Archive for the ‘Materialism’ category

The Ends of Science and Beginning of Faith

October 12, 2017

Photo by Ted Wright near Grandfather, NC

I recently listened to a conversation between Ravi Zaccharias and Professor David Block. Professor Block is currently the director of the Cosmic Dust Laboratory at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and a Professor in the School of Computational and Applied Mathematics. His accomplishments speak for themselves.

David Block was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of London when he was 19. Block had a paper (on relativistic astrophysics) published by the Royal Astronomical Society in London when he was 20. Block has a Master of Science degree in relativistic astrophysics and a PhD that focused on the morphology of spiral galaxies. He has participated as a visiting research scientist at Australian National University, the European Southern Observatory in Germany, Harvard University, the California Institute of Technology and the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii and other places.

And there is more. Professor Block has been featured on the cover of the prestigious scientific journal, Nature, twice. He won the NSTF-BHP Billiton award in 2013 for “outstanding contribution to SETI through Communication for Outreach and creating Awareness over the last 5 years – sponsored by the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA)”. He wrote a book for which two Nobel Laureates wrote the preface.

US astronomer, John Kormend, says, “David Block is to South Africa what Carl Sagan was to American astronomy – his pioneering discoveries are reshaping astronomical paradigms….” David Block was the person to accompany Stephen Hawking and introduce him when he met Nelson Mandela.[1]

These things are relevant when considering the conversation he had recently with Ravi Zaccharias. He isn’t just some self-important Internet pundit. He is highly respected for his science, and he is a Christian.

In that context, Block says, “A great scientist, even like Stephen Hawking, if he had to admit a creator, it would be unavoidable, he would have to seek him because he is a great scientist.”

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When Scientists Stray From Science

August 23, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 151533714 Copyright: avemario

Methodological naturalism is the basic approach of science. Since science is the study of the natural world, the methodology of science is limited to the parameters of the natural world. Methodological naturalism is theologically neutral.

So what does that mean?

On a very fundamental level, it simply means that science is the study of the natural world, and, therefore, science is limited to naturalistic methodology. Science is limited to the observations of matter, energy, space, and time.

Another way of putting it is that science has no preoccupation with anything that is super natural. Science is limited to a focus on the natural world. Science doesn’t bother itself with anything but the natural world (though scientists might stray beyond it).

None of this should be in the least bit earth-shattering. Confusion arises, however, when we begin discussing the supernatural, the metaphysical, the theological, and even the philosophical realms in relation to science.

There are those scientists, for instance, who have recently suggested that the advance of science today has done away with the necessity of philosophy. People like Lawrence Krauss and Neil deGrasse Tyson have made statements like that, though they have both backed off of those initial statements more recently. The backtracking is advisable as those statements, themselves, are philosophical in nature, and not scientific.

To suggest that science has done away with necessity for philosophy is to ignore the limitations placed on science in its very methodology. Science, itself, is not philosophical, but evidence from science can support premises that are philosophical, and scientists themselves draw philosophical conclusions from scientific facts.

Science may inform philosophy, but it can never replace philosophy. To think otherwise is to exalt science beyond its natural parameters (pun intended) and to fail to appreciate the difference between science and philosophy.

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There Is No Proof of God?

July 29, 2017

A popular skeptical notion about spiritual things is that there is no proof of God. But is that a reasonable statement?

What does the skeptic mean by proof? Does he mean strict proof, mathematical proof or proof beyond a doubt? If that is what the skeptic means, then the skeptic will always remain a skeptic, because that kind of proof is unattainable.

There is nothing inherently bad or wrong in being skeptical. Skepticism or doubt is not a sin as some might suppose. “Doubting Thomas” was a disciple of Jesus after all! Honest skepticism is not a problem. In fact, honest skepticism is healthy; it drives us to test truth claims and weed out falsity.

The demand for strict proof that God exists, however, is not honest skepticism. While we might attain to some proof beyond a “reasonable” doubt, strict proof, mathematical proof, or proof beyond any doubt is impossible. I will try to explore why that is in this blog article.

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The Descent and Ascent of Man

May 27, 2017

Image ID: 150736070 Copyright: claverinza

When Charles Darwin wrote The Descent of Man[i], the title was a play on words. In the context of the book, Darwin meant the word in the sense of “derivation from an ancestor”; “the fact or process of originating from an ancestral stock”; and/or “the shaping or development in nature and character by transmission from a source”.[ii] Descent, of course, can have a quite different meaning.

The word, descent, can also mean “the act or process of descending from a higher to a lower level, rank, or state”; “an inclination downward”; and/or “a downward step (as in station or value”), as in decline. Darwin probably meant the word in this sense, also, in that philosophers and scientists and thinkers of all types before him had mostly viewed man standing apart from the rest of the natural world, standing above it (just a little lower than the angels). Darwin’s theory revealed man descending not from heaven, but descending (ascending) from lower life forms. This is the play on words.

In thinking about these things many generations after Charles Darwin coined the book title, in the context of all that has developed since his time, the subtlety and nuance of the play on words strikes me, but not in the way Darwin likely intended.

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Questions on Morality and the Materialist

April 10, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 129286826 Copyright: Olivier26

In a naturalistic world in which there is nothing supernatural, nothing other than the material world, and everything there is can be summed up by what we can touch, see, hear, feel and measure, survival of the fittest reigns. In a world like that, what is wrong with genocide?

Genocide is like the ultimate survival of the fittest. The superior people group dominates, overcomes and wipes out the inferior people group. What could be more Darwinian? What could be more natural in a naturalistic world?

This, in fact, is largely the history of the world. Why, then, is this expression of survival of the fittest wrong?

Thankfully most people today recoil from such a notion, but on what basis?

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Intellect and Faith

January 13, 2017
Photo by Tyler Drendel - Sunset at Fermi Lab

Photo by Tyler Drendel – Sunset at Fermi Lab

Following from part one of twobeing honest about the who and what of our underlying presuppositions

Think about it: can a finite being measure or define, let alone manipulate, an infinite God?

If God is “big” enough to create a universe so large that we cannot see past the beginning or the end, how do we expect to measure such a God?

We are more comfortable in our own element. We can understand the what and the how of the world we live in, but the who is another matter altogether. Non-believers go no further and declare, the “what” and the “how” to be all there is.

At the same time, believers should not be afraid of facts or science. Facts and science help us to know and understand the what and how of creation – and they point to the Who. If we have an attitude open to the Who, we will see the evidence for God. In fact, it will seem self-evident. If a person wants “proof” before belief, such a person will never be satisfied – especially when the proof is a priori limited to the what and the how.

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Did Nature Cause Itself?

October 21, 2016

I haven’t heard anyone ask whether nature caused itself, in so many words, but that is the question begged by any assertion that God doesn’t exist. Anyone who maintains that nature and natural causes are the beginning and the end of all reality is begging that question: did nature cause itself?

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to the assertion that nothing supernatural exists is the Big Bang. The Big Bang is accepted science. The evidence is very compelling, though it wasn’t received well when it was first postulated. The thought that the universe was not eternal and had a beginning was thought to be “repugnant” and to “betray the very foundations of science”.[1] This is because a beginning to the universe suggests that the universe had a Beginner.

The initial reluctance to accept the Big Bang has changed as the evidence has piled up. (more…)


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