Politics & Policy

Curbing God’S Laws

On religion, science, church, and state.

Much time (and space) are being given to the question of religion and science. There is continuing preoccupation with it, and the question is parsed week after week in different theaters: Is God admissible in purposive thought? Some say that the rejection of religion is a primary step in intelligent thought. Contenders on both sides of the issue will sometimes find themselves retreating into caricature. They will say, for instance, that belief in God and belief in science are mutually exclusive, that the renunciation of one is required in order to subscribe to the other. But these caricatures are undermined from within, as when one finds Dr. Kenneth Miller of Brown University, a scientist of high professional esteem who, on Sundays, attends church and professes his faith.

A recent survey in the New York Times spoke of the eminent C.S. Lewis. He grew up a skeptic. But in his twenties, he gradually admitted the evidence in favor first of the existence of God, then of the divinity of Christ. In his book Mere Christianity, Lewis argues that the idea of right and wrong is universal, a moral law that human beings “did not make and cannot quite forget even when they try.”

Such an epiphany won’t get you too far in Christian taxonomy, but it is a step in that direction. The crowning reservation of the man seeking to believe wholly in science may be that, in the scrawny hands of the evolutionists, too much is left unexplained. The Christian religion depends very heavily on revelation for its acceptance, and revelation acknowledges the interventionist finger of God, on which we cannot rely, but which we cannot dismiss. Skeptics who incline away from any belief in divine intervention can nevertheless find themselves pondering questions of right and wrong which issue from moral divisions in which science plays no part. One such is cited in the New York Times essay. Dr. Joseph Murray, who won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1990 for his work in organ transplantation, once divulged that when he was preparing for the first-ever human organ transplant, a kidney that a young man was donating to his identical twin, he and his colleagues consulted a number of religious leaders to inquire whether they were doing the right thing. “When you are searching for truth you should use every possible avenue, including revelation,” Murray said. He has described the influence of his faith on his work in a memoir, Surgery of the Soul.

In the United States, the battlefront is in the schools, on the question of evolution and creationism. If a 14-year-old student is introduced to the contingent possibility that life evolved as it did because its creator so willed it, which of the following risks, from the hard-line evolutionists’ point of view, is that student taking? 1) His intellectual disqualification by admitting creationism, for which there is no scientific no warrant, into his thinking? 2) A lifelong intellectual confusion, perhaps disabling in its consequences, which will keep him from prevailing as a responsible thinker and actor? Or perhaps, 3) a lifetime as an agent of teleological confusion, with the result that he will not only mislead himself, but also mislead others?

In Iraq, the national assembly that has met to devise a new constitution appears to be stalled on several points, one of them being the nature of the new Supreme Court. Should it be a secular body, or should four of the nines seats be reserved for clerics? Will civil law prevail, or will the court be charged with ruling on whether any proposed measure conforms to the sharia? Thus the question of women’s rights would become not a question of positive law, but a question of Koranic fidelity.

There are factions, Kurdish, Sunni, and even Shiite, which argue against such distribution of power, but there is no denying the strength of those who argue that only adjudications traceable to divine warrant have the authority to prevail. There has never been a neo-society so desperately in need of the idea of a division of church and state.


The Latest