Karl Giberson, physics professor, author, and P.Z. Myers nemesis, thinks—perhaps rightfully—that there’s no reason you can’t have it all: knowledge and understanding of evolution, belief in God, and adherence to Christianity. Planting his feet in such a roiling middle ground puts him in a unique position that warrants discussion. Enter the Templeton Foundation, self-appointed adjudicator of the God-science debate. In Monday night’s event at the Harvard Club in New York, the organization brought Giberson together with resident agnostic Michael Shermer, an author and the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine.
In a rather tepid exchange (though after Hitchens, a fistfight would seem tame), the two men danced around what’s wrong with creationism, why religion may be more than a result of evolutionary psychology, and whether there’s a “reason” to believe in God.
Shermer got things rolling with a question about why evolution and Christianity—which, he said, is “about God’s relationship to Christ”—are so consistently combined in American culture. “The U.S. has always been very religious and very entrepreneurial,” Giberson responded. “And assaulting religion turned out to be successful entrepreneurially.” True enough, though a fundamentally weak point when you consider that promoting religion has been just as—if not more—profitable.
On the issue of “what’s wrong with creationists,” Giberson criticized the group for “spin[ning] the Creation story into pseudo-science” and “elevat[ing] Genesis beyond what is appropriate.” His objection to this approach wasn’t so much that it was contradictory to all scientific evidence, but rather that it “rob[bed Genesis] of everything that is interesting.” Of die-hard young creationists, who Shermer diplomatically singled out as “not dumb” and “not ignorant,” Giberson dismissed them as overcommitted to Biblical literalism: “They have all these reasons for making the Bible supernatural…They want to be able to read the Bible as if it was written very recently.”
Another benefit of religion, he proposed, is that it fills in the moral gaps Darwinism leaves behind: “Darwin doesn’t give you statements of morality.” In fact, he argues, “morals are conflicting with science,” on issues like procreation—pure Darwinism supports the idea of promiscuous sex, for example.
As to why he believes in God, Giberson offered the following:
“Part of me wants to go with the…argument that it makes the world so much more interesting. I’d rather have the mysteries that come with belief in God. I’m not convinced religion can be all explained away as evidence of evolutionary psychology…[Religion] suggests a possible solution for the deepest mysteries science hasn’t been able to solve.”
Maybe so—but it also does its darndest to undermine those “mysteries” science has already nailed.
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