Tag Archives: science

Prayer, let’s be proactive.

Some great words of advice from Dr Martin Luther:

[from 1 Thessalonians  5:17-18]

It’s good to let prayer be the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night. Be on guard against false, deceitful thoughts that say, “Wait awhile, you can pray in an hour  First, you must finish this or that.” For with such thoughts, you turn away from prayer towards the business at hand which surrounds you and holds you back so that you never get around to praying that day.

Of course, some tasks are as good as or better than prayer, especially during an emergency   Nevertheless, we should pray continually   Christ says to keep on asking, searching and knocking (Luke11:9-11). And Paul says that we should never stop praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Likewise, we should continually guard against sin and wrongdoing, which can’t happen if we don’t fear God and keep His commandments in mind at all times  in Psalm 1 we read, “Blessed is the person who reflects on His teachings day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2)

We shouldn’t neglect the habit of true prayer and get caught up in necessary work – which usually isn’t all that necessary anyway. We can end up becoming lazy about prayer, cold towards it and tired of it, but the devil doesn’t get lazy around us

(Martin Luther Through Faith Alone Aug 28)

 

Scientism, Values, and the Public Interest Sarah Chaffee July 29, 2016 10:44 AM | Permalink

Tyson_&_Kepler_team.jpg

Over at The American Conservative, Rod Dreher comments on a recent post by John Michael Greer, who writes The Archdruid Report. Despite their vastly differing worldviews (conservative Christian vs. druid!), Greer and Dreher agree on this: There are many questions that science can’t answer, not least about politics. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a case in point. Dreher’s headline says it all: “Scientists Make Terrible Politicians.”

Why should this be?

First, scientific and political reasoning are very different. Democracy is based on compromise between competing interests and values. One cannot use scientific reasoning to arrive at values. What science does is continually try to disprove hypotheses. It’s not about finding a workable compromise. Greer:

If you’re Lavoisier and you’re trying to figure out how combustion works, you don’t say, hey, here’s the oxygenation theory and there’s the phlogiston theory, let’s agree that half of combustion happens one way and the other half the other; you work out an experiment that will disprove one of them, and accept its verdict. What’s inadmissible in science, though, is the heart of competent politics.

One of the great intellectual crises of the ancient world, in turn, was the discovery that logic was not the solution to every human problem. A similar crisis hangs over the modern world, as claims that science can solve all human problems prove increasingly hard to defend, and the shrill insistence by figures such as Tyson that it just ain’t so should be read as evidence for the imminence of real trouble.

In other words, he’s talking about scientism, which is something we’vecommented on extensively in the past. Dreher also cites science writer Thomas Burnett:

Scientism today is alive and well, as evidenced by the statements of our celebrity scientists:

“The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” — Carl Sagan, Cosmos

“The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” — Stephen Weinberg, The First Three Minutes

“We can be proud as a species because, having discovered that we are alone, we owe the gods very little.” — E.O. Wilson, Consilience

While these men are certainly entitled to their personal opinions and the freedom to express them, the fact that they make such bold claims in their popular science literature blurs the line between solid, evidence-based science, and rampant philosophical speculation. Whether one agrees with the sentiments of these scientists or not, the result of these public pronouncements has served to alienate a large segment of American society.

Maybe this is a good reason to think twice about controversial scientific issues. Scientism, which Dreher calls “the ideologically charged fallacious belief that science is the only legitimate way of knowledge,” animates those large scientific bodies that marginalize scientists with dissenting views on certain controversial questions. Discriminating against these minority scientists helps alienate that “large segment of American society” that Burnett worries about.

A 2016 survey probing attitudes about academic freedom suggests as much. Of respondents, 84 percent said that “attempts to censor or punish scientists for holding dissenting views on issues such as evolution or climate change are not appropriate in a free society.” Similarly, 86 percent affirmed that “disagreeing with the current majority view in science can be an important step in the development of new insights and discoveries in science.” And 88 percent said that “scientists who raise scientific criticisms of evolution should have the freedom to make their arguments without being subjected to censorship or discrimination.”

Scientism, it seems, is more problematic, in more ways, than some observers have realized.

Photo: Neil deGrasse Tyson, by NASA Ames Research Center [Public domain],via Wikimedia Commons.

Science is important, scientism is in denial

I have been baffled as to why any secularist would think of, at least a Christian, as wicked. Yes, there has been a lot of stupid in Christianity, no where near as much as the secular, but let’s move along. This bigotry that people like Richard Dawkins preaches is just stunning in its hatred. Yes, there are some (and that is some not all) fundamentalist types that are just delusional. These people really are not trained in Christian ministry, they’ve been making it up and it’s just going to be their way. They are a minority. The Roman church has certainly had its issues, it has not been vigilant about screening for homosexuals and pedophiles. And again a minority, most of the Roman priests I know are the most upright, self-sacrificing men you will ever know. The public education system up to and including universities, should be spending more time getting their own house in order and not wagging their finger at Christians.

Mark Ward in an article he wrote for Answers Magazine (Oct – Dec 2015 pp 52-55) “Most Western scientists affirm that ‘the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry.’ Dawkins calls those who don’t accept this overwhelming evidence ‘the wicked’. Dr Ward claims that “scientism” perceives those who disagree with what they consider the obvious evidence to be some kind of conspirators. That Christians are trying to over turn what they, in their faith system, consider to be carved in stone fact and that Christians, being ignorant, uneducated, Cretans are simply trying to corrupt and undermine the enlightenment of education and science.

OK, I guess I finally get it. But as Dr Ward points out that charge can certainly be bounced right back at the secularist. For someone who claims to base everything on science, to blindly accept the staggering odds against the entire universe happening by accident, is simply blind faith. It is a faith system that has as its basis no substance. At least a Christian can point to the revelation of an all powerful, infinite, all knowing Creator. Ward quotes Terrence McKenna: “…tongue-in-cheek description of modern secular science: ‘Give us one free miracle and we’ll explain the rest.'” Basically just shut-up and accept our explanation because I have a lot of letters behind my name. Sorry, but that is the definition of arrogance.

Both Dr Ward and I are all for science, you’d have to be in complete denial to think that science hasn’t accomplished remarkable feats. But what they have given us is a world that lives in hopelessness, after all science’s only promise is that when we die we simply blip out of existence and what we do here only matters in terms of what we leave to posterity. As an inner-city pastor I see the hopelessness constantly and for those who buy the secular-scientism, the only answer really lies in a bottle, a joint, a needle, sex, power, money  or eating, among the most common idols. There is no greater being who wants what is best for you, who watches over and provides for you and gives you the promise of eternal life in a perfect world. Sure we Christians want what is best for our posterity, look at all the things that have been left for us from centuries of Christians. But we are also leaving hope and promise, that this isn’t just a dog eat dog Darwinian survival of the fittest world. There is a purpose, a plan, hope and promise and a perfect, holy, just God who has given us that hope and promise.

Dr Ward writes: “But there is no agreed upon definition of science that can solve all disagreements. Science is not a neutral arbiter, as Stanley Fish would say, ‘that sits above the fray, monitoring its progress and keeping the combatants honest.’ Science is, instead, ‘an object of contest.’ Which authority gets to determine what counts as science? Will it be God, or not-god?” Again a survival of the fittest that leaves the weak and vulnerable in a state of constant fear and oppression. Scientism may have the “facts”, but what good does that do if it’s constantly telling you that if you don’t stack up, then, as Ebeneezer Scrooge opined “they should die and thereby decrease the surplus population.” Scientism followers may not declare that, but where do you think that Charles Dickens would have really derived that opinion, certainly not the church.

Dr Ward quotes St Paul “…to describe those who reject the evidence of creation:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:18-22)

Dr Ward goes on to write: “It is wicked to suppress the truth when we who are made in God’s image have sufficient intelligence and opportunity to process it. Paul reveals that we all have those things, and so he joins Richard Dawkins and me in seeing truth as a moral issue.”

I would certainly join that, it is wicked to suppress the truth, the truth is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We know Jesus was a historical man, we know that He did and taught things that we as Christians know could have only been done and taught by God. We know we have the hope and promise of His death as payment for our sins and resurrection as the promise of our eternal life. Other historical, non-Christian people have attested to who and what Jesus did. And all this He did for those He chose to be saved to eternal life. For we who know that truth and do not actively profess, teach and present it to non-believers, seems to me that could be defined as wicked on our part. If we, as Luther wrote, are beggars, and we know where the bread is, wouldn’t it be incredibly wicked of us to withhold that truth to other beggars? When we leave those around us in hopelessness and despair, leave them to be victims of the Darwinist/scientism, beliefs of the culture, we choose to deprive them of what we are blessed to have and we simply cannot do that. We are called to live and present the Gospel/Good News of Jesus Christ. We then trust what God does in those who we have pointed to true life in Jesus. Are we wicked when we don’t? A case could be made, couldn’t it? Do you want to stand in front of God in judgment and answer why you didn’t point others to Him?

More devolved or further away from God?

Someone responded to a post of mine, which was critical of evolution. I grew up mindlessly accepting the secular gospel, that evolution is just a given, a scientific fact and did not give it another thought. The writer/respondent wondered if instead of “evolving”, we were really “devolving”. In some ways man has, in some sense, become better. But in so many ways, the things that are truly important, we have become more depraved, more alienated, more fixated on the true object of our affection, that being “me, myself and I”.

Obviously evolution is a rather pitiful attempt to deny God and to create some kind of phoney paradigm where, given enough time over “millions and millions of years”, that somehow, completely by chance, an incredibly sophisticated environment, would create incredibly sophisticated beings, all by complete chance. (Unless of course you believe the outside of the evolution fringe which tries to convince us aliens came here and started the human race, if not the entire ecosphere. That of course begs the question how aliens came about, but the evolution fringe element really doesn’t go that far, and frankly doesn’t seem to think that deeply.) Most real scientists today are rejecting Darwinian evolution and are growing in their perception of a design of the universe that is more and more incredibly complicated. The idea that says that this happened all by accident is becoming more and more discredited.

I am certainly not anti-intellectual, but those who pose as “intellectuals”, seem to more and more be anti-intellectual. There seems to be this element that thinks that education is more of an indoctrination, a learning of essential facts in order to continue to maintain the status quo, instead of what true science is, which is to continue to question, There is not supposed to be a science orthodoxy, a faith system that dictates that these are “facts” and not to be disputed. But there certainly is a scientism faith system. At least a deistic system (like Christianity)provides for some kind of tangible reality of creation. But the evolution, fringe element, moves even more to the fantastic, when it’s high priest, if not Pope, Stephen Hawking decides ex cathedra, that obviously there has always been gravity and that is what continues to pull the universe together and kicks off the whole “Big Bang”. I’m not opposed to the “Big Bang”, if God chose to use that as His method of kicking off the universe great! What better way than in an incredible flash of light that rocketed out from a tiny bit of mass. But to say that it was somehow always present and self- perpetuating is a faith system that demands a great deal more faith than God the Father of our Lord Jesus, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

God created us to be perfect, we, represented by Adam, decided, that what He did wasn’t good enough, we wanted more and basically Adam waved God off and said, no it’s all about me and what I want. That is the break in our relationship with God. From there sin did and continues to break us down, drive us further from Him, because more and more it’s all about us. So yes, we are “devolvoing” in the sense that we are moving farther away from God and making ourselves an idol. The farther we are from the Father, the more it’s about us, the more debased we become and yes, more like a “survival of the fittest” versus the love for the Father being projected on all those around us and from us to everyone else. The whole evolution argument is about us justifying that it’s about us and that God doesn’t matter. We find out who does, because the farther we are away from Him, the more debased, sinful we become the less human and compassionate and more about me. We can either realize how far we’ve fallen and strive for reality of Jesus. Or we can keep tanking and wonder why things have become more evil.

Our God is very much a living God, to quote the Newsboys “God’s not dead He’s surely alive, He’s living on the inside, roaring like a lion”. He roars to give us the integrity, courage, strength to live a life that truly worships and strives to serve a completely holy, perfect, sanctified God. He made all creation so that we could live as very complicated beings in an environment that supports us. We continue the intellectual challenge of understanding His creation and also Him, in order that we might grow to be more like Him, and not to be about what it is that I want, what I decide is important. When we grow towards God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit we don’t “evolve”, but we become more like Christ. That’s our true goal, we’re not going to evolve that way, it’s going to be about having the faith that God gives us to trust what the Holy Spirit is doing in us and to proceed out into the world in God’s will, not ours.

Science and Christian apologetics

It is important. I realize that too much focus on the “apologetics”, the issues that are based more in terms of history, science, social sciences, archaeology should never overshadow faith. They should never be the reason that we are Christians, that we know Christ as our Lord and Savior. Because I am giving this issue a lot of attention is not my way of saying Christianity is real, look at the documented facts. People may find the arguments compelling, they may even be convinced, but you are going to be saved by what the Holy Spirit is doing in your soul. Hey, who knows He may be using these arguments, but the cut to the chase is that coming to know Christ as your Lord will be because of Him, not because of what you do.

Now that I’m over the Gospel disclaimer, I move along to a book that I’ve been reading by Philip Yancey. I’ve written about those writers who, if they published their grocery list, I would read it. Yancey is one of those writers and much thanks to my brother in the Lord Rev Dr Mike Ramey for this gift.

The book, “Vanishing Grace”, seems to be sort of in the series of books, “What’s So Amazing About Grace”, for example, by Yancey. He discusses the fact that Christians and the church don’t seem to really practice grace and that there certainly isn’t any grace in contemporary society.

As part of the discussion he includes a section on the relation of science and Christianity. Most would say say that they are mutually exclusive, but when God is the One who has created all that science studies, clearly they aren’t. Yancey quotes Sir William Bragg, “…a pioneer in the field of X-ray crystallography, who was asked whether science and theology are opposed to one another: ‘They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers on my hand are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.’ For much of history the great scientists – Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Leibniz – believed their discoveries in ‘the ‘the book of nature’ comprised a form of revelation, teaching us clues about a creator God.” (p 177)

“I suggested to the panel that although science had contributed much to modern life, there are at least three important questions for which it has no answers since they lie beyond its bound. (1) Why is there something rather than nothing? (2) Why is that something so beautiful and orderly? (3) How ought we to conduct ourselves in such a world?…” (p 177)

Theology used to be considered the “Queen of the sciences”, that it was where all the sciences end up. There are those whose “faith” is in science, the evolutionists believes in Darwin’s writings even though it is not even a good hypothesis, no less ‘theory’. Their faith, compared to the reality of Jesus and His incarnational ministry, is most definitely “blind faith”. The historocity of Jesus is really beyond dispute, He is the most studied individual in history and despite fallacious attempts to discredit the original texts and writings down through the centuries the certainty of His life is more than any figure in antiquity.

Another discussion that’s been impressed on me is the impossibility of life here on earth. “Scientism” (my own creation for the ‘religion of science’) ‘science’ insists that there has to be life elsewhere. Hey maybe there is, God’s going to do His will regardless of the ‘impossibility’ involved, we’re here aren’t we? But to say that life can be blindly reproduced in other parts of the universe, despite the impossible odds of life on earth, is just not dealing with reality. “…In their heyday the Soviets swept the sky with huge antennas listening for messages. Some scientists estimated the universe the universe would reveal a hundred thousand, perhaps a million advanced civilizations. Enthusiasm cooled as, one by one the projects failed to turn up any evidence of intelligent life.” (p 178)

I would quickly note that the “SETI” program in the United States has been mostly discontinued except for sparse private funding.

Yancey elaborates on the discussion about the impossibility of blind creation of the universe. “Scientists themselves who calculate the odds of the universe coming into existence by accident suggest such boggling figures as one in 10 to the 60th power. [That’s one chance in 10 with 60 zeros]. Physicist Paul Davies explains, ‘To give some meaning to those numbers, suppose you wanted to fire a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away. Your aim would have to be accurate to that same part in 10 to the 60th power.’ Stephen Hawking admits that if the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had varied by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have recollapsed. That’s only the beginning: if the nuclear force in certain atoms varied by only a few percentage points then the sun and other stars would not exist. Life on earth depends on similarly delicate fine-tuning: a tiny change in gravity, a slight tilting of earth’s axis, or a small thickening in its crust would make conditions for life impossible.” (p 178)

Yancey goes on to describe the responses of the high-priests of evolution (my snide remark) and undirected creation which are to the effect, ‘hey don’t try to confuse me with the facts: “Confronted with the staggering odds against random existence, Richard Dawkins simply shrugs and says, ‘Well, we’re here, aren’t we?’ He, along with many others, sees no need to assume a Designer behind such apparent evidence of cosmic design (although in a conversation with Francis Collins, Dawkins admitted that the fine-tuning of the universe is the most troubling argument for nonbelievers to counter). Scientists in the U.S. are equally divided, with 51 percent believing in some form of deity.” (p 179)

“…it occurred to me, that if the odds were reversed we likely would not have had a discussion. If someone calculated the odds of God’s existence at one in 10 to the 60th power, I seriously doubt any scientists would waste their time discussing faith issues with people who believed in such an improbable God. Yet they happily accept those odds of a universe randomly coming into existence on its own.” (p 179)

Yancey goes on to write about the narrow mindedness, the denial of facts that’s often attributed to religious fundamentalists that scientists demonstrate. They are not just in denial, but they are pejorative in their attitudes towards people of faith. There is certainly antagonism by Christians towards the secular, but the antagonism of those of the faith of “scientism” is much more narrow minded and dismissive. “When I talked with the Nobel laureates later, I asked about their own belief or disbelief in God. All three spoke of a strict Jewish upbringing against which they later reacted. Martin Perl, discoverer of the Tau lepton particle, said candidly, ‘Ten percent of Americans claim to have been abducted by aliens, half are creationists, and half read horoscopes each day. Why should it surprise us if a majority believe in God? I oppose all such superstition, and in my experience religion is mostly harmful. I limit my beliefs to observation, not revelation.'” Wow, that’s pretty narrow and bigoted. I know Yancey would not appreciate my lack of graciousness, but come on, really I’m just pointing out the obvious.

This obvious narrow-minded bigotry is not, mercifully, universal among scientists. But you have to wonder, people who claim to be driven by “observation”, can sure pick and choose and live in such denial. “…Albert Einstein, was more receptive to faith: ‘The scientist must see all the fine and wise connections of the universe and appreciate that they are not of man’s invention. He must feel toward that which science has not yet realized like a child trying to understand the works and wisdom of a grown-up. As a consequence, every really deep scientist must necessarily have religious feeling.”‘

“Einstein marveled that our minds are able to assemble patterns of meaning. As he told a friend, ‘A priori, one should expect a chaotic world which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way.’ The fact that this isn’t the case, that the cosmos is comprehensible and follows laws gives evidence of a ‘God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists.’ Yet Einstein could not bring himself to believe in a personal God such as the Bible portrays…” (p 180)

“Other scientists share Einsteins’ childlike wonder. Alexander Tsiaras, a professor at the Yale Department of Medicine, entranced a sophisticated crown at a TED conference with a video of the fetal stages from conception to birth. he had written the soft ware to utilize an MRI technique that had earned its inventor a Nobel Prize. The video compresses nine months of growth and development into a nine-minute film…”

“The human body largely consists of collagen – hair, skin, nails, bones, tendon, gut, cartilage, blood vessels – Tsiaris explains in his introduction. A rope-like protein, collagen changes its structure in only one place, the cornea of the eye, where it spontaneously forms a transparent grid pattern. As the video of speeded-up fetal development plays, this mathematician drops his objectivity, awed by a system ‘so perfectly organized it’s hard not to attribute divinity to it… the magic of the mechanism inside each genetic structure saying exactly where that nerve cell should go.'”

“…the programmer Tsiaras remarks, ‘The complexity of the mathematical models of how these things are done is beyond human comprehension. Even though I am a mathematician, I look at this with marvel: How do these instruction sets not make mistakes as they build what is us? It’s a mystery, it’s magic, it’s divinity.'” (p 181)

Carl Sagan was, of course, the  high priest of “scientism” and was usually very antagonistic to Christianity. Despite his profound knowledge of the facts, he seemed to be much more motivated by self-promotion and enhancing the faith system he promoted. But Yancey writes:”…In an exchange of letters with Robert Seiple, then president of World Vision USA, Carl Sagan clarified that even he remained open to belief in God. He viewed with wonder the beauty and simplicity in the laws governing the cosmos. Summing up, he wrote, ‘As a scientist, I hold that belief should follow evidence and to my mind the evidence of the universe being created is far from compelling. I neither believe nor disbelieve. My mind is, I think, open, awaiting better data.'” (p 182)

I really hate it when someone plays me, and Sagan was playing. “Creationism” isn’t “proved” so I’m going to be a proponent of something that is statistically impossible, unless and until such time as there is proof of God. Huh? This is a person that is in denial. People like this love to talk about their objectivity, but they have none. Sorry, but these are narrow minded fanatics that insist that you agree with them in every detail or you’re the one with a problem. I’ve been watching a television show on people and their families who are out on the street abusing drugs. Frankly the attitude seems to be the same in “scientism”, don’t judge me, don’t try to confuse me with the facts, just enable me and leave me alone in my addiction, my denial, my own little abusive world. There are many scientists that are objective and have no problem trying to reconcile the reality of the created universe and the One who created it and His Son Jesus Christ who came to reveal the will of the One through whom all was created. I have always had an interest in various aspects of science long before I was a Christian. The astronauts of the 60s and 70s were my heros, I loved reading books dealing with astronomy and space travel. One of the earliest books I remembered reading was on Clyde Tombaugh, you know who he is? I have always been fascinated by astronomy, but seriously don’t get in my face trying to convince me that this massive, elaborate, amazing universe all spun into existence by accident. It didn’t and anyone who can understand probability understands that.