Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Has Science Disproved God?

It is common to believe that there is a conflict going on between science and belief in God. As a result, some Christian youths gave up their faith in college because they mistakenly concluded that science has proved that chance, random natural processes formed human beings and everything else in the universe. On the other hand, it does not help the cause of the gospel if people are not equipped with a robust understanding of Genesis that does not distort or deny scientific facts.

Scientists gain knowledge by making systematic observations, proposing hypotheses as explanations of phenomena and design experiments to to test their results. Good scientific theories are rational, true description of the world and accurately predict future results. By its methodology, science cannot prove or disprove God who is invisible, spiritual, beyond space and time.

C.S. Lewis: “Looking for God by exploring space is like reading Shakespeare's plays in the hope that you will find Shakespeare as one of the characters. Shakespeare is in one sense present at every moment in every play. But he is never present in the same way as Falstaff or Lady Macbeth… My point is, if God does exist, He is related to the universe more as an author is related to a play”.

Far from being a threat, science is only possible based on some faith assumptions: There is a real world out there accessible to our senses, our minds can rationally understand it and the uniformity of natural causes. The same personal Creator who created the world also created our sensory and rational faculties so it’s reasonable there is correspondence between them.

Joe Boots (“Has Science Disproved Religion?”): “If the universe is ultimately chaotic – if all is in flux – then you cannot finally know anything. How can we believe in the uniformity of nature in a chance-driven universe? How can we trust that the chemical accident of our brain is giving us valid knowledge? It is the Christian worldview alone that can provide the pre-conditions of intelligible science. It is God who provides the order, structure and regularity that make the cosmos rational. And he has made us in his image, with mind and spirit distinct from matter, capable of exploring and understanding the world.” The Christian worldview is foundational to science, at least consistent with it

Scientism: “Only what can be quantified by scientific methods or empirically tested is rational and true”. Therefore, miracles are impossible since they cannot be tested.

But scientism is self-refuting because what kind of experiment can prove that? The position itself cannot be quantified or verified in any scientific test. It is a philosophical claim about science rather than a conclusion of science. Alvin Plantinga: The argument is like the drunk who insisted on looking for his lost car keys only under the streetlight because the light was better there. Or even worse: Because the keys would be hard to find in the dark, they must be under the light. If God exists, miracles are possible

What is evolution?

Microevolution: Variations take place in an organism over time producing modifications of existing characteristics. These are adaptive changes, through natural selection, allow the organism to survive and reproduce. For examples, color variations in moths and bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics. This is not a disputed issue. Greg Koukl: “Microevolution may tell us how finches get larger beaks or how moths take on
darker colors, but it doesn’t tell us how we get finches or moths in the first place.”

Moreland: “Macroevolution is the general theory that all life arose from non-life in some pre-biotic condition (where chemical reactions plus some form of energy gave rise to the first life), and all life evolved from the first life up to Homo Sapiens”. This is the disputed area.

Christian positions in response to Macroevolution: (Reading the World)

Young Earth Creationists – Ken Ham, Henry Morris, Duane Gish
About 10,000 years old earth, literal reading of Genesis, question the dating of fossils, reject macro evolution.

Theistic Evolutionists - Alister McGrath, Francis Collins, Polkinghorne. God created the initial materials and set up the natural laws, then guided the whole evolution process.

Old-Earth, Progressive Creationists – Hugh Ross, Kenneth Samples. Accepts big bang cosmology, dating of fossil record, rejects macroevolution, holds that God progressively intervenes millions of times to create new species

Intelligent Design (ID) – Philip Johnson, Dembski, Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe. The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection: the anthropic principle, specified complexity in DNA, irreducible complexity in organic structures, design can be empirically detected.

Exegetical issues in understanding Genesis 1 & 2: (Reading The Word)

Evangelical biblical scholars who take the Bible seriously have different interpretations of Genesis 1 & 2. What does bara (“to create”) mean? To create out of nothing or create some new thing out of already-existing materials. Does yom (“day”) refer to a 24-hour period or an unspecified period time as well? See Ray and Sue Bohlin in How to talk to your kids about evolution and creation ( for three possible views:

“The first is the literal or the very recent creation account. Some people would call the proponents of this view "young earth creationists." They believe that each of the six days of creation was a twenty-four hour period similar to our days today. These days were consecutive and in the recent past, probably ten to thirty thousand years ago. They hold that the flood was a world-wide and catastrophic event and that all the sedimentary layers were a result of Noah's flood. All the fossils, therefore, are a result of the flood of Noah.

The second way of looking at Genesis 1 is the Day Age Theory, sometimes called Progressive Creation. Here, each of the six days of creation is a very long period of time, perhaps hundreds of millions of years. God would have created progressively through time, not all at once. The flood was a local event in Mesopotamia or perhaps even a world-wide, but tranquil flood. Therefore, the flood did not leave any great scars or sediments across the earth.

The third view understands Genesis 1 as a Literary Framework. This view suggests that Genesis 1 was not meant to communicate history. Peoples of the Ancient Near East used a similar literary device to describe a complete or perfect work; in this case, a perfect creation. God could have created using evolution or progressive creation; the point is that there is really no concordance between earth history and the days of Genesis 1.”

The literary framework begins with a “formless and void” earth in Gen 1:2. The first 3 days remove its formlessness with light, sea and sky. The last 3 days remove the void by filling them with living things. In any case, humility and respect for differing views among Christians who take the Bible seriously are called for.

The Big Picture: Controversy should not distract us from the key messages of Genesis. (See Tony Watkins’ What you need to know about the evolution debate -

God is the creator of everything. The universe owes its existence solely to God's will.
The universe didn't create itself and it didn't appear by chance.

The world reflects its creator. The created world is orderly (and therefore understandable by rational human beings) and good. It shows us enough about God that there's no excuse for anyone not to believe in him (Romans 1:20).

God is the law-giver who gave us the responsibility of being stewards of the earth. All created things have a divinely appointed purpose and not a product of random accident.

Human beings are God's image bearers, reflecting His character in our self-consciousness, creativity and aesthetic awareness, rational and moral responsibility and relational and spiritual dimension.

Human beings are rebels against God. Sin ruined our relationship with God, nature and each other. So we live in a world of alienation, fear, violence and lies. We hide from God and from each other. We are under God's judgment. Incredibly, God still sought out the fallen couple and promised gracious redemption (Genesis 3).

A Possible Strategy: Share our convictions in this issue humbly and be willing to listen to others. There is space for diversity on some of the details. Emphasize on the major message of Genesis. Be ready to challenge macroevolution on scientific grounds (Intelligent Design) if required. But even if macroevolution is true, why can’t God guide and superintend the natural processes in creation? It cannot logically disprove God.

The Big Bang: William Lane Craig: “The absolute origin of the universe, of all matter and energy, even of physical space and time themselves, in the Big Bang singularity contradicts the perennial naturalistic assumption that the universe has always existed.”

What about Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design?

John Lennox:
“According to Hawking, the laws of physics, not the will of God, provide the real explanation as to how life on Earth came into being. The Big Bang, he argues, was the inevitable consequence of these laws ‘because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.’

…But contrary to what Hawking claims, physical laws can never provide a complete explanation of the universe. Laws themselves do not create anything, they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions... His call on us to choose between God and physics is a bit like someone demanding that we choose between aeronautical engineer Sir Frank Whittle and the laws of physics to explain the jet engine.

That is a confusion of category. The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works, but someone had to build the thing, put in the fuel and start it up… To use a simple analogy, Isaac Newton’s laws of motion in themselves never sent a snooker ball racing across the green baize. That can only be done by people using a snooker cue and the actions of their own arms.”

What about multiple-universe theory to explain the fact that our universe appears fine-tuned for human life to exist?

Tim Keller, The Reason for God:
“Alvin Plantinga gives this illustration. He imagines a man dealing himself twenty straight hands of four aces in the same game of poker. As his companions reach for their six-shooters the poker player says, "I know it looks suspicious! But what if there is an infinite succession of universes, so that for an possible distribution of poker hands, there is one universe in which this possibility is realized? We just happen to find ourselves in one where I always deal my self four aces without cheating!" This argument will have no effect on the other poker players. It is technically possible that the man just happened to deal himself twenty straight hands of four aces. Though you could not prove he had cheated, it would be unreasonable to conclude that he hadn't.”

Robert Jastrow:
"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."


Tyson said...

Thanks very much for this compilation of resources and viewpoints. I agree that we need to be humble and respect one another's viewpoints. Personally, I've varied from one end to the other, then back toward the middle. :-)

All I can say for certainty is that, "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible."

Hedonese said...

It's difficult topic to do having friends from across the continuum :)

A friend once naughtily said to keep scientific models as 'girlfriends' but don't 'marry' them to the Faith. Else maybe in 50 years' time, that scientific model may be outdated, replaced or discredited and we will be 'widowed'.

Tyson said...

Ha ha! I like the girlfriend analogy. Made me smile.

SomethingAboutEverything said...

This was really a pile of garbage and pseudo science in the higher dimension. Next stop astrology, fortune telling and tea leaf interpretation...

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