The Incoherence of Evolutionary Origins (Part 5)

Read the series so far.

The definition of science

In the course of writing about the idea of science in his Systematic Theology, Reformed writer Michael Horton notes that “Britain’s Royal Society was founded by Puritans” (The Christian Faith, 339 n.48).

The Puritans saw no clash, either ontological or methodological, in pursuing science as a response to God’s revelation. The fact that God created the world and created man in His image meant that to find out what God had done was both legitimate, as to fueling an expectation of discovery, and meaningful, because creation had been endowed with its own integrity apart from God while being supervened by God. In this they were in line with the Reformers like Calvin, who said:

Meanwhile being placed in this most beautiful theater, let us not decline to take a pious delight in the clear and manifest works of God. For as we have elsewhere observed, though not the chief, it is in point of order, the first evidence of faith to remember to which side, so ever we turn, that all which meets the eye is the work of God, and at the same time to meditate with pious care on the end which God had in view in creating it. (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, I. 14, 20)

Hence, the pursuance of science as scientia (knowledge) was seen to be a full-orbed task, unpartitioned as yet by the bifurcation of phenomenal and noumenal; natural and supernatural: all knowledge had some revelatory significance. Alas, the Royal Society does not see the world through the same eyes as its founders.

Saying this does not mean that scientists should not follow certain methods for discovery. These methods will differ depending on the phenomena under investigation, but the thing to be kept in mind is that Christians were for science while at the same time seeing no problem with bringing God the Creator into the conversation; not as a replacement for scientific descriptions of the world He has made, but as The Reality which makes sense of every other reality, and the study of that reality.

Indeed, to insist that evoking God as Cause means science comes to an end usually entails bad theology and falls afoul of the law of the excluded middle. To make the issue either/or is both to show ignorance of the rise of the Christian-theistic origins of modern science and to put into practice the blunder of begging the question. If God created the world and He invites us to explore it and to analyze it, most assuredly He does not want us to emit the cry “God did that!” and walk away from our scientific experiments and hypotheses. At the same time He does not want His creatures to do science as if He was not the Designer, Creator and Sustainer of both man’s faculties and the extended world which those faculties investigate. Indeed, the dominant idea of science as naturalism cannot itself uphold science as a pursuit because naturalism as metaphysical dogma fails to give a coherent account of either. As Horton rightly says,

The natural sciences…excel in weighing, measuring, observing, and predicting, but they exceed the bounds of their competence when they reduce all phenomena to natural causes. (Ibid, 340)

Doing science in God’s world as if God isn’t there is no less culpable today than it would have been had Adam named the animals while pretending God did not exist. Further, it is no less irrational.

A big problem with scientific naturalism

(In these posts scientific, philosophical and methodological naturalism are used interchangeably). Cornelius Van Til observed that,

Non-Christian science has worked with the borrowed capital of Christian theism, and for that reason alone has been able to bring to light much truth. (Cited in Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, 377)

The reason for this is because philosophical or scientific naturalism is not self-justifying. Just because persons of all different persuasions can do science does not mean that these same persuasions are competent to act as an apology for science and/or the search for truth. David Hume’s arguments against cause and effect reduced everything to habitual practices within a state of affairs which could change tomorrow. We are merely “a bundle of perceptions.” We cannot know for sure that tomorrow will be as today. In fact, the standard Copi & Cohen Introduction to Logic (11th edition) lists that very belief as a classic example of the fallacy of begging the question! Hence, on naturalistic presuppositions the logic of testing hypotheses breaks down, because it relies on a belief about the future which is empirically closed-off and logically fallacious. A sine qua non for science, the principle of uniformity, is not itself open to the vaunted “scientific method”—within the naturalistic approach.

If Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett or Richard Dawkins are to be believed, we are nothing more than brain chemistry. But if that is “true” then nothing is true and science is a futile self-delusion.

If the rational human mind is merely a biological product, which it must be if naturalistic evolution were true, then the mind is not an independent observer, no matter how complex or sophisticated it may be and it is therefore not truly free to explore or examine reality. The functions of the mind would be produced and controlled solely by the genetic chemical makeup of, and the environmental influences on, each individual. Because of the complexity of the mental faculties, the brain itself being incredibly intricate, there would be some natural variation in thought patterns, so not everyone would think exactly alike but the variations would be like the multitude of variations found in roses or in dogs. Just as ‘Peace’ and ‘American Beauty’ are both roses despite their significant differences, and Great Danes and Yorkshire Terriers are both dogs despite their differences, so atheism and theism would simply be examples of natural variations of human thought and one could not be more true than the other in any objective or absolute sense. (L. Russ Bush,The Advancement, 39)

This is science played on purely naturalistic instruments: no strings, no composer, no instruments.

Many philosophers of science have shown that there is no one agreed upon or completely serviceable definition of science (the pronouncements of scientists notwithstanding). The literature is vast (See e.g., Del Ratzsch, Science and Its Limits). Stephen Meyer demonstrates well in his books Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt that he and other I.D. advocates employ the very same tools which Darwin used and which scientists today use. The real issue is not how scientists operate, but which worldview these people operate within.

Scientists aren’t fools

A common defense which is heard when evolution and its mother philosophy are questioned is that scientists are not fools. Setting aside the obvious truth that all of us, scientist or no, can and have been fools, I shall narrow the definition down to the meaning that “scientists are aware of what they are doing.” And the reply one should give to that sort of answer is, “so what?”

If that seems unkind let me clarify. To the objection that naturalistic scientists have good reasons for pointing to the Big Bang, or homology, or the fossil record as proof that they are on the right track, it may be pointed back that this is another non sequitur. Michael Polanyi, the famous chemist and philosopher of science, used the example of the premise “all men must die” to drive this home. Speaking of “primitive peoples” he said,

Such people believe that no man ever dies, except as a victim of evil magic…. Their denial of natural death is part of their general belief that events which are harmful to man are never natural, but always the outcome of magic wrought by some malevolent person. In this magical interpretation of experience we see some causes which to us are massive and plain…or even irrelevant to the event (like the passing overhead of a rare bird)…. The primitive peoples holding these beliefs are of normal intelligence. Yet they not only find their views wholly consistent with everyday experience, but will uphold them firmly in the face of any attempts on the part of Europeans to refute them by reference to such experience. (Michael Polanyi, Science, Faith and Society, 25)

Are these people fools? No. But then perhaps Polanyi is trying to get us to see that the question is inappropriate. The real question is, “is the worldview true?” to that question the Christian must answer the evolutionary naturalist as he would answer the “primitive” native: assuredly not! They have both cut off access to much truth by adopting a false perspective on the world. For as Phillip Johnson observes,

Natural science is thus based on naturalism. What a science based on naturalism tells us, not surprisingly, is that naturalism is true. (Phillip E. Johnson, Reason in the Balance, 8)

The neutrality myth

Another popular misconception touted by atheists and naturalistic scientists is that they are neutral in all of this. But that very opinion is a product of their naturalism. As we have said, and as others like Phillip Johnson have shown, within their outlook neither evolution nor the methodology it needs to sustain it are open to falsification. Certainly the rhetoric is there, but the reality is something else.

To help them keep the blinders on, they are enthusiastic advocates of the unbiblical Kantian dichotomy of phenomenal and noumenal, science and religion, or fact and value. The pragmatic dividends for doing this are immense. What it means is that the naturalist evolutionist can introduce teleology and design to his hearts content within the safe parameters of naturalistic method, while shoving teleological concerns which have Theistic implications into the non-scientific hinterland of “Faith.” Thus, it has been shown that,

Historically, purpose (or teleology) was a primary explanation or interpretive category in science. The connections between underlying purposes and observable things were perceived as being strong enough to allow the empirical study of nature to be a source of knowledge about God. Tracing such connections was a popular project for scientists until well into the twentieth century. (Del Ratzsch, Science and Its Limits, 95)

One need only think of Faraday’s public experiments or Maxwell’s having a Latin motto from the Psalms engraved over the doorway of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge to see the truth of this assertion. Van Til put his finger on the real problem:

The difference between the prevalent method of science, that is scientific materialism, and the method of Christianity, the method of Copernicus and Pasteur, that is theistic science, is not that the former is interested in finding the facts and is ready to follow the facts wherever they lead, while the latter is not ready to follow the fact. The difference is rather that the former wants to study the facts without God, while the latter wants to study the facts in the light of the revelation God gives of himself. (Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis, 176)

Agnostic writer David Berlinski describes the quandary this bifurcation of reality (more accurately, the exclusion of God) leaves the naturalistic evolutionist in. He needs mindless processes to be purposeful:

The Darwinian mechanism neither anticipates nor remembers. It gives no directions and makes no choices. What is unacceptable in evolutionary theory, what is strictly forbidden, is the appearance of a force with the power to survey time, a force that conserves a point or a property because it will be useful. Such a force is no longer Darwinian. How would a blind force know such a thing? And by what means could future usefulness be transmitted to the present?

He concludes:

It is a rule which cannot be violated with impunity; if evolutionary theory is to retain its intellectual integrity, it cannot be violated at all. But the rule is widely violated, the violations so frequent as to amount to a formal fallacy. (David Berlinski, in Uncommon Dissent, ed. W. Dembski, 277)

So where does the problem lie? In which realm does the penny drop? Van Til tells us,

Eve was compelled to assume the equal ultimacy of the minds of God, of the devil, and of herself. And this surely excluded the exclusive ultimacy of God. This therefore was a denial of God’s absoluteness epistemologically. Thus neutrality was based upon negation. Neutrality is negation. (Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, 21)

The first and last resort of unbelief is to send believing scientists to Coventry by defining “Science” along strictly naturalistic lines. The problem of pretended neutrality as the problem of naturalistic philosophy generally, is a theological one.

(Next: conclusion of the series.)

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Whole series has been interesting to me but this one had me jumping up and down and shouting "Yes!  Exactly! Well said! Eureka!" and other similar things. This one really gets to heart of the "modern science" problem.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Mark_Smith's picture

Paul stated:

"Saying this does not mean that scientists should not follow certain methods for discovery. These methods will differ depending on the phenomena under investigation, but the thing to be kept in mind is that Christians were for science while at the same time seeing no problem with bringing God the Creator into the conversation; not as a replacement for scientific descriptions of the world He has made, but as The Reality which makes sense of every other reality, and the study of that reality."

 

Is there a danger in invoking your theological view too early in the scientific process so that you wind up missing something that is clearly observable in nature?

For example, a few poster at SI (and probably several others were thinking it) have put forth a view of science that makes it practically worthless to study any object above the earth's atmosphere! Creation was a miracle and there is nothing to see there since a miracle happened and clouded everything up. You can't trust age, so you can't do any "science" to talk about formation or composition, etc. Just stay home...

Mark_Smith's picture

that "In these posts scientific, philosophical and methodological naturalism are used interchangeably". 

 

Can you please discuss that one of the hallmarks of the scientific revolution in the 1600's was the overthrow of the Aristotelian view that had been adopted by almost everyone at that time. This view was that logic, or as Christians adopted it, the Bible as they understood it, was the only place to look for how nature worked. It was BAD and UNTRUSTWORTHY to observe nature because it was corrupt and sinful!

 

The careful work of men like Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton revealed that nature needed to be observed to be understood. Thus, "naturalism" is the view that one must look to nature (at least in practice) to see how nature works. Can you reject wholesale the word or the function of looking for natural explanations for natural phenomena? Is "naturalism" by definition an anti-God word?

 

Let me ask you this. When cloaked with the issue of evolution it is easy to believe what Paul has written. Science as practiced today is godless humanism! But move away from that and ask yourself "why do I believe the Earth orbits the Sun"?  Why do I believe I am made of atoms? Why do I believe that the Sun gets its energy from nuclear fusion? Why do I believe a virus causes Ebola? The answer is because you trust, to some degree, observation of nature and you look for natural causes in nature. That is naturalism!!!

 

Paul Henebury's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

that "In these posts scientific, philosophical and methodological naturalism are used interchangeably". 

 

Can you please discuss that one of the hallmarks of the scientific revolution in the 1600's was the overthrow of the Aristotelian view that had been adopted by almost everyone at that time. This view was that logic, or as Christians adopted it, the Bible as they understood it, was the only place to look for how nature worked. It was BAD and UNTRUSTWORTHY to observe nature because it was corrupt and sinful!

This is another red herring.  Before the Reformation focused attention back on the Bible Aristotlean metaphysics reigned.  Aristotle was a metaphysical naturalist.  Why did the [R.C.] Church do this?  Because Christians paid more attention to a pagan philosopher than they did to the inspired Word.  This is what some Christians still do, although the naturalists they follow stand on the shoulders of Theists who broke with Aristotle.  Yet naturalism still cannot furnish a foundation for science.  Biblical theology can!

The careful work of men like Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton revealed that nature needed to be observed to be understood. Thus, "naturalism" is the view that one must look to nature (at least in practice) to see how nature works. Can you reject wholesale the word or the function of looking for natural explanations for natural phenomena? Is "naturalism" by definition an anti-God word?

This is a false definition of naturalism and it is why you argue the way you do.  Kepler wanted to think God's thoughts after Him.  Not because he wanted to be lazy about investigating the natural world, or invoke miracle where one was not present, but because he wanted to explore God's universe to as much as possible, find out how God designed it.  Naturalism is non-teleological and a Christian has no business pursuing it.  He/she can do good science within having to abandon teleology.  Yes, Mark, "naturalism" is an anti-God word.  You simply seem not to have read enough about it.  

Let me ask you this. When cloaked with the issue of evolution it is easy to believe what Paul has written. Science as practiced today is godless humanism! But move away from that and ask yourself "why do I believe the Earth orbits the Sun"?  Why do I believe I am made of atoms? Why do I believe that the Sun gets its energy from nuclear fusion? Why do I believe a virus causes Ebola? The answer is because you trust, to some degree, observation of nature and you look for natural causes in nature. That is naturalism!!!

This is another fallacy.  This time you are poisoning the well.  Have I said "science as practiced today is godless humanism"?  No.  Why not?  Because quite a number of scientists do not subscribe to the godless humanism which funds metaphysical naturalism!  Your last flourish is, I'm afraid to say, utter nonsense.  The observation of nature and the search for natural causes in nature is not necessarily naturalism.  It is God who has put these things within His creation and it is up to us as those who image Him to discover them in nature.

 

You cherry-pick the article above.  If you had followed the argument of the piece you would not still be trading on a false definition of naturalism and a false dichotomy of science and faith.

Further, you ask a lot of questions, but you seem indisposed to answer any.  In these posts I have asked you:

1. To explain how your naturalistic view of science comports with 2 Cor. 10:5 & 1 Cor. 10:31

2. To comment on Hume's critique of induction & causation and how that undermines empiricism, hence making naturalistic views of science unworkable.

3. Explain your concept of theology, which appears to view it as a subject dealing with facts about God, etc., and not a worldview within which we ought to be be operating.  Indeed, it is the only worldview which does not destroy the scientific enterprise (see Van Til's assertion that non-Christian science is using borrowed capital).

Mark, you cannot do science without a Theistic foundation.  Those who do are misusing God's gifts to study God's world without pleasing God.  I am sure you are a good Christian man, but your bifurcation of knowledge stems from listening too much to the world.   

 

 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Mark_Smith's picture

First, I know nothing (or very little rather) of Hume. I know as much about Hume as you do Quantum Field Theory (of which I know quite a bit). There is only so much I can know...and the thing I lack is details of philosophy.

Second, I am not attempting to do theology in ANY WAY with my response. I am talking completely practical here.

Third, what I am saying is science is based off of looking for natural explanations for natural phenomena. I am NOT SAYING that natural explanations explain everything. What I am saying is science is the "tool" that looks for natural explanations for natural phenomena. Some screws use a regular screw driver, some Phillips. Science is the tool that explores the universe by looking at how it operates from the rules we discover by observing nature. I don't disagree that God made the structure for that to be possible. Does science borrow that. SURE. No disagreement from me. Of course I agree with that because I AM A CHRISTIAN! Ask a scientist who isn't and you will get a different answer. But that doesn't deal with my objection. My objection is that science is looking for natural explanations, and natural need not mean godless. Can it? Yes. Must it. No.

What bothers me is Christians thinking they can battle science with philosophy and theology. They are 3 different fields of knowledge. Can you say "well, creation was a miracle so I am going to look for any string to pull to unravel cosmology" (for example)? Sure. But that doesn't get you anywhere.

As for the Bible verses:

2 Cor 10:5  What does this have to do with anything? I study in my work the Big Bang. That is what I do. If you learn a little General Relativity, the necessity for the Big bang is obvious. It really is rather simple once you get past the considerable math barrier. It falls right in your lap from observing the universe. I fail to see how accepting a plainly obvious Big bang expansion of the universe means I am denying God? But, if you deny the Big Bang as an event you are denying natural observation. I am NOT SAYING you have to accept the purely metaphysical naturalistic explanation of the Big bang...but you cannot deny that the Universe was once very small, and it happened a long time ago from the observations.

1 Cor 10:31 I love this verse. I pray it every day. I try to do all for the glory of God. He enabled me to learn science. i look for natural explanations for natural phenomena. One day I might trip onto some major discovery about how God made the universe. What I WILL NOT DO is just say "well, creation as a miracle there is no way to do science out in the heavens". I also will not do cheesy science by grasping at every straw there is to make my creationists compatriots happy and sell a few thousand books.

 

See Paul, what you are arguing against is metaphysical naturalism, not science. Science (aka methodological naturalism) is a tool, metaphysical naturalism is a religion/worldview.

 

JohnW's picture

Mark, the concepts of the Big Bang, Evolution, and even String Theory are not the results of methodological science, they are the worldviews, philosophical musings, and mathematical scribblings of the scientific elite.  Observation of the world and the universe has caused science to codify something that doesn't even have enough direct evidence to graduate from hypothesis.  Yet, open any text book in college or in a high school and you will find these ideas codified in such a way that there can be no room for any other ideas.  Even Darwin said that he wasn't sure of his own ideas, yet the world took him and his writings, carved a throne out of gold and placed him on it for every one to worship.  Now we have science that decides what musings (the fuel for hypotheses) are acceptable and what ones are not according to the "holy books" of Darwin or Hoyle.  God?  I.D.?  Not acceptable.  Naturalism (evolution)?  Big Bang?  Acceptable.  Why?  There's no satisfactory explanation that stands independent of naturalism.  Or at least, not ones that we will hear in high school, college, or from public academia.  Some of the scientists Paul quoted throughout this series I'd never run across in all my own academic and professional career.  Why?  Because even though there are voices that try to question elemental scientific theorizing and philosophy, no one will hear them because the vanguards of science strike it down before it can make it to the masses.  So now science runs around with its bullhorn saying, "FLRW is The Big Bang!  Do not question it!  Migratory behavior in birds is Evolution!  Do not question it!  There is One Right Science, and no other!"  Paul's articles here have detailed the complete failure of science to hold itself accoutable at the most elemental level.

Titus 2:11 - For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

Mark_Smith's picture

There is no evidence for the Big Bang. OK. Just mathematical and philosophical musings....got it. That is what I meant by "cheesy science", rejecting the basic Big Bang model as predicting and explaining many observations.

 

TylerR once said he would like to know more about science (especially physics and astronomy). No you don't brother. Trust me. All it does is get you rejected by Christians and non-Christian scientists. Its a lonely world.

If the Christian (at least it seems to be here at SI) consensus is there is NO EVIDENCE for the Big Bang, then I have nothing to say. The gulf between us is too great.

 

Paul Henebury's picture

You claim, "I am not attempting to do theology in ANY WAY with my response."

Yes you are.  You just are treating theology as a subject, like Math or English.  But your statements and objections throughout these articles have theological fallout.  You state your main objection:

"My objection is that science is looking for natural explanations, and natural need not mean godless. Can it? Yes. Must it. No."

You say this because you believe methodological naturalism is neutral.  You join D. Futuyma and B. Forrest in this belief.  But you are wrong.  They know they are being disingenuous.  I am certain you are sincere.  However, "looking for natural explanations" is not methodological naturalism.  There is nothing wrong with looking for natural explanations if one means explanations of, e.g., how a perfect solar eclipse is possible or how a chick manages to hatch out of an egg. One can describe the amazing intricacies of such systems without invoking miracle, and one should.  BUT these systems were designed by God and God should be acknowledged - more especially because the scientific enterprise is undergirded by the biblical worldview.  Now, methodological naturalism is more accurately described as "looking ONLY for natural explanations."  And this is precisely what most scientists mean by it and is precisely why it was introduced in the first place.  As I noticed previously, it was actually natural theologians embarrassed by dysteleology who introduced the concept, thereby separating "science" and the Bible.  As the Enlightenment came into full swing the Bible was attacked and "science" as naturalism went its own way.

Now you will, I hope, give me no argument when I assert that metaphysical/philosophical naturalists are always methodological naturalists - as this follows from their ontology.  Hence, they will define "science" as methodological naturalism whether it needs to be so defined or not.  It does not.  As Phillip E. Johnson notes,

"MN in science is only superficially reconcilable with theism...When MN is understood profoundly, theism becomes intellectually untenable... A methodological naturalist defines science as the search for the best naturalistic theories.  A theory would not be naturalistic if it left something (such as the existence of genetic information or consciousness) to be explained by a supernatural cause." - Reason in the Balance, 208  

Despite the absence of any plain encouragements from me (and several others) you continue to employ a straw man argument against your position.  I have not invoked miracles.  If I had, your reasoning would have some traction, but I have only asserted the fact that science need not be enclosed within a naturalistic paradigm; methodological or metaphysical.  Indeed, to do so would be to close off teleology to science.  But you cannot do that because scientists routinely employ teleology in their theories and expect to find it in the extended world (e.g. forensics, SETI, etc).  Ah, but teleological answers are fine just so long as they don't lead to God! 

Finally, you say, "See Paul, what you are arguing against is metaphysical naturalism, not science. Science (aka methodological naturalism) is a tool, metaphysical naturalism is a religion/worldview."

An my reply is that it is you who persists in arguing that Science = methodological naturalism notwithstanding what has been said in response to it.  But as Johnson shows in the above quote, and as Meyer, Behe, Dembski and many others have demonstrated, science so straight-jacketed is incompetent to explain informational systems which it is being called on to explain - because design explanations which point to God are ruled unscientific by those whose methodological approach is dictated by their metaphysical naturalism.   

 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Mark_Smith's picture

I am thinking of more people than you. No, I am not a philosopher or theologian. I don't read Dembski. I don't memorize Behe. So, I don't mention them. I am a physicist, not an expert in information theory. I have my hands full raising 4 kids, working, and church.

I think it is time for me to bow out before the next fundamentalist convention I go to the people throw away my registration! Trust me, I'm already in big trouble. I don't mean that as a cheap shot. I mean that seriously.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

There is no evidence for the Big Bang. OK. Just mathematical and philosophical musings....got it. That is what I meant by "cheesy science", rejecting the basic Big Bang model as predicting and explaining many observations.

 

TylerR once said he would like to know more about science (especially physics and astronomy). No you don't brother. Trust me. All it does is get you rejected by Christians and non-Christian scientists. Its a lonely world.

If the Christian (at least it seems to be here at SI) consensus is there is NO EVIDENCE for the Big Bang, then I have nothing to say. The gulf between us is too great.

 

Mark,

You have stated that you accept the creation ex nihilo account by faith. You also claim there is evidence supporting the big bang theory. How do you reconcile these two events?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Paul Henebury's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

I am thinking of more people than you. No, I am not a philosopher or theologian. I don't read Dembski. I don't memorize Behe. So, I don't mention them. I am a physicist, not an expert in information theory. I have my hands full raising 4 kids, working, and church.

I think it is time for me to bow out before the next fundamentalist convention I go to the people throw away my registration! Trust me, I'm already in big trouble. I don't mean that as a cheap shot. I mean that seriously.

 

No problem... I wish you well.  God bless,

 

P

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Mark_Smith's picture

Chip, I'm done and bowing out.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm joining the discussion late, but has the subject of defining "Big Bang" come up already? I personally don't doubt that when God created everything from nothing, the event was "explosive," and who can deny that it had to be "big"?

As for Hume and naturalism, I suppose Mark isn't reading anymore, but wanted to point out that you don't have to have studied a philosopher to accept some, or even many, of his ideas. Paul's been arguing that naturalism has pretty well saturated the modern practice of science. What that means is that it's not in the "stuff we study" category so much as the "common knowledge"/assumptions category. Ideas get passed on formally and then eventually become part of the fabric of assumptions everyone takes for granted and doesn't examine anymore.

Naturalistic assumptions are definitely huge in science these days... though the common man seems to be "incurably" in love w/the supernatural.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Mark_Smith's picture

I am not looking to re-enter the argument, I just want to be clear. Can someone please define naturalism?

What I mean by methodological naturalism is looking for principles and "laws" that nature seems to obey on a day to day basis and using those to explain natural phenomena. This does not exclude the supernatural, it just ignores it for the sake of discovering the basic principles of the universe.

By metaphysical naturalism I mean assuming that NOTHING OTHER THAN NATURE EXISTS. This view discounts any possibility of supernatural events.

What Paul is arguing is there is no difference between the two definition...which in my opinion is ridiculous. 

If my definition is wrong for methodological naturalism, then what do you call the idea of looking for natural causes for natural events?

dgszweda's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Naturalistic assumptions are definitely huge in science these days... though the common man seems to be "incurably" in love w/the supernatural.

Lets be clear here.  Assumptions in general are the foundation of science as we see practiced today.  Nothing is sure.  Even when Dawkins says that evolution is established science, all he is saying is that the observations that they see today fit into their framework.  I think many individuals feel that science is about facts and absolute certainty.  There is none of that in science.  Not one single bit, anywhere.  Science is always 100% open to a challenge.

You take for example, Netwon.  Arguably the most influential mind of the scientific revolution and a Christian, who openly injected his Christian worldview into his study of science.  A great man no doubt.  He developed his law on universal gravitation.  He observed something, and built a mathematical model and framework to explain it.  And while it was a great model, it increasingly became clear that as the body of knowledge and observation increased (something Newton had no exposure to, because of his limited frame of reference), his law of universal gravity no longer was accurate.  And subsequently it became outdated and new models and frameworks were built to explain it.  Most notably, Einstein's explanation of gravity.  And today, Newton is just another footnote in the ongoing explanation of gravity.  Something that is clearly more understood than items such as evolution and the Big Bang.

With that said, I am still confused with our tendency to blur between science as it is practiced today (and lets me honest it has mostly been practiced throughout time), which is clearly naturalistic and has never been absolute, with Scripture and a theistic worldview which is clearly factual and has always been absolute.

While as a scientist who is a Christian, I fully appreciate being able to study science with an eye toward God's glory, I don't feel that myself, or others throughout history have studying a more superior form of science over my atheistic colleagues.  I don't feel that I am at a disadvantage, and I don't feel that I am superior.  I also feel that I can study a universe that from the current models is 15 billion years old and use those models to accurately study science, without being in contradiction to my religious beliefs that the universe is most likely not 15 billion years old and was created by a supernatural being.  I can use naturalistic science that may even contradict Scriptures and study and contribute to science, without degrading my religious beliefs.  I can live with the fact that there is a contradiction.  Just as I can live with the fact that all people die, and I have to use that assumption to study human anatomy, yet I can fully resolve that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.  I resolve these conflicts by providing supremacy to absolutes and realizing that miracles and God cannot be explained fully through science as we know it.

dgszweda's picture

Even though I have butted heads with Paul a few times, I do appreciate the articles.  I feel though that the articles have assumed a higher view of science than we can or should provide it.  We criticize it for being naturalistic, and with that we assume that it should be something more.  I have a hard time reconciling that.  I feel that for a sinful man, who has a limited view of his surroundings and a limited view of understanding can still study science.  And in some cases it may even be good science (for example, a naturalistic scientific process has allowed us to cure diseases).  Even those who want to take a higher road and say that a theistic worldview would provide better science, still miss the point that 1)the Bible is a not a science book - it is only absolute in those areas of science that it touches (like creation, but nothing on semiconductors), 2)a Christian still has a limited view of his surroundings and 2) a Christian still has a limited view of his understanding.  While we can say with great confidence that the universe is created by God out of nothing, we also understand from Scriptures that this is by faith (not by science).  And while science develops a theory that contradicts the Bible, we must hold the Bible absolute in this scenario.  But in terms of the universe, in which many Christian scientist have argued is 6,000 years old, they have themselves used bad science and bad theology, and therefore we cannot be exact in that scenario.  The universe could be 15,000 years old.  And there is a very rare chance that it could be 15 billion years old, because God chose not to reveal to use the exact age of the universe (and no I don't believe in a universe that is 15 billion years old Smile )

I just somehow feel that there is great value in explaining where Scripture fits into our lives.  What does it explain and what are its limits.  And where does science fit into our lives, and what does it explain and/or limit.  Understanding what science can and cannot explain to me is more valuable than trying to espouse an idea that a Christian worldview will provide better science.  I think it definitely explains a better worldview and fills all the holes where science doesn't fit, or shouldn't fit.  I just see no evidence (maybe I am wrong) where Christians scientists perform a more superior form of science.  I could definitely argue that there are places science shouldn't be involved in, but that is another element.  Even if we get to heaven, and God fully explains how this all fits together (and I am 100% clear that God's grand design clearly ties everything together, it is our sin that clouds it from us), it still will not be as a result of better science, but a more complete element of Special Revelation.

Mark_Smith's picture

Let me say I have learned a lot from Paul's series and I appreciate it!

Paul Henebury's picture

Mark thinks that: "What Paul is arguing is there is no difference between the two definition...which in my opinion is ridiculous."

Well I thought I'd made my position clear enough.  My problem with naturalism, of the methodological variety, is that it unnecessarily bolsters metaphysical naturalism.  The slippage from one to the other is almost impossible.  Stephen Meyer defines it as "scientists should accept as a working assumption that all features of the natural world can be explained by material causes without recourse to purposive intelligence, mind, or conscious agency." - Darwin's Doubt, 19

It is this a priori bias against purpose and teleology which is built into methodological naturalism (MN) that is the issue - and it is needless.  Mark understandably wants to know what he can call "looking for natural causes for natural events."  Well, even the question is problematical from a Christian perspective (See e.g. John Frame's position on miracles and God's activity).  That aside though, it is best not to call it "naturalism"; still less "methodological naturalism."  Both these terms carry with them too much baggage.  This can be easily seen by looking up the terms in a standard dictionary.  I think Mark would be better advised to be "looking for the operations and mechanisms in the natural world."  I shall say a bit more about this in the final post.

To dgszeda I will just say that I have never said that science in a Christian mode is superior to science done in the non-Christian mode.  Neither would I say such a thing, for the reason given in the first Van Til quote above: "Non-Christian science has worked with the borrowed capital of Christian theism, and for that reason alone has been able to bring to light much truth.' (Cited in Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, 377).

      

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

dgszweda's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:

To dgszeda I will just say that I have never said that science in a Christian mode is superior to science done in the non-Christian mode.  Neither would I say such a thing, for the reason given in the first Van Til quote above: "Non-Christian science has worked with the borrowed capital of Christian theism, and for that reason alone has been able to bring to light much truth.' (Cited in Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis, 377).  

 

Paul, maybe I mistook your statement above when you said, "Mark, you cannot do science without a Theistic foundation.  Those who do are misusing God's gifts to study God's world without pleasing God.  I am sure you are a good Christian man, but your bifurcation of knowledge stems from listening too much to the world. "

I was assuming that when you said "you cannot do do science", that this statement indicates an inferior mode compared to science with a Theistic foundation, which is where I was developing my statement.

Paul Henebury's picture

I see.  No, all I was asserting is that the biblical worldview underscores science.  No other worldview can.

 

P

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

dgszweda's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:

An my reply is that it is you who persists in arguing that Science = methodological naturalism notwithstanding what has been said in response to it.  But as Johnson shows in the above quote, and as Meyer, Behe, Dembski and many others have demonstrated, science so straight-jacketed is incompetent to explain informational systems which it is being called on to explain - because design explanations which point to God are ruled unscientific by those whose methodological approach is dictated by their metaphysical naturalism.   

 

I agree with you here. My question is, is this a failure of a science, or by its very definition the boundary of science?

I say this, to also ask, can we cure science by developing a better science, or do we recognize the boundaries of science and then state that religion must needs be supplanted in those areas to develop a complete picture?

I may have to wait to your conclusion to understand where you are ultimately going here. My concern has always been that individuals take this weakness in science (which I agree exists), and then slather religion all over it indiscriminatly which then performs the same issue in reverse, is that then we have theology in places within science that it probably doesn't exist.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I am having a conversation elsewhere with  gentleman who just suggested something I have never heard before. He indicated that he understands most Creationist cosmologists believe the Earth may only be 6 thousand years old but that the universe is actually billions of years old. I have never heard a Creationist claim different ages for the Earth and the rest of the universe. Has anyone else encountered this? Any names/sources you can point out? Is this just a rehashing of the debunked Gap Theory?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

dgszweda's picture

It could be a rehashing of the Gap Theory.  It could also be that they believe that maybe the universe predates Genesis 1:1, which I am not sure how they get that from the text.  The Bible is pretty clear that they were created together.

Mark_Smith's picture

 

See John Hartnett here.

I realize the average reader could read this book and have no idea what it is really saying. This book is using real physics.

 

Somehow the "clock" runs slow at Earth, but faster out in the universe. Jason Lisle had a different version with his "one way speed of light" argument. The result is we see something like 6000 years tick off, while the universe experiences billions.

Russell Humphreys had a similar argument with a "white hole" near the Earth with this older book, Starlight and Time

The problem, imho, with the argument is Earth appears old, like it experienced a lot of time as well.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Mark, you keep coming back to the apparent age of the earth/universe, but you steadfastly refuse to acknowledge the truth of creation with apparent age. We know beyond any shadow of a doubt that God did create with an appearance of age since Adam and Eve were created as adults. This fact trumps the ideological assumption regarding uniformity that you are clinging to demanding billions of years based on appearances. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Mark_Smith's picture

All I did was say the above cosmologists/astronomers accept that the universe is old and came up with a way for it to be while the earth ticks off 6000 years. I said I didn't think that fixed anything because it didn't allow the earth to appear old too, which it does. I also said to you the appearance of age argument is unsatisfying. It is one thing to have a 30 year old looking Adam. Put fillings in his teeth, a mended broken bone, and a few scars so that it not only looks like age but specific events have happened as well...that is the equivalent of what you see in the universe. How about we fill a photo album for Adam with family memories as well....

 

Mark_Smith's picture

If what you support is true, then there no purpose in studying astronomy. That's ok. It is just a consequence of it. The universe just appears to be there...who knows if it really is and it serves no purpose other than as a marker of time and creation. There is nothing scientific to learn there.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

If what you support is true, then there no purpose in studying astronomy. That's ok. It is just a consequence of it. The universe just appears to be there...who knows if it really is and it serves no purpose other than as a marker of time and creation. There is nothing scientific to learn there.

Mark,

This is a non-sequitur. Of course it is still there, and of course it is still valuable to study. It's not a consequence at all. The only consequence is that it further refutes evolution.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Mark_Smith's picture

Why study star formation if all stars were made on day 4 supernaturally?

Why study star death if essentially all stars that appear dead never really existed as functioning stars?

Why believe a star or galaxy is millions of light-years away if the light you see never really came from that star but was just made to appear like it?

Why study the Sun, which the energy produced by nuclear fusion takes 170,000 years to move from the core to the surface? All the light we see today from the Sun WAS NEVER ACTUALLY MADE BY FUSION but was made in place by God?

The inconsistency of this and many more is why creationist physicists look for relativistic effects of some type to explain an old universe but biblical 6000 years. That is the reason. 

In fact, Chip, your model defeats Paul Henebury's claim that science has a Christian foundation because the Christian God is rational. There is nothing to do science on if age is appearance only and doesn't in some way reflect the passage of time and the action of scientific "laws".

Chip, I am not attacking you. I am just showing the consequence of the appearance of age argument. Now, IT COULD BE TRUE...it just makes science to a large degree pointless. Science should then stick to engineering, medicine, meteorology, chemistry etc.

DavidO's picture

Mark, I have greatly appreciated your articulations of your viewpoint on this series of articles, and I am quite sympathetic to your stance.  But...is it that unthinkable to you that we can examine the evidences found in all the instances of "apparent age" or the product of processes apparently long past as evidence left to us by God so we could understand how the universe works?  

 

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