RC Recommends | Unbelievable: 7 Myths about the History and Future of Science and Religion
Ratio Christi is constantly on the lookout for quality publications to recommend to thoughtful Christians. We are pleased to add to our list Unbelievable: 7 Myths about the History and Future of Science and Religion (ISI Books, January 2019). We anticipate this book will be well received by its readers, and that it will spark fruitful discussion in our RC student chapters. An interview with historian and philosopher of science Dr. Michael Keas explains why.
RC: What kind of apologetics does your book deliver?
MK: Unbelievable is a contribution in the area of cultural apologetics. Most apologetics focus on whether Christianity is true, and rightly so. My work explores whether Christianity is good, specifically whether it is good for the cultivation of science. By showing how the answer is “yes,” we see a shining example of cultural apologetics. This approach to apologetics indirectly lends support to the truth of Christianity. If a religion is true, then we would expect to observe its positive cultural effects. I also devote space to showing how Christianity is consistent with the findings of science. Moreover, my book demonstrates that latter-day advocates of “scientific” naturalism often advance some rather unreasonable arguments—showing that such ideology harms culture and its pursuit of truth.
RC: How does your book show that Christianity has not been a hindrance to the growth of science, and to the contrary, has actually stimulated scientific inquiry?
MK: Unbelievable explodes seven of the most popular and pernicious myths about science and religion. Curiously, these false stories attempt to undermine Christianity more than any other world religion. Unbelievable reveals:
- Why the “Christian Dark Ages” never happened.
- Why we didn’t need Christopher Columbus to prove the earth was round; and how Darwinists subsequently used this false story to inaccurately pigeon hole Darwin doubters as guided by merely religious ideology.
- Why Copernicus would be shocked to learn that he supposedly demoted humans from the privileged center of the universe.
- What everyone gets wrong about Galileo’s clash with the Church, and why it matters today.
- Why the vastness of the universe does not deal a blow to religious belief in human significance.
- How the popular account of Giordano Bruno as a “martyr for science” ignores the fact that he was executed for largely theological reasons, not scientific ones.
- How a new myth is being positioned to replace religion—a futuristic myth that sounds scientific but isn’t.
- In debunking these myths, I show that the real history is much more interesting than the common narrative of Christianity at war with science. I offer the positive story of science-faith harmony throughout my book, especially with a case study of the German genius and astronomer Johannes Kepler.
RC: Your book analyzes several scientists as storytellers. Who are some of the well-known science figures?
MK: Much of my book may be characterized as “C. S. Lewis (and great scientists such as Kepler and Galileo) vs. Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Richard Dawkins.” You will be surprised, even shocked, by some of what these influential people have argued. The great minds of Lewis and Kepler will shine in ways you probably never knew.
RC: Why did you, known primarily as a historian of science, write a book that also criticizes one of the most prominent futuristic stories about science and religion? Is this something that apologists will have to reckon with in the coming decades?
MK: Some of the most influential scientists today are epic storytellers who have been profoundly influenced by science fiction, which functions as futuristic myth. George Orwell, in his dystopian science-fiction novel 1984, remarked (writing in 1949): “Who controls the past controls the future.” My book shows how such propaganda works. The historic myths that I debunk left a “significance void” in the chests of those who swallowed the myths. That spiritual vacuum is now being filled by a futuristic secular salvation story that I call the extraterrestrial enlightenment myth. Nobody on earth knows whether ET exists, but the futuristic ET enlightenment myth seems to give scientific reasons for why ET is our only plausible savior. I show how this story sounds scientific, but isn’t.
My work as a philosopher (not just historian) of science is relevant to your question. As a philosopher I specialize in identifying the traits of theories—even futuristic ones—that make them credible or unbelievable. See my essay on such “theoretical virtues” in the top-tier philosophy journal Synthese. Oh, and yes, apologists likely will have to increasingly reckon with the alternative celestial gospel of ET. Even in the absence (to date) of any widely accepted ET “arrival event,” the narrative of ET salvation that I deconstruct is already shaping the worldview of many people. The metanarrative goes something like this: Christianity has opposed the growth of science in the past, but science now offers a new spirituality that will spring from an encounter with superintelligent ET. My book tackles this myth in the sober light of the history and philosophy of science.
RC: Will readers with minimal science backgrounds grasp and enjoy your book?
MK: Most definitely. I draw from a quarter century of teaching college astronomy and biology to non-science majors. The result is an accessible and entertaining book that offers an invaluable resource to students, scholars, teachers, homeschoolers, and religious believers tired of being portrayed as anti-intellectual and anti-science. David Klinghoffer, my colleague at Discovery Institute who read my entire manuscript, had this to say about my book: “Science showmen like Bill Nye and Neil deGrass Tyson have used their own personal celebrity to advance such myths, echoed by the loyal media. But scientists themselves, who can be the rankest of amateurs when it comes to history, join in as well in pushing falsehoods on a credulous public. Setting the historical record straight is a long overdue job that Michael Keas has now undertaken, and he has done a splendid job of it.”
RC: If an RC chapter invites you to speak about your book, what can they expect?
MK: The honorarium will go to RC headquarters, not me. As a board member I am keen to raise money for RC. I’m also happy to talk to local donors about supporting the local RC chapter. How about the event itself? At RC at Colorado State University, I spoke for 60 minutes and provided Q&A for another 50 minutes about my presentation and anything about science, religion, and apologetics. This structure and flow can be adjusted.
The book Unbelievable is out on January 7 from ISI Books, and you can pre-order it now at a 50 percent discount if you order directly from the publisher—as opposed to Amazon where (at the moment) it’s listed at full price. That’s $13.98 versus $27.95. Your choice.
Michael Newton Keas, PhD, is a senior fellow at Discovery Institute and a former Fulbright scholar. After earning a PhD in the history of science from the University of Oklahoma, he won research grants from such organizations as the National Science Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies. Keas serves as lecturer in the history and philosophy of science at Biola University and on the board of directors of Ratio Christi.
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