Are you afraid that “Science will someday rule out the possibility of God?”

God as Architect/Geometer, from the frontispie...

God as Architect/Geometer, from the frontispiece of French Codex Vindobonensis 2554, ca. 1250. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The article has the title “Will science will someday rule out the possibility of God?”  It is a Livescience.com piece posted on Yahoo! in which I found nothing new. I felt a little duped by the end of it; sucked in by a title in the same way that many of you were enticed to reading this blog. So, rather than resurrecting the tired debate I’d rather focus on our reactions to the idea.

Did you experience at least a little fear? Scientists are so smart and persuasive that they have convinced many to question and even outright reject the idea of a supernatural being. The Christian community, even some of us that are scientists, effectively fights back in support the existence of God. But, it seems at times that more people lean toward believing misdirected scientists.

When I clicked it was more out of a professional curiosity. I was looking to see if something was discovered that could fool people yet again. So, admittedly, my immediate response is naturally aligned to refute the error, back arched and claws out. This is how I prepare myself against the experts, anyway. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid they’ll say something I’ll have trouble defending? After all, they only come at the debate of the existence of God from a scientific point of view. I had believed that until I came to the end of the article, at least:

Judged by the standards of any other scientific theory, the “God hypothesis” does not do very well, Carroll argues. But he grants that “the idea of God has functions other than those of a scientific hypothesis.”

Psychology research suggests that belief in the supernatural acts as societal glue and motivates people to follow the rules; further, belief in the afterlife helps people grieve and staves off fears of death.

“We’re not designed at the level of theoretical physics,” Daniel Kruger, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Michigan, told LiveScience last year. What matters to most people “is what happens at the human scale, relationships to other people, things we experience in a lifetime.”

This time the scientist nailed it. Even if science comes up with a clever way to refute God’s existence – even for a time – science isn’t the only way people look for God. People are designed to be concerned more with what happens on the human scale, a scale with which everybody is equipped to find evidence firsthand. It’s a nice hint for some overreaching theologians too.

Anyway, I believe that since God made science it will always point to him whether or not people choose to see it. This article didn’t bring about fear for my own faith, but fear that it could mislead others.

What did you feel when you first read the title of this article?

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13 thoughts on “Are you afraid that “Science will someday rule out the possibility of God?”

  1. My stance on this is, and has been since Grammar School (that is a UK High School which you have to pass a scholarship to get into, not trying to be elitist just giving context), that I will allow unbelievers any hypothesis they they want. Big bang, sublimation of gases etc., and when they have finished I simply ask them “OK IF it was a big bang, where did the combustables come from and who/what ignited them?”. I have yet to receive a cogent logical response, so for me no science has not ruled out the possibility of God.

    • Isn’t the usual answer to that “well, ok, then what created God?” You’ve just pushed the “why is there something rather than nothing” question up a level, and haven’t really answered anything.

      If the argument is about the existence of something “outside of our system”, a supernatural level– well, yeah, by definition it’s gonna be hard for science to say there’s not, since science and skeptical inquiry is “only” the best way of understanding the system.

      But what you do come to rather quickly is the question “well why THIS interpretation of God?”. Or any particular interpretation (i.e. religious tradition) that more often than not tries to stake out “we have Faith that tells us we’re right, those other guys must be lying or sadly misled, maybe by demons!”

      Which then brings us back to what the scientist in the article ended with, the only-subjectively-true sense of God that can bring a sense of meaning and morality. But by my reckoning and observation, that’s not enough for most believers; they want the objectively- and literally-, not just poetically-, true God. (In this fundamentalist-soaked culture, we tend to forget that this wasn’t always so true. Karen Armstrong’s “The Case for God”, she describes how during the scientific revolution Religion, especially Christianity, hitched its wagon to the new findings of science. This relationship made sense at first, but grew more strained and ultimately extremely brittle with simple stuff like the timeline genealogy of Adam to Jesus and evidence of a very old Earth and a very gradual process of Evolution. But before this hitching, something like Stephen Jay Gould’s ” “Non-Overlapping Magisteria” (that science and religion talk about different things) periodically had more power, at least among people who want to think about this stuff more deeply.)

      This is why we need a pluralistic, secular society in control, because there just ain’t no way we’re gonna work this stuff out, people’s incompatible faiths are just too entrenched. Islamic protesters can’t understand why our government doesn’t put the banhammer down on that stupid, stupid youtube trailer, because the separation of church and state isn’t really a part of their worldview.

      • Hey Kirk! Good to hear from you again.

        The usual answer to the question of who created God is a major point of our side of the argument. Our point is the the Creator is above what he created. Nobody created God because He always was and is, hence the “I am that I am” divine self-description in the Bible.

        Surprise, surprise, but I have to disagree with you on the idea that science is the best way of understanding the system. It is one way. And skeptical inquiry ends, in my opinion, with those who say that the big bang theory must be correct when there’s no way to scientifically prove it. All they have to go on is a theory based on what is known (scientifically) about our universe. Skepticism only towards intelligent design and not towards their own theories isn’t really a scientific approach in the truest sense. It is a theory they present as fact even though it cannot be proven (we can’t actually see it).

        Many scientist believe that there isn’t a God because he can’t be proven scientifically. Well, he can’t be disproven scientifically either, so our belief in him shouldn’t be so easily poo-pooed. I guess that’s why I’m not intimidated, like many of those who’ve read this blog, by the article. Faith is a vital component of the God-system that’s not based on a scientific formula (quite the opposite, actually), and those who try to evaluate faith only as some scientific quantity, ignoring the spiritual aspect of it, will always be frustrated by it.

        And, once again, it must be pointed out that there are many disagreements among Christians as well. There are those who believe in the theory of evolution, either in its entirety or as an amalgamation of creationism and evolution. Using the Christian church over history isn’t a valid approach to fault our faith over science currently because, as we all know, the “church” got it wrong many, many times. Just because the Pope says clergy can’t be married, that doesn’t mean all of us believe it.

        But, once again, there is something I agree with you about! The concept of the separation of church and state in the constitution was about not allowing the government to have oversight of religion in this great nation. Neither was it meant to crush an unpopular faith. I wouldn’t want the Baptists or Methodists as the state religion any more than Islam. After all, if Jesus was the kind of Messiah to take over the government, he certainly could have. And I wouldn’t want only creationism taught in our schools because the theory of evolution, as well as the big bang theory, needs to be taught as well.

        Thanks for your thoughts, Kirk.

  2. Just because you can conceptualized something as “uncreated because it always was”, doesn’t mean that it’s a coherent concept. Sarcastic jokesters talk about the Invisible Pink Unicorns (that are as un-disprovable as most religions) and part of the joke is the juxtaposition of Invisible with Pink; it’s not a concept that has actual meaning. (I think most people see Anselm’s Ontological argument for pushing the boundaries of this kind of trying to parlay conceptions into reality “by definition”)

    What science brings to the table is shared observations of the outside world with falsifiability. This gets more trustworthy results for understanding the system, because observation is made, doctrine is formed (but loosely held) and when later observations contradict the doctrine, the doctrine is dropped. This is not what happens in faith.

    The Big Bang Theory is probably less trustworthy than Evolution, say, because there isn’t as much evidence right at hand. But it explains things that need explaining if we’re to understand the universe as it is, like why Galaxies are all racing away from each other. (And why are they accelerating? The jury is still out, but “must be God pushing them” isn’t a terrific answer, even apart from the second question “well which God?” )

    As for evolutionists not having skepticism about their own theories… well, that’s just not true. Admittedly they do bank on the generations of skeptical analysis that has gone on before, predictions that were made and then confirmed, tons of fossil evidence, etc, but at some point it’s just wrong and bullheaded to say accounts that disregard evolution are just as likely to be true as ones that embrace it. “Teach the Controversy” really misrepresents the consensus on the broad outlines of how our planet got to where it is now.

    You say it’s wrong to poo-poo God because he can’t be disproven, but that’s kind of the point: science doesn’t really talk about things that can’t be falsified, and your conception of God is in that territory. Now, these cranky scientists might make better arguments that any literal interpretation of any particular traditional holy book is untenable because of contradictory evidence we have at hand, and then on their own volition go off to say that they personally think there’s no God, but they aren’t really speaking as scientists at that point.

    Anyway, the idea of a secular state also has to protect people of no faith or belief in the supernatural, not just unpopular faiths.

    I still haven’t found a good answer for “why are there so many devout Moslems in the world”, which is about half of what set me off onto my path of skepticism.

    Thanks for the time.

    • It’s not a coherent concept if the only evidence used is what we know scientifically. The biggest difficulty with taking a scientific approach to God is that he is not subject to the laws he set for his created world. If you don’t believe that Jesus healed a man who had been born blind or fed thousands of people with a boy’s lunch, it’s probably because it can’t be proven scientifically – and that’s exactly my point. A miracle, by definition, is something that breaks the laws of science and must be attributed to a super-human cause. So, if you’re right about science not addressing things that can’t be falsified, why do the writers of the article this blog comments on spend so much time trying to do just that? You do admit that they aren’t speaking as scientists at that point, but I hope you can see my confusion as someone without a particularly scientific mind. Anyway, it’s a coherent concept to me because I come from a faith perspective with evidence taken from the lives of people (including myself), which is far different then a provable theory involving the manipulation of variables done in a laboratory.

      Good point about evolutionists showing being skeptical at times of their own theory. I remember hearing that Darwin didn’t hold to it completely himself (?).

      I can’t help but notice that a great deal of your evidence for there being no God is that his people can’t get their religion right. That argument holds a lot more weight with me! Your observation is quite godly, my friend. The Bible is full of stories of God’s people not living the lives He called them to live. Even the Apostle Paul called out the Apostle Peter on acting inconsistently towards the gentile believers when the big wigs from Jerusalem paid a visit. God didn’t chuck him out, he corrected him. The problem with many Christians is that we don’t admit our failures and so we don’t deal with them. Also, we fight to hard to defend our denomination at times instead of being who Jesus calls us to be.

      We agree again! Our government needs to protect everyone’s right to believe or to not believe in anything. God doesn’t force anyone to believe in him, and neither should we.

      Interesting question about “why are there so many devout Muslims in the world.” Sounds like a good future blog post!

      Thanks for your time, Kirk. If you spend half as much time as I do thinking about your responses, you’ve spent hours at the computer already.

  3. It’s not just what we know scientifically, it’s what people know philosophically and logically. “If A, then B” “If B, then C” “A, therefore, C”– a ‘self-created God’ is not just outside of our system in a supernatural way, it represents a new form of logic– and if that IS how the system-outside-of-our-system works, then there’s nothing it COULDN’T be, and you still have to pick which religion you’re following, and why– but most people don’t even get that far, self-examination is not our species’ strong suit, statistically speaking.

    It reminds me to of the sometimes self-affirming nature of faith, especially when a faith quotes itself to try to prove itself. Lately I’ve heard that expressed in Tim Minchin’s “The Good Book”:

    I know the Good Book’s good because the Good Book says it’s good
    I know the Good Book knows it’s good because a really good book would
    You wouldn’t cook without a cookbook and I think it’s understood
    You can’t be good without a Good Book ‘cos it’s good and it’s a book

    I do think Darwin believed in Darwinism as we use the term. (What’s more astounding about what he formulated is that by careful observation of the world he came up with a great theory about what was going on without any idea of what the mechanism behind it was… gene theory wasn’t even in its infancy when he was going about his work.)

    My argument isn’t “people not getting their religion right”? I think– I mean, a plain-reading of that would be that I’m picking on believers who aren’t living up to the ideals of their faith, which ain’t my thing– I’m comfortable with human foibles. (Though secretly, the OTHER half of what sent me on this path in 1991 or so was the suspiciously clockwork nature of folks’ annual repenting at Star Lake’s final Sunday meeting altar call– it seemed likely to me that such regularity was more in the provenance of psychology than the divine. But now I’ve matured, I know that it’s not a great argument for a number of reasons, from it second guessing God’s Mysterious(ly predictable) Ways to being too dismissive of the psychological importance of repetenence and catharsis.)

    I would love to read a blog post on “The Problem of Devout Moslems”. Sometimes that’s what’s frustrating for me; it seems like arguments for God in general (a supernatural, creative force, ultimately beyond our ken) often ignore the “well, why THIS revalation of God, and are the Hindus Moslems Pagans Bhuddists [Other Denominations] misled or evil or both, or is it one of those mushy ‘many paths’ things, and the important thing is to be reall sincere about one of those paths, or what…” Or is it “you can’t know it ’til you lived it”, which really is at huge risk of being a big case of confirmation bias…

  4. Science is a relatively new concept. And you are correct in stating that God created science. Instead of choosing to look at science as “ignoring God” I choose to look at it as worshiping God and learning more about his wondrous creation.

    I sometimes laugh at people that attempt to disprove the existence of God. These are the same people that try to bate me into proving God’s existence. I mean what is more ridiculous creation exploding from nothing or a God that created it? To me it is evident that creation proves God’s existence.

    Maybe we should ask “Why are folks so bent of disproving God?” Is there a need there? Kinda seems like they need to disprove God for themselves. We always here why believers have a need to have a God.

    • Jon! Thanks for commenting, man. I’ve never understood how it’s easier for people to believe that we came from nothing than to believe that there is a God who made it all. But, I guess our upbringing makes it easier for us?

      I think you have something there. Maybe people are so bent on disproving God for their own sakes because they want to be sure. Maybe even to ease their consciences. Or, maybe it’s because Christians they’ve come into contact with haven’t shown God in a real way, so they don’t have any real evidence?

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, my friend.

      • Yes, Kirk, we do. That’s the part of this pursuit where our actions prove our faith. Our God is the right God not just because the vast amount of prophecies that have come true, but because his followers live out the life he calls us to with power and effectiveness that can only be superhuman. If other belief systems can do the same, then follow their gods. It’s a great responsibility that so many Christians have fallen short of. Obviously, I’m included in that, my friend.

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