Posted tagged ‘science and faith’

Recognizing Leon Lederman and the God Particle

October 4, 2018


Leon Lederman has passed away today at the age of 96.[1] “What’s the big deal”, you might ask. Well Leon Lederman is a big deal around these parts – Batavia, IL where I graduated from high school and where my office has been since 1994. That’s because Batavia is home to the Fermi National Accelerator Lab where Leon Lederman worked and earned a Nobel prize.

Leon Lederman was the director of Fermilab, as it is more commonly known, from 1978 to 1989, and was the principal driver behind the development of the Tevatron, the world’s highest-energy particle collider from 1983 to 2010. He also won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1988 for proving the existence of a new type of neutrino, muon neutrino.

Leon Lederman is a local, national and international legend. He taught for years at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, IL, which is a model for high school education for students from all over the state who are gifted in math and science. The law firm I started my career with and the predecessor to the present firm I am in drafted the legislation for IMSA, and we represented IMSA for many years even after I joined the firm.

On this day, it is more than fitting that I recognize the incredible person Leon Lederman was and the significant contribution he made to the study of physics and science. Among other things, Lean Lederman is the person who called the Higgs Boson the “God Particle” in a 1993 book he wrote by the same name.[2]

On this day, therefore, I honor Lean Lederman by some consideration of that name he gave the Higgs Boson, which stuck somewhat to his own dismay.

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Discussion on Science and the Bible

June 16, 2018

Michael Gillan Interview with Jeff Zweerink

Since I was in college and first read the Bible in a world religion class, I have found the Bible to be uniquely layered in its meaning and personally intimate at the same time. It was like no other book I read, and still is.

I read the Bible for the first time in a World Religion class, so I read it in light of and comparison to the other major world religion texts. In that comparative study, I found the Bible to be exceptional in its depth of meaning, intricacy and nuance.

My religion professor took the position (I later found out) that all roads lead to the top of the same mountain. He didn’t favor one text over another, least of all the Bible. He presented all the texts to be read on their own merit, letting them “speak for themselves”.

This is the way I approached them. I was a seeker, not knowing where truth was to be found, but assuming that all world religions contained nuggets of the ore. I viewed philosophy and great literature the same way, seeing them as deposits of truth to be explored and mined for their value.

I have to say that I found myself becoming a bit of a skeptic about science. I now understand that the skepticism would have been more appropriately leveled at scientists, who often acted (and apparently believed) as if science has a corner on truth and that all truth should be viewed through a scientific lens.

I have since learned that this “scientism” is a caricature – an exaltation of science beyond the scope and limitations of science and what we can and should expect of science. Science is the study of the natural world – matter, energy and motion. Science cannot tell us why we appreciate beauty, for instance, or even what beauty is.

But, I have also learned that science is beautiful in itself. Science unveils some of the most beautiful and wondrous facets of the universe we live in.  That we can even “do” science is beautiful and wondrous in itself!

Following is an interesting interchange between physicists about science and the Bible. I hope you enjoy it as much as a I did.

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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Can Laws Like Gravity Create Something from Nothing?

October 24, 2017

Photo by Tyler Drendel at the Garden of the Gods

I’m not a scientist, and I am not even “a science person”, though I have become much more interested in science as an adult than I was as a child. I am more of a philosophical and theological person. My background is English literature, world religions, and American jurisprudence (law).

We give scientists quite a bit of deference in our modern society, and so we should. They are peeling back the layers of this universal onion in which we live. Scientific discoveries are fascinating, life-changing and significantly valuable.

I would be quickly lost in the weeds in a discussion of science among scientists, but scientists are human. They have flaws, and they usually are not schooled in philosophy or theology.

For instance, Stephen Hawking, is one of the most brilliant scientists of our age. In his book, The Grand Design, he says, “In a world in which a law like gravity exists, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing.” This isn’t a statement of science; it’s a philosophical statement with theological impact. But does it make sense?

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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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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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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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Malcolm Guite

Blog for poet and singer-songwriter Malcolm Guite

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