Sunday 29 July 2012

The lack of science in 'Live Science'

Don't you just love the way some atheists and 'scientists' opposed to religion often seek to undermine the relevance of religion and faith with dodgy 'science'. A classic example is the American website 'Live Science' that provided 'analysis' of a recently released US Gallup Poll. The opening paragraph was:

Americans' confidence in organized religion is at its lowest in more than three decades, with just 44 percent having a lot of faith in the church, a new Gallup poll released this week suggests.

The results follow a long-term decline in Americans' confidence in religion since the 1970s, when Americans ranked "the church or organized religion" higher than any other institution in the survey, beating out the military and the U.S. Supreme Court. In the 1980s confidence in organized religion fell below 60 percent for the first time. Gallup officials say the dip may have resulted from scandals involving televangelist preachers Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart.

Then, in 2001 confidence increased to 60 percent, only to be hammered back down, possibly as a result of charges of child molestation by Catholic priests, Gallup suggests.

The survey item on which the article is based is as follows:

"I am going to read you a list of institutions in American society. Please tell me how much confidence, you, yourself (sic) have in each one - a great deal, quite a lot, some or very little?"

Now it's true that only 44% of people indicated they had a 'great deal' or 'quite a lot' of confidence in the church compared to 60% in 2001. What the article doesn't mention is any of the ratings for other institutions. First, it should be noted that the church was ranked 4th behind the military (75%), small business (63%) and the police (56%). Second, it might be helpful to reflect on some of the results for other institutions below the church. For example:

The Medical System (41%)
The Presidency (37%)
US Supreme Court (37%)
The Public School (29%)
The Criminal Justice System (29%)
Newspapers (25%)
TV News (21%)
Organised Labour (21%)
Banks (21%)
Big Business (21%)
Health Maintenance Organisations (19%)
Congress (13%)

Oh, and a third thing. While the confidence level for the church was at 60% in 2001, the average for the years 2002-2011 was 49% with variations from 45% to 53%. You might also read the data for all other institutions as well and you will notice that Americans seem to have lost confidence in many institutions since 2001. In fact many are at 'an all-time low', to use the 'Live Science' language. These include the Banks, Public Schools, and TV news (see Gallup's own article on this HERE).

Now I don't intend to dig any deeper to uncover further evidence of the casual use of data by an organisation that prides itself on being 'scientifically rigorous', because my confidence in 'Live Science' is already low enough.

Other links

You can read 'Americans' Confidence in the Church at All-Time Low' HERE  
You can read the Gallup Poll figures and trends HERE
You can read about the Metanexus project to 'Scientifically Honour Death' HERE
You can read the full 'Live Science' post HERE

Saturday 21 July 2012

Science and Faith

Post by Edwina Hine

Regular readers of CASE news would be aware that ISCAST and CASE were to hold a joint event this week. A Science-Faith Panel Discussion Meeting entitled ‘The questions students ask: Science and faith in the classroom’.  The forum was very helpful, as 50 attendees discussed some great topics including: Christianity and Evolution, Miracles, and the place of biotechnology in our society.

In my preparations for attending the event, I was reminded especially of Case edition 19 entitled “The God of Science”. The edition has some great articles. Kirsten Birkett explores naturalism and the biblical world view, God and evolution is discussed by Denis Alexander, and Lewis Jones illustrates the role and limits of science in moral reasoning. The book review was a highlight for me. I have read quite a few of John Lennox’s books, and  this  review is of one of his earlier titles, “God’s Undertaker: has science buried God”. The book weighs in on the ongoing public debate surrounding the compatibility of science and religion. Lennox, a respected mathematician, scientists and philosopher
“attempts to probe the relationship between science and religion, but ultimately demonstrates where the scientific evidence really points……. At the heart of Lennox’s thesis is the claim that the source of conflict is not actually between science and religion, as it is often purported to be, but rather between two worldviews—naturalism and theism”

Reviewer (Andrew Kyme), encourages us to read the book, especially since
“in the context of the ongoing debate regarding the compatibility of science and religion, Lennox has presented well-reasoned arguments to suggest that, when it comes to questions regarding the origin of life, an inference to design cannot be ruled out…… At the very least, Lennox has done an important service by exposing some key misconceptions in the science/religion debate, and by pulling together and analysing, in a relatively short space, much contemporary thought on it.”

Case Magazine #19 was not only a good read in light of last evening’s forum, but it served to remind me about the breath of article types our magazine has. The scholarly articles were an in-depth exploration on the topics surrounding God and Science, and as an avid reader I have found Case's book reviews an useful tool in discerning what publications to read.

CASE Associates would enjoy issue #19, why not pull the magazine off the bookshelf? The debate surrounding Science and Christianity is frequently publicised, so a refresher on the topic is always helpful. The review is free to read online here.  CASE Associates receive Case magazine 4 times per year as part of their benefits. For blog followers who are yet to be CASE Associates you can sign up HERE or order a single copy HERE.

Thursday 12 July 2012

A biblical view of marriage

Post by Edwina Hine

The last few weeks have seen vigorous debate about the institution of marriage in Australia, particularly 'marriage equality' for gay couples. I was reminded of Case Magazine #12 with the theme Family Foundations: What’s important for marriage, parenthood and family life.

This edition of Case did not cover much of the debate surrounding "marriage equality", yet the first article of the publication was a very insightful read on marriage, comparing economic and biblical covenant descriptions of what marriage is. The article entitled Economists, Christians And The ‘Marriage Wars’ (Donald Hay & Gordon Menzies) details the increasingly common economic approach to marriage, and highlights the analysis of Nobel Prize winning economist Gary Beckers. Beckers concluded from his research that it is

“based on the ‘productive’ gains that are available from specialisation in market production and household production, and in the production of children. In the writings of more recent theorists, the gains are then shared on the basis of an implicit contract between the husband and wife.”
The authors then compare the economic view to the biblical or covenantal understanding of marriage, concluding that this relationship is

“an inbuilt goal of male/female relationship ‘…a fact of creation, and therefore not negotiable’…..The biblical understanding of marriage as an ideal social institution identifies five separate ‘goods’ that it promotes—relationship (Gen. 2:8), procreation (Gen. 4), social order (Gen. 2:24), sexual intimacy (1 Cor. 7:3-7) and the provision of material goods that meet the needs of the spouse.”

Again, whilst this article doesn't deal specially with some of the current hot topics surrounding the marriage debate the article is a good introduction to a biblical perspective on marriage. Regular Case readers might enjoy reviewing the article again.

Photo sourced from SMH article 
In the same issue of Case Magazine Professor Trevor Cairney writes about families. The essay is titled The Role of Fathers: Aligning biblical wisdom and research. It is an in-depth look at fatherhood and explores many issues that affect parents particularly dads. Two central aims of the article is to spur

“fathers (and mothers) develop an understanding of what God expects of fathers as men of God; and, second, to encourage further discussion relating to how we can work at reshaping our lives so that those of us who are fathers spend time with our families, loving them, teaching them, instructing them in God’s ways and modelling what it means to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
This is a timely article in a month, when it was announced fathers will get two weeks' government-funded parental leave from next year, after legislation passed through Federal Parliament only a few weeks ago. (SMH)

Both articles are available as free downloads from the CASE Website. CASE Associates receive Case magazine 4 times per year as part of their benefits. For blog followers who are yet to be CASE Associates you can sign up HERE or order a single copy HERE.

Edwina Hine (New College and CASE)

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Listen to James K.A. Smith Lectures on 'Imagining the Kingdom'

While the New College Lectures are over for another year you can listen to our 2012 lecturer in a recorded special edition of the Encounter Program on Australia's Radio National on Saturday July 7th at 5.00pm (EST). The program was titled 'The devil has all the best stories' and is available for download HERE.

You can also listen to the full lectures by accessing them on the New College website HERE.

The ABC program was presented by David Rutledge and was based on parts of Professor Smith's two New College lectures delivered in Sydney on May 23rd & 24th, as well as an interview with David Rutledge recorded in the ABC studios just prior to the lectures.

Professor James K.A. Smith spoke at the lectures on the theme ‘Imagining the Kingdom: On Christian Action’. He was invited to Sydney to deliver two lectures, as well as a plenary address to the ‘Education as Formation’ conference. He is Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College (Grand Rapids, USA). He is the author of many publications including his widely acclaimed book ‘Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation’.

The 'Education as Formation' conference was run by New College under the umbrella of CASE, in association with the Anglican Education Commission (AEC) and, the Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation (SASC). You can read my report on the 'Education as Formation' conference in a separate post (HERE).