Re: [asa] God Or Science? A Belief In One Weakens Positive Feelings For The Other

From: Schwarzwald <schwarzwald@gmail.com>
Date: Mon Dec 22 2008 - 14:07:39 EST

Heya George,

On Mon, Dec 22, 2008 at 12:01 PM, George Cooper
<georgecooper@sbcglobal.net>wrote:

> Howdy,
>
>
>
> Schwarzwald: And here comes one problem: What is wrong with teleological
> thinking, even to the point of someone taking a lightning strike as a sign?
> Do you think a young person in the latter could would necessarily change or
> even have reason to change their mind if you explained to them the known
> material causes of lightning? Can you assure them that what they took to be
> a sign meant for them personal in fact was not - and can you do so while
> remaining entirely, even largely, in the realm of science? I can certainly
> be personally skeptical of such a sign, or even realize that it 'may' be a
> sign and I can never be certain. But that's an example of a situation where
> science's applicability quickly diminishes - understanding the material
> cause wouldn't automatically negate the conclusion.
>
>
>
> Yes, such signs are certainly possible and I believe that it happens much
> more than we realize. I also believe the Holy Spirit helps condition us to
> be sensitive to such things that await us. We do agree in kind, but we
> disagree in degree. Since science now offers so much more explanation as to
> how things are happening, it is easy to use this to explain why they are
> happening. Lightning, storms, tornados, shooting stars, etc. are less and
> less attributed to divine action, likely due to our educational system.
>
I'm not so sure of that, or at least, I don't think it's quite that clear
cut. Honestly, I think the idea that 'in the days of yore, lightning was
attributed to God, but now we know about the material causes, so God is not
needed' is a combination of myth and confusion. So while I'd agree that some
changes in how we view the world is due to modern education, I'd say that
part of the 'change' has much less to do with actual scientific knowledge.

> Schwarzwald: This is just a point I hear often, and fundamentally
> disagree about. 'Science is increasingly removing God from the picture'
> strikes me as the same kind of reasoning at work in 'Science is increasingly
> proving Christianity is false by way of contradicting YEC'. It's more about
> marketing than anything else, to put it simply.
>
> Yes, and, ironically, such claims come from people who should know that
> science is too limited to do that. My regret is that the "marketing" has
> had some significant negative impact, though its influence is not
> necessarily seen as a direct cause but more active as an erosion process,
> perhaps. [The slow heating of water in the pot to cook the frog analogy
> comes to mind.]
>
I won't deny the impact, though I don't get the distinction here. Combating
that 'marketing' is something I consider to be of paramount importance - as
I let on in my first post in this thread, my main lamentation about TEs is
that most of the ones I see are vastly, far and away more interested in
shooting down YEC and other perceived abuses/misunderstandings of science
among Christians rather than contributing something positive to the
interaction. And I say that as essentially a TE myself.

> Schwarzwald However, when I as a layman read about science, I see
> discoveries in biology that (Let me be clear: I am not saying design can be
> scientifically proven or detected) more and more look like exquisite,
> intricate masterworks of programming and creation rather than mere
> happenstance - if no design or thought was placed into these things at any
> point in natural history, the 'illusion' is tremendously strong. I see
> similar in cosmology, from fine-tuning to the Big Bang to rare earth
> hypotheses to otherwise. I see a growing recognition of the hard problem of
> consciousness, theories about the quantum world which implies humans occupy
> a strangely prominent place in the universe, and so on. And perhaps 'worst'
> of all I see computers and computer simulations which invite even atheists
> to consider 'creation' scenarios and which, in my minority opinion, makes
> many criticisms of the supernatural untenable. Whatever the atheists of the
> 18th and 19th century expected to find when science gloriously delivered
> (was it really supposed to deliver?) information about the world, our
> discoveries don't seem to be 'it'.
>
>
>
> That is a positive way to see it. However, the idea that we are descended
> from ancestral apes is but one example where science (evolution) has had a
> negative impact upon our Christian "comfort zone" ever since. The degree of
> such impact, of course, varies between the different theological
> perspectives.
>
I'm not sure it's 'but one example' - it's the single most widely discussed
issue focused on by atheists themselves. Put that question aside and there's
no comparable 'scientific' issue - not in neurology, chemistry, physics,
astronomy or just about anywhere else. In fact, my sense is that many
anti-theists - for all their griping over the worries of Christians
rejecting science - are downright troubled at the idea that theists in
general (and Christians in particular) can accept evolution as compatible
with their faith. For the prime reason that, if such is accepted, there's
really nothing else in science that would act as a scientific bulwark to the
western theisms.

> Schwarzwald Just to give a small example, here's a section from Bertrand
> Russell's 'What is the soul?' (And it's worth noting that Russell therein
> also seems to think that physics had weighed in against materialism.)
>
>
> "Our desires, it is true, have considerable power on the earth's surface;
> the greater part of the land on this planet has a quite different aspect
> from that which it would have if men had not utilized it to extract food and
> wealth. But our power is very strictly limited. We cannot at present do
> anything whatever to the sun or moon or even to the interior of the earth,
> and there is not the faintest reason to suppose that what happens in regions
> to which our power does not extend has any mental causes."
>
> Putting aside all other technological advances we've had since Russell's
> time alone - given that quip, I have to wonder how Russell and others would
> cope with a Hawking flexiverse, multiverse theory, the Big Bang, and
> otherwise.
>
>
>
> Russell is talking of the limits in exploiting science and not how science
> may be affecting religious views or superstitions (eg. astrology). No Prime
> Mover is needed today to turn the crystalline spheres, though His existence
> is not disproven.
>
The Prime Mover arguments of Aristotle/Aquinas aren't scientific arguments -
they've no more been disproven than determinism/indeterminism. In a
practical sense, we may not need to have considerations of metaphysical
posits to 'get the job done' in science - and I (along with, I think,
thomists, aristotileans, and most philosophically-inclined types) have no
problem with that whatsoever. The problem is when science gets mixed up with
philosophy - as in, forgetting those limits, particularly the one of
practicality.

Further, Russell there is talking particularly about the power of 'mind'
compared to presumably mindless actions in the universe. If you read that
article in full, his argument is basically coming down to: Fine, it looks
like science has smashed materialism. (I find it interesting that this
aspect of Russell's thought is never brought up - I'd be willing to bet most
atheists and christians would consider him a materialist) However, the basic
tenet of materialism stand firm - mindless 'stuff' still runs the show, and
there's no reason to think mind is necessary or even having much of an
effect outside of our little sphere. So those 'modern' theories, along with
modern technology, would be an interesting thing for Russell to cope with.

> Schwarzwald: I'd also have to wonder how Charles Darwin would react in the
> event of humanity creating life from non-life in a laboratory. For the
> latter case, some could argue 'ecstatic'. But I think a strong case could be
> made for 'deeply conflicted'.
>
> He may have at least written another book about the expressions of man on
> the faces of those making that discovery! J
>
Incidentally, this exchange has been very pleasant. I'm very glad to have
joined this list. So if I don't write back in time for it - Merry Christmas
to you, and to all else on this list. It's been an oasis of interfaith
dialogue on a normally snarky medium.

>
>
> Coope
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> *From:* asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] *On
> Behalf Of *Schwarzwald
> *Sent:* Sunday, December 21, 2008 10:42 PM
> *To:* asa@calvin.edu
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] God Or Science? A Belief In One Weakens Positive
> Feelings For The Other
>
>
>
> Heya George,
>
> Yes, very true. But there are some that do hold hope that science will
> address all things given enough time.
>
>
> And that's one myth that needs to be addressed. There are limits to science
> in principle, which aren't a consequence of technological shortcomings.
>
> Schwarzwald said: I think the idea of 'God as an explanation'
> historically has been vastly overrated and misunderstood. To credit God with
> the dominion over natural events (weather, motions of stars, etc) is not to
> propose a material explanation or to use God for 'explanatory power' in a
> relevant sense.
>
> That is a healthy view today that most people hold as it applies to many
> natural examples. This wasn't, however, the case in prior centuries. How
> many of our young enter the ministry today because of a lightning strike
> they experienced? But there is still some of this type of teleolgoical
> thinking even today when events are dramatic. For instance, some would say
> Katrina was God's judgmental act -- at least one prominent mega church
> preacher so claimed.
>
>
> And here comes one problem: What is wrong with teleological thinking, even
> to the point of someone taking a lightning strike as a sign? Do you think a
> young person in the latter could would necessarily change or even have
> reason to change their mind if you explained to them the known material
> causes of lightning? Can you assure them that what they took to be a sign
> meant for them personal in fact was not - and can you do so while remaining
> entirely, even largely, in the realm of science? I can certainly be
> personally skeptical of such a sign, or even realize that it 'may' be a sign
> and I can never be certain. But that's an example of a situation where
> science's applicability quickly diminishes - understanding the material
> cause wouldn't automatically negate the conclusion.
>
> As for prior centuries - personally, I doubt even that. To give 'God' as an
> answer for what causes lightning is not to attempt a material explanation.
> To give a loose and not totally matched example, if I play a game of Spore
> and notice an effect (some creature spontaneously combusts), 'Will Wright'
> or 'Maxis' can be an accurate response to 'What made that creature catch
> fire?' regardless of whether or not I know the programming, the specific
> triggers that led to the event, etc.
>
>
> It has taken much time and understanding for educated people today to be
> comfortable with mechanistic answers even for your examples. But note that
> the article's test did not likely use weather and motions of stars as test
> examples, but things like Big Bang Theory, which most of the general public
> really do not understand enough, and are vulnerable to some persuasion
> within the testing, subliminal or otherwise.
>
>
> Perhaps I'm overly skeptical, but I somehow think the general public is
> barely more informed and comfortable about weather and the motions of stars
> than the BBT or OoL theories. My only criticism with the theories they used
> was that the BBT is, even in popular understanding, used more as
> 'indications of a creator' than anything else. I think the test can hardly
> provide any meaningful results for other reasons.
>
>
> Schwarzwald: Developing a material explanation does not discredit God as
> having that same dominion.
>
> Agreed, but the atheist's argument goes, at least for some, that as more
> and more natural explanations are found then eventually there will be no
> supernatural ones, as if some sort of momentum will make them unstoppable.
> They happen to be quite correct but only if we completely ignore the
> self-constraining limits of science and the non-material domain as you have
> mentioned. Since the only item mentioned in the article that seemed to be
> outside the purview of science was free will, and the rest of the article
> appears to have used items of natural phenomena, then I get the sense it is
> on a similar path used by those that seem to believe God is being further
> removed from our earthly scene. [I could easily be mistaken since I would
> hope that other items would have included love, hope, joy, etc., but I only
> have the short article to work with.]
>
>
> This is just a point I hear often, and fundamentally disagree about.
> 'Science is increasingly removing God from the picture' strikes me as the
> same kind of reasoning at work in 'Science is increasingly proving
> Christianity is false by way of contradicting YEC'. It's more about
> marketing than anything else, to put it simply.
>
> I could be preaching to the choir here, but the misunderstanding is
> oft-repeated and, for my money, never accurate.
>
> Schwarzwald: In my own view, scientific and technological developments
> throughout the 20th and 21st century have been, if anything, vastly more
> harmful to popular atheist concepts of the universe than to theistic ones,
> with the sole exception of YEC (Which may be why that's far and away the one
> area just about everyone wants to talk about, practically to the exclusion
> of all else.)
>
> I don't think atheists are becoming more intimidated by science. Why are
> only 25% of astronomers Christians, 40% for all scientists? On the other
> hand, there aren't many laws against evolutionary teachings, so if you are
> correct, I will be pleased.
>
>
> Caveat: I don't think most atheists are motivated in their atheism by
> science, just as I don't think most Christians/theists are motivated in
> their theism by science. The reasons for formally trained scientists
> typically being atheists are, in my view, very complicated. Even the reason
> for most non-scientific atheists.
>
> However, when I as a layman read about science, I see discoveries in
> biology that (Let me be clear: I am not saying design can be scientifically
> proven or detected) more and more look like exquisite, intricate masterworks
> of programming and creation rather than mere happenstance - if no design or
> thought was placed into these things at any point in natural history, the
> 'illusion' is tremendously strong. I see similar in cosmology, from
> fine-tuning to the Big Bang to rare earth hypotheses to otherwise. I see a
> growing recognition of the hard problem of consciousness, theories about the
> quantum world which implies humans occupy a strangely prominent place in the
> universe, and so on. And perhaps 'worst' of all I see computers and computer
> simulations which invite even atheists to consider 'creation' scenarios and
> which, in my minority opinion, makes many criticisms of the supernatural
> untenable. Whatever the atheists of the 18th and 19th century expected to
> find when science gloriously delivered (was it really supposed to deliver?)
> information about the world, our discoveries don't seem to be 'it'.
>
> Mind you, I'm not saying that these (and other) discoveries, in part or in
> sum, force theism onto a person. Again, I don't think it's possible for
> science to do that regardless. I do, however, think that it illustrates the
> ease with which God 'fits' with our world, and with our
> scientific/technological understanding. Just to give a small example, here's
> a section from Bertrand Russell's 'What is the soul?' (And it's worth noting
> that Russell therein also seems to think that physics had weighed in against
> materialism.)
>
> "Our desires, it is true, have considerable power on the earth's surface;
> the greater part of the land on this planet has a quite different aspect
> from that which it would have if men had not utilized it to extract food and
> wealth. But our power is very strictly limited. We cannot at present do
> anything whatever to the sun or moon or even to the interior of the earth,
> and there is not the faintest reason to suppose that what happens in regions
> to which our power does not extend has any mental causes."
>
> Putting aside all other technological advances we've had since Russell's
> time alone - given that quip, I have to wonder how Russell and others would
> cope with a Hawking flexiverse, multiverse theory, the Big Bang, and
> otherwise. I'd also have to wonder how Charles Darwin would react in the
> event of humanity creating life from non-life in a laboratory. For the
> latter case, some could argue 'ecstatic'. But I think a strong case could be
> made for 'deeply conflicted'.
>

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Received on Mon Dec 22 14:08:15 2008

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