Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I Don't Believe the Bible Because I Believe in Science

Common atheistic objections to belief in the Bible as the unmitigated word of God such as in the title here are usually followed with appeals to the value of intellectual honesty and critical thinking and a disavowal of mythical beings such as the Easter Bunny, Santa Clause, and the now (in)famous Flying Spaghetti Monster, the latter which, I hear makes a good meal; but this report comes from Mormons, and they believe their god was born on the planet Kolob (hey--it could be, right?).

Ok, Science, with a capital S.  "I believe in Science."  This shibboleth is used to shut down conversations, like when the campus preacher (Preacher Bob) with the large list of Nasty spelled out on the sin-laden placard of irredeemable sins stands with his mouth agape, after the keen biology student walks off contemplating how stupid religious people are, after throwing some science at him.  Forgetting this fool, she has better things about which to ponder: what palisade parenchyma really is, and whether James likes her.  She's got no time for fools touting an ancient book written 10,000 (or is it 3?) years ago.  I concur.  Those guys are misanthropes!

Now, the atheist opponent to my belief in the Old and New Testaments as the word of God uses the naturalist's idiom, "I believe in Science" in order to shoo me off into my blithering corner, rocking back and forth with my knees to my chest, in a Freudian wish-fulfillment and uttering "mommy" amidst my tears, because I "just know" heaven's for real and that Jesus will take me there some day.  (Actually, I rather refer to the resurrection of the dead, the renewal of all things, the creation of a new heavens and new earth, and the melding of the spiritual with the material, but that's another story).  Nicht so schnell, brother-man.

So, you believe in Science.  Well, so do I.  But let me ask you a question: what is science?  Answer: science is the interpretation of the natural world.  That's a simple definition and it works, I think?  And we should also note that there is such a thing as "origin" science and "operational" science.  Origin science: think of evolutionary theory.  Operational science: think of anesthesia, antibiotics, and plastics.  Apples and oranges, folks.  Now, a more complicated definition of "science" comes from philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn, who says that "normal" science is "puzzle-solving." He also refers to science as the study of the history of science, noting that scientific revolutions (the title of his book) go through paradigm shifts and changes and...revolutions.  It's "puzzle-solving" and resolving and so on.  One might think of the Hegelian dialectic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, and the continuing study, research, and reformulation of our knowledge of the natural world and how it applies to us and how we apply to it.  You can see how Kuhn's definition encompasses both origin and operational science in a proper conflation of the two. 

But the atheists and skeptics who love to belittle Christians and their "science-stopping" religion (not recognizing that some of the greatest pioneers of science were deists, theists, or Christians (Copernicus, Galileo, Bacon [mmm...bacon], Kepler, Pascal, Newton, Boyle, Kelvin, Planck and yes, Einstein--no matter what Dichard Rawkins says.  Today, there exists a 20 page document full of the names of scientists with PhD's in their respective fields of natural science and science-related fields who have dissented from Darwin's theory of random mutation and natural selection having the ability to give rise to the complexity seen in the natural world.  Each page in this document, with the exception of the first and last page contains approximately 45 names of scientists.  That's a lot of scientists, folks.  Not all are Christians, or theists or even deists.  But--they are committed to intellectual honesty and critical thinking and good, scientific research, and this has led them to point to the Emperor: dude, you're naked; life can't have arisen through this macro-evolutionary process without an intelligence as its progenitor.

Now, when atheists shibboleth me with "I believe in Science," I ask them what they mean.  And they say, "You know.  Science."  That doesn't help, dude.  So I press them.  Then I get, "The five senses tell us all we need to know."  Then I ask them why they believe in the veracity of their sense experience.  If they're not the angry kind of atheist ("What!  You don't believe in sense experience?!!!")  they usually say something like, "Because it works."  That's the massive intellect of the popular atheist community, folks.  "Because it works" is called a pragmatic argument.  How'd you like it if I said I knew Jesus rose from the dead because his teachings have worked in my life?  You'd say, "Good for you, but I answer to no one, and that's a lame argument."  Tu quoque, bro.  As theologian John Frame notes, those who believe in the ultimacy of sense experience must presuppose it in arguing for their philosophy.  That's called circular reasoning--the very thing atheists eschew of themselves and ridicule as the bane of Christians. Wassup, foo?

What popular atheists are really saying when they say "I believe in Science" is that they are committed to naturalism, and to materialism.  Naturalism is the idea that only the laws of nature (not supernatural laws) operate in the universe; materialism is the idea that only matter exists.  Regarding the latter, how do they know that only material things exist?  Because they haven't seen immaterial things?  Can you see thoughts?  What about space?  Is space material or immaterial?  What about numbers; do numbers exist?  Mathematician David Berlinski, himself a secular Jew, who signed the Dissent from Darwin document, asks: Did the number 3 exist 5 million years ago?  If you say yes, then you believe in immaterial things.  If you say no, then you believe numbers and mathematical axioms are the process of evolutionary thinking and are therefore relative to the common communion of man.  Now that's a science-stopper folks.  Scientific relativism?  Not good.

When popular atheists argue that "I believe in Science," they are also (as I've said before) committing the fallacy in logic called a "self-referential absurdity."  A self-referential absurdity makes the self an ultimate authority and simultaneously refers to something other than the self as an authority.  Frame notes in his class on philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary (available on iTunes) that some of the early Greek philosophers, when delineating what the essence of the universe was, chose either earth, air, fire or water.  Take the example of water.  If everything, when you boil it down (you're welcome), turns out to be water, then the human brain is also water.  So you have water saying that everything is water.  But how can water have a mind?  Or how can water speak and have personality?  That's absurd.  Another example of a self-referential absurdity is "I don't speak a word of English," or "I do not exist." Likewise, the statement, "I believe in Science" is a self-referential absurdity because the statement itself is not a scientific statement.

How does one prove such a statement?  Is "I believe in Science" a scientific statement?  Is it subject to natural inquiry and observation?  Saying "I believe in Science" is the same as saying "I believe in the interpretation of the natural world."  And...?

But if you mean, "I'm a naturalist, and I believe only natural law operates in the universe," or if you mean, "I'm a materialist, and I believe only material things exist," then you've got some 'splaining to do, Lucy.

Why do you believe that only natural laws exist?  What is natural law, anyway?  Are these laws fixed?  Is the universe a closed system? Why do you believe that?

Is your main objection that you don't believe in miracles?  Why don't you believe in them?  Is it because in a natural law universe, they cannot exist?  Well, now you've defined miracles out of existence without even proving your point.  Please explain.  

For now, I believe in science--I believe in the interpretation of the natural world.  But that has nothing to do with whether or not God exists, or whether the stories in the Bible are true or false.  If you have a problem with miracles, then you have a problem with the existence of God, for if God exists, then surely miracles can occur.  In the future, I'd advise you to say, "Hey man, I'm not a Christian, and I have a problem with the Bible because of all the supernatural stuff in it. I'm a naturalist."  That's a little better, and a little more honest.  But please--don't pull the "I believe in Science" card out on us, cuz that's intellectually dishonest, self-referentially absurd, and it says nothing at all.

For the list of scientists who dissent from Darwin go here.
Chris Van Allsburg

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