As often is the case with me as I read, listen to discussions, and watch YouTube videos, a number of strands from those media come together. I am going to attempt to weave some of those strands together today as I tackle the edges of our human limitations, dark matter, and knowing God.
In a recent discussion between Saleem Ali and Stephen Meyer on the Unbelievable! podcast, Some things that Ali said prompted me to want to respond. I wrote of the discussion recently in What is the Basic Order of the Universe? Bottom Up? Or Top Down? But, today, I want to take my observations a bit further.
Saleem Ali has a background in chemistry and environmental studies, and Stephen Meyer has a background in physics, history and the philosophy of science. In their discussion, Meyer argues that our study of the physical world reveals evidence for a God who created it (a top-down design). In Ali’s response, I agree with his statement that certain things are unknowable to human beings because of our empirical limitations.
Ali said these things to highlight that we cannot know with scientific certainty that God exists. I agree with that. I would simply add this: Because science is the study of the natural, physical world, and humans are creatures of the natural, physical world, we are constrained to the limitations of the natural, physical world in our scientific endeavors.
Ali also admits that we may not ever be able to know the origin of the causes of the universe, or of the origin of the laws of physics, or of the origin of life because these things would require us to search beyond the parameters of the constraints of the natural, physical world in which we are bound.
Since we, ourselves, are physical creatures in a world that is limited by physical constraints, we may never know with scientific certainty what else exists.
This assumes, however, that we have no capacity to know of anything that exists beyond the natural world. Some people are content to foreclose the idea that we are incapable of knowing anything that is not material and physical in nature. I am not convinced, and I see evidence that we are not so limited.
We have basically two choices: 1) assume that the existence of the universe is nothing more than a brute fact; or 2) assume that the universe had a creator. We can either resign ourselves to agnosticism or choose to test one of those two assumptions.
I made the assumption that the universe makes more sense on the premise of a creator, and I have been testing that hypothesis ever since. I won’t apologize for making that assumption, and the degree to which I have tested that assumption has not left my unsatisfied.
To those people want to judge me on that point, I say that you may be in a worse position than me to be a judge. I assume an intellect far greater than me created me with intellect. I do not trust it on my own account. On what basis do you have confidence in your intellect and agency that derived merely from inert, unintelligent matter?
To the extent that you believe your reasoning power evolved from lower life forms, why do you have confidence in the reasoning of a monkey’s mind? I say this not of my own accord; I am applying Darwin’s reasoning that he applied to own his convictions. (See Reflections on Faith and Atheism and Universal Design Intuition and Darwin’s Blind Spot))
As hints of the painter appear in his painting, our study of the natural world can (and does I believe) give us hints of the God who created it. We see the personality of the painter in his painting as we see the personality of God in His creation – including the creation of human beings.
I cannot prove that, just as I could not prove the painter by virtue of his painting. If I had no connection with the painter and knew no one who knew him, my knowledge of him would be mere speculation. But, I would be right in assuming a painter.
Ali says that finite creatures such as ourselves are going to encounter a certain amount of mystery and awe, but that mystery and awe does not necessarily validate a theistic explanation. Mystery and awe by themselves do not warrant a conclusion that God exists. I agree with him on the statement, as far as it goes, and I think we need to be candid about these things.
If God exists, who preexisted, and caused the universe and all things that we know to come into being, including ourselves, we may be cut off from knowing that God and from viewing that causality by our physical limitations and the physical limitations of the universe in which we are bound. Even if the universe hints of Him, we may be incapable of knowing Him by our own abilities because of our limitations.
The only exception I can think of would be for such a God to reveal himself in some way to us. Of course, that is the claim of theism.
We do not know the painter of a painting unless we meet him, and we cannot know the God of the universe unless we “meet” Him in some way. We might be able to track down the painter of a painting, because that painter exists within the same bounds of the same world as we do. Because of our limitations, however, God would have to introduce Himself to us.
That is the claim of people who claim to have “met” God in some fashion. We can explore those claims as we can explore the claims of anyone who witnessed an event or met a person we we have not met ourselves, but let’s lay that aside for the moment.Continue reading “Exploring the Edges of Our Knowledge on Matters of Science and Faith”