Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Wednesday, December 17, 2008

    Science - Discovery and Incredulity

    Modern quantum mechanics predicts that empty space should indeed be imbued with this strange energy, but the possibility that the dark energy might actually be Einstein’s cosmological constant has thrown physics into philosophical turmoil.

    According to the calculations, the cosmological constant should be 1060 times bigger than what astronomers have measured; in such a universe, stars, planets and of course ourselves could not exist. The only way out, some physicists and cosmologists argue, is to presume that our universe is only one of as many as 10500 parallel universes, in which the laws of physics happen to be conducive to our existence. But many others bitterly disagree.


    Quote taken from here.

    While I'll not attempt to solve the quantum mechanics debate, I do present the observation that it appears on one level the more advances in science and discovery of the universe...the more incredulous suggestions of a world without God are going to seem.

    11 comments:

    jazzycat said...

    They do seem to struggle with how matter/energy came from nothing and how life came from non-life!

    skeptimal said...

    "it appears on one level the more advances in science and discovery of the universe...the more incredulous suggestions of a world without God are going to seem."

    To the contrary, a pattern has emerged in the past four hundred years of science progress. A mystery arises and the various religions greet the open question as "proof of (insert god)'s existence;" some time later, a natural explanation is found. The natural explanation doesn't disprove the god's existence, but it undercuts the "evidence."

    If we start positing god as the explanation for every scientific question, what's the point of even looking for an answer?

    swordbearer said...

    If you look historically, Herbert Spenser's thesis is probably the closest when he states that civilization inevitably moves through an infant stage of superstition to a stage of organized religion and from this to a thrid stage in which belief is superseded by science ... but when science cannot provide all the answers and/or solutions hope has turned elsewhere and the entities emerge again. The only thing that can break the cycle is when the true gospel is preached and embraced which accounts not only for the basis of the evidence and science but provides a rational and revealed answer for the mysteries which science has not only not been able to answer but many of which it is not even equipped to answer such as the "why" behind what is. Your view of the last 400 years is narrow in that not only are looking from within today's perspective (on one level) but also fail to take into account the turning by much of the world at the same time to answers elsewhere.

    All this being said, my post remains, the greater the advances in science and the discoveries of what lies beyond, within, etc., and all that must remain in such a precise balance for life to be sustained, not only is the incredible nature of it continuing to grow as our knowledge of it grows, but the likelihood of it being "random" or "by chance" (as if it weren't already so infinitesimally unlikely) continues to shrink at speeds related to advancements in our science.

    skeptimal said...

    "(T)he true gospel accounts not only for the basis of the evidence and science but provides a rational and revealed answer for the mysteries which science...is not ... equipped to answer such as the "why" behind what is."

    You're mixing logical arguments with statements of faith, but I agree with you that science does not address the philosophical questions, nor does it attempt to.

    Science isn't going to provide the tidy philosophical answers that people find easier to grasp. That's why I don't think science is going to supplant religion. Just as people are usually uncomfortable sitting with their back toward a dark cave, people are uncomfortable with unanswered questions. Religion provides answers, truthful or not, and that is a seductive comfort.

    That having been said, science does not disprove the existence of gods or the possibility of divine interventions at points in history. I don't think they're worth putting any faith in, mind you, but we differ on that.

    Puritan Lad said...

    One reason that I'm not a huge fan of "scientific apologetics" is that it assumes that science actually make sense without God. I don't accep this premise. Before one can even begin to do science, he has to make certain assumptions that an atheist has no right to make. Science presupposes that God created teh physical universe, upholds it by his providence (uniformity), and gives the human mind the ability to learn about and understand the created order. Science is a throughly Christian concept.

    swordbearer said...

    skeptimal stated: "You're mixing logical arguments with statements of faith, but I agree with you that science does not address the philosophical questions, nor does it attempt to.

    Response: Seems to me that to "presume that our universe is only one of as many as 10500 parallel universes" ... which all would have to operate to maintain a pretty precise balance for life to be sustained (and do so "randomly" or "by chance") ... is a pretty good mixture of faith and logic of its own! If you want you to rest your hope and life on that, go ahead... I doubt much anyone could say will stop you.

    skeptimal said...

    "You're mixing logical arguments with statements of faith"

    I wasn't contrasting your response with the theory referenced in your original post. I was talking about within your response itself, where you said: "The only thing that can break the cycle is when the true gospel..."

    That last reads like a statement of faith to me. That doesn't mean it's wrong, but it's not really an argument.


    On a different issue, you said: "If you want you to rest your hope and life on that, go ahead..."

    The theory itself of the 10500 universes is an unproven one, and not something I think anyone puts actual faith into. It's intended a possible explanation for the facts.

    skeptimal said...

    "Science is a throughly Christian concept."

    Science is neither Christian nor atheist. It's a method of study that says it is better to presuppose a natural explanation. Since supernatural events couldn't be studied, science limits itself to the natural.

    The rest of your post is something you've repeated many times, but either I'm too stupid to understand it (a distinct possibility), or you're not communicating your point very well.

    Puritan Lad said...

    Atheistic "science" attempts to limit itself to the natural, but cannot consistently do so. There is no way, for example, to ever prove that any future event will behave like the past. Science merely has to assume this to be true, yet has no right to do so in an atheistic worldview. Any sort of inductive reasoning assumes the Providence of God.

    I know you try to shy away from the "philosophical" approach to these discussions. However, this approach is inescapable. Your approach to science is a philosophical approach, which David Hume, one of your own, has shown to be irrational.

    Science is not "truth". Science is a tool. It is a useful tool, but it does have it's limits, as you have already acknowledged. Therefore, science is a poor starting point for metaphysical discussions. You cannot scientifically prove that God does not exist, nor can I scientifically prove (at least with your starting point) His existence. I can, however, offer the following "scientific" proof, which should at least get you to examine your own metaphysical presuppositions (and you do have them).

    Premise A: If there is natural law, then God exists, since God is the precondition of natural law.

    Premise B: There is natural law

    Conclusion: God exists.

    Since you obvious accept Premise B, by the admission of your last post, then you must object to Premise A, that God is the precondition of natural law. However, rejecting the premise is not the same as refuting it. The task before you, as such, is to refute Hume's Skepticism of Induction and show how atheism can account for natural law (or any universal law for that matter).

    Thus any appeal to science must assume the truth of Hebrews 1:3, that God upholds all things by the Word of His power. This is one way that you know God, but yet reject him by commiting yourself, with no logial reason, to a naturalistic worldview.

    You see Skeptimal, the problem that you have isn't with a lack of evidence, for you have the same evidence that I do. The problem is with your metaphysics. You have made certain assumptions that determine what you accept as evidence, and in your case, the only acceptable evidence is whatever appeals to your five senses. The problem: You cannot hold this line consistently.

    There is much more to discuss in this area, but the above is a good starting point. I'll await your refutation of Hume. Until then, Premise A stands, and thus the proof.

    skeptimal said...

    "Any sort of inductive reasoning assumes the Providence of God."

    You seem to confuse making a reasonable assumption based on available experience and evidence with making a faith-based leap. That's the only way I can imagine you arriving at this conclusion.

    "If there is natural law, then God exists, since God is the precondition of natural law..."

    Why? Because Hume says that our reasoning is based on experience rather than pure spontaneous induction?

    "The task before you, as such, is to refute Hume's Skepticism of Induction..."

    I don't recall having championed pure, experienceless induction, nor is doing so a requirement in any philosophy that I'm aware of.


    "...and show how atheism can account for natural law (or any universal law for that matter)."

    Natural laws don't necessarily need an origin or cause, any more than gods do.

    "You have made certain assumptions that determine what you accept as evidence,"

    which is true of all people...

    " and in your case, the only acceptable evidence is whatever appeals to your five senses."

    I actually think that's more true of the religious than of skeptics. The religious look around them and see things they can't explain, and they take that as proof of one or more gods. Skeptics are more likely to recognize that the senses can be fooled.

    I, by the way, believe in many things you can't observe with the five senses. I'm even open to the possibility of a supreme being. I just don't fall back on the supernatural to explain things I don't understand.

    Puritan Lad said...

    Skeptimal, you are not consistent in your skepticism. What if I were to argue for Christianity based on personal experience? Would you accept that as a valid argument?

    As far as natural laws go, the problem that you face is more than just an issue of origins. You cannot account for or justify any sort of induction, which is a requirement for establishing natural law. Natural law, by definition, must be universal in order for science to make sense, yet no one has universal experience. Isolated "personal experiences" are not acceptable for establishing universal law. What makes your "experience" more significant than that of Isaiah's (Chapter 6)?

    You are correct that all people have presuppositions that determine what we accept as evidence. In no place can your precommitment to naturalism be seen more than in the following comment.

    "I'm even open to the possibility of a supreme being. I just don't fall back on the supernatural to explain things I don't understand."

    On one hand, you say that you are "open to the possibility of a supreme being", yet in the very next sentence, you commit yourself to naturalism in a way that removes that supreme being as a possible answer for anything. BTW: I don't fall back on the supernatural to explain things I don't understand. Like your worldview, mine involves a precommitment. God is the source of Creation, Providence, Intelligible Experience, and Morality. The Christain worldview alone can account for these things. That's the trouble with your worldview. You cannot justify the tools that you use for debate without borrowing from the Christian worldview. Induction is but one example. Your use of "personal experience" is not a valid arguement, nor is it consistently applied. For the reason that I am a Christian is because the Father has revealed these truths to me. (Matthew 16:17). Whose experience should we trust in? Mine or yours? Popular vote??? Christianity wins, at least in it's broadest form.