Bertrand Russell: Unyielding Grimace Against a Pointless Universe
Such, in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That Man is the product of causes which had no provision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built (p. 39). Continue reading “Bertrand Russell’s Pointless Universe versus John Calvin’s Purposeful Providence”
William Lane Craig’s new book, In Quest of the Historical Adam, has an extended discussion on the relationship between Genesis and the myths found in the mythic literature of the Ancient Near East. Based on what he identifies as myth-like elements found in Genesis, Craig concludes that Genesis should be classified as “mytho-history”.
Craig attempts a nuanced treatment of “myth” as he affirms that some elements in Genesis are historical, like the genealogies. He affirms that Adam and Eve were real people who constitute the fount of all humanity. However, his proposal that Genesis should be regarded as “mytho-history” has drawn criticism from John Oswalt, a prominent Old Testament scholar who explains that “A myth is an oral or written narrative that functions to make actions of the gods, presumed to be constantly occurring in the invisible realm, effective in the world of time and space. In short “mytho-history” is an oxymoron. Myths are a-historical by nature.”
Conventional wisdom would like us to believe that science has triumphed over Christianity because science relies on objective knowledge while Christianity relies on blind faith based on ecclesiastical authority. In solving the recalcitrant problems of life, educated people should rely on the cool and dispassionate judgment of the scientist based on careful research in the laboratory instead of the authoritative pontification of the priest from the pulpit. As Bertrand Russell wrote, “The triumphs of science are due to the substitution of observance and inference for authority. Every attempt to revive authority in intellectual matters is a retrograde step.”
According to critics, Christianity relies on myths without factual foundations to impress emotionally vulnerable believers who accept myths according to the shifting impulses of the heart. In contrast, science relies on rigorous and detached analysis to offer reliable and objective knowledge of reality. The proponents of “strong scientism” argue that something is true, rationally justified, or known if and only if it is a scientific claim that has been successfully tested with a proper application of scientific methodology. To be sure, the confidence of scientism has recently become more tempered as a result of scientists themselves failing to gain consensus on the fundamental theories of physics and cosmology. What has emerged is a more modest “weak scientism” which acknowledges that there could be truths known through other means. Nevertheless, “weak scientism” continues to insist that knowledge gained outside of science is certainly less robust and that science remains the ultimate authority in the quest for knowledge. Continue reading “Michael Polanyi on Science as Personal Knowledge”
This is a most stimulating & instructive discussion between Joshua Swamidass and William Craig that tries to integrate the latest scientific and paleoanthropology findings, biblical hermeneutics, philosophical and theological anthropology.
Some challenging questions that arise from the discussion include the following:
It takes expert knowledge, courage and integrity for Prof. James Tour to challenge the majority of the professors in the academic establishment who have chosen to exaggerate the ability of science to synthesize life in order to secure research grants, and the media which readily promotes sensational news which sell. Hmm, perhaps there is a deeper spiritual reason when highly intelligent people persist in promoting ‘scientific’ non-reality. Is it because it is abhorrent to them to consider the alternative – that the origin of life is none other than the Creator God? Continue reading “The Origin of Life Has Not Been Explained”
How old is the earth? The question has sparked intense debates among Christians in recent years. The issue is whether the opening chapters of Genesis teach that the earth was created a few thousand years ago (the Young-earth creation) or a few billion years ago (Ancient-earth creation). The debate can become acrimonious when there is no definite answer acceptable to both sides of the debate.
Perhaps the acrimony would be toned down if Christian apologists who are caught up in the debate acknowledge that the issue is actually of secondary significance as Christianity is faced with more serious challenges posed by influential atheistic scientists and philosophers like Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Stephen Hawkings and Daniel Dennett who assert that God is an illusion (Re: Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion & Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell). Surely, it is more urgent for Christian apologists to move beyond their in-house debate on the age of the earth and develop cogent answers to defend the objective reality of God against the atheists’ strident criticisms? Continue reading “Moving Beyond Debating the Age of the Earth to Debating Scientific Naturalism”
I see a World in a grain of sand, And a Heaven in a wild flower William Blake
Time for Science Uprising
Scientists like Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Lawrence Kraus claim that the existence of God has been discredited by new discoveries of modern science. To them, contemporary cosmology, evolution and neuroscience have demonstrated conclusively that the universe spontaneously emerged from a quantum vacuum and that human beings are nothing more than evolving complex bio-chemical machines. The idea of God is unnecessary and irrelevant to our quest for knowledge and understanding of humanity and the universe.
Alexander Pope gave us the immortal lines, “Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night: God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.” Pope’s pairing of poetry and physicists should be pleasurable and profitable. However, it is commonly perceived that physicists suffer from a woefully inadequate aesthetic sense as they cannot help but dissolve … Continue reading “Poetry and Physicists”
Alexander Pope gave us the immortal lines, “Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night: God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.” Pope’s pairing of poetry and physicists should be pleasurable and profitable. However, it is commonly perceived that physicists suffer from a woefully inadequate aesthetic sense as they cannot help but dissolve mysteries into cold mathematical equations. Was it not John Keats who complained that Newton merely “unweave the rainbow” to its prismatic colors?
Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomèd mine—
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-person’d Lamia melt into a shade. Continue reading “Poetry and Physicists”
Richard Dawkins, the famous British atheist, famously asserts that since science works, it must be true and we must believe what it says. If Christianity clashes with science, so much the worse for Christianity. For this reason, some college students are persuaded to abandon their Christian faith once they conclude that it has been discredited by science.
The perception that science has discredited Christianity is based on two assumptions. First, the results of science are empirically verified and indubitable in contrast to the unverifiable claims of Christianity. Second, Christianity not only lacks explanatory power; it is in conflict with the empirical findings of science. For example, God becomes redundant once evolution explains the origins of species and inflationary cosmology explains the origin of the multiverse. We are reminded of the famous incident when Napoleon Bonaparte questioned Pierre Laplace why his large book on cosmology never mentioned the Creator, to which Laplace retorted, “I had no need of that hypothesis.”
Critical Integration From a Christian Perspective
Our approach to integrating science and Christian faith should be characterized by intellectual integrity and passion. This does not imply that non-Christians do not share these qualities. I am only pointing out that Christians ought to display these qualities as a distinctive of their faith. Arthur Holmes explains,
The Christian believes that in all that she does intellectually, socially or artistically, she is handling God’s creation and that is sacred. . . . The scholar’s love of truth becomes an expression of love of God, just as the citizen’s love of justice in society can be an expression of hunger for righteousness, and the artist’s love for the creative and the beautiful expresses love for the Creator”[Arthur Holmes, Idea of Christian College (Eerdmans, 1987), p. 48]