesting project. I don't envy you the work of reading through all the divergent views, though. There's probably as many variations as there are people in the world...

Anndi said...

I too believe they can compliment each other very well.

I think the danger on the religious stand-point is when everything is interpreted literally. It's also been my experience that the people who do so are extremely difficult to reach.

Nicolas Copernicus was a devout man but that didn't stop him from making extremely important discoveries in mathematics and the principles explaining the planets' rotation around the sun.

Albert Einstein even believed in a "created universe".

I too believe God to be the "first scientist".

Shauna Roberts said...

I don't envy you either the job of sorting out the large number of beliefs in America about the relation of science and religion. Your commenters alone were of several different camps.

Myself, I'm all on the science side. Science tells us what was, is, and will be in the physical universe. Religion provides a meaning for it all for those who need one. I don't think either should be butting its nose into the other.

Charles Gramlich said...

Pattinase, I think Intelligent Design was carefully "designed" to be a political force rather than either a scientific or religious force. I'll have much to say about them in my book.

SQT, I'm often amazed at the cognitive twists humans can put their minds through. I know I do it too sometimes, but i'm usually aware of it.

Miles, well sure, there's always the important stuff. ;)

Aine, I'm beginning to think so. I keep hearing of more books I need to read and I can't postpone the book forever.

Anndi, yes, the problem comes in when no "evidence" is considered by a particular person. I more often see the rejection of evidence on the religious side, but that's not always the case.

Shauna, I often thing that both sides are making some arguments without enough evidence to back them up. And some patience on either side and some willingness to at least be civil would be a nice start.

Shauna Roberts said...

I second your call for civility. Both sides also need some humility. Religious people are willing to rely on scientific evidence instead of the Bible when choosing a treatment for their sick child, and scientists often rely on faith, intuition, and gut instinct when choosing a career path and a research agenda. So the real issue is not reason and logic vs. belief without evidence, but the areas of life in which each is appropriate.

Charles Gramlich said...

Shauna, I agree absolutely.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Christmas break? What's that? Would you believe I'll be having class the day after Christmas?

Sidney said...

You're right about the waste of energy, but it gives both sides something to shoot at.

Rick said...

So my son reads your posting and says, "Dad, look at the nice Christmas list this guy made for you. Now you know where to shop." Even I got the hint to buy him a set of your books.

Charles Gramlich said...

J. R., I'm holding a moment of silence in your honor. Geeze dude! That's horrible.

Sidney, I suppose there's something to be said for a target. lol.

Rick, your son is wise beyond his years. Take good care of that one. He's the kind of son we could all be proud of.

j said...

What if I believe God created Science? :)

Very interesting post!

I struggle a bit with evolution on a GRAND scale. Evolution on a smaller scale... or adaptation... I can believe in.

And I guess the reason that I am not sure that the two can exist in complete harmony is because Science, to me, focuses on PROOF. Neither creation nor Evolution can be PROVEN without a bit of Faith.

Again, very interesting post.

cs harris said...

Is it my imagination, or did this semester go by faster than ever? Did I fall asleep and miss a month in there?

Steve Malley said...

Love that plug! :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

Jennifer, actually, that's a very common misperception. Science "never" focuses on absolute proof. Science provides the closest approximation to truth that can be found at the moment in the natural world, but every scientist is aware that today's facts might be overturned tomorrow. It has not been uncommon in the past for scientists to believe that science was the way to discover God, although that view is less frequent today.

Candy, it went by pretty quick, although I was fairly productive.

Steve Malley, ;)