Saturday, August 18, 2012

Atheism vs. Theism ≠ Science vs. Religion

On April 23rd of 2005 - five years and some months before I would accept my Creator - I posted an entry titled "Eureka!" [on LiveJournal] I was excited because I finally found "a belief with no God AT ALL."

A few days prior, on the 20th, I stated I was "of Agnosticism", but renounced it just two days later after reading "even Agnostics could believe in a God". At this time, my interest in my own religion was renewed. Basically, I believed in Jesus as being nothing more than a moral teacher, rejecting all supernatural aspects in the gospels and attributing his miracle-working to illusionism. In effect, you could say I was a Christian atheist adhering to Jesuism. Though, in my mind, I first named this "religion" of mine Jeschriism before coining it Scientialism. In fact, just a few days after posting the "Eureka!" entry, I recorded a song in which I rapped, "I believe in Jesus, just not the Jesus you believe in / I believe in God, just not the God you believe in / Jesus was a human and God's real name is Science" I had fallen into the all-too-common perception of having to choose either religion or science. Interestingly, something about Jesus still attracted me. However, I did not take into account the claims to divinity made by Jesus. Without realizing it at the time, my belief in Jesus as a great human teacher who said the sort of things He did would actually make Him either a deceived madman or a deceiving fiend.

So, just a day after coining the word Scientialism for myself, I had read of Scientism and adopted it as my belief. Scientism claims that true knowledge can only be obtained scientifically. It claims the scientific method is the only way to understand truth and reality, not just one mode of reaching knowledge. The science (i.e. evolution) vs. religion paradigm is presupposed in the definition of Scientism. The "single-minded adherence to only the empirical" is stated as a strictly scientific worldview, whereas the "Protestant fundamentalism that rejects science" is stated as a strictly religious worldview. Scientism seeks to do away with all metaphysical, philosophical, and religious claims of truth, simply because they cannot be understood by the scientific method. Science becomes the absolute and only justifiable access to the truth. I am writing this to give you a sense of my confusion and search for something that would satisfy my existence. I now see Scientism's flawed logic and failure to meet its own standards of verifiability. I also now understand the cooperative relationship between faith and reason and see that the conflict instead lies between competing worldviews.

The Integration of Faith and Reason

Those who state that we should only believe what can be scientifically proven are making a statement that cannot be scientifically proven, so we shouldn't believe it. The scientific naturalist's position of Scientism refutes itself with the law of non-contradiction. Bertrand Russell made the following statement: "Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know." If science is the only way we can know things, then his statement cannot be known to be true. Science is limited and there are many ways to know reality outside of science. The scientific method cannot prove logical and mathematic truths or metaphysical truths or moral and ethical values or aesthetic judgments or science itself. Just because we can understand the mechanisms of the universe, does not mean we can safely conclude that there is no God who designed and created the universe in the first place. Explaining how a Ford engine works with the principles of internal combustion does not explain away the existence of Ford who designed the engine in the first place, just as supposing our scientific understanding of the impersonal principles according to which the universe works does not make it unnecessary or impossible to believe in the existence of a personal Creator who designed, made, and upholds it. Believing otherwise commits the logical error of failing to distinguish mechanism and agency. God and science are not alternative explanations for the universe, just as Ford and the engine are not alternative explanations for the car. Science may very well cope with questions about nature and structure, but is unable to answer any questions about meaning and ultimate purpose of existence. To answer those metaphysical questions, we need another source of information, namely revelation. With God's fulfilled revelation in the Lord Jesus, we are not abandoning reason, rationality, and evidence at all. We are simply saying that there are some big questions that science cannot answer. The Lord Jesus performed miracles as evidentiary proof of His divinity beyond the laws of nature and God has given us sufficient supernatural evidence in ancient history (so as to compel those with an open mind and open heart, but not force those whose hearts are closed). Still, the primary way in which we know God exists is not through these exterior proofs, but an interior revelation of God's existence made evident for those who are genuinely seeking God. Without God, there is also no moral distinction between Adolf Hitler and Mother Teresa. Richard Dawkins put it this way: "In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.... DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music." So, Hitler was dancing to his DNA. He was not doing anything evil. On the other hand, we know that objective morality is intrinsic and even observed in animals. Other branches of knowledge - like literature, poetry, art, and music - also cannot be judged by science. All feeling, thoughts, and identity is deduced to nothing more than meaningless electro-chemical neural events of the brain, but what makes that rational discourse of mere chemicals right? Therefore, Scientism is incoherent logically and fails as did logical positivism. Science is a wonderful gift from God, but it is only one way of understanding and explaining the world. In fact, the worldview with which science sits most comfortably is the biblical Christian worldview. Germinal to the scientific endeavour was the conviction that the universe is orderly and rationally intelligible. This conviction came from a monotheistic view that was the historical foundation for modern science. C.S. Lewis put it really crisply, as usual: "Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver." The great pioneers of science - like Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, and Faraday - were either theists or Christians. Science began as a pursuit of truth in understanding God's creation and has been redefined as a pursuit of only materialistic explanations. Galileo was no atheist, but rather a believer in Scripture who correctly challenged the then-reigning Aristotelian scientific paradigm in the name of science. In addition, almost all of the great classical philosophers did not accept the universe as self-explanatory. The rational intelligibility of the universe is grounded in the intelligence of God, who created both the universe and the human mind. Far from science abolishing the Creator, it is the existence of God that gives science its fundamental justification intellectually. In cosmology and physics, Aristotle's view of an eternal universe was predominant for centuries until evidence of a beginning to space-time began to emerge. Some scientists resisted it fiercely because the universe having a beginning comes too close to creation for their comfort. The accuracy in the fine-tuning of the universe makes the teleological or design argument of the universe more reasonable than blind chance requiring multitudes of universes. In biology, which Dawkins defines to be "the study of complicated things which give the impression of having been designed for a purpose", the choice between God and evolution depends on the two assertions that evolution is incompatible with the existence of a Creator and accounts for the existence and purposeful form of all of life. Many scientists believe in God as well as in evolution, but this is inconsistent with the Word of God. Other scientists do not believe in a Designer, but believe natural selection somehow designs without itself having been designed or having any purpose in view. It is also contradictory to believe that a random universe began with ordered laws of physics that somehow formed themselves. However, the materialist or naturalist must believe in evolution if he denies the Creator God, for life must have been produced by matter/energy and the forces of physics and time if that is all we have. This argument is ancient, way before Darwin's time, articulated by Greek philosopher Epicurus who deduced it from the atomic theory of Democritus. Today, the word "evolution" is used in several different ways. It can be used to describe mere change without any implication for the kind of mechanism or intelligent input - or lack of it - involved in bringing about the change (e.g., the evolution of a car or coastline). Next, there is artificial selection: a process that involves a very high degree of intelligent input and a poor model for evolution by unguided processes. Next, there is microevolution: variation within prescribed limits of complexity (i.e., effects of natural selection, mutation, and genetic drift, such as the way in which bacteria develops resistance to antibiotics). Next, there is macroevolution: the coming into existence of new organs, structures, and genetic material so that a marked increase in complexity is involved. Lastly, there is molecular evolution: the emergence of the living cell from non-living materials. This last usage presupposes the existence of a self-replicating genetic material and can easily deceive people into thinking that we already have available the very process of self-replication that we are trying to explain. Also, a living cell is not merely matter, but matter replete with information. Like a computer hard disk, DNA contains the database of information and the programs to produce the proteins. It does not create any new information, but transforms known information. Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers argued that order can arise spontaneously by what is called self-organization out of chaos and disorder, but Stephen Meyer says "self-organizational theorists explain well what does not need to be explained. What needs explaining is not the origin of order ... but the origin of information." It is this existence of complex information that provides a very substantial challenge to the notion that unguided natural processes can account for life and makes scientifically plausible the suggestion that an intelligent source was responsible. It was arguments like this that led eminent philosopher Antony Flew to finally abandon his lifelong atheism in 2004, several years before his death, in keeping with his lifelong commitment to go where the evidence leads. I wonder how many atheists are truly prepared to follow where the scientific evidence leads - even if it points against naturalistic explanations. The law of conservation of energy tells us that energy is conserved and not where it came from in the first place. Christians believe God has intervened directly in the original creation of the world, what many physicists admit as an eternal singularity. The central pillar of orthodox Christianity, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, is an event within history that also involved a direct and extraordinary input of divine energy. Why should the laws that God built into the universe constrain the Creator? For scientists like Peter Atkins and Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, God cannot be an explanation because He is more complicated than the universe we are trying to explain and science must always explain the more complex in terms of the less complex. However, simplicity is not the only criterion of truth. Quantum electrodynamics is not simple, yet scientisits believe it because of another important criterion of truth: explanatory power. How is it that an archaeologist can infer an origin of human intelligence when faced with semiotic scratches - an explanation more complex than the scratches - whereas some scientists can attribute the 3.5 billion letter sequence of the human genome in exactly the right order solely to chance and necessity?

In conclusion, human intelligence explains the universe and everything in it as material particles with information as a derived phenomenon, rather than information with material objects as secondary manifestation. In other words, the universe was created by matter before mind and not by a mind before matter. God's revelation to mankind tells us the Word was in the beginning with God, the Word was God, all things were made through Him, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-3,14). The Word conveys to us communication and information and is primary. Mass-energy belongs to the category of the created and is derivative. If evolution is the means by which life came to be, why is there no evolution for the creation of information? The ultimate reality behind the universe is a personal God and this opens up the possibility for knowing ultimate reality through a Way other than the scientific study of things. The heart of the biblical claim is God the Word, who is a person, has become human to demonstrate fully that the ultimate truth behind the universe is not a theory or a philosophy, but a person. Either you choose limited human intelligence or the unlimited intelligence of a Creator. Science has not disproved religion. God's Word affirms real science. It is only the pseudoscientific theory of evolution that is claimed of disproving religion because that was its intention when built upon by Charles Darwin. The view that science and religion have different evidence is false. Both worldviews have the same evidence and see it through different interpretations of history, such as rock layers being explained by millions of years or a global flood. Given that science is based on observation, we see that the scientific method is limited in explaining the origins of the universe, making it idle speculation and not operational science. "We walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7), but this does not mean that reason and faith are incompatible. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Our faith does not come to us through reason and our wisdom does not come to us through science alone. On the contrary, true science supports our faith. Reason cannot create revealed information, but is still essential to understand and process it. Thus, reason is not opposed to revelation. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10) "For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden." (Isaiah 29:14)

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