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Tim Blagg

Blagg: Meeting in the middle

As we swing into 2014, the battle between Creationism and Intelligent Design and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is back in the news.

Bill Nye, TV’s “Science Guy,” is set to visit Kentucky next month for a debate on science and creation with the man who founded the Creation Museum. Founder Ken Ham says the museum will host Nye, the former host of a popular youth science show, on Feb. 4.

Nye has been vocal in his criticism of creationists for their opposition to the teaching of evolution in the schools, as well as their continuing assertion that the Old Testament Book of Genesis is a literal account of the earth’s beginnings.

Last year in an online video that drew nearly 6 million views, Nye argued that the insistence on teaching creationism as an alternative to science was bad for children.

The resulting debate will be titled “Is Creation A Viable Model of Origins?”

What’s sad about this dispute is that it’s so unnecessary.

There really doesn’t have to be a hard divide between science and religion.

That’s what Ian Barbour, a college professor who tried to bridge that divide, spent his life working toward. He died the other day at 90. He had been a conscientious objector during World War II, and spent the war fighting forest fires in Oregon and working with mental patients in North Carolina. He then studied physics and earned a doctorate at the University of Chicago, working with Enrico Fermi, the Manhattan Project scientist responsible for the world’s first atomic chain reaction.

But after he joined the physics faculty at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, he began to work intensively on the ethical and theological implications of scientific discoveries. So he abruptly changed direction, studying theology, ethics and philosophy at Yale Divinity School and earning a divinity degree in 1956.

What, he pondered, were the ethical and religious implications of discoveries such as atomic fission, “test tube” babies, cloning, organ transplants and theories about the Big Bang theory of the formation of the Universe?

According to a recent news story, he was a professor at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., for more than three decades, and wrote 16 books, including “Issues in Science and Religion,” a 1966 volume that helped spark the ongoing debate between scientists and theologians on issues such as the origins of the universe, evolution and the ethical implications of technology.

He “gave birth almost single-handedly to the contemporary dialogue between science and religion,” said Robert John Russell, the founder-director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. “He made a convincing and lasting case that science and religion are more alike and analogous than unlike and conflictive.”

“I always felt we needed to move beyond the hostility,” Barbour told the Los Angeles Times in 1999. “Scientists say they believe in evolution, not God. Religious scholars say they believe in God, but not evolution. Well, I say we don’t have to choose a side. We can meet somewhere in the middle. We can take the Bible seriously without taking it literally.”

Of course, “meeting in the middle” is somewhat out of fashion these days, and Barbour angered both scientists and religious leaders with his ideas.

But surely a scientist who studies the marvelous diversity of life on the Earth or the mind-boggling ideas of modern cosmology can also appreciate the comfort of faith in something bigger than ourselves.

In fact, many scientists have written that their growing understanding of the minute and sophisticated mechanisms of Evolution has strengthened their belief in a Creator, rather than destroying it.

I’m sure Barbour felt beleaguered in recent years, as the Right has moved farther and farther away from the Left, and as vigorous and well-financed campaigns have been waged to force teachers to equate Genesis with Darwin.

That’s too bad.

Blagg has been Editor of The Recorder since 1986. He lives in Greenfield and is a military historian with an interest in local history. He can be reached at: tblagg@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 250.

"So good scientific evidence the Creationist will present, (and he will have some), will not be seriously addressed, (for Nye has been very rude in the past), but Nye will concentrate his efforts on any evidence indicating an old earth, to maximize ridicule." He will not have any. If he did, he and others would hardly hide their light under a bushel, but publish it. It would be the biggest news since Newton or Kepler.

Stephen Meyer, Douglas Axe and Michael Behe support and promote "intelligent design" and claim it is science. Because of this, none of them are scientists and contrary to their claims, have zero credibility in the scientific world. Their "work" has been rejected by every credible science organization in America, every accredited university science department, all peer reviewed actual science journals, the Catholic Church(which says ID is neither science or religion), the US Federal and Supreme Courts(who have ruled creationism is religion not science and that ID is creationism and therefore religion not science), most mainstream Christian National Church Councils and the Library of Congress where Behe's, Dumbski's, and Meyers "work" is filed in the religion section not the science section. ID is not science and has huge scientific, legal and denominational blocks to its claims that it has not ever overcome. Those who support ID as science fall into one of four categories or some combination thereof. Religious zealot, uneducated, not very bright, or incapable of reasoned thought. An example of that would be the letter posted directly hove this one. However, if any IDer has data and research disproving evolution and the myriad other sciences ID attempts to assault with its religious ideas dressed up in a lab coat, its time to write all that down, send it into Nature or Science, get it peer reviewed and published, and collect your Nobel Prize. Joe; the Discoveroid troll.

It's just like Bill Nye, to take the easy road for publicity reasons. Instead of debating real scientists representing the Intelligent Design community, Steven Meyer, Douglas Axe or Michael Behe, for example. He will instead, debate a poor idealist who hamstrung by an assumption the world is very Young. So good scientific evidence the Creationist will present, (and he will have some), will not be seriously addressed, (for Nye has been very rude in the past), but Nye will concentrate his efforts on any evidence indicating an old earth, to maximize ridicule. This will leave the real question of whether biology shows evidence of design, unanswered again. At some point, I wish Nye would 'Man up'! Joe Jensen, Canada.

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