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Chuck Colson and science

Chuck Colson has weighed in on the “proper role of science,” in response to President Obama’s inaugural science plug.  Colson’s column is a perfect example of theological panic, the condition that besets a certain portion of the devout when they contemplate the fact that not everyone believes in God. 

Anticipating that President Obama will lift the ban on federally-subsidized  embryonic stem cell research, Colson posits  only two reasons why anyone would back such research: either he is “driven by greed” or he is “driven by a dangerous worldview called scientism.” 

Though Colson purports to distinguish scientism from science (and makes claims regarding the former that no one has ever advanced, such as: “Scientism assumes that science is the controlling reality about life, so anything that can be validated scientifically ought to be done”), ultimately, what seems to most upset him is a worldview lacking a divine creator, or what he calls “scientific naturalism, a philosophy that the natural world is all that exists.”  Scientific naturalism denies “the reality of those things central to our humanity: a sense of right and wrong, of purpose, of beauty, of God.”

Colson may be right about the last item on his list, but it is nothing more than hysterical ignorance to claim that without belief in God, humans can have no “sense of right and wrong, of purpose, or beauty.”   I have never met a non-believer who has no sense of the difference between right and wrong.  If someone is not killing his parents only because he believes that God prohibits it, but that it would otherwise be OK, his religiously-based moral compass does not have much to recommend it.  Parents teach children to treat other human beings with respect based on humans’ innate ethical intuitions (which a parent reinforces with a strong dose of brute, unappealable authority).  These intuitions can, but need not, be given an explicitly religious cast. (more…)

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