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Philosophical Friday Debate Declares Its Winner: Knowledge

This semester’s second Philosophical Friday Event titled “Faith in the Age of Science” on March 26 featured a debate between a theologian and a philosopher who explored some of the deeper implications of science and religion.

Professor John Haught of Georgetown University opened up his side of the debate with a playful jest towards his academic field.

“Theologians are people who don’t make much money but at least they know why,” Haught said.

Haught’s argument sought to explain that methods used for science, such as creating theories, hypotheses and collecting data, could not exist without some basis of trust, faith or “intelligibility” within our own minds and the logic of the universe. He emphasized that these are the same methods used in religious faith and that, therefore, there must be a higher power who designed our sense of curiosity and acceptance in this way.

Freshman psychology major Jeremy Johnson said he does not necessarily agree with Haught but finds no reason to discourage his search for an explanation.

“I believe as an agnostic that trust and intelligibility are both natural occurrences in our physical world. However the search for the root of these occurrences is not absurd, whether it means big leaps of faith of denying the existence of God or believing in a God,” says Johnson.

Philosopher of science Michael Ruse of Florida State University took a counter-stance against Haught by first outlining the basis of Christian beliefs, dogma and the reason behind Jesus Christ’s death on the cross.

He outlines three basic points of the Christian faith that are universally agreed upon:

  1. God is the creator, he is good, he is all powerful. “God is not simply someone who looks like me in a bed sheet,” Ruse jested in his heavy English accent, motioning to his white beard.
  2. Jesus is the son of God.
  3. The Bible is God’s infallible word.

He concludes that Adam and Eve are the essential cause for “original sin” that lead to the death of Christ and the subsequent creation of the Christian religion. Yet using what we know about human evolution and the skeletal structures of early homosapiens, Ruse says Adam and Eve are an impossible concept.

“There was never a time when there was just two unique humans (on Earth). Contemporary evolutionary theory totally negates Adam and Eve,” Ruse said.

Yet, as one audience member pointed out during the question and answer session, Ruse’s argument is based on the assumption that all Christians must believe Adam and Eve were literal beings in order to be Christians as opposed to their lives being an analogy for original sin.

Ruse responded to the supposed hole in his argument with an answer that he said was not his first time repeating. Essentially, he said, one must recognize that there are many Christians who subscribe to the Adam and Eve story’s authenticity. Without their existence, how can we answer the question of why Jesus had to die on the cross?

Ruse said that the inconsistencies in the Christian faith turned him away from religion. People are free to believe but as for himself, Ruse says “no thank you.”

The next Philosophical Friday on April 4 is titled “What Can Philosophy Learn from Doing Experiments? A Report on the ‘X-Phi’ Movement.” It will feature guest speaker Jonathan Weinberg of The University of Arizona in the Liberal Arts Building room 108 at 2 p.m. All Philosophical Fridays are free and open to the public.

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Philosophical Friday Debate Declares Its Winner: Knowledge