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]
A Review of John Horgan, The End Of Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age (Basic Books, 1996, 2015)
My grandfather preached the good news of the Bible
My father preached the good news of Socialism
I preach the good news of Science
The above slogan once seemed eminently reasonable since science has delivered unparalleled knowledge and technology to create modern civilisation. However, in recent years there has been increasing suspicion that science may be serving its profound knowledge in a poisoned chalice. Science creates more problems than it solves – problems all too familiar in the form of environmental disasters and weapons of mass destruction.
Perhaps many scientists remain blissfully unaware, if not indifferent, to this deep unease. After all, the prevailing image of the scientist is someone dressed in white clinical apparel working quietly in sanitised labs, oblivious to the hassles and tensions of life outside. But, we wonder, how can the dull routines of the lab, such as cleaning test tubes and animal cages, sustain the motivation for scientific research in the face of increasing doubts and criticisms? John Horgan, a senior writer for Scientific American and author of the book The End of Science, exploits his literary expertise effectively to offer vivid introductions and personal insights into the aspirations, audacity and hubris of some of the major icons of the scientific pantheon: Richard Dawkins, Francis Crick, Murray Gell-Mann, Stephen J. Gould, Roger Penrose and Ilaya Prigogine. Continue reading “Facing Up to the End of Science – Science & Christianity: Part 4/6”
Science as Sacred Cow
Science is an amazingly successful discipline, but in recent times it has been distorted into ‘scientism’ which asserts that science is the ultimate discipline that is capable of describing all reality. Science has become the measure of all truth and the only reliable path to true knowledge about reality and the nature of things. For scientism, any truth claim must be analyzed and tested according to the ‘scientific method’ before it can be accepted. Conversely, anything that cannot be explained by science is not worth pursuing. In short, science has been elevated as a sacred cow for modern society.
However, scientism is subject to several criticisms. First, the claim of scientism is just a claim. It is a self-refuting claim as it is in principle not open to scientific verification. Second, scientism simply ignores the unresolved “hard problems” of knowledge such as the nature of consciousness, the origin of the universe and the fundamental laws of nature, the origin of life and the nature of consciousness which suggest there are limits to scientific explanation. Presumably, all reality does not include problems that seem intractable to scientific explanation. Continue reading “The Scope and Limits of Science: A Response to Scientism – Science & Christianity: Part 3/6”