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9.4 Issues Relating to Religion

9.4.1 Religion and historical scientists

Creationists often argue that Christianity and literal belief in the Bible are either foundationally significant, or directly responsible for scientific progress. Institute for Creation Research founder Henry M. Morris enumerated scientists such as astronomer and philosopher Galileo, mathematician and theoretical physicist James Clerk Maxwell, mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal, geneticist monk Gregor Mendel, and Isaac Newton as believers in a biblical creation narrative.

This argument usually involves scientists either who were no longer alive when evolution was proposed or whose field of study didn’t include evolution. The argument is generally rejected as specious by those who oppose creationism.

Many of the scientists in question did some early work on the mechanisms of evolution, e.g., the Modern evolutionary synthesis combines Darwin’s Evolution with Mendel’s theories of inheritance and genetics.

The relationship between science and religion was not portrayed in antagonistic terms until the late-19th century. Many historical scientists wrote books explaining how pursuit of science was seen by them as fulfilment of spiritual duty in line with their religious beliefs.

Some extensions to this creationist argument have included the incorrect suggestions that Einstein’ s deism was a tacit endorsement of creationism, or that Charles Darwin converted on his deathbed and recanted evolutionary theory.

9.4.2 Forums for the controversy Debates

Many creationists and scientists engage in frequent public debates regarding the origin of human life, hosted by a variety of institutions. However, some scientists disagree with this tactic, arguing that by openly debating supporters of supernatural origin explanations (creationism and Intelligent Design), scientists are lending credibility and unwarranted publicity to creationists, which could foster an inaccurate public perception and obscure the factual merits of the debate.

Eugenie Scott of the “National Centre for Science Education”, a non-profit organization dedicated to defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools, claimed debates are not the sort of arena to promote science to creationists. Scott says that “Evolution is not on trial in the world of science,” and “the topic of the discussion should not be the scientific legitimacy of evolution” but rather should be on the lack of evidence in creationism. Political lobbying

A wide range of organisations, on both sides of the controversy, are involved in lobbying in an attempt to influence political decisions relating to the teaching of evolution, at a number of levels. These include the Discovery Institute, the National Centre for Science Education, the National Science Teachers Association, state Citizens Alliances for Science, and numerous national science associations and state Academies of Science. In the media

The controversy has been discussed in numerous newspaper articles, reports and letters to the editor, as well as a number of radio and television programmes. This has led some commentators to express a concern at what they see as a highly inaccurate and biased understanding of evolution among the general public. The discovery of diversity

Study of classical documents led to the realization that some historical documents are less reliable than others, which led to the beginnings of biblical criticism.

The voyages of discovery of the 16th and 17th centuries acquainted Europeans with new and different cultures in the Americas, in Asia, and in the Pacific. They discovered a greater amount of cultural diversity than they had ever imagined, and the question arose of how this vast amount of human cultural diversity could be compatible with the biblical account of Noah’s descendants. In particular, the ideas of Confucius, translated into European languages by the Jesuits stationed in China, are thought to have had considerable influence on the deists and other philosophical groups. This new awareness of diversity led to a feeling that Christianity was just one religion among many, with no better claim than any other to correctness. Religious conflict

Europe had been plagued by vicious sectarian conflicts and religious wars since the beginning of the Reformation. In 1642, the Thirty Years War had been raging on continental Europe for nearly 25 years. It was an enormously destructive religious war that, it is estimated, destroyed 15–20% of the population of Germany. At the same time, the English Civil War pitting King against Parliament was just beginning.

Such massive sectarian violence inspired a visceral rejection of the sectarianism that had led to the violence. It also led to a search for natural religious truths. Conflation of science and religion

Many of the most vocal creationists blur the boundaries between criticisms of modern science, philosophy, and culture. They often conjoin their arguments focused on the science of evolution with doctrinal statements or evangelistic attempts.

Many creationists vehemently oppose certain scientific theories in a number of ways, including opposition to specific applications of scientific processes, accusations of bias within the scientific community, and claims that discussions within the scientific community reveal or imply a crisis. In response to perceived crises in modern science, creationists claim to have an alternative, typically based on faith. The scientific community has responded by pointing out that their views are frequently misrepresented in order to create the impression of a deeper controversy or crisis, and that the creationists’ alternatives are generally pseudoscientific.