“Those who have magnified more recent controversies about the relations of science and religion, and who have projected them back into historical time, simply perpetuate a historical myth. The myth of a perennial conflict between science and religion is one to which no historian of science would subscribe.”
–Former Oxford University Professor of Science and Religion Peter Harrison.
The most prevailing theme in the American culture wars is the clash between both secular science and God. The creation-evolution is perhaps the most recognizable aspect of the culture wars between science and religion. Of course the secular mainstream scientists says that evolutionary theory is true. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times written by David Masci, he states that overwhelmingly 87% of scientists say that life evolved over time due to natural processes. Richard Dawkins, in his book The Blind Watchmaker, makes the assertion that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” When I took courses in both philosophy and religion while at college, the professors implied that if Darwinian evolution were true, then by default you are left with no other alternative but atheism. Moreover, fundamentalist Christians have certainly added fuel to this fire by echoing this theme of the supposed conflict between science and God. Organizations like Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis, which asserts young earth creationism and denies the validity of evolution. Thanks to the efforts of organizations like that of Ken Ham’s and others, they have hijacked the creation-evolution narrative. They advocate, I think to their folly, an all or nothing belief in Young Earth Creationism (see my other article about my critiques of Young Earth Creationism). So there has been in the last few decades a great tension between religion science.
Basically Sums up the Religion vs. Science Debate in America
Whether you are an atheist or not, this is a fairly well-known assumption that main stream science and God are both irreconcilable. But is that really true? As John Lennox cleverly puts it, “has science buried God?” Although I do admit, I am a layman in science and by no means am I an expert in natural philosophy. Nevertheless, I would argue that both science and religion are absolutely compatible and the Bible teaches us to engage in critical thought and to use reason to come to our conclusions. You saw the earlier picture of the time magazine article questioning on whether or not God is dead. Well, just four years later there was an amazing development:
In a quiet revolution in thought and argument that hardly anybody could have foreseen only two decades ago, God is making a comeback. Most intriguingly, this is happening not among theologians or ordinary believers, but in the crisp intellectual circles of academic philosophers, where the consensus had long banished the Almighty from fruitful discourse.
-Time Magazine “Is God Coming Back to Life?”
This is simply amazing. After time magazine was questioning whether or not God was dead, within a few short years they started to ask the question if God was coming back to life? What a turn around! Even recently there has been a Christian renaissance in where increasingly skeptics have been reconsidering the existence of God. I will list out two remarkable examples that both occurred around 2005. The first is Richard Dawkins. Dawkins is a well-respected scientist and zoologist from Oxford University. More notably however, he is well renowned as being the champion of New Atheism. They are by far the most radical of the atheists since they seek to eliminate religion and faith entirely and they are extremely outspoken. In 2005, Dawkins was publicly was asked on whether or not his atheistic beliefs were provable or concrete. This is an interesting because he has been on record whether through interviews or in his books on how one should not believe anything without evidence. What he said was insightful:
I believe, but I cannot prove, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all design anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection…Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe.
This is incredible. This man, the most well-known contemporary atheist, admits that his world-view is unprovable and is a huge leap of faith! Even more amazing is in 2012, Dawkins was participating in a debate with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. In the dialogue, Williams was confronting Dawkins of his ‘militant atheism.’ Dawkins surprised everyone by dismissing his hard-earned reputation as the champion of atheism. He admitted that he is actually agnostic as he can’t prove God doesn’t exist. Suzannah Mills from the Dailymail.co.uk (2012) recalls the exchange between the archbishop and Dawkins:
But when Archbishop Dr I Rowan Williams suggested that Professor Darwin is often described as the world’s most famous atheist, the geneticist responded: ‘Not by me’. He said: ‘On a scale of seven, where one means I know he exists, and seven I know he doesn’t, I call myself a six.’Professor Dawkins went on to say he believed was a ‘6.9’, stating: ‘That doesn’t mean I’m absolutely confident, that I absolutely know, because I don’t.’ … This latest admission by Professor Dawkins comes after he was left lost for words name the full title of his scientific hero’s most famous work during a radio discussion last week in which he accused Christians of being ignorant of the Bible. In his frustration, he resorted to a helpless: ‘Oh God.’
The other extraordinary event was another renowned figure of atheism, Dr. Antony Flew, now aged 81, publicly announced that he has abandoned his atheism, and had done so on the basis of scientific arguments, which now persuade him that there is a God. Flew stated that “the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries” and that “the argument to intelligent design is enormously stronger than it was when I first met it”.
The Collapse of Verification Principle:
Since the 1920s, a group of philosophers who were logical positivists, synthesized a methodological approach called “verificationism.” The verification principle criteria stipulated the supposed assurance that any statements were actually meaningful and objective. In essence, the only statements that are meaningful are those that were empirical or provable. The consequence of this was any theological statements that a were made about God were utterly meaningless because they were not verifiable. In other words, if you can’t prove that statement to be absolutely true, then it is totally meaningless.
However, verificationism ended up collapsing because it was logically incoherent. There a ton of things we all accept rationally regardless that cannot be access through the scientific method. Let’s just take a look at five things we cannot prove through using the scientific method:
1). Mathematical and logical truths. Science can’t prove them because science presupposes them.
2). Metaphysical truths. Science for example, cannot show that there are minds other than my own that exist or the universe wasn’t created five minutes ago with the appearance of age.
3). Ethical judgements. They cannot be proven through the scientific method. One cannot show through science what the Nazi scientist did in concentration camps were evil since they are not subjected to the scientific method.
4). Aesthetic judgements. Why things are beautiful cannot be explained by science. This is true because one cannot prove through the scientific method that Leonardo Da Vinci’s paintings are beautiful and etc.
5). Scientific Theories. Ironically enough, science cannot be proven through the scientific method. Science has a lot of unprovable assumptions and theories. For example, the special theory of relativity, is predicated upon the assumption that the speed of light is constant in a one way direction between any two points of A and B. This cannot be proven and scientists are forced to assume this.
These array of ideas are universally accepted by everyone yet they all cannot be explained by science! Therefore this whole idea that science is omnipotent is illogical. The naturalist cannot in this case claim that he or she can disprove God because as demonstrated, science is not omnipotent and is quite limited in its explanatory scope. Therefore, science cannot be used solely to disprove the existence of God or theism. Science asks the how questions but not the why question, which I think, is much more significant.
So you see why verificationism collapse in the major academic circles. Secular philosophers have been doing backflips in trying to to figure out a better substitution for verificationism. One example is post-modernism which states that there is no objective truth. But that proposition is logically incoherent. To say there are no true statements is self-refuting because that statement is true. Think of it in logical syllogism in a deductive argument:
1). On the world-view of post-modernism, there are no true statements.
2). But premise one is true.
3. Therefore, post-modernism is false.
When you have a headache, you better believe there is an absolute difference between taking rat poison verses taking aspirin! Nobody is a post-modernist. It’s patronizing nonsense to think there is no such as thing as objective meaning or objective truth.
The Renaissance of Christian Philosophy and Belief in God:
The other unintended consequence of the collapse of verificationism is the rebirth of Christian philosophy and apologetics. William Lane Craig writes:
In philosophy the demise of Verificationism has instead been accompanied by a resurgence of metaphysics, along with all the other traditional questions of philosophy which had been suppressed by the verificationists. Along with this resurgence has come something new and altogether unanticipated: the birth of a new discipline, Philosophy of Religion, and a renaissance in Christian philosophy.
This is incredible, the number of Christian philosophers is steadily increasing in publication journals of philosophy religion such as, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Religious Studies, Sophia, Faith and Philosophy, Philosophia Christi, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, and other journals devoted to the discipline, not to mention the standard non-specialist journals. An atheist philosopher, Quentin Smith, sums it up beautifully:
“God is not “dead” in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.”
This has led to a revival of natural theology and Christian apologetics. arguments such as the kaalam cosmological argument for the existence of God have become increasingly popular because of their effectiveness and coherence. The kaalam cosmological argument uses both philosophical and scientific evidence to argue for the existence of God. The prevailing theory accepted by the scientists and cosmologists today is the Big Bang Theory. The Big Bang occurred 13 billion years ago. The event was a huge cosmic explosion, where all energy, matter, time, and actual space, and the universe itself, came into existence. As P.C.W. Davies describes “the coming into being of the universe, as discussed in modern science . . . is not just a matter of imposing some sort of organization . . . upon a previous incoherent state, but literally the coming-into-being of all physical things from nothing.” So here in lies a deductive argument for the existence of God:
1). Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
(2). The universe began to exist.
(3). Therefore, the universe has a cause
(4). Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
(5). If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
(6). The universe exists.
(7). Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 4, 6).
(8). Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God (from 5, 6)
Whatever caused the universe to exist does is confined in space because prior to the Big Bang, there was no space, the universe was created ex-nihilo (this means from or out of nothing). The cause is not bound by temporal time because it never began to exist. In other words, the cause of the universe must have existed eternally. Also, the cause cannot be material because prior to the Big Bang, matter could have not existed because matter came into being after the Big Bang occurred. Finally, the cause must be sovereign and extremely powerful because it brought matter and space into existence ex-nihilo.
It begs the question–what is the cause for universe? William Lane Craig argues that only two non-material realities could cause the Big Bang. He argues that only “Abstract objects, like numbers, set and mathematical relations…[or] an unembodied mind.” Craig notes that abstract objects, such as numbers, cannot affect nature. He argues for the latter, that the cause of the universe was by an intelligent and or agent. In thus follows from the argument of contingency, there exists a Personal Creator of the universe (5). This Creator is timeless, spaceless, eternal, changeless, exists necessarily, uncaused, and enormously powerful. It falls perfectly align with the Judeao-Christian belief of the Genesis narrative that the universe began to exists (Genesis 1:1-3).That is just one short example of one of the numerous arguments that come out from the revival of Christian intellectualism in the universities.
Scripture teaches us that we are to think critically which is quite the opposite of other non-Christians assume. Indeed, God expresses to us in scripture that is Him alone who gives “Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind?” (Job 38:36). It also states in 1 Peter 3:15 “And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” God is a God of reason and coherence, for he says “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15). Finally, Jesus says one of the greatest commands is this: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…” (Matthew 22:37).
So it is patently false that both science and God are irreconcilable. Moreover, the Bible does not teach blind faith. Rather, the Bible, if anything, teaches reasonable faith. God wants you to think critically and love Him with your minds. It is ok to thirst for knowledge. I believe when you seek after God openly, objectively, and wholeheartedly, you will find Him by way of the cross. Jesus values truthfulness since he consider himself “the way and the truth” God ultimately, desires for you to come to understand him not just intellectually but personally as well.
As Christians, we must make every effort to grow in our understanding of these important topics so that we can have the opportunity to have these dialogues. Although we are small in numbers, like Gideon’s army, we need to be an active group and being theologians of the cross and take every opportunity to preach the gospel by using the wisdom which God has endowed us with.