Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Smart people say smart things

Lawrence Krauss asks What Controversy?:
[The priest/physicist whose calculations showed that the Big Bang must have happened] initially inserted, then ultimately removed, a paragraph in the draft of his 1931 paper on the Big Bang remarking on the possible theological consequences of his discovery. In the end, he said, "As far as I can see, such a theory remains entirely outside of any metaphysical or religious question."

While this argument may seem strange, Lemaître was grasping something that is missed in the current public debates about evolution. The Big Bang is not a metaphysical theory, but a scientific one: namely one that derives from equations that have been measured to describe the universe, and that makes predictions that one can test.

It is certainly true that one can reflect on the existence of the Big Bang to validate the notion of creation, and with that the notion of God. But such a metaphysical speculation lies outside of the theory itself.

This is why the Catholic Church can confidently believe that God created humans, and at the same time accept the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of common evolutionary ancestry of life on earth.

It's great that Krauss is explaining this simple difference in the Times. It's a misunderstanding that's out there, and that people keep coming back to.

How do we explain this in one or two sentences? How do we sell this to the public?

The Discovery Institute intentionally muddies the waters, calling anyone who takes the position of Lemaître or the Catholic Church "confused." How can't people who see that science isn't about metaphysics clear those waters, filtering the nonsense out from the sense?

Of course science can't tell you what's moral, and of course you wouldn't want it to do that. I think most people agree that science has limits, and that it can't tell us about the supernatural. I don't think we win by talking about the limits of science. We also don't win by promoting science as the answer to all questions. Pardon me if I sound like a conservative, but is it too much to ask that parents take responsibility for their own children, and that people take responsibility for their own moral development?
So what's the problem? Why doesn't the public see that? What can we put on a bumper sticker, or in Governor Sebelius's mouth, that will show the public how bankrupt the ID approach is?

In particular, no solution will be acceptable if it is negative. Don't say "No religion in science classes." It's a fine sentiment, but it's an attack, not a solution. "Teach morality at home" is OK, but it sounds like you want to keep morality behind locked doors.

How about "Strong morals come from good parenting"?