Saturday, January 19, 2008

One Page, Two Compartments

This is an extremely interesting interview with a Christian scientist, Don Page. I'm not sure that I can find anything in the lengthy interview with which I disagree, and for a contrarian such as I, that is not common.

Speaking of scientists who happen to be Christian, a thread on Ed Brayton's blog degenerated into the usual nonsense about "compartmentalization." It all started when one person stated flat-out:
And no, I am sorry, but I can not accept that one can be a "real" scientist AND be religious.
Others backed away, admitting that Christians could be good scientists, but they had to "compartmentalize." This is a description of a mental handicap, not shared by "real" scientists, that permits people of faith to be scientists from 9 to 5, and irrational beings other times, especially on Sunday.

But this is meaningless. No scientist is a scientist 24/7. Mr. Spock is a fictional character. I'm willing to bet that Richard Dawkins has had some irrational arguments with his spouse (If he has or had one. I don't know.) If not, then he would be the first married man in history to avoid succumbing to occasional matrimonial irrationality.

I made a challenge in the comments on Ed's post which I'll repeat here:

Challenge to the non-appeasers and non-framers, let the reader understand:
I'll give you ten abstracts (and links to the full papers) from published, peer-reviewed literature. Five from papers written by scientists I know to be believers, and five from scientists I know to be atheists. If you can't be a "real" scientist and religious, you should be able to tell me which papers are not "real" science. I'll take you at your word that you don't use Google to determine the answers. Want to try?
No one accepted the challenge. For good reason; you couldn't win without cheating.

Sometimes (and it was later in the comments) being a scientist and a Christian is described as cognitive dissonance. It's not. Cognitive dissonance is when I simultaneously hold two believes that I recognize as being in opposition or in tension. It is not holding to two beliefs that someone else thinks are in tension.

This argument will never end. It is strange, because there are many examples such as Don Page. They can't be dismissed, so "compartmentalization" is invented as to make some feel they won this argument, when in fact they have lost, and lost decisively. Given that it is demonstrably true that many people of faith produce first class science, those arguing about compartmentalization are arguing irrationally and are guilty of, you guessed it, compartmentalizing.

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