Posted tagged ‘science’

Inspiration or Artifice? Faith and Reason

December 7, 2017

From a presentation by Francis Collins at the Veritas Forum at the California Institute of Technology

Take a close look at the two images. What do they represent? We might say that one image represents science and the other represents religion (or faith). But which is which?

The images are similar, but one of them is manmade, and the other is something we find in nature. Do you know which is which? Is the manmade image the scientific one or the spiritual one?

I will answer these questions; at least I will answer them as they were described in a presentation given by Francis Collins, the manager of the Human Genome Project, at a Veritas Forum at Caltech University in 2009. In the process, we will explore the chief question examined by this eminent scientist: whether science and faith are compatible.

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An Inkling of Transcendence: Lewis and Tolkien

October 8, 2017

Despoitphotos Image ID: 121201272 Copyright: chrisdorney

“[His] father had taught him to absorb doubt and disbelief into his beliefs.”

This statement from the book, Inklings, by Humphrey Carpenter, is spoken of Charles Williams, who was a regular participant in the informal discussion group, the Inklings, formed by CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien at the University of Oxford, England. The group met at various time in Lewis’s classroom and a local pub from the late 1930’s to late 1949. Charles Williams was an early member of the group and continued as a regular until his death in 1945. Williams grew up “a devout churchman” but was encouraged by his father “to appreciate the force of atheistic rationalism and to admire such men as Voltaire and Tom Paine”.

Lewis, of course, was an atheist when he began teaching at Oxford. His journey from a naturalistic worldview to agnosticism to Christian theism is chronicled in his autobiographical work, Surprised by Joy. Tolkien was already a Christian when Lewis joined him as a professor at Oxford, and Tolkien influenced Lewis in his transition to Christianity. Williams came along later. These men were attracted to each other as much by their love of language, literature and poetry as their faith, and their views on literature and faith often diverged sharply.

These three men, and others who joined them, were a powerhouse of thought and creativity. CS Lewis, of course, wrote many books from fiction to philosophy. JRR Tolkien wrote, perhaps, the greatest mythological series of the 20th century in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Charles Williams, though lesser known, was a prolific writer, literary critic, publisher and student of English literature who could recite hundreds of passages from sheer memory.

They influenced each other, despite their very distinct differences, and their collective influence has been felt by generations from their day to ours. They were Christian men, believing very authentically in the Bible as scripture, but they were also fierce academics who held their faith up to the rigors of intellectual exercise.

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Is the Bible Scientifically Accurate?

September 14, 2017

Photo taken of friends at a church in Missouri viewing the eclipse

I listened to a presentation by Jon Jorgenson on Science vs. the Bible in which he addressed the question whether the Bible has any scientific errors. Jon’s YouTube channel is aimed at teenagers and young adults, and he is a prolific producer of inspirational and devotional material.

He acknowledges, the answer, literally, is yes. For instance, in Genesis, the author describes the Moon as a “lesser light”, but we know the Moon is not technically a light. It doesn’t generate light of its own like the Sun.

Another example is the parable of the mustard seed. Jesus calls the mustard seed the smallest of all seeds. We know that there are other seeds in the world that are smaller than mustard seeds.

For these reasons, we cannot honestly say that the Bible, on its face, taken literally, is scientifically accurate. It simply isn’t.

Jon offers that we shouldn’t expect the Bible to be scientifically accurate because it isn’t meant to be.  2 Timothy 3:16 states: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness”. (NASB) From this, he makes the point that the Bible is written for a different purpose.

Still, one might ask, doesn’t the God of the universe know these things? Why doesn’t He get the facts right?!

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Turning Idols toward God: the Human Intellect

August 30, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 20592505 copyright: olly18

Human beings can make idols out of anything, including making an idol of human intellect/mind. As with all created things, the human intellect is limited, finite and utterly unable to save us from our human condition, but many people, nevertheless, put their faith in the human intellect. This is ultimately idolatry when we trust in our own intellect instead of trusting in God.

Putting our faith in our own intellect is also, ultimately, foolish. What do we know that God doesn’t know? What can see understand that God doesn’t understand? Relying on ourselves in this way, to the exclusion of relying of God, is (to put it mildly) short-sighted. It is sin, to put it bluntly.

It is the same mistake that Eve made in the garden when the serpent tempted her by saying “you will be like God”![1] We want to be our own gods, relying on our own intellect.

This basic prideful condition, which is the essence of sin, is why “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise”.[2] Of course, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness” to God.”[3] As Isaiah says:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

For these reasons, and others perhaps, Christians today tend to distrust science, worldly thinking, philosophy and even the mind, itself. Christians have all but abandoned the world of science, philosophy and the intellect to secular institutions and minds, and this is a terrible mistake!

Christians are reluctant to acknowledge science. Christians are fearful of philosophy. Christians are even distrustful of their own minds. Many Christians have abdicated the realm of the intellect to modern culture and secular institutions. But here’s the thing: this is sinful too!

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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. It’s important to understand that 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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Follow The Evidence Where It Leads

July 31, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 97354170 copyright: alphaspirit

Francis Bacon, the father of modern science, used to say there are two books of God: the book of Scripture (the word of God) and the book of nature (the work of God). He believed, as did many people who came before him and after him, that all truth is God’s truth. He believed that there is no contradiction at the end of the day between those two “books”. Any apparent discrepancy or conflict is in the interpretation of one or the other of those two sources of the revelation of God. There is no discrepancy or conflict at the level of the facts themselves; the only discrepancy or conflict is in our understanding of Scripture (theology) or nature (science).

Theology and science are, at best, interpretations of the data. Theology and science are not the facts, but interpretations of the facts. Scientists and theologians have disputes and disagreement among themselves and between the disciplines. We all have preconceived ideas on ultimate and intermediate issues, but following the evidence where it leads is the approach most surely to result in the most accurate understanding.

People who identify in both camps of science and theology promote the misconception that science and theology (or science and faith if you will) are incompatible. That is unfortunate, because there shouldn’t be any tension between the two. While science is the study of the natural world and theology is the study of the super-natural world (so to speak), the two should be in perfect harmony if, indeed, a Causal Agent (who we might call God ) exists who caused the universe to begin.

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What’s In Your Primordial Soup?

October 31, 2016

I am reminded of a Farside cartoon when I think of primordial soup. For instance, the amoeba reading a book titled, Primordial Soup for the Soul. The concept of primordial soup isn’t a joke, of course. It is the idea that life began many millions of years ago as chaotic elements churned in the boiling atmosphere and electric charges of a primitive earth – a kind of Frankenstein-like beginning to be sure, but a serious scientific concoction.

The ramifications of the quintessential primordial soup are far reaching. They imply that nothing but natural forces were necessary for the creation of life. For many, the ultimate implication is that God doesn’t exist or we don’t need God (which isn’t quite the same thing). We don’t need God to explain the origins of life because there is a plausible natural explanation.

But is that the case?

For several centuries, people have sought alternative explanations for the origins of the universe and of life as a way of chasing off the specter of God. Richard Dawkins, for instance, asserts that the “greatest achievement” of mankind is the theory of evolution, giving man the power to cast off the shackles of faith in God and allowing man to stand unfettered on his own two feet.

Whether God exists, or doesn’t, what is in the primordial soup that seems to explain how life can rise from non-life, without need of a God, without anything other than the basic stuff of an infantile universe? (more…)


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