As a member of the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science, I’m participating in an Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists versus God and Religion (Karl Giberson and Fr. Mariano Artigas, Oxford University Press, 2006) reading group. I thought some of you would have an interest in considering how the Oracles of Science (i.e., Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Steven Weinberg, and Edward O. Wilson), influence contemporary understandings of reality, origins, science, and religion. So tighten your seat belt, bring your communication system on-line, and let me know what you think about the concept of the Oracles of Science. ...
Somewhere billions of miles from earth a spacecraft, ancient by all relevant standards, hurtles through space, an insignificant speck in a vast, empty, and some would say hostile cosmos. Although there is little chance that it will be noticed by alien life-forms, it nevertheless contains a message from the human race to whatever aliens find it, just in case. The message — both its content and the proposal to send it — was largely the work of Carl Sagan, a physicist who served briefly in the role of humanity’s ambassador to the rest of the universe. Sagan was dedicated, articulate, and tireless enthusiast for science; he spent his life looking through its lenses at all of human experience and subjecting whatever did not measure up, like religion, to withering criticism. His enthusiastic promotion of science turned him into a standard bearer for the secular humanists as they pressed their case for science against religion (p. 3).
Meanwhile, back on earth … Richard Dawkins (b.1941), Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002), Stephen Hawking (1942), Carl Sagan (1934-1996), Steven Weinberg (b.1933), and Edward O. Wilson (b.1929) serve as
the Oracles of Science. Like the traditional oracles of classical Greece, Shakespeare, and even the hit movies about the Matrix, they tell us what we need to know. Are we alone in the universe? Where did we come from? Did the universe have a beginning? Is there a point to our existence? Are we the products of random chance? Where do we find answers to deep and important questions? We are a culture that looks to science because that is where we expect to find our answers. We cannot, however, find these answers ourselves, for only a specialist can navigate the complex terrain that is modern science. We need guides — Oracles — to show us the way.
So what do you think?
- Are you familiar with all of the Oracles of Science? [Note: I have heard of them all and have limited exposure to their writings through time spent in the Franklin & Marshall College’s Geology Department, an undergrad degree in Biology from Grove City College, and campus ministry at a number of campuses including Carnegie Mellon University.]
- When the Oracles of Science speak, do they speak for science as a whole?
- Do the Oracles of Science guide or at least strongly influence the way contemporary culture understands reality, origins, science, and religion? Can you guess where the authors are going with regard to the shared perspective of the Oracles of Science?
- Are there other well know ambassadors of science (possibly Oracles of Science) who should be added to the list, some which may even offer a different lens on reality, origins, science, and/or religion than these Oracles of Science? Some names come to mind, but I want to give you the opportunity to offer unbiased contributions.
Watch your feed, more coming from the introduction. …