Science and Theology as Analogous Research Programmes – Science and Christianity: Part 6/6

Richard Dawkins, the famous British atheist, famously asserts that since science works, it must be true and we must believe what it says. If Christianity clashes with science, so much the worse for Christianity. For this reason, some college students are persuaded to abandon their Christian faith once they conclude that it has been discredited by science.

The perception that science has discredited Christianity is based on two assumptions. First, the results of science are empirically verified and indubitable in contrast to the unverifiable claims of Christianity. Second, Christianity not only lacks explanatory power; it is in conflict with the empirical findings of science. For example, God becomes redundant once evolution explains the origins of species and inflationary cosmology explains the origin of the multiverse. We are reminded of the famous incident when Napoleon Bonaparte questioned Pierre Laplace why his large book on cosmology never mentioned the Creator, to which Laplace retorted, “I had no need of that hypothesis.”

However, neither Dawkins nor Laplace should be given the last word. There are other eminent scientists who do not agree that there is conflict between science and Christianity. Furthermore, science itself faces several intractable problems. Continue reading “Science and Theology as Analogous Research Programmes – Science and Christianity: Part 6/6”

Models of Integration of Science and Faith – Science and Christianity: Part 5/6

Critical Integration From a Christian Perspective
Our approach to integrating science and Christian faith should be characterized by intellectual integrity and passion. This does not imply that non-Christians do not share these qualities. I am only pointing out that Christians ought to display these qualities as a distinctive of their faith. Arthur Holmes explains,

The Christian believes that in all that she does intellectually, socially or artistically, she is handling God’s creation and that is sacred. . . . The scholar’s love of truth becomes an expression of love of God, just as the citizen’s love of justice in society can be an expression of hunger for righteousness, and the artist’s love for the creative and the beautiful expresses love for the Creator” [Arthur Holmes, Idea of Christian College (Eerdmans, 1987), p. 48]

We should recognize that some disciplines may be less directly open to any specific ‘Christian’ approach, such as in mathematics and the physical sciences. Nevertheless, the attitude of the Christian should be an openness to the possibility of integration. Continue reading “Models of Integration of Science and Faith – Science and Christianity: Part 5/6”

Facing Up to the End of Science – Science & Christianity: Part 4/6

A Review of John Horgan, The End Of Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age (Basic Books, 1996, 2015)

My grandfather preached the good news of the Bible
My father preached the good news of Socialism
I preach the good news of Science

The above slogan once seemed eminently reasonable since science has delivered unparalleled knowledge and technology to create modern civilisation. However, in recent years there has been increasing suspicion that science may be serving its profound knowledge in a poisoned chalice. Science creates more problems than it solves – problems all too familiar in the form of environmental disasters and weapons of mass destruction.

Perhaps many scientists remain blissfully unaware, if not indifferent, to this deep unease. After all, the prevailing image of the scientist is someone dressed in white clinical apparel working quietly in sanitised labs, oblivious to the hassles and tensions of life outside. But, we wonder, how can the dull routines of the lab, such as cleaning test tubes and animal cages, sustain the motivation for scientific research in the face of increasing doubts and criticisms? John Horgan, a senior writer for Scientific American and author of the book The End of Science, exploits his literary expertise effectively to offer vivid introductions and personal insights into the aspirations, audacity and hubris of some of the major icons of the scientific pantheon: Richard Dawkins, Francis Crick, Murray Gell-Mann, Stephen J. Gould, Roger Penrose and Ilaya Prigogine. Continue reading “Facing Up to the End of Science – Science & Christianity: Part 4/6”

The Scope and Limits of Science: A Response to Scientism – Science & Christianity: Part 3/6

Science as Sacred Cow
Science is an amazingly successful discipline, but in recent times it has been distorted into ‘scientism’ which asserts that science is the ultimate discipline that is capable of describing all reality. Science has become the measure of all truth and the only reliable path to true knowledge about reality and the nature of things. For scientism, any truth claim must be analyzed and tested according to the ‘scientific method’ before it can be accepted. Conversely, anything that cannot be explained by science is not worth pursuing. In short, science has been elevated as a sacred cow for modern society.

However, scientism is subject to several criticisms. First, the claim of scientism is just a claim. It is a self-refuting claim as it is in principle not open to scientific verification. Second, scientism simply ignores the unresolved “hard problems” of knowledge such as the nature of consciousness, the origin of the universe and the fundamental laws of nature, the origin of life and the nature of consciousness which suggest there are limits to scientific explanation. Presumably, all reality does not include problems that seem intractable to scientific explanation. Continue reading “The Scope and Limits of Science: A Response to Scientism – Science & Christianity: Part 3/6”

Christianity and the Rise of Modern Science – Science and Christianity Part 2/6

Limited Beginnings with Greek Science
Western science owes its origins to early Greek civilization. It was the Greek belief that nature is undergirded by a rational order (Logos) and is therefore inherently intelligible which laid the germinal seeds that led eventually to the development of modern science. As H.D.F. Kitto writes, “Here we meet a permanent feature of Greek thought: the universe, both the physical and the moral universe, must be not only rational, and therefore knowable, but also simple.” /1/ Hence, it is to the ancient Greeks that we owe the beginnings of mathematics, astronomy, physics and biology. Continue reading “Christianity and the Rise of Modern Science – Science and Christianity Part 2/6”

Did the Medieval Church Teach that the Earth Was Flat?

Supplementary Reading for the Earlier Posts:
Is there a War between Science and Religion? – Science and Christianity: Part 1
How the Myth of Warfare between Science and Christianity Began in Victorian England

With the decline of Rome and the advent of the Dark Ages, geography as a science went into hibernation, from which the early Church did little to rouse it . . . Strict Biblical interpretations plus unbending patristic bigotry resulted in the theory of a flat earth with Jerusalem in its center, and the Garden of Eden somewhere up country, from which flowed the four Rivers of Paradise.Boise Penrose, Travel and Discovery in the Renaissance (1955)

The authority of the Fathers, and the prevailing belief that the Scriptures contain the sum of all knowledge, discouraged any investigation of Nature . . . the question of the shape of the earth was finally settled by three sailors, Columbus, Da Gama, and above all, by Ferdinand Magellan.John William Draper, History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874)

Did people in the Middle Ages think that the world was flat? Certainly the writers quoted above would make us think so. As the story goes, people living in the “Dark Ages” were so ignorant (or so deceived by Catholic priests) that they believed the earth was flat.

But the reality is more complex than either of these stories. Very few people throughout the Middle Ages believed that the world was flat Continue reading “Did the Medieval Church Teach that the Earth Was Flat?”

How the Myth of Warfare between Science and Christianity Began in Victorian England

Reposted here for easy access*

The image of warfare between science and Christianity was invented by  Victorian scientific naturalists under the leadership of Thomas H. Huxley (otherwise known as Darwin’s bulldog). They believed that nature is a closed system of physical causes and that nature should be explained only with inviolable natural laws (as opposed to supernatural laws or spiritual forces). Huxley and his cohorts concluded that the larger populace was receptive to their attacks against Christianity as there was growing resentment against the Church and parsons who had allied themselves with squires to exploit farmers.

They adopted a two-fold strategy in their campaign to overthrow the cultural dominance of Christianity by replacing Christian supernaturalism with scientific naturalism as the foundation for science and education in a secular society: Continue reading “How the Myth of Warfare between Science and Christianity Began in Victorian England”

Is there a War between Science and Religion? – Science and Christianity: Part 1/6

I. YES! for Jerry Coyne: “Yes, there is a War between Science and Religion.”

Opposing methods for discerning truth
My [Coyne] argument runs like this. I’ll construe “science” as the set of tools we use to find truth about the universe, with the understanding that these truths are provisional rather than absolute. These tools include observing nature, framing and testing hypotheses, trying your hardest to prove that your hypothesis is wrong to test your confidence that it’s right, doing experiments and above all replicating your and others’ results to increase confidence in your inference…

The conflict between science and faith, then, rests on the methods they use to decide what is true, and what truths result: These are conflicts of both methodology and outcome. Continue reading “Is there a War between Science and Religion? – Science and Christianity: Part 1/6”

The Psychology of Atheism: From Gaze to Glory. Part 2/2

Related Post: The Psychology of Atheism: From Gaze to Glory. Part 1/2

Excerpts from R.C. Sproul, If There’s a God, Why Are There Atheists: Why Atheists Believe in Unbelief (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1989),

The Failure of the Atheistic Psychological Critique of Religion
If these men – Freud, Feuerbach, Marx, and Nietzsche – we have some examples of great thinkers who have located the “whence” of religion in one aspect of man’s psychological makeup or the other. Fear of nature, wish-projection, relief from guilt and anxiety, fear of economic revolution, and fear of nothingness are all labels for various psychological states that make religion appealing. To be left alone and unprotected in a hostile or indifferent universe is a terrifying thought. The proverbial maxim “necessity is the mother of invention” is applied to religion as well as to myriad drugs or television sets. [p. 48]

It is also very important to note that what Freud and others offer are plausible alternate explanations to the origin of religion other than those offered by theists. It is one thing to demonstrate that man can fabricate religious experiences; it is another thing to demonstrate that he actually does so. It is one thing to argue that men can invent religion out of psychological necessity; it is another to argue that he does. The former involves questions of psychological and intellectual ability; the latter involves questions of history. When Freud spoke of origins, he was writing as a historian, not as a psychologist. We know his competence as a psychologist; his competence as a historian is certainly not so well attested.
[pp. 50-51] Continue reading “The Psychology of Atheism: From Gaze to Glory. Part 2/2”

The Psychology of Atheism: From Gaze to Glory. Part 1/2

A tribute to R.C. Sproul who has just gone to glory.

The popular idea of God as an invention of weak-minded people desperately looking for an emotional crutch to help them cope with wretched reality was developed with erudition and sophistication by the three patron-gods of modern atheism, Friedrich Nietzsche Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. For example, Freud regarded religious ideas as “illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest and most urgent wishes of mankind. . . .As we already know, the terrifying impression of helplessness in childhood aroused the need for protection — for protection through love — which was provided by the father…. Thus the benevolent rule of a divine Providence allays our fear of the danger of life. [Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion (Norton, 1927, 1961), p. 30]

Freud theorized that religion must have evolved from animism to monotheism. The impersonal forces of nature are remote and unpredictable. Hence, nature must be conceived as animated by divine powers who resemble human beings. These powers may be malevolent, but since they behave like humans, we at least know how to deal with them. Religion then progressed from simple animism to complex monotheism which culminates with God as a benevolent Father figure.

R.C. Sproul sets out to refute this popular critique of Christianity. First, Freud is mistaken when he argues that the personal is more comforting than the impersonal, which is the reason why humans ‘populate’ nature with many deities. Continue reading “The Psychology of Atheism: From Gaze to Glory. Part 1/2”