Tag Archive: faith and science


In the last post, I gave an overview description of the design argument as applied to the life on earth, further expanding the positive case for the existence of a Designer. This time, I want totoolbox address some of the explanations proposed by materialistic and evolutionary theories, and how I think they fail as adequate alternatives.

Time + Chance

If you recall from last time, two strong arguments, specified complexity and irreducible complexity make a compelling case in favor of intelligent design of life on earth. Scientists committed to materialism have fewer tools available with which to construct alternative theories, and thus have (at least) two very large problems: 1. origin of first life, and 2. diversity of complex life forms we observe today. In this space today, I’m not going to address the origins of life problem; suffice it to say that producing life from non-life has proven daunting, at best, even with intelligent agency (the scientists) manipulating initial conditions. If anything, any success in this area seems to give more credibility to the need for intelligent agency.

Materialists have only a few tools with which to construct complex life: natural selection and random mutations operating over a long period of time. Extrapolating from observable and non-controversial micro-evolution, time plus chance are proposed as adequate to change the (elusive) first single-celled organism to the highly diversified life forms throughout the earth today (macro-evolution). The trouble is, “time plus chance” are articles of blind faith, not words which provide any adequate explanatory power.

Our uniform and repeated experience tells us that higher complexity does not flow from lower complexity; water does not rise higher than its source. Adding time and chance does not help, either. Consider the following example paraphrased from Frank Turek. Consider a fellow taking with him a large bag of red, white, and blue confetti into an airplane. At 5,000 feet, he dumps the bag over a football field; how good do you think are the chances that the confetti lands in the pattern of the American flag? Probably not too good. What about if the plane goes to an altitude of 30,000 feet? If he empties the bag from there, is it more or less likely to form the flag than at the first altitude? It’s pretty easy to tell that adding extra time for random chance to act to produce something orderly is so unlikely to work that it is hard to imagine that adding any amount of time would produce success. Applying this intuition to the issue of development of life forms has led some to refer to Darwinian evolutionists as “young-earth evolutionists,” meaning that the amount of time needed for probabilities of random mutation to have acted appropriately to get where we are now is exponentially larger than the same scientists estimate the age of the earth to be.

The Philosophy of Science

Why is it that materialistic scientists have fewer explanatory tools than do theistic scientists? They limit themselves to only naturalistic explanations; no supernatural explanations are even allowed as possible. This results in many a round-peg-in-square-hole scenarios. This approach is called philosophical naturalism, and as its name suggests, is not a statement of science, but one of the philosophy of performing science. It is a commitment to providing a naturalistic explanation for all things. Methodological naturalism, by contrast, is a more modest approach to science which says one must presume and investigate the object of study as if it has a naturalistic explanation; most things will comfortably fall into this category. However, if the evidence leads to a supernatural explanation as being the best fit for the evidence, the scientist is free to consider such a theory.

From this discussion, it should be clear that science is not the final authority on truth and fact; science itself rests on philosophy. The methods of scientific testing and inquiry set the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is out-of-bounds. Science cannot be done without philosophy, and even faith (used broadly); we exercise faith when we apply the scientific method that the natural laws will provide consistent results and can reliably assist to explain scientific mysteries. The philosophical assumptions brought in to the experimentation process can drastically impact the conclusions a scientist makes about data gathered. After all, science does not say anything; scientists do, and their interpretations are influenced by their prior philosophical commitments. Of course, none of this is to denigrate science or the scientific method, but one should be somewhat skeptical when the monolith of Science is said to proclaim the truth. A good scientist must be able to recognize his or her own presuppositions and attempt to mitigate its influence on the interpretation of scientific data.

In my next post, I’ll move into another area of argument for God’s existence, the moral argument. I hope you’ll join me!

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

In my last post I explained the Kalam cosmological argument for the existence of God, but perhaps some questions were raised in your mind which I did not answer. Today, I would like to try to radiotelescope-1412892-1279x849briefly address a few.

Objections

Firstly, some modern physicists attempt to get around the uncomfortable implications of the universe’s beginning out of nothing by redefining “nothing.” When we say that the universe came from nothing, it is a literal nothing that we are talking about: not a quantum vacuum, not a blank slate that an imperfection can arise on its own, not a quantum vacuum; no-thing. Anything in existence prior to this starting point would have to be explained in terms of causation itself, and this argument concerns that ultimate origin.

A second point sometimes raised concerns the confusing notion of infinities. Why can’t the universe be infinitely old? Aside from the observational data referenced in the Kalam argument post which indicates a beginning, a bit of careful thinking will reveal that actual infinites are impossible. Only mathematical infinites are useful; when one tries to imagine an actual infinite, absurdities begin to multiply. The main issue, specifically applied to an infinitely old universe, is that it is impossible to traverse an actual infinite number of points in time (days, minutes, seconds, etc.) to get to the present moment. If we move back in time ten years, we should have a smaller amount of time prior to today, right? Well no, it’s still infinite. What if we move back halfway in time? Is it a smaller amount? No, still infinite. What if we remove an infinite number of years from the past timeline? Infinity remains. I hope this clears it up a bit, but for more information, a further, more thorough explanation of this concept can be found by William Lane Craig at his website here.

Thirdly, what about the multiverse hypothesis? I am actually going to defer this to a later date, when I discuss Intelligent Design. For now, suffice it to say that any multiverse generator still must be explained in terms of first causes.

Which leads to the fourth issue sometimes raised, that is put forth something like this: “If everything must have a cause, what caused God?” The idea is that we as Christians are trapped in the same infinite regress absurdity that we identify as a weakness of naturalistic explanations in the second point above. But the answer to this is really quite simple – we do not believe in a created God, but one who is the uncaused cause of everything else. Does this sound like a sidestep, some sort of religious special pleading? The point is that every explanation is going to have to have some first cause without a prior explanation. God, I submit, an intelligent, purposeful, willful mind, is the best explanation of a first cause.

Age of the Universe?

Another quite important issue that I want to make some very brief comments about is that of my beliefs about the age of the universe. The second premise in Kalam cosmological argument, namely that the universe began to exist, is largely supported by modern scientific observation and evidence of the Big Bang, the single point in time and space which expanded eons ago into the universe we have now. Now we will revisit some of this in the Intelligent Design section, but the main point to think of here is that, as Greg Koukl puts it, “the Big Bang needs a Big Banger;” that is, we have to account for causes. The Big Bang explanation doesn’t remove the need for God; in my view, it underscores it! Furthermore, even though there is some disagreement among Christians, I believe that an ancient universe is at the very least compatible with the Bible, and indeed the best explanation.

However (and this is important), this is not a crucial issue of orthodoxy, nor is it one I feel such strong convictions over that I spend a lot of time trying to convince anyone. My reasons for adopting an old-universe view are several. For one, I believe that natural revelation points to an old universe, and since the biblical accounts may be vague in their interpretations on this point, I believe that we are justified in applying the more clear evidence from science about this question. For another reason, I don’t stand alone in this view. There are many dedicated, well-credentialed Christian scientists and theologians that have adopted an old-universe view. Finally, pragmatically, this view is convenient in interacting with unbelievers with apologetics. An ancient universe view can be held in common with most non-Christians and built on as a starting point.

That is all I really want to say about the issue of young-earth vs. old-earth creationism except for the good advice from St. Augustine,

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Christian friends, the age of the universe is not one of the essentials.

Finally, if you want to see some of the arguments that have persuaded me, the best one has to do with starlight over at Stand To Reason here. Another site which has done a lot of work to demonstrate from the scriptures and from science the old-earth view is Reasons to Believe, and some of their resources on this topic can be found here.

Next, I plan to discuss another argument for God’s existence from design. Please join me!

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!