Monday, June 04, 2007

He's (Brown)ba-aack!

Mike the Mad Biologist brought my attention to the fact that Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) got a column published in the NYTimes about his (dis-)beliefs of evolution.

It is interesting to me that the gentleman from Kansas is making such a stand on this issue. I suppose he will guarantee some votes in the primary with this position, but to the rest of us, he seems more and more a moron. So please do not confuse my statements as supporting the man. I do however see something deep in his arguments that strikes a chord with me. Those that have read Gould (or a previous post of mine) will recognize this quote:
"the magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for example, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty)."
Maybe this is where Brownback is coming from regarding his perspectives on faith and empiricism. Or maybe it is simply that:
"limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason."
What? I agree with Sam Brownback??? (Speaking of agreeing with Brownback, did you know that Brownback and Barack Obama both appeared at Rick Warren's (The Purpose-Driven Life) church on World AIDS Day last December?) Our friend from Kansas may be mixed up about evolution, but he has some redeeming qualities when you consider some of the social positions he takes. That's for another post though...

A lot of people - many scientists included - see existence as consisting of more than empirically derived explanations. I think this is fine. It's been a part of human experience for millennia. The problem that Brownback is running into is that an issue at the periphery of his personal faith (an issue trumpeted as critical to that faith by certain religio-politico groups) conflicts directly with a central tenet of science.

For me, it's too bad that we can't talk about the different roles science and faith play in people's lives without inciting the vitriol of the creation-evolution 'debate.'

1 comment:

John said...

I like your post...nice read. I've posted on that editorial as well.

I guess I have a kind of ante-chamber question: how could Sam Brownback possibly be taken seriously on this issue? What training does he have in either theology or science? None.

That doesn't keep him from having an opinion, of course. Not my point. My point is simply that The New York Times does a disservice to the complex issue of faith and reason by letting some hack trot out truisms and the like as a real contribution to the debate. I'd prefer to read theologians, philosophers, and scientists on the NYT page when it comes to this stuff. After all, when it comes to policy in Iraq, they DO seek out real authorities. You don't see, say, ME on that page. Rightly so.

Anyway, just a few thoughts. Better developed here at my site: http://theorymyculture.wordpress.com

Thanks for the good read.