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Kepler Versus Religion as a Football


When Jerry Coyne, writing in the Washington Post, wanted to poison the well for Michael Behe’s book, Darwin Devolves, he added to the usual list of trite insults against ID that Behe is a “pious Catholic.” How it’s possible to measure another biologist’s inner piety or devotion, especially a stranger you know only from reading his books about evolution, is one good question. But obviously Coyne’s point was to insinuate that Behe, due to his “piety,” is untrustworthy. 

At the same time, for other evolutionists, being “devout” can turn into a compliment. That is, when applied to someone like biologist Kenneth Miller, “devout Catholic,” when he’s dismissing the idea that nature could supply evidence of intelligent design. Miller’s reported devotion becomes a token of credibility, at least insofar as it is useful in pitching evolution.

In this way, religious belief becomes an intellectual football, used for or against ideas as convenience dictates. It’s a game, and a shallow one. So what’s the truth about science, and religion, and how they do or do not fit together? On a new ID the Future episode, science historian Michael Keas talks with host Andrew McDiarmid about the example of one of the greatest scientists: Johannes Kepler. It’s a fascinating conversation.

Download the episode or listen to it here.

Thinking God’s Thoughts

Mike Keas hits a series of important points. In Kepler’s case, religion was an inspiration and guide to scientific discovery. Training to be a Lutheran pastor and theologian, he turned to mathematics and astronomy as what he considered to be allied fields, allowing us to share God’s thoughts. He contrasted his own understanding of intelligent design, as evidenced by the cosmos, with Aristotle’s. He concluded that his was superior for recognizing a divine architect who, moreover, designed our world to disclose truths about its creator. As if anticipating Stephen Hawking’s assertion that the laws of physics somehow have the ability to generate the universe, Kepler understood that those laws are passive and only describe the behavior of physical reality once physical reality has been brought in existence by a creative intellect.

Debunking the myth of religion as a science stopper is one of the themes of Professor Keas’s new book, which I highly recommend, Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion. This podcast concludes a series of conversations between Keas and McDiarmid that I’ve also enjoyed very much.

Photo credit: John Torcasio via Unsplash.