Search Results For "science"

Painting of Galileo before the Inquisition

Monty Python had it wrong; when scientists talk to Christians, you can count on the Inquisition coming up. (Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition by Cristiano Banti)

Anyone else watching the new incarnation of Cosmos? We’re now roughly a quarter of the way through its 13 episodes, and yet the overall thread of the series remains somewhat elusive. The first episode felt like an introduction to cosmology, with an emphasis on the vast scope of space and time. The second episode jumped to evolutionary biology (albeit with DNA models more cosmic than chemical), while the third returned to space. That doesn’t feel like a natural sequence for a general science education; in fact, the only way I can make sense of it is to assume the show is aimed primarily at people who are uncomfortable with certain scientific topics on religious grounds. Then we see that the show is ticking off those sensitive subjects one by one — the age of the universe and centrality of Earth, evolution, and most recently superstition and messages from the gods.

Although not advertised that way, the writing of the show makes it clear that the conversation with religion is a primary and explicit concern of the show’s creators. The first episode prominently features an animated sequence dedicated to Giordano Bruno which has received a lot of coverage, both for its obvious religious themes and for its questionable emphasis on storytelling over historical accuracy (although personally, saying that Bruno was burned at the stake for theological heresies unrelated to alternative cosmology is hardly an improvement for the image of God’s people).

Continue Reading…

This is the second in a series of blog posts concerned with Christian questions about evolution. A major question for me after I became a Christian was: Does science in general and evolution in particular rule out God? I know that is also a question that troubles many Christians. You may remember that in my first post on the Mechanism of Creation, the View from Science, I said that there were four meanings of evolution. The first three change over time, common descent, evolution by natural selection are conclusions based on scientific evidence. I have put off discussion of the fourth meaning until now. That fourth meaning views evolution as a justification for atheism. In this post, I’m going to show that this meaning is a world-view interpretation of the scientific findings, not a conclusion from science. First, not all scientists are atheists. To be sure several recent books by more fervent atheists claim that science in general and evolution in particular disproves God. Perhaps the best known example is The God Delusion by the biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins has famously stated that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” Two other examples are Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon and Victor Stenger’s God the Failed Hypothesis.

Asa Gray (1810-1888) “could be described as the person who established systematic botany at Harvard and, to some extent, in the United States. . . .”  – From Harvard University Herbaria.

However, there are other well-known scientists who believe that evolution is perfectly compatible with their Christian faith. Examples are Asa Gray who is widely regarded as the most important American botanist of 19th century, Theodosius Dobzhansky, a geneticist and evolutionary biologist, who was instrumental in shaping the modern synthesis of evolutionary biology with genetics and Francis Collins, a geneticist and former Director of the U.S. Human Genome Project, who recently wrote the book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. Here is the key point. Science is a wonderful and very productive tool for studying nature. But since God exists outside of nature the question of God is not approachable by the empirical methods used by science. Thus science does not have the competency to make definitive statements about the existence or lack of existence of God! Continue Reading…

Painting of Rebecca drawing water at a well; camel in the background

If that camel doesn’t belong in this picture, how much does that change our view of the Bible? (Rebecca at the Well by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini)

There was a lot of talk about “proof” in the news this month. The Ken Hamm/Bill Nye debate captured a lot of attention and raised questions about what science can prove about particular creation models, and even about what kinds of evidence are acceptable or reliable. There was an interesting story about a computer-generated math proof that required 13GB of reasoning, far too much for human beings to parse through and verify, which led to questions about the limits of what can be proved in mathematics and whether math will ultimately become the domain of computers. Meanwhile, an archaeological paper about camels led to a lot of headlines about the Bible being contradicted or perhaps even proven false.

All of this stirred up some of my own thoughts on what can (or cannot) be proved about God. For many Christians, it seems desirable to have logic or philosophy or science prove that God can or must exist. And yet empirically, it would seem that one consequence of pursuing such proofs is that we raise the possibility that God is potentially falsifiable. So naturally some folks become interested in proving God can’t or doesn’t exist, which seems to result in the perception that findings like the timing of when camels arrived in Palestine can falsify the Bible, and possibly by extension God. If the outcome of our attempts to prove that God can or must exist is to cause people to misunderstand the nature of the Bible or the nature of God, then perhaps we need to reconsider the claims we make. For instance, what if we instead tried to prove that God’s existence is somehow formally undecidable?

Continue Reading…