tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Faith, reason and the origin of life

A movie reviewer at the Star Tribune hated Ben Stein’s film: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. I am interested in efforts to integrate faith into the workplace so a film about the integration of faith and science appealed to me.

Let me put all my cards on the table up front here. I don’t have a particular personal opinion on the origins of life. More importantly, however, I believe faith and reason go together; the so-called “enlightenment” with separated them in modern thought was a huge mistake.

Using a documentary format, Stein explains that scientists who publicly question Darwinian evolution and suggest that God may have created the world find themselves banned from the scientific and academic arena. They lose their jobs and they lose their funding.

Stein digs deeper, however, to consider the consequences of scientific study completely divorced from faith. He states that Darwinian theory, taken to its logical conclusions, leads societies to horrible places, like the death camps of Nazi Germany. Stein talks about the social Darwinism, or eugenics, which was popular in Europe and the United States in the early 20th century. It is a notion which helped too many people grow comfortable with the idea that certain people have more of a right to live than others – the idea that the strong and the beautiful should live while the weak and the members of targeted ethnic groups should die.

The reviewer mocked Stein for linking the debate between creationists and evolutionists to the Nazi death camps. But my parish priest said something which I think makes the link clear: “If you deny that man has an origin, then you deny man has a destiny, which means he has no purpose. If there is no purpose, there are no rules,” he said. Nazi Germany certainly is an example of a society that operated as if there were no moral rules.

It is a common rhetorical trick to deny an opponent’s efforts to link the disputed idea to the next logical step. The reviewer wanted a movie that simply illustrates the creationist/evolutionist clash in the laboratory and the classroom. Stein shows that clash but goes much deeper by showing where the science-only thinking leads. And it leads someplace horrible. For me, it’s not a leap, but for the movie reviewer it was. How about you?

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