The Warfare Thesis Explained
|July 30, 2018||Posted by Barry Arrington under Intelligent Design|
Much has been written about the so-called “warfare thesis” first popularized in the 1870’s by Andrew Dickson White. This thesis posits that there is an inherent conflict between Christianity and science. Never mind that many of the most famous scientists in history, including practically all of the progenitors of the scientific revolution, were Christians (Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, etc.). The obvious historical weakness and intellectual tendentiousness of the warfare thesis has led to its reevaluation and often its rejection by contemporary researchers. (See here for example).
The idea that there is an inherent conflict between science (in the sense of an investigation of nature) and Christianity is risible. This is not to say, however, that there is no conflict at all. There is indeed. Alvin Plantinga describes it:
There is indeed a battle between the Christian community and the forces of unbelief. This contest rages in many areas of contemporary culture-the courts and in the so-called media-but perhaps most particularly in academia.
The conflict is not between Christianity and science. It is between Christianity and atheists claiming the mantle of science. How we got here is completely understandable. We got here because many atheists hold their metaphysical naturalism with such a blinkered, dogmatic and stubborn obstinance, that they literally cannot conceive of anyone disagreeing with them in good faith. Consider Richard Dawkins’ oft-quoted quip:
It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).
Who says that atheist/materialists must be moral subjectivists? Notice that “absolutely” in the beginning of the quote. Dawkins claims to have found an absolute moral truth – if you disagree with him you are a bad person. Again, this is easy to understand. Dawkins is a dogmatic metaphysical naturalist. And like any dogmatist, he believes that anyone who disagrees with his dogma is fundamentally wrong – that is what it means to call it dogma after all.
But here is where Dawkins and other warfare thesis fanatics go off the rails. They confuse their science with their metaphysics. In a certain sense Dawkins is correct. If metaphysical naturalism is true, then something like Darwinian evolution must also be true. As Phillip Johnson once said, Darwinism is an almost inescapable logical inference from naturalism. It follows that IF naturalism is true, Dawkins is right. Anyone who disagrees with Darwinism is ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked. But I capitalized that “if” for a reason. It is a very big “if.” Dawkins acts as if he can be absolutely assured that metaphysical naturalism is true. Now that is a position to which “ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked” could be aptly applied. The proposition that metaphysical naturalism is true is at best doubtful. It is staggeringly stupid to say it is certain. Indeed, if it were certain there would be no way to know it is certain, because “knowing” implies intentionality, which under naturalism is impossible.
There is a conflict, but the conflict is not between Christianity and science. It is between Christianity and metaphysical naturalists. And the reason most naturalists believe that the conflict is with their science and not their metaphysics is because their views on the matter, like Dawkins’, are so blinkered and dogmatic that they are literally unable to see the difference.