I'm not fond of labels, particularly pejorative labels, but sometimes they are well deserved. I do not like to use the word "accomodationist" but Jerry Coyne is justified in using it this time. Psychologist (evolutionary psychologist?) Matt Rossano argues at the HuffPo that the resurrection of Jesus is not really incompatible with science. Why, because Pope Ratzi wrote in a book that Jesus's resurrection is not as banal as giving back life to a corpse (as if that would be "banal"), it is something else altogether, something that naturally we cannot comprehend, because it is a "different state". Matt Rossano takes the Pope at his word and therefore concludes that skeptics and believers can then talk nicely about the resurrection because it does not contradict science, it is simply something "new" that science has not yet explained. This is moving the goal posts at its best. This is serious, serious nonsense. I detest it when somebody uses seemingly complicated concepts that are totally made up and give them an aura of intellectual credibility buy simply stating that it is something "we cannot comprehend yet".
Here is the core of Rossano's argument, judge for yourself:
The scientific case against resurrection is pretty straightforward: once dead you stay dead -- that's just the way it works. Coming back to life after having been dead (I mean really dead) would constitute a violation of natural law -- a miracle -- and miracles just don't happen. Fair enough. But in his recent book on the last days of Jesus (Jesus of Nazareth Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection), Joseph Ratzinger (aka Pope Benedict XVI) argues that reckoning Resurrection as resuscitation of a corpse is to misunderstand its true significance. Jesus' Resurrection, he contends, was an utterly singular event, straining the very limits of human understanding:
"Anyone approaching the Resurrection accounts in the belief that he knows what rising from the dead means will inevitably misunderstand those accounts and will then dismiss them as meaningless" (p. 243).
In fact, if Jesus' Resurrection were "merely" coming back to life in any way that we might comprehend, then it would be of little significance.
So what then does Resurrection mean? For Benedict it represents a new dimension of reality breaking through into human experience. It is not a violation of the old; it is the manifestation of something new.
"Jesus had not returned to a normal human life in this world like Lazarus and the others whom Jesus raised from the dead. He has entered upon a different life, a new life -- he has entered the vast breadth of God himself..." (p. 244).
I love this kind of discourse! The Pope says that anyone who thinks they understand what "raising from the dead" means will misunderstand the accounts of the resurrection. This must include the Pope himself, doesn't it? If he misunderstand it too, why should we take his word seriously? It's just another misunderstanding! And if he understands it (because he is the Pope, or something), then he should be able to explain it to us.
Rossano then continues with this:
Thus, in this view, Resurrection (as with all true miracles) is not contrary to science, but an indicator that science does not (yet?) describe the full expanse of reality. Indeed, some may argue that science itself contains similar "indicators." The 11 (or so) dimensional universe required by some versions of string theory, the multiverse theory of the universe where ours is but one of an infinite array of universes with variable physical laws, quantum entanglements, "spooky" action at a distance, the mysterious emergence of consciousness from inorganic matter -- all push the limits of human reason and imagination, suggesting to some that reality may be far more complex than the human mind can grasp.
OK, so "true miracles" are those that one day will be able to be explained by science. Doesn't this make them NOT MIRACLES? Then of course, he throws in the words quantum, string theory and multiverses, to make it all sound very scientific. Yes, that's it! Jesus must have disappeared through a portal to another universe? All possibly explained by strings and quantum entanglement!
He concludes his piece by saying:
The believer's argument, however, remains unconvincing to the skeptic. However impressive they might be, a change of heart and steadfast commitment do not necessarily add up to a new dimension of reality. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Fair enough. So a key question regarding the interpretation of Resurrection is this: Is the post-crucifixion history of Christianity extraordinary? Does it compel the dispassionate observer to concede that a categorically unique event could plausibly be its best explanation?
There's a message here, one quite in keeping with the Easter season when the notion of something radically new breaking through is uppermost in our minds. It ought to be upon questions such as those above that skeptics and believers respectfully engage one another, rather than the simplistic and often acrimonious sloganeering that has increasingly become the norm.
Happy Easter, everyone!
Please, Rossano, this is just kissing up to the believers, feeding their delusions by giving them a patina of a possible scientific explanation. If he wanted to wish Christians a happy Easter, just do so without all the pseudo-scientific platitudes.
Read Jerry Coyne's deconstruction of the Rossano article here.
I haven't seen your pancakes for a while, would like to see some... !
I think that using science and people new "belief !!!" in science is despicable. truly despicable.
I only read some of the comments here (there are rather a lot) and I agree...
It's called a MIRACLE.
Same as walking on water, virgin birth, etc. Science is not supposed to be able to explain it. That's why it's called a miracle.
Yeah and pigs fly and Elephants are pink!
I'm not saying you have to believe in miracles.
I'm saying that asking if miracles are "compatible with science" is ignorant. The definition of "miracle" informs us that miracles are not compatible with science. Hence, they're miracles. Make sense yet?