Since I last checked in, there was an astounding amount of material covered on this thread. Which left a lot of reading to do. BotchTower, Ziddinia and New Chapter have given a grand tour pro and con - or con and pro.
Walking away with some impressions: In reading B's material, there was reference to a number of other physicists and astronomers, examining their philosophical or religious points of view- and Z countered that there were many fallacies in their arguments for a patriarchal deity or a deity at all. It was also noted by Z that Judaeo-Christian ideas were of fairly recent vintage, and counter to this there were a number of very ancient cultures which had identified creation with goddesses. So you might say that there was a hybrid pitch for religion based on physics and astronomy figures with objections and a cultural anthropology based pitch for religion with a different slant on who or what God is.
On the last, I should note that I use to hear a different variation on this. My high school friends and I used to comment on our religion teacher (an unordained brother in a religious order) and his claim that the prophets and other figures of the Bible knew more about religious truths than we did because they were closer to the Creation. Speaking of astronomy, my father once quipped we move the Sears refractor telescope from the porch stoop to the street curb, so we could get a closer look at the moon - a few years before Brother F. made his assertion. But at the very least he would have understood the line of reasoning, even though he might have raised objections over some details.
Later in life, if it is not too much of a digression, I did get to meet a couple of the people under discussion. Enjoyed talking with F. Dyson at a conference - like getting a ball autographed - and having got through a presentation without any visible disturbance in his face. Though I don't know much about the beliefs of most astronomy physics instructors, the first one I did any work for turned out to be a Unitarian...
But back on track. As an outsider drawn into these arguments by seeing my ex getting sucked back in, I notice or sense some other things. Perhaps it is a leap, but it seems to me, that there is or was an assumption in the "Science Refuted Religion" debate, that is:
"If the Bible or other religious sources can be shown NOT to be inerrant, then everything about religion is crap."
On the other hand, if a scientific theory is shown to be false in a particular instance, the scientific community goes back to the workshop and modifies it or comes up with a new concept. E.g., Newtonian theory does not explain all dynamics; general relativity and quantum mechanics prop its classical dynamics up. And the structure is imperfect. But my other correspondents say, "We're working on that." And having a great time.
What an easy break!
As I said elsewhere, getting drawn into this, I was confronted with Biblical quotes that said that cities were destroyed by God as punishment or else rebuilt as prophesied. And I was also told that the people who were pointing this out to me were that same God's spokespeople for any other urban renewal that was to come. I would look at the historical record and see no confirmation of these claims, and then the spokespeople would point more forcefully to the chapter and verse... And then sometimes the "effect" had to happen, because the text was "prophecy" and therefore it had to have happened.
I had moved into The Looking Glass World.
Unfortunately (?), many of the claims made can be demonstrated as false. Or else those making the claims can be spotted in the process of building their fraudulent evidence. Each of us can cite and trade these stories.
So does this mean that all religious endeavor is bunk, or is this a reaction to a breach of trust?
For me, doing the research to detect the lies of so-called Bible-based religion has been a very disturbing thing. I found more deceit and distortion than I had bargained for. At this point, I admit, that I cannot judge all the ramifications. I do not know what I should tell or share with a child.
But does that mean that there are no lessons in faith? Does that mean that just because those who call everybody else "Satan's organizations" are shown wrong that there is nothing of worth anywhere?
How do we even know?
Is all that is claimed miraculous simply superstition? Is history without any plan or is there ever any intercession? Does science explain why I perceive the world as "conscious" as, I presume, so do you? Does it explain how we can pass on out of it and the world keeps going on? Or can it provide a convincing proof? Do we ever get postcards from the other side? Would science know one way or the other?
If we limit the discussion to the Bible and its basis, even in studying to find that many things I am being led to believe or had believed already were wrong, I still do not exactly understand what had happened (E.g, what did the 6th-4th century BC Persians really have to do with all of this?). Scinces such as archeology or study of contemporary cultures might provide more information.
Of course, the issue of inerrancy is by no means simply an issue of the Society vs. the world. Beside 2nd Adventists in the 19th century there wree numerous groups that latched onto Biblical inerrancy, but as Karen Armstrong notes, it was almost a defensive reaction to 19th century science findings. Cases such as Galileo's were exceptional since only with the printing press did Scripture go into general circulation at all. In the course of compiling a Bible, some scriptures had to be ruled of insufficient pedigree and others, owing to recorded debates, surely barely passed. If nothing else, we have record of Augustine trying to make sense of how Methuseleh could live his alotted years without drowning in Noah's flood.
Augustine also argued in behalf of Christians to be open to ideals from beyond the pale. To give one example:
Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances, and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.”
-Augustine, “De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim”
Some other anecdotes:
Shortly after the invention of the telescope and Galileo's initial discoveries, the Jesuit Gassendi was observing predicted planetary transits and writing attempts to reconcile the atomist theories of Democritus and Lucretius. But if one were to read the recent best seller "Swerve" about the Roman poet, one would find no mention of this. It would conflict with the story's strict dichotomy.
Elsewhere, the story of Lemaitre was mentioned. And it was in the 1950s that Pope Pius XII attempted to get involved in the cosmology that resulted. Lemaitre advised him to sit on the sidelines and let science and its ax let the chips fly where they may.