SCIENCE AND FAITH

December 3, 2006 at 7:16 pm | Posted in 3D, creator, faith, fractal, hypothesis, immanence, intersection, mandelbrot, phenomena, science, transcendence | 22 Comments

Strange bedfellows / an odd couple, or is it just me? Having faith in God is often challenged as being unscientific so, how does one live with ones faith in a transcendent God while accepting science as meaningful?

Somehow I have a feeling that the wrong questions are being asked. What could be more natural than to believe in God as creator and sustainer of everything in the universe if this is indeed true? God works and that’s why the universe works. But then science should be able to test this hypothesis and prove it one way or the other.

Some scientists demand that they should be able to test any hypothesis to see if it is workable and to determine if it is the best hypothesis to explain whatever phenomena are being studied. This too may be a false start. I don’t believe that God is a studiable ‘phenomenon’. I don’t see any reason why he should be, do you?

To my mind, the fact that there is matter and the fact that there is energy and the fact that there is time and … all point me to God. Things are there to be studied and there to be understood only because God made it so.

This is an unusual post for this blog. Very abstract. But, very important. It’s important because I see two disturbing tendencies. One is to make science and God adversaries, the other is to say that these are two separate worlds of thought that do not intersect. The consequences of either approach is bound to be poor science and a god who occupies the scientific gaps. neither this science nor this god have any worth!

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  1. Sam, you might want to read Alistair McGrath’s recent books on science and faith, written to respond in part to the likes of Richard Dawkins. Also, Thomas Khun’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is a classic for understanding science as a ‘paradigm’.

  2. These days, most scientists at least tacitly accept that Kuhn was right. To publicly accept this is far too difficult – of course.

    Thanks for the comments Ken, I’m a regular visitor at your blog tho i rarely comment!

  3. Hi Sam –

    I post as John Doyle on OST from time to time, and we’ve had some fruitful exchanges there. Here’s my 2 cents’ worth.

    Modern empirical science as a methodology is all about explaining natural phenomena in terms of other natural phenomena. Does the scientific theory of gravity eliminate the need for God’s hand, or does it explain how God’s hand works? Occam’s Razor suggests that, if you can continue to find empirically-supportable natural causes, there’s no need to bring unfalsifiable spiritual forces into the equation. This is well known, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

    I suppose it’s conceivable that you could come up with some other version of science that doesn’t work like this, but I’ve not seen any examples. CS Lewis in The Abolition of Man promoted the science of Rudolph Steiner, best known today as the guy who invented the concept of Waldorf schools. From what I’ve seen of his scientific approach it looks kind of kooky.

    I understand that emerging Christians are more prepared to acknowledge the validity of evolution. At the same time, they uphold a kind of “true myth” interpretation of Genesis which looks more or less like intelligent design. Is it any more essential for Christians to insist that God’s hand is behind the creation than that he makes gravity work, or the planets stay in orbit? Why not just let it go?

    Here’s a question I’ve posed on a couple other emerging blogs that has met with little enthusiasm. What if God had nothing to do with creating the material universe. Would it still be possible for Christians to believe in and worship such a God?

  4. I know that recent trends in emerging circles are to like anything post Gen 11 as more historical and everything earlier is myth/allegory or just reworked canaanite legend.
    I don’t think that we need a new science that posits God (see my latest post on this in OST) just better science! I am quite sure that God has made the present creation quite self-sufficient from a science point of view. Therefore the study of science is going to be fruitful.

    hypothetically, God and the universe could be two independent things. Somehow, God intervenes to save man from his sin by sending His Son to be a man and to die for us. the narrative would only be slightly different, but where would your evidence for this come from? our biblical narrative starts with God creating and then continuing to act within human history to save mankind. Just because science does not need to posit god does not remove God from sustaining the universe, i.e. making gravity, entropy, relativity, quanta etc. ‘work’. i don’t think that this makes God discernible scientifically but I think that on the whole this is one of the things that the bible as a whole presupposes and so i include it in my belief about ‘the creation’. Thanks for the comment John Doyle/Ktismatics – why not put it up at OST, it’s a very interesting question and might get us to start thinking a bit more deeply about what we believe about how God acts!

  5. I see you stopped by my blog to look at my Genesis 1 stuff. Though I didn’t pursue that line of reasoning, I did put a comment on your science post at OST.

  6. I dropped a comment today on JesusCreed’s current installment of the Dawkins book. I said I didn’t think there was any fundamental difference between evolutionary psychology and gravity: science can come up with naturalistic explanations of anything, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s no hand of God behind the scenes. No one seemed to agree with my position. It seems that the fundamentalists and the pomo-evangelicals are equally anti-natural science.

  7. I enjoyed reading your posts at JesusCreed, and (of course) agreed with your thoughts about my comment. Having not read Dawkins’ book I’m at a disadvantage on these discussions, but I’ve certainly found his prior books exemplary in describing evolutionary science. Reading the comments on that blog it’s hard for me to distinguish a postmodern mistrust of science from good old fundamentalism.

  8. I’ve been following the JesusCreed post about Dawkins from time to time, and I just noticed a curious thing. Here’s the comment I just posted:

    There are several comments directed to Ivan. It appears that Ivan represented a dissenting position, because a lot of people seemed to want to take him on. It also seems that he replied to some of the comments. The curious thing is, as far as I can see there are no comments on this post attributed to Ivan. Sam Carr’s comment (#41) lists Ivan’s comments as #32 and 38, neither of those comments was written by Ivan. It appears that someone has systematically gone through and eliminated Ivan’s comments. Did Ivan asked to be purged? Did his name link to some offensive blog? What happened to Ivan?

    This was comment #50 when I put it up — let’s see if anyone responds, or if my comment too gets deleted.

  9. This turned into a big flurry of activity at Jesus Creed — go have a look.

  10. Thanks, just did and replied tho way down the string. It was really great that you picked up on Ivan’s sudden disappearance and managed to keep the convo alive!

    I put a note in at your blog to Ivan. It’s been a busy couple of days and I have not even looked at my own blog! mortal sin…

    Thanks for your encouragement. I think that we are in a definite minority as far as wanting more integration with science as well as better science from christians. I guess the modernist hangover is still there even tho we are supposed to be more PoMo in emerging,

    still will keep plodding along – that’s certainly the more scientific approach!

  11. Amen. That was a fairly novel blog engagement, wasn’t it? I like the string theory metaphor. Scot McKnight even sent me an email in the midst of it all, saying that he hadn’t pulled the plug on poor Ivan. I see I also morphed from John Doyle to Ktismatics in the middle of the post — purely accidental; not trying to evade accountability.

  12. Saml,

    When you talk about God, are you meaning the normally conceived “Biblical God” or something else?

    Ivan

  13. Just a comment on the Jesus creed postings. Nearly all of mine didn’t appear. And it refuses to accept my postings I don’t know why. It was blamed on a spam filter but even posting a comment day gets rejected. I have no “offensive” anti- Christian blog or thoughts. I am a life time atheist and I would love to understand Why and how Christians understand their God. I am not very educated and believe that your very intelligent and interesting posts might be a good place for to learn more. I believe in good manners, consider myself a visitor and know I am FREQUENTLY wrong. So if you respond to my posts its best to think along the lines of your arguing with a kid. Even though I am quite old.

    Best regards

    Ivan

  14. Ivan, when I say God, mostly I am trying to refer to the Being, God. I know a little bit about God (what I believe that He has revealed of Himself in the bible and in history and in all human cultures and perhaps in othe ‘holy books’ and in science, but my own belief is that God is too big to be properly known by my little mind. I do hope that the bit that I know is not too inconsistent with God Himself!

    I’m glad that you licked the Jesuscreed problem though if they had been really serious about letting you post they should really have sorted that out themselves!

    You do yourself a disservice. I think you have an excellent mind and are using it and I am also greatly enjoying our conversation(s)!

  15. With increasing interest I have been reading your discussions. I myself used to be an atheist but since about 12 years ago I have come to believe there is a design and that it is intelligent. I also believe there is good and better.
    When I read your posts I can relate to them because they are explorative and intelligent. I know that there are more scientists that struggle with their beliefs and science.

    But I can reconcile both easily, because I see how intelligent the design is. It makes me want to study it.
    Fruit is red to attract eating.
    I found this fruit for you:
    http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/forum/viewforum.php?forum_id=360
    It’s a discussion about evolution and belief on a site for psychologists.

  16. Thanks Odile, for the link. yhere is a lot of fascinating discussion there and I will need some time to catch up on the discussion.

    The universe is wonderfully put together, I just wonder whether there is any sort of ‘evidence’ that God has left behind. His creation is so complete that I somehow doubt it!

  17. http://www.asa3.org/asa/PSCF/2001/PSCF9-01Touryan.pdf

    Truth has many forms and dimesions. We come to know truth in various ways and there are different types of truth. There are three main categories of truth:

    1. Scientific truth that is based on empirical observations and it is known as empirically determined truth – in this realm or domain, what you say is logically true and empirically observable and predictable because it follows natural laws e.g., drop your pen and it will fall to the floor from law of gravity, switch on the light and the bulb will produce light from electromagnetic fields etc. This is handled by natural sciences like physics, chemistry, mathematics etc.

    2. Socially constructed truth is knowledge that is passed on by tradition. People construct realities like family, law, nation, state, private property. This sort of truth is created and sustained by society e.g. Tamil Eelam, Carr family etc. and dealt with by social science.

    3. The revealed truth – truth which has been revealed to humankind through God’s people like prophets – you have a soul, eternal life etc. You have to have faith to discern truths on the relationships between God and humanity.

  18. Hi Salmcar,

    I personally think organisms did not evolute into the complex organisms but were designed, because I observe that embryo’s of animals are all made from one schema and then altered. They are not randomly made but there seems to be a complex structure, this schema did not evolute. There is a difference between animals and plants, and difference between humans and animals. This difference is consistent with the genesis. The gaps are designed. That’s why there is no evidence of links to be found. I also think there is ‘intent’ in the design.
    Now I don’t say there is no evolution, simply it is a modest mechanism. Surely not the explanation for our development.

  19. Odile, that’s an interesting thought. I think one of the problems is the limitation of scientific method especially when asked to study whole organisms as opposed to stuff that has been mashed up.

    Our scientific understanding of development is poor and we will have to wait a while for science to fill in some of its gaps!

    The older thinking was that ontology (development) mirrors phylogeny (genetic relationships) though one scarcely hears that these days.

  20. Mahil,

    I had a good read of the article that you reffed. It is interesting but coes to the conclusion of cumulative evidence gathered from mutually exclusive fields of knowledge.

    No doubt, the field of enquiry will influence the methodology used but does this imply that truth in one area is not contiguous with or overlapping truth in another?

    Our postmodern fear of absolutising anything is partly to blame but I do think that one can recognise ones own limitations, biases etc. without relativising what one is seeking to clarify.

  21. Saml,

    I have only just found this here! I didn’t realise it was posted on your web site. Dang it was a good discussion.

    Ivan

  22. Ivan, yes, the web is a strange and coincidental place! This post was written while Dawkins was being hotly debated at jesuscreed and i guess you may have followed my link over from there or from ktismatics.

    Anyhow, Well Met!


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