How can there be a God when people are suffering through floods and fires? How can God sit back and allow bad things to happen to good people?

A new online resource from the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne offers answers to these and other difficult questions as the Church seeks to engage directly with the rising “New Atheism” phenomenon.

That’s what the Australian Anglican church web site says. You can download brochures and everything.

On science:

Isn’t science the only reliable knowledge?
You’ve probably heard it asked, ‘How can we trust the Bible? It opens with a completely unscientific account of the origins of this planet…’ When one looks at Genesis … from a theological, literary and cultural point of view, it becomes apparent that Genesis is not attempting to present a scientific account of the beginnings of life. Perhaps surprisingly, something similar is true of science…

I recommend a look at the site and a look at the brochure. There isn’t anything really new there, but for those who debate or discuss the important social and scientific issues with those who want to bring their religion in, you’ll probably see some of this rhetoric appearing. Might as well know what is coming. Their position is theistic evolution, by the way. You won’t find that among African Anglicans, and American Anglicans are practically Unitarians (at least the one’s I know). It will be interesting to see how this diversity of Anglican doctrines is shaped (or not) by this missive.

The most important thing about this is the following: The average scientist or scientific institute does not couch their science in terms of its conflict with religion, unless forced by political circumstances to do so, yet this church has laid out an entire publicity theme in relation to their conflict with both atheism and science. So, who’s setting the agenda? So called “New Atheists” apparently.

The site is here.

Comments

  1. #1 smitty
    January 17, 2011

    Prominent scientist Professor John Pilbrow, also on the committee, says that rather than lamenting the rise of “New Atheism” personalities, “We can welcome this as a wake-up call to be better prepared to engage in debate and conversation with them.”

    “Our conversation with atheists should always be conducted with courtesy, recognizing that we are all men and women in the image of God. We need to listen with grace, humility and love and to respond to with the best arguments we can muster.

    Wow! If an atheist suggests using this approach towards Christians, it doesn’t exactly go over well. Example: Phil Plaits DBaD speech at the last TAM.
    Here’s the rest of the paragraph that Greg has omitted.

    Eminent scientist and author Paul Davies
    has written:
    Clearly then, both religion and science are founded on faith
    – namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the
    universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of
    physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes,
    too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox
    science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.
    First published as an Op-Ed piece by The New York Times,
    November 24, 2007

  2. #2 Malachi
    January 18, 2011

    …American Anglicans are practically Unitarians (at least the one’s I know).

    It all depends on the region. Up North Episcopalians are liberal, but in the Deep South they are just as fundie as their neighbors. Peer pressure. Nobody wants to be fingered as “lukewarm” on Jesus.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    January 18, 2011

    Malachi: Yeah, I figured. The only Epis I know these days are gay women who were married in their church by their gay Episcopalian minister apparently quite illegally. I remember thinking, at the wedding, that the church was a lot like the catholic church of my youth, in style and design, except lacking the monseigneur raving about “optional celibacy” and how it couldn’t ever happen. Well, when he was not down in the Caribbean with his “assistant.”

  4. #4 Deen
    January 18, 2011

    @smitty:

    Wow! If an atheist suggests using this approach towards Christians, it doesn’t exactly go over well.

    Admittedly, I don’t see how an atheist “recognizing that we are all men and women in the image of God” would ever go over well in the atheist community ;).

    Example: Phil Plaits DBaD speech at the last TAM.

    Phil’s DBaD speech wasn’t criticized because he advocated courtesy, it was criticized because he suggested that there was a large group of people being dicks in the skeptic community. Without giving examples, or evidence. Which was kinda dickish.

    Here’s the rest of the paragraph that Greg has omitted.

    I imagine he omitted it because it was rubbish. The scientific method does not depend on “something outside the universe, like (…) an unexplained set of physical laws”. These laws don’t exist outside of the universe, they exist as abstract concepts in the imagination of people (who are decidedly inside the universe) that describe how the universe appears to us. More importantly, unlike the existence of a supernatural god, these laws can be demonstrated to work in many cases of interest.

    The scientific method doesn’t depend on the existence of “a huge ensemble of unseen universes” either, but rather predicts that these may exist – or, if you will, at least speculates that they might. Even if these unseen universes don’t exist, the scientific method will still show that relativity works to predict physics at large scales, and quantum mechanics works to predict physics at small scales.

    Religion, on the other hand, can only claim special knowledge if they do indeed have a special connection with an all-knowing god. If they can’t show this to be true, they have nothing.

    For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.
    This is true, but suggests a false equivalency. Science gets you much farther in explaining physical existence than religion ever will.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    January 18, 2011

    Omit? Omit? What is the implication here regarding inentionality?

  6. #6 abb3w
    January 18, 2011

    Deen: These laws don’t exist outside of the universe, they exist as abstract concepts in the imagination of people (who are decidedly inside the universe) that describe how the universe appears to us.

    Or (hopefully) as abstract (and abstractable) relationships between the entities underlying how the universe appears to us.

    The degree to which abstractions remain “outside” even when instantiated is a question of what kind of neo-Platonic sense you stick on “abstraction”, which seems seldom coherent enough to be given expression using topology tools. I’ll take that discussion seriously when my questions about metric spaces don’t result in blank looks or handwaving.

    Deen: More importantly, unlike the existence of a supernatural god, these laws can be demonstrated to work in many cases of interest.

    …for some value of “demonstrated” that is otherwise usually acceptable colloquially.

    If someone wants to be pedantic about it, there are some underpinnings that are taken on “faith” in the sense of a primary philosophical assumption, taken without prior. However, most of those assumptions are necessary to inferring the existence and validity of, say, the number three. Science inherits those from mathematics. (There are multiple equivalent mathematical foundations; the difference is perhaps akin to whether you are talking about the universe using English versus Chinese, though more often English versus Pig Latin.)

    The additional assumption of science is that there is some pattern (in a sense definable by tediously rigorous math) to the entities. This assumption gives rise to a rigorous sense for what threshold validly constitutes “demonstrated” (and in what degree); something much resembling the “scientific method” results as a pseudo-algorithm. (Pseudo, because science accepts non-algorithmic/oracular/”revelation” sources to input ideas to be tested, even if it does not accept such for certification of testing, and even though most such sources have not panned out well. It doesn’t matter where you get your inspiration, just as long as the lab bench results give numbers that fit it.)

  7. #7 MadScientist
    January 19, 2011

    That’s hilarious, because throughout the entire history of jesusism, no one ever had a good response to the question of evil. It’s always been “well, if that was a good person then god was testing them or god loved them so much he killed them early so they could enjoy heaven sooner, and if they were an evil person then god was showing them that he’s boss”. I doubt the anglicans of Melbourne have suddenly discovered a new excuse.