Response to God and science

Since Geoff B mentioned me by name, I feel inclined to respond. Statements from his post are in italics, and my responses follow.

As an example of how God might fit into scientific articles, consider articles about the origin of life on earth. There could be a whole array of scientific hypotheses put forward, all of which could lead to scientific tests, especially in the field of genetics.

As I look over Pratt’s list that follows this statement they all seem, contrary to what Pratt says, either untestable at present with little hope for future testability, barring God’s detailed and public disclosure of his role (b through d, g and h); or falsified, with regard to organisms’ physical bodies (e and f).

A refusal by the scientific world to accept God in any of its respected experiments these days makes for incomplete studies and false science.

Science does not include God in its hypotheses because no one has discovered indications of his actions that are sufficiently precise, testable, and publicly shareable to be amenable to the methodology of science. The range of questions that can be addressed by science is obviously limited (though it has grown steadily over time), and in this respect science is certainly “incomplete.” But that in no way makes it “false.”

As any student of the history of science will know, Sir Isaac Newton and even Einstein accepted the existence of a Creator.

Neither man accepted an anthropomorphic, embodied God. I think for Newton, infinite and absolute space and time (that is, the entire ‘stage’ on which everything plays out) were essential aspects of God’s very being. As far as Einstein goes, one quote I quickly found through Google put it this way:
He rejected the conventional image of God as a personal being, concerned about our individual lives, judging us when we die, intervening in the laws he himself had created to cause miracles, answer prayers and so on. Einstein did not believe in a soul separate from the body, nor in an afterlife of any kind…

…he was also struck by the radiant beauty, the harmony, the structure of the universe as it was accessible to reason and science…

…it seems likely that he believed in a God who was identical to the universe—similar to the God of Spinoza. [!] A God whose rational nature was expressed in the universe, or a God who was identified with the universe and its laws taken together.
I don’t think Mormons can really look to either of these guys for support in specific theology, or that creationists of any stripe can point to them in support of their perverse notions of science pedagogy. That they had interests and perspectives that included things beyond science is a good example for all of us, but says nothing about what should be in science classes—which, after all, is only one slice of life. Ironically, by insisting on including God in science classes, creationists may have already given in or sold out: they shoot themselves in the foot by implicitly conceding and adopting the point of view that the scientific method is the only path to knowledge, insight, happiness, and so on.

Do they honestly believe that the study of science in a Millennial world will be the same as it is now?

If there is open communion with the heavens in a Millenial world then yes, the range of questions addressable by science will be expanded, because there will then be precise, testable, and publicly shareable indications about God’s nature and his past and current involvement with Earth and humanity.

And, lastly, if science classes are incomplete without factoring in the “God factor” in their experiments, isn't there room for at least bringing that up in evolution or astronomy classes?

I think science classes should reflect the content and methods of mainstream professional science, with protracted discussions of its limitations and alternative putative ways of knowing left to other areas of the curriculum (philosophy, “Guidance” class as they call one subject in our local district, etc.), and to other venues (churches, books, blogs, seminars by charismatic circuit tour speakers…)

In this connection I am against the inclusion of so-called ‘teach the controversy’ approaches involving Intelligent Design in science classes, because this does not reflect mainstream science. However such discussions may have a useful place in classes on philosophy, social studies, science and society, etc.

Having said that, I do not think claims should be overstated in science classes, and I do not think all subjects should be taught at all levels, and this leads me to a particular kind of science pedagogy I think should prevail. What belongs in science classes are tested hypotheses for which the students are capable of understanding the nature of the tests. Because I think science classes should leave students with a ‘feel’ for the practice of science, even more than filling their brains with specific facts, I think it would be poor science pedagogy to present even well-established conclusions of professional scientists at a point before students can have some understanding of how those conclusions were arrived at. This approach would, to some extent at least, both allow and teach students to evaluate evidence for themselves. Adherence to this approach would also serve as a prophylactic against the temptation to bandy about the latest and greatest hypotheses at the margins of knowledge before they are tested—as often happens in the media—which often leads to the unfortunate false impression that science is continually overturning itself, when in fact there is steady accumulation of well-established facts and ‘laws,’ and new theories reduce to well-established old ones in the limited conditions addressed by the old theories.

[This is cross-posted from The Spinozist Mormon. Please go to the original post to comment.]