Tom Gilson

Coyne Was Right After All: Science Has Vanquished Christianity

I ended last night’s post by asking whether Jerry Coyne might have been right when he wrote,

Many religious claims about the “truth” have already been disproven by science.

There was a second part to that claim (that religion has never disproved science) which I invite you to continue responding to on that other thread.

Concerning this particular claim, I’ve given it some thought overnight, and I can see how Coyne reached that conclusion. Science has disproven religion repeatedly. I’m thinking especially of the Christian religion here, as I have no interest in supporting or defending other religions’ claims. Here is some of the major damage Christianity has suffered at the hands of science.

1. We’ve been forced to remove the Book of Ptolemy from our sacred canon, a loss made all the more severe by the fact that it never was in our sacred canon.

2. We’ve been forced to agree with St. Augustine (354-430 AD, the most influential Christian theologian since the apostle Paul) that the world is older than a few thousand years, and that Genesis is not a science textbook.

3. We’ve been forced to admit that the Bible is wrong in teaching the earth is flat. This is really quite an awkward concession for us to have to make, especially since no one in Christian history ever believed the world was flat, or that the Bible taught it was. (This article has excellent content on that in spite of a formatting error, as it renders on my browser at least.)

4. We’ve been forced to admit that circumstances, whether favorable or unfavorable, are never, ever personally directed by a provident God. Science has each individual event—the weather, for example—completely explained and quantified, leaving no room for anything but deterministic natural processes.

5. We’ve been forced to admit that thought, consciousness, rationality, qualia, intentionality, the experience of purposefulness and meaning, etc. can all be comprehensively explained in terms of brain events; not that science has accomplished this yet, but that’s of no consequence, we already know enough about it to safely draw that conclusion. Our evidence for this is clear: science, in all of its investigations of physical stuff, has only found physical stuff, therefore there is only physical stuff.

6. We’ve been forced to acknowledge the ancients’ unscientific ignorance, for thinking that virgins could have babies and dead men could rise up and walk after three days. Silly ancients. How could they not have known? Maybe (I think I’m on to something here!) they didn’t realize how ancient they were.

7. We’ve been forced to admit that religion has always persecuted science, and generally blocked the advance of knowledge down through history. Galileo is the prime example. The other example is… umm… err… well, anyway, Draper and White said it, so it must be true. (We’ll have to take the fact that it’s not true—and that even the Galileo story has been distorted—as nothing more than a minor inconvenience.)

So there you have it, friends: seven proofs that Coyne is right and Christians are wrong. I’m sure there are more besides these, so feel free to add to the list.

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4 thoughts on “Coyne Was Right After All: Science Has Vanquished Christianity

  1. No, it’s a scientific claim. The scientific understanding of evolution is that genetic variation is created by a process of random mutation (there are a few other sources as well), which is then subject to natural selection or genetic drift. We have seen no evidence to the contrary.

    “Our evidence for this is clear: science, in all of its investigations of physical stuff, has only found physical stuff, therefore there is only physical stuff.”

    And people actually take Coyne seriously.

  2. Augustine was no liberal when it came to his interpretations of Genesis. Have you read Augustine? He insisted on a real Adam and Eve. On humanity being only a couple thousand years old. He even wrote about a firm firmament.

  3. Augustine was no liberal when it came to his interpretations of Genesis.

    How was about as liberal as he was literal. Not very.

    No one brings up Augustine to endorse his specific interpretation of Genesis as true – but he’s a stellar example of early Christians having non-literal interpretations of parts of Genesis others, including atheists, regard as utterly non-negotiably literal. But you know this.

  4. I didn’t say Augustine was a liberal. Who on earth would, for Pete’s sake? And what does being a liberal even have to do with it?

    Aside from that anachronistic label, what does insisting on a real Adam and Eve have to do with my point on Augustine here? If you think evolution (or any other science) disproves the creation of humans in God’s image, you’re wrong. That’s a conclusion from metaphysics, not science.

    What Augustine wrote about the firmament was speculation based on the knowledge available at the time. If you think the tradition of speculating that way has passed away, or that scientists today don’t engage in it, then you’re not reading enough.

    Augustine did not “insist” that humanity was only a couple thousand years old; on that your facts are wrong. His interpretation of Genesis left a lot of room for allegory.

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