Sunday, May 6, 2012

Roger Olson, "Plantinga, Science & Theology"

As always, blah blah blah.


Olson:
I did not get to hear Alvin Plantinga when he spoke at my university a couple weeks ago. His topic was theology and science. He has a new book about it that I plan to read (when I have a month to digest it!).
Several people have asked me here about what role I think science does play in theology. That’s because I rejected as invalid “Dear Abby’s” claim that modern science has made the Bible’s view of homosexuality invalid. I said that science can’t do that.
The argument is that if science proves (as some allege has happened) that sexual orientation is biological/genetic, then we have to believe that same sex sexual behavior is morally right. The usual caveat is that it must be mutual and not coercive. And, of course, that it must be between consenting adults.
The reason this doesn’t touch the traditional Christian stance about sex outside of heterosexual marriage is that traditional Christianity has always taught that we are all fallen and born with sinful inclinations (orientations). Science proving that homosexual desire is biological/genetic wouldn’t affect that belief any more than science proving that men are naturally inclined toward sexual promiscuity would force Christians to alter their belief about sexual promiscuity. (One could go on and talk about alcoholism and numerous other conditions that may very well be biological/genetic but not therefore morally good to act on.)
The larger issue, of course, is whether you can ever derive an “ought” (moral imperative positive or negative) from an “is.” Science deals ONLY with “is.” Ethics deals with “ought.” The latter cannot be based on the former in a causal relationship. Certainly what is the case may have some bearing on decisions about what ought to be the case, but what is the case can never determine what ought to be the case. By definition “ought” goes beyond “is.”
Oughtness requires something transcendent to nature. Attempting to derive ought from is is called the “naturalistic fallacy.” Whether a certain sexual behavior is right or wrong cannot be determined by observing nature–even by observing what people do that they cannot help.
Illustration: Let’s suppose that the day arrives when science demonstrates conclusively that pedophilia is biological/genetic. I do not know of anyone who would argue that that would result in our having to conclude that adults preying on children is okay.
I have been told by scientists that it is just as likely that, in some people, alcohol addiction is genetic as that homosexual orientation is genetic. Yet I know of no one who argues that abusing alcohol (or abusing oneself with it) is good or right or even neutral. It’s a bad thing that people ought not to do.
For the rest. . . 
--Nick

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