Science and Materialistic Naturalism

Discussion in 'Creation vs. Evolution' started by Administrator2, Mar 1, 2002.

  1. Administrator2

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    DAVE COX

    As a semi-regular lurker here, I have noticed a general distaste among the creationist camp for the general tenets of modern mainstream science, specifically its general avoidance of supernatural explanations for observed phenomenon. This has been referred to here as "materialistic naturalism."

    I would like to open a discussion about this, and get some insight as to why this "materialistic naturalism" is unacceptable and/or incomplete in the eyes of the young-earth creationist. Obviously, the conclusions reached using this philosophy are in stark contrast to the YEC worldview. Therefore, is it reasonable to assume that a different philosophy would yield harmony with this worldview? If so, how would this philosophy be described? What is it that is wrong with "materialistic naturalism?"
     
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    SOS

    I cannot answer for anyone else but I am sure my perspective is certainly not unique amongst YEC’s. Personally, I do not consider that I have a “general distaste… for the general tenets of modern mainstream science.” I think that science is great… as far as it can legitimately describe and predict the natural working of the world. I just do not happen to think that science has a legitimate claim to have the exclusive rights to define that all of reality is limited to materialistic naturalism. The scope of science itself is now limited (by definition) to the natural bounds (i.e., no possibility of supernatural intervention with natural processes) of the materialistic universe (i.e., the matter and energy contained within the 3 dimensions plus time… the detectable, knowable cosmos).
    I say that science is “now limited” because the roots of science was actually founded in Christian theology. See Stanley Jaki's, The Savior of Science (review here:
    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/a/science_origin.html )

    and The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy by Nancy R. Pearcey and Charles Thaxton (Charles Colson outlines some of the main thoughts here:

    http://www.ldolphin.org/colson.html ).

    “Science” was once a branch of philosophy that sought to find the truth about how God’s creation worked. Science was once a quest for truth. The highest truth was obtained knowledge of God through the study of theology and through a personal relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ. The knowledge of God’s works through the study of science was considered secondary. Almost all the early great scientists were Christians and one of the greatest scientists ever, Sir Isaac Newton, considered his writings of scientific nature to be of much less importance than his voluminous writings on the scripture.

    As an aside indicting the thinking of today, it is also interesting to note that the majority of Newton’s writings (which were about the Bible and Christ) still remain unpublished today. Years ago (in 1940), the once conservative Christian school of Harvard refused to accept Sir Isaac Newton’s religious writings. Princeton and Yale also refused them, even at the request of Professor Albert Einstein and the then owner Professor A.S. Yahuda. These historical documents are now housed at the National Jewish Library at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I have read that a Professor Richard Popkin was quoted in an Israeli newspaper (Al Hamishar, July 26,1985) as revealing that a London professor told him, “Newton’s writings on the Bible should be ‘burnt’ because they are harmful to science.”

    The matter of origins, however, is historical and not empirical. Raw data must be interpreted upon the presuppositions of the scientists. All scientists have “world-view” paradigms just as everyone else does. If that paradigm excludes any possibility of the existence of a supernatural creator (as well as other supernatural intelligent created beings), then the conclusions that are drawn must comply with naturalistic processes within the material world. Hence, when the concept of reality is devoid or supposedly neutral of a concept of the personal creator God of the Judean-Christian scriptures, science becomes a tool reinforcing a concept of atheism. If the cosmos is all there is in reality and if we can explain everything by known natural process, then God becomes (for all practical purposes) a dispensable joke.
    David Hume tried to define God out of existence by (in essence) saying miracles and the supernatural violated natural laws and since we know nothing violates natural laws, miracles and the supernatural don’t exist. The intervention of a supernatural God into our limited concept of reality is viewed as a miracle BECAUSE it violates the natural law… God does not go away because someone wants to define Him out of existence. Likewise, saying that miracles can’t happen because we cannot test them by methods that are dedicated to studying natural phenomena (like creation) is merely a lame “Catch 22” phrase… the advent of life has ALL the earmarks of intelligent design. In any other conceivable “scientific” scenario, the self-construction of what amounts to a bio-chemical equivalent of a self-replicating, self-repairing von Neumann machine would be considered an absurdity.

    Science can recognize the limitations of naturalistic processes. Just as we all recognize that blocks of stone don't become buildings from naturalistic processes (there may be caves, but there are no skyscrapers formed naturally) so too should we be able to recognize when basic chemistry just doesn't provide the impetus to build bio-chemical machinery without intelligence. Does the level of complexity of even the simplest living cell (or proto-cell) imply imputed organization rather than self-organization?

    The skeptic, if he is to be honest about his own belief system, MUST be able to demonstrate the possibility of the naturalistic self-formation of life from non-living chemicals or else he is merely exhibiting that very quality he ridicules the theists for - faith!

    The "atheism of the gaps" is actually less rational than the "God of the gaps" because the skeptic claims that the natural universe is ALL that exists (there are no supernatural beings) yet the skeptic cannot (as yet) produce ANY real evidence demonstrating that natural processes are even theoretically capable of producing even the most rudimentary form of life. Very few today would argue against the statement that, based on what we KNOW (to date), life is at best a very highly improbable arrangement of matter. The skeptic's "out" is simply that we are here, so no matter how improbable, it must have happened. Any other answer is unscientific. But, reality may not be limited to what science defines... and if the naturalistic processes are found wanting, then the only rational alternative is the "unscientific" one.

    Science can only assess the degree of probability of an event. The probability of the organization of basic elements into a functional symbiotic self-replicating, self-repairing bio-chemical MACHINE is beyond the capacity of those elements to perform on its own (based on what we actually know). In order to achieve the properties we see inherent in life, the molecules must somehow overcome increasingly more difficult levels of complexity. Each "higher" stage is therefore less probable than the preceding one. The probability of natural processes (as we currently understand them) to be able to "create" even the most rudimentary living organism appears to be infinitely small (sort of like having all the air molecules suddenly move to one corner of the room). Impossible? No, just very, very unlikely.
    Naturalistic materialism wishes to condense reality to reductionism and atheism – THAT is what both YEC’s and other Christians reject about that philosophy.
     
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    THE BARBARIAN

    SOS:
    I think that science is great as far as it can legitimately describe and
    predict the natural working of the world. I just do not happen to think that
    science has a legitimate claim to have the exclusive rights to define that
    all of reality is limited to materialistic naturalism.


    Good news. It doesn't have such a claim, nor does it try to make one.
    There is an important distinction between the methodological naturalism of
    science, which admits that science can't be involved with supernatural
    things (can't even say if such things exist or not) and the ontological
    naturalism that denies there is anything but the natural universe.

    SOS:
    The scope of science itself is now limited (by definition) to the natural
    bounds (i.e., no possibility of supernatural intervention with natural
    processes) of the materialistic universe (i.e., the matter and energy
    contained within the 3 dimensions plus time the detectable, knowable
    cosmos).


    Not quite. Science does not deny such things exist; it merely acknowledges
    that it has no way to deal with them, if they do.

    SOS:
    I say that science is now limited because the roots of science was
    actually founded in Christian theology.


    I have a hard time thinking of the Ionian Greeks and the Medieval Muslims as
    proponents of Christian theology. Our concept of the universe as accessible
    to math and evidence is preChristian, and the scientific method is first
    expounded by Islamic scientists. What is unique is the methodological
    naturalism that arose in post-Renaissance Christian Europe, in which Western
    scientists slowly shed the assumptions of magic from the process that became
    modern science. But we owe a deep and enduring debt to non-Christian
    scientists who provided the roots for that progress.

    SOS:
    Science was once a branch of philosophy that sought to find the truth
    about how Gods creation worked. Science was once a quest for truth. The
    highest truth was obtained knowledge of God through the study of theology
    and through a personal relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ.
    The knowledge of Gods works through the study of science was considered
    secondary.


    It's true. But notice that at the point that Western science became
    methodologically naturalistic, it began to quickly advance ahead of that of
    other cultures.

    SOS:
    Almost all the early great scientists were Christians

    Hmm...
    Aristotle (first systematic biologist)

    Eratstosthenes (demonstrated the Earth was a sphere, and accurately measured
    it's circumference)

    Aristarchus (first deduced the fact that the Earth orbits the Sun, and the
    approximate relative distances of the Sun and the Moon)

    Ibn Al-Haythem (first scientific investigation of optics)

    Mohammad Ibn Musa al-Khawarizmi (invented algebra (which was named after his
    book describing the discovery)

    Omar Al-Khayyam (mathematician and astronomer who produced a calendar
    superior to our own Gregorian calendar)

    Archimedes (concept of density, Use of optics to focus sunlight,
    engineering)

    Claudius Ptolemy (first precise astronomical observations used to produce a
    more accurate system of tracking planetary movements)

    Isaak Newton - Arguably the greatest scientist of all time. Great
    contributions in physics and astronomy. Not a Christian, rejected the
    divinity of Christ.

    No, it would be wrong to suppose all, or even most early scientists were
    Christian. Later on, that changed. Today many of us are Christians.
    Perhaps even the largest portion of us.

    SOS:
    and one of the greatest scientists ever, Sir Isaac Newton, considered his
    writings of scientific nature to be of much less importance than his
    voluminous writings on the scripture.


    True, but he wasn't a Christian. Arian heretic, who denied Christ to be
    equal to God.

    SOS
    Hence, when the concept of reality is devoid or supposedly neutral of a
    concept of the personal creator God of the Judean-Christian scriptures,
    science becomes a tool reinforcing a concept of atheism. If the cosmos is
    all there is in reality and if we can explain everything by known natural
    process, then God becomes (for all practical purposes) a dispensable
    joke.


    No, that's wrong. Even most atheists will readily agree that science cannot
    reinforce atheism, because it cannot refute the concept of God.

    Since there is no convincing evidence that shows life had to originate by
    natural or by supernatural means, science can't say whether or not Scripture
    is right when it says this happened by natural means. I believe it is true,
    but I can't use science to show it is so.

    SOS:
    The "atheism of the gaps" is actually less rational than the "God of the
    gaps" because the skeptic claims that the natural universe is ALL that
    exists (there are no supernatural beings) yet the skeptic cannot (as yet)
    produce ANY real evidence demonstrating that natural processes are even
    theoretically capable of producing even the most rudimentary form of
    life.


    Good point. Most "atheists" actually say that they simply see no evidence
    for God. Few of them say that they can demonstrate that God does not exist.

    SOS:
    Very few today would argue against the statement that, based on what we
    KNOW (to date), life is at best a very highly improbable arrangement of
    matter. The skeptic's "out" is simply that we are here, so no matter how
    improbable, it must have happened. Any other answer is unscientific. But,
    reality may not be limited to what science defines... and if the
    naturalistic processes are found wanting, then the only rational alternative
    is the "unscientific" one.


    We have God's word for it, of course, but as we learn more about the way
    life works, it looks more and more like He was right. Life does seem to be
    the result of God's creation by natural processes, just as He said.

    SOS:
    Science can only assess the degree of probability of an event. The
    probability of the organization of basic elements into a functional
    symbiotic self-replicating, self-repairing bio-chemical MACHINE is beyond
    the capacity of those elements to perform on its own (based on what we
    actually know).


    In fact, we don't know enough about the subject yet, to even say what the
    probabilities might be. They might be close to 1.0, or they might be
    prohibitively small. No one knows yet. And no honest person says that he
    knows what the probability is.

    SOS:
    Naturalistic materialism wishes to condense reality to reductionism and
    atheism  THAT is what both YECs and other Christians reject about that
    philosophy.


    What Christians do accept is the methodological naturalism of modern
    science. Because it does not rule out God and the supernatural, it is
    entirely consistant with our beliefs as Christians.
     
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    SOS

    I do not disagree that Christians accept "the methodological naturalism
    of modern
    science. Because it does not rule out God and the supernatural, it is
    entirely consistent with our beliefs as Christians.
    " "Science" as the
    noble concept - the idealistic methodology of gathering and
    formulating knowledge of the natural world - is ideologically neutral in its
    stance towards the supernatural. In other words, as a tool for studying
    nature in and of itself I would agree that science is neutral towards
    religious beliefs. Again, modern science was used and developed by people
    who were often religious... even Christian. This is not to say that others
    of other cultures and times have not contributed to our scientific
    understanding but it is from the culture of the Judeo-Christian West that
    science has flourished. This is largely true because of the foundational
    beliefs that nature is real and not illusionary as taught in pantheistic
    Eastern philosophies (especially those forms which adopt the concept of
    monism). I do not think Christians in general or even YEC's have problems
    with true science and I did not mean to imply they did. However, the topic
    within the "Creation vs. Evolution" board is hardly one that is centered on
    true empirical science.

    "Science" may ideally be unbiased but it is scientists whom conduct science.
    Scientists are certainly people and as such are hardly neutral or unbiased.
    While one's bias hardly comes into the question when collecting data by
    doing things like measuring temperature, etc., one's bias certainly comes
    into play when interpreting the data... more so when that data must be
    interpolated and is based on a variety of assumptions... and especially so
    when the topic of origins is pertinent as the possibility of a supernatural
    creation is certainly a possibility. The very fact that the methodology
    of science cannot deal with or recognize anything supernatural MUST result
    in conclusions that are biased towards naturalism... any other conclusion is
    not "scientific" even when the actual evidence would indicate that an
    infusion of intelligence is required (such as abiogenesis). In many cases it
    becomes very unclear in publications as to where the true science stops and
    the ideas and philosophy of the scientists begin.


    On abiogenesis again, I would not agree that we "don't know enough about
    the subject yet, to even say what the probabilities might be. They might be
    close to 1.0, or they might be prohibitively small. No one knows yet. And no
    honest person says that he knows what the probability is.
    " Based on what
    we do actually know (not wishful thinking), the probability of life
    spontaneously appearing even under the best imaginable conditions and even
    given a couple of billion years to evolve is still, by most honest accounts,
    extremely remote. I would agree that we don't know what that number is
    exactly, but it is hardly anything approaching 1.0 and anyone saying
    otherwise needs to put forth some hard evidence other than non-natural
    purified strands of chemicals that under perfect conditions and supervised
    care by intelligent humans can produce limited parodies of some life
    functions.

    Science's view of reality is LIMITED just as many of the early Christian
    scientists (and others) were well aware of. While there are many scientists
    that openly recognize this, there are public figure scientists like the late
    Carl Sagan, an atheist, who openly proclaim on national TV and in books that
    "the Cosmos is all there is or was or ever will be" ... THAT is the
    philosophy of naturalistic materialism and it is VERY common to see it being
    paraded about as scientific "truth" (if not so much in the scientific
    journals certainly before the public). Richard Dawkins or any scientist in
    the "freethought" or skeptic societies openly and publicly ridicules any
    suggestion of the supernatural. Any thought of invoking any supernaturally
    based theory is considered not only anti-scientific but also anti-knowledge
    and even evil by the skeptics. That is not exactly neutral and it IS
    claiming that only by the scientific method can knowledge be obtained.

    Naturalistic conclusions are foundational to the atheistic paradigm. That is
    not to say that everyone who does science becomes an atheist. But I believe
    that studies have shown that there are proportionally more atheists in
    scientific endeavors than in the general public. Atheism is a logical
    extension of the philosophy of naturalism when one believes that the cosmos
    is all there is or was or ever will be. Because science will only allow
    natural conclusions it is easy to see how science is the foundation of the
    atheist's beliefs. That is not the fault of science any more than the Klu
    Klux Klan is the fault of Christian beliefs.
    If you don't think that most atheists believe science reinforces atheism
    then I would suggest that you look at some of their publications a little
    more closely. A look at some of Richard Dawkins works, for example, would
    help clarify the situation. Perhaps a glance at the home page of the
    Internet Infidels would indicate how "separated" atheists are (who depend
    DEEPLY on scientific methodology and theories to bolster their own faith).

    So, I agree that the ideology and methodology of science itself is not a
    threat to Christianity. The human rationalization of many scientists to turn
    that into naturalism as a philosophy is, however, very apparent
    (especially in the eye of the public).
    In the real world where the real living God exists, revelation and miracles
    as well as demonic counterfeits cannot be excluded entirely from one's
    worldview. In the subject of creation, if God truly does exist, then He most
    certainly did act to create the world. That statement may not be scientific
    but we can certainly use true science to show how impotent natural process
    are and how incredibly unlikely the event of abiogenesis and evolution
    really is without the infusion of information from our Creator.
     
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    JOHN PAUL

    John Paul:
    The way I (and others) see it, science is the quest
    for knowledge in search of the truth. Historical
    sciences, by definition, were not observed and quite
    possibly can't be repeated. IOW, the conclusion is
    based upon inference when examining the
    evidence. This inference can be (and usually is)
    biased by the examiner's worldview. If that bias were
    materialistic naturalism, the examiner would disregard
    anything other than a purely natural explanation,
    regardless of how absurd or farfetched that purely
    natural explanation is and regardless of whether or
    not it can be verified.

    As for the general tenets of modern mainstream
    science, is there a peer-reviewed article where I can
    read about them? Or are these "general tenets" just in
    the minds of materialistic naturalists?

    I don't know about distaste for the "general tenets"
    but when "mainstream science" disregards one or more
    definite possibilities just because it doesn't fit
    with a specific worldview, I find that distasteful.

    John Paul:
    Since science is basically the search for the truth,
    if there is a possibility that we are here by Divine
    fiat, it would be an injustice to science not to
    pursue that avenue. Materialistic naturalism's grip on
    science forbids that from happening. In that light
    materialistic naturalism should be incomplete in
    everyone's eyes.

    Think of all the missed opportunities we possibly have
    had because there was a roadblock placed in front of
    the ID and Divine Avenues. Opportunities to decipher
    the genetic code because we researched it as an
    intelligently designed object analogous to a computer
    code- missed. Opportunities to develop methods that
    would reverse genetic defects because we came to that
    understanding- missed. Opportunities to better
    understand our purpose in the scheme of things-
    missed.

    John Paul:
    Yes.

    John Paul:
    Creationism. It is based in the knowledge that
    all we observe is via the direct intervention of God.
    Then there is IDism which would be based in the
    knowledge that at least life on Earth is the result of
    an intelligent agent. (Of course IDism could be
    extended to include the universe)

    John Paul:
    The two rules of materialistic naturalism:
    1) Find a purely natural explanation for everything
    2) If a purely natural explanation cant be found, see
    rule 1

    Creationists and IDists also look for purely natural
    explanations but do not try to force one upon the
    evidence. We also understand that explanations can
    only take you so far. Sooner or later those
    explanations have to be verified to have any merit.
    And finally we understand that any limitations with
    science are man-made and can therefore be overcome by
    mankind.

    God Bless,

    John Paul
     
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    JESTERHOLE

    John Paul:
    The two rules of materialistic naturalism:
    1) Find a purely natural explanation for everything
    2) If a purely natural explanation can’t be found, see
    rule 1
    Creationists and IDists also look for purely natural
    explanations but do not try to force one upon the
    evidence. We also understand that explanations can
    only take you so far. Sooner or later those
    explanations have to be verified to have any merit.
    And finally we understand that any limitations with
    science are man-made and can therefore be overcome by
    mankind.


    So at what point do creationist decide when naturalism ends and God
    magic begins? When they get tired of looking for evidence? When they
    can't come up with a better explanation? Or when the only evidence that
    exists contradicts their closely held religious beliefs?
    Is seems to me that your problem with materialistic naturalism is all
    about your religion views.
    -Drew
     
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    JOHN PAUL

    John Paul:
    I don't understand what you are saying. Are you saying
    God does magic? Like in a show? Personally I like the
    magic of David Blaine.
    But seriously, magic has nothing to do with God's
    Creation. Do you think engineers use magic when
    inventing and designing? Should industrial companies
    hire magicians instead of engineers? I know many
    people think I am a magician the way I bring
    non-functioning equipment back to life, but that is
    just because they don't understand what it is I do. Is
    that it jesterhole? You don't understand God's
    Creation so you call it "magic"?

    But anyway there would be several lines of inferences
    of the evidence that would lead someone to conclude
    that purely natural processes could or couldn't
    accomplish something. How do you think archaeologists
    and anthropologists can distinguish between an
    artifact and something derived from a naturally
    occurring process? How do arson investigators
    distinguish between arson and an accident?

    John Paul:
    Most investigations do have conclusions. Isn't that
    the purpose of an investigation- to reach a
    conclusion?

    John Paul:
    Explanations are a good start but then that
    explanation should be substantiated and verified
    before treating it as dogma. I take it that is
    at least part of the purpose of peer-review- to see if
    the explanation stands up to scrutiny.

    For me the explanation that God Created life is a far
    better explanation than saying life is just chemical
    reactions. And just because I accept that explanation
    doesnt mean I don't have to go and try to understand
    Gods Creation. That's where science comes in.

    John Paul:
    What evidence exists that contradicts my religious
    beliefs?
    Evidence #1- Life exists. It exhibits CSI (complex
    specified information), is apparently IC (irreducibly
    complex), its reproduction process is also apparently
    IC and to top it off there isn't any evidence life
    could arise from non-life via purely natural
    processes. So it must be when you say "the only
    evidence that exists contradicts their closely held
    religious beliefs", you are talking about
    materialistic naturalists.

    John Paul:
    No, my problem with materialistic naturalism is its
    limiting focus.

    me, from another thread:
    I'm as curious as the next person is when it comes to
    observing something and understanding it. I also know
    enough not to get on a one-way dead-end street.
    Which IMHO is what materialistic naturalism is
    regarding the search for the truth.

    God Bless,

    John Paul
     
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    HELEN
    Jesterhole asked, So at what point do creationist decide when
    naturalism ends and God magic begins? When they get tired of looking for
    evidence? When they can't come up with a better explanation? Or when the
    only evidence that exists contradicts their closely held religious
    beliefs?


    This is a good question, even if it is phrased a little derogatorily.

    One of the foundational points of Christianity is that the Bible is
    God’s Word. God, as Creator, is assumed to know how to communicate
    clearly with men. So while the Bible cannot and should not be
    considered a science “text,” when it does mention something regarding
    science, it is to be taken seriously.

    Thus, as a Christian, I would answer you by saying that when the Bible
    indicates that something was done directly by God’s hand, and thus
    considered miraculous, that that is accepted. These pronouncements by
    God in the Bible then mark the boundaries of the truth in science.
    Within these boundaries we are not only perfectly free to explore for
    naturalistic, materialistic causes, but quite expect to find them, for
    God Himself created the laws by which our universe and lives run, and we
    can expect they will be consistent.

    The other way of saying it is that we expect to find naturalistic
    material causes for anything which God has not indicated He caused
    directly.

    Many Christians outside of science are quite happy attributing
    everything to God, and, in the long run, they are right and God bless
    them for their faith. However, in terms of science, we, as Christian
    creationists, do look for natural causes in the same way everyone else
    does. Our limits, however, are where God has spoken to tell us of His
    own actions in a certain area. It would be silly to disregard these
    guide posts and go charging off in pursuit of our own imaginations.

    This, quite frankly, is what I see enormous amounts of mainstream
    science doing. Sometimes I wonder, where men like Dawkins are
    concerned, if truth is only to be used when the imagination proves
    inadequate. For me, I prefer real data with real facts and logical
    discussions. I can’t say “most” creationists are like that, for I don’t
    know most creationists. However the men and women with whom I work hold
    the same view regarding the place of Bible and a preference for fact
    over imagination.

    One last word – this does not preclude looking at the data and saying
    “well, it might have worked out this way” or “one way this could have
    come about is….”. But these are ideas, maybe models, which work with
    the facts and God’s Word.

    It is important for all sides of any discussion to recognize when the
    bare facts give way to interpretations, ‘perhaps’ ideas, and models.
    And the facts should never get mixed up with these, although from what I
    have seen, they almost always are!
     
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    VORKOSIGAN

    I say that science is now limited because the roots of science
    was actually founded in Christian theology. See Stanley Jaki's, The Savior
    of Science (review here:
    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/a/science_origin.html )


    and The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy by Nancy
    R. Pearcey and Charles Thaxton (Charles Colson outlines some of the main
    thoughts here:

    http://www.ldolphin.org/colson.html ).

    Jaki is wrong. He is the end product of a trend that began in the 60s to
    recover the roots of science from what many had seen as an unfair
    suppression of Christian influence on it. While this is a laudable goal, to
    argue that science has roots in Christian theology is going much too far.

    Jaki and likeminded thinkers generally ignore the major counterfactual
    to their case: Orthodox Christianity. For it is manifestly true that
    Eastern Christianity failed to develop anything resembling western science.
    The history of Chinese science also throws light on why science developed
    in the West, and not elsewhere.

    I will start off by noting first that science is composed of several
    things. First, an idea that the world was accessible through empirical
    exploration. Second, that the world can be modeled using mathematical
    frameworks. Third, that the world must be explored by interacting with, not
    by contemplating the interactions of non-scientist third parties. Fourth,
    that scientists may not invoke the supernatural in explanations. Fifth, and
    most importantly, it is a social space and a set of values, where people
    who are full-time knowledge producers ("scientists") perform activities
    governed by shared values. The major contribution of the West was not any
    of the first four, but the last. Other sciences had parts, but none created
    a social space and filled it with people who were doing the first four
    things.

    Western science arose principally for the following reasons:

    1) through interaction with other societies, 15-16th century westerners
    began to appreciate how backward they were compared to the Chinese,
    Indians, Arabs and Africans. This was a huge spur to exploration and new
    knowledge. By constrast, the Chinese were well aware of their state of
    advancement, and had correspondingly less incentive to push for new
    knowledge. They would in fact remain ahead of the West in most areas until
    after 1800, and in a couple until the 1930s.

    2) through interaction with other societies, many new inventions entered
    the West in the period from 1250-1600. These included lenses, paper,
    gunpowder, printing presses, stern-post rudders, and compasses.
    Additionally, new ideas entered from China and Arabia that stimulated
    Renaissance thinkers. Galileo, Harvey, and many other leading lights were
    trained at universities heavily networked into the new knowledge -- Harvey
    reproduced Arab ideas about circulation that were Chinese in origin, while
    Copernicus had an Arab text on a sun-centered solar-system sitting on his
    shelf. Arab science is being rediscovered even as I write, and its
    influence on the West will get only more profound as new discoveries are
    being made.

    3) Unlike China, the merchant class developed considerable social
    standing and clout. It demanded reliable knowledge about the world --
    better maps, better chronometers, better ships, better ways to manage
    money. Almost every great thinker of the age thought about money.
    Copernicus wrote on currency issues, and Newton ran the Mint. Math
    textbooks frequently were oriented around double-entry bookkeeping, an
    invention of profound effect on the West. Rising capitalism stimulated new
    ways of looking at the world. The attempt to figure longitude at sea
    (another area of interest to the polymathic Newton) stimulated much work in
    math and instrumentation.

    4) The discovery of the New World. This was a major shock to the
    Medieval mind. A whole new continent, unmentioned in the Bible, with new
    people, animals and foods. This never happened to the Chinese, who always
    knew more about Europe than Europe knew about China.

    5) the fusion of artisanal techniques with scientific curiosity. In
    China, the makers of things kept their trade secrets a secret, so many
    ancient techniques were lost. Artisans did not write things down, and had
    no experimental tradition, and did not normally interact with the Chinese
    literati who wrote so much history. By contrast, in the west, scientists
    got their hands dirty. Galileo built his own telescopes. Chemist ran their
    own stills. Agricola dug in the dirt himself. Strato

    6) the machine, especially the clock. The machine was the model that
    westerners used to understand nature. The whole idea of natural law came
    along as science puffed along, it was not present at the creation, so to
    speak. Theology never entered into it. Kepler noted that his goal was to
    reconstruct the universe as a machine. Renaissance thinkers made two
    advances no other culture made. One was to use the machine to understand
    nature. The second, even more fundamental, was to use math to model machine
    behavior, and by extension, eventually to model natural behavior. In China,
    by contrast, math never had any social standing, and was not in the
    imperial exam system. Although the Chinese used math to solve natural
    problems, they never really developed a conscious idea of modeling with it.
    And Orthodox Christianity never really went through a proto-industrial
    phase like Europe did in the late medieval period. Machinery was much used,
    and much less understood. As late as the 19th ! century the Tsars curbed science because it conflicted with Christianity. In fairness, the clock seems to have been a development of
    artisans working at Church demand. And there was a rich artisanal
    tradition in late medieval monasteries, like the order of monks that went
    around building bridges.

    7) The fractured political nature of the west. A key. The quarreling
    states of the west were so many laboratories for testing political, social
    and scientific ideas. An exiled scientist could find honor in another city.
    The constant warfare stimulated advances in metallurgy and physics, to name
    only two fields. In China, one state controlled, so one bad decision was
    replicated across a continent, as when the voyages of Cheng Ho were stopped
    and the fleet left to rot. Orthodoxy also remained in the grip of either
    large empires, or tiny, impoverished feudal fiefdoms with low capital
    resources, isolated from events in Europe.

    8) Alchemy. Christianity was "opposed" by the secret authority of
    alchemy, which many early scientists studied. This was a training ground
    for heterodox ideas, empirical thinking, and hands-on experience of the
    world.

    9) the printing press. Movable type-printing, a transmission from China,
    was a major impetus. Copernicus' book was printed with extra large margins
    that enabled thinkers across Europe to own a copy, make notes, and
    distribute them to one another for viewing in a sort of primitive email
    system. Many European princes operated printing presses. Tycho owned his
    own press for distributing information.

    10) The attitude of the ruling classes. In China and Orthodoxy the
    ruling classes were little interested in development as such. But in the
    west many princes were highly educated and operated courts where learned
    men could debate and investigate. Many European princes conducted their own
    scientific and technical explorations.

    11) new modes of representation. New forms of art grew up that
    emphasized mathematical instruments and models in depicting the world.

    12) The negative stimulus of Christianity. This one is left out of many
    Christian-oriented books. It was the political, social, and philosophical
    failure of theistic explanation to account for things like
    gunpowder, and the New World, that prodded many Renaissance thinkers to
    search for new solutions. The whole idea of Progress is an inherent
    critique of the Christian worldview. Agricola, in his De Re Metallica
    of ~1550, the earliest example of the new view I am aware of, simply
    dismisses both the Bible and Alchemy as explanatory strategies, a huge
    intellectual step. I think it is crucial to note that the early scientists,
    who developed methodological naturalism, were all theists.

    Note how the factors interlock and drive each other. No New World, no
    supply of Spanish silver, no nascent capitalism. no poverty, no drive for
    exploration, no new world. No transmissions from China, no idea of
    progress, no machines to model, no science. These things did not happen in
    the Orthodox world -- although it was abundantly supplied with
    Christianity. Nor did they occur in Christian areas elsewhere, such as
    Spain, Ethiopia, or in Christian areas under Islamic domination (all of
    them fell behind western Europe and Northern Europe). Clearly the rise of
    science in the west is the result of a series of historical accidents that
    had little or nothing to do with Christian beliefs, though certainly with
    Christian behavior (like preserving and transmitting certain ancient texts,
    and stimulating artisanal traditions).

    were Christians and one of the greatest scientists ever, Sir Isaac
    Newton, considered his writings of scientific nature to be of much less
    importance than his voluminous writings on the scripture.


    Yes, and how wrong he was, for nobody today remembers him for the
    million and a half words he wrote on Bible history.

    I have read that a Professor Richard Popkin was quoted in an Israeli
    newspaper (Al Hamishar, July 26,1985) as revealing that a London professor
    told him, !'Newton!&s writings on the Bible should be burnt because
    they are harmful to science.!(


    Popkin is a major Newton Scholar and it is highly unlikely he said
    something like this. It is more than likely this is a misquote.

    of life has ALL the earmarks of intelligent design.

    Yes. For example, in a universe intended for life, 99% of it is
    uninhabitable vaccum. Why, just the other day I built my family a house. My
    wife and two kids and I live in a three-inch corner in the loft, and the
    rest of it is useless to us. A brilliant design, wouldn't you agree?

    The skeptic, if he is to be honest about his own belief system, MUST
    be able to demonstrate the possibility of the naturalistic self-formation
    of life from non-living chemicals or else he is merely exhibiting that very
    quality he ridicules the theists for - faith!


    Why is "life" the problem? How do you know life isn't the by-product of
    processes intended to create really cool lightning storms in the atmosphere
    of Jupiter? Your insistence that we must explain "life" is arbitrary and
    subjective.

    In any case, the skeptic does not need to demonstrate any origin for
    life. The idea of god(s) remains absurd whatever the gaps in our current
    level of knowledge.

    Do you honestly think confidence in science is the same as blind faith
    in a deity?

    The "atheism of the gaps" is actually less rational than the "God of
    the gaps" because the skeptic claims that the natural universe is ALL that
    exists (there are no supernatural beings) yet the skeptic cannot (as yet)
    produce ANY real evidence demonstrating that natural processes are even
    theoretically capable of producing even the most rudimentary form of life.


    Hmmmm....what about the last twenty-five years
    of research on self-replicating molecules.

    In any case, relying on gaps in scientific knowledge is dangerous. As
    history teaches, the web of scientific information is always growing.....

    Science can only assess the degree of probability of an event.

    Dead, flat, wrong. Which model of science are you using?

    The probability of the organization of basic elements into a
    functional symbiotic self-replicating, self-repairing bio-chemical MACHINE
    is beyond the capacity of those elements to perform on its own (based on
    what we actually know). In order to achieve the properties we see inherent
    in life, the molecules must somehow overcome increasingly more difficult
    levels of complexity. Each "higher" stage is therefore less probable than
    the preceding one.


    This does not even begin to get at the issues involved. Selection
    processes are certainly capable of overcoming the alleged problems you've
    laid out here, as experience with them in several industries has shown.

    Vorkosigan
     
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    THE BARBARIAN

    I'm still not sure if John Paul knows the difference between methodological
    naturalism and "materialistic naturalism". That one seems a trifle
    redundant, like "small shrimp".

    Based on what we do actually know (not wishful thinking), the probability
    of life spontaneously appearing even under the best imaginable conditions
    and even given a couple of billion years to evolve is still, by most honest
    accounts, extremely remote.


    I would think "spontaneous" is the problem. It appears that the origin of
    life, like all other things, has causes. God tells us in Genesis that it is
    brought forth from the earth and waters, but at His command. It is
    creation, but by the agency of nature. This, I think, is something other
    than "spontaneous", even if it is naturalistic.

    I would agree that we don't know what that number is exactly, but it is
    hardly anything approaching 1.0 and anyone saying otherwise needs to put
    forth some hard evidence...


    The point is, you don't know whether the likelihood of a naturalistic origin
    of life is close to 1.0, or to 0.0, or anything in between. No one knows.
    Unless they take God's word for it. Then it's 1.0.
     
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    ISHUANR

    I like this definition of science:
    Science is a way of knowing that through observation, experiment and reasoning comes to conclusions about the physical world.."
    A fellow named Weinberg wrote it somewhere, but I can't track it down). Science is not the search for all truth, just the truth about the physical world.

    Now, modern atheists might argue that scientific truth is the ONLY truth, but of course they are wrong, and even nonreligious folks would reject such reductionism.However, in the scientific enterprise, the only permissible way of knowing is through the scientific method, AKA methodological naturalism (MN).A lot of people dislike this, and would like to supplement the scientific method with another method, i.e revelation.However, revelation properly belongs not to science, but to religion.

    Religion is a way of knowing that through revelation, practice, and faith, comes to conclusions about the supernatural world.Through religion we experience God. Through science we investigate the physical world. Two different ways of knowing, two different realities.
    T think all religious believers should oppose the attempts of Dawkins and others to insist that science has excluded all other types of truth, except those that can be known through the scientific method. This is what metaphysical naturalism says. Properly applying the scientific method, however, cannot lead to that conclusion, for the scientific method can only answer questions about the physical world.It can neither prove nor disprove the existence of the spiritual world.

    When , however,YECs insist on tailoring scientific truth to a literal reading of revelation, they deform science(and revelation).Scienitc truth has its own space and validity, apart from revelation.Revelation is also true, just not in a scientific way.We can still say God created the heavens and the earth, and leave it to science to spell out the details. Indeed , the biblical writers had they know how much greater and more wonderful universe was than they envisaged, would surely have found even greater reason to praise God.

    The metaphysical naturalist looks through his microscope, performs his scientific test, measures his specimen, and says: There is no god.
    The YEC looks at his three thousand year old text, interprets it literally,and says: There is no evolution.Both make the mistake of applying the wrong way of knowing to the wrong reality.Both are far from the truth about either reality.

    "You should love to know the truth.And you should love the truth you know"
     
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    HELEN
    Vorkosigan:
    I’m not going to argue the history of western science as I cannot see
    that is relevant to this thread. But you did make some statements I
    would like to take issue with.

    Yes. For example, in a universe intended for life, 99% of it is
    uninhabitable vaccum. Why, just the other day I built my family a house.
    My wife and two kids and I live in a three-inch corner in the loft, and
    rest of it is useless to us. A brilliant design, wouldn't you agree?


    Your analogy is faulty in the extreme. Your treehouse was built as a
    habitation. We have no indication that the universe was created for a
    similar purpose, only that earth was, and we are populating just about
    all of it. In addition, the idea of you, a creation, judging your
    Creator, is somewhat pretentious, to understate it.

    Why is "life" the problem? How do you know life isn't the by-product
    of processes intended to create really cool lightning storms in the
    atmosphere of Jupiter? Your insistence that we must explain "life" is
    arbitrary and subjective.


    It is not arbitrary or subjective at all! In fact it is one of the
    major problems with naturalistic materialism – it cannot explain life.
    All me to quote from a naturalistic, materialistic evolutionist
    Life seems to me the supreme marvel of the universe – familiar,
    thoroughly material, probably ubiquitous, yet elusive and ultimately
    mysterious…I take it that the term “life” designates a real phenomenon,
    recognizable by a set of properties characteristic of some natural
    objects and lacking in others; one of our goals must be to identify the
    essential features that distinguish living organisms from other things.

    …How do lifeless chemicals come together to produce those exquisitely
    ordered structures that we call organisms? How can molecular
    interactions account for their behavior, growth, reproduction? How did
    organisms and their constituents arise n an earth that had neither, and
    then diversify into the cornucopia of creatures than enliven each drop
    of pond water?

    … We all know in our hearts hat a cell is far more than an aggregate of
    individual molecules; it is an organized, structured, purposeful and
    evolved whole…Despite decades of spectacular advances, the essential
    nature of life continues to elude us.


    Does this come from someone who is simply an ignorant believer in
    evolution? Not at all, the author is Dr. Frankllin M. Harold, Emeritus
    Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Colorado State
    University. It is from his recent book, “The Way of the Cell,”
    published by Oxford University Press (2001)

    In any case, the skeptic does not need to demonstrate any origin for
    life. The idea of god(s) remains absurd whatever the gaps in our current
    level of knowledge.


    I think perhaps you do not understand the idea of skepticism? It means
    to question, not to define something as “absurd” from the start. That
    is a religious/philosophical presupposition, not true skepticism.

    Do you honestly think confidence in science is the same as blind
    faith
    in a deity?


    Even if it were ‘blind’ faith in a deity, it would still be better than
    faith in ‘science’ which has already been proven wrong in area after
    area historically. Revising itself may be a hallmark of science, but it
    is not a hallmark of the truth.

    However, speaking for myself here, my faith is most certainly not
    blind. It is a response to not only what my five senses have seen and
    the logic of my mind, but even more it is a response to a personal
    knowledge of God Himself and a history in my own life of His work in my
    life. My faith is absolutely not blind, but founded on a rock of sure
    knowledge as well as experience.

    Hmmmm....what about the last twenty-five years of research on
    self-replicating molecules.


    Self-replicating molecules have nothing to do with actual life. Quoting
    again from Harold:
    Even for those for whom life is simply the expression of the
    instructions encoded in the genes acknowledge that it takes cellular
    machinery to implement those instructions…Growth and division refer not
    simply to the accretion of biomolecules, but to the replication of an
    integrated pattern of functions and structures… Reproduction is
    ultimately the business of cells, not of molecules, because direction
    and location are not spelled out in the genes; instead, a growing cell
    models itself upon itself.”
    [pp 99-100]

    In short, it takes a cell to make a cell.

    And us making machines which try to replicate some of the functions of a
    cell only means that with all our intelligent design, we still cannot do
    nearly what ‘nature’ did, ‘by accident.’

    Which is one evidence that God did it on purpose…
     
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    JOHN PAUL

    Pat:
    I'm still not sure if John Paul knows the difference between methodological
    naturalism and "materialistic naturalism".


    John Paul:
    Naturalism does not necessitate a commitment to materialism. IOW, I was specifying the type of naturalism employed by evolutionists. Just leaving it at naturalism wasn’t specific enough.

    Pat:
    That one seems a trifle redundant, like "small shrimp".


    John Paul:
    But shrimp come in varying sizes. I once worked for a fish market where I had the unpleasant task of de-heading shrimp. It doesn’t matter if you believe me or not but it is demonstrate-able that all shrimp are not the same size. The biggest shrimp I have held was 11 inches de-headed. The smallest was less than ½ inch, head included. If “small shrimp” is redundant, why do restaurants offer jumbo shrimp? Wouldn’t that be an oxymoron? No, because of relativity.

    How do you de-head a shrimp? Easy. The head plate (Carapace) is one piece and is separate from the body amour [abdomen], which is several plates to allow flexibility. At the junction of the head piece and body amour, just pinch, but be careful of the horns (Rostrum).

    Pat:
    I would think "spontaneous" is the problem. It appears that the origin of
    life, like all other things, has causes. God tells us in Genesis that it is
    brought forth from the earth and waters, but at His command.


    John Paul:
    Yes, God did command the waters and the Earth to bring forth life, but as separate distinct kinds of organisms with humans having dominion over the rest.

    Note in Genesis 1:21 that the great whales came before land animals (which were Created the day after the whales – Genesis 1:24). Not quite the way evolutionists depict it.

    So which do you believe Pat? God’s Word or the evolutionist’s? Just curious.

    God Bless,

    John Paul
     
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    THE GALATIAN

    Galatian:
    I would think "spontaneous" is the problem. It appears that the origin of
    life, like all other things, has causes. God tells us in Genesis that it is
    brought forth from the earth and waters, but at His command.

    Yes, God did command the waters and the Earth to bring forth life, but as
    separate distinct kinds of organisms with humans having dominion over the
    rest.


    That is your addition to Scripture. Or is that what the Koran says? On
    which scripture are you relying for this idea?

    Note in Genesis 1:21 that the great whales came before land animals
    (which were Created the day after the whales -- Genesis 1:24). Not quite the
    way evolutionists depict it.


    Gen. 1:21 says that God created whales and every living creature that moves
    on the fifth day. Does the Koran disagree?

    So which do you believe Pat? God's Word or the evolutionist's?

    Because of the logical contradictions in a literal translation of Genesis
    (such as the one above, that would assert that cattle are not living things
    that move), Christians have mostly agreed that Genesis is allegorical. Keep
    in mind "allegorical" is not a synomym for "not true".
     
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    JOHN PAUL

    galation:
    That is your addition to Scripture. Or is that what the Koran says? On
    which scripture are you relying for this idea?


    John Paul:
    That is what Genesis states- any version. See the clip from the King James version below.


    John Paul:
    I don’t understand the reference to the Qur’an. As I have told you several times now, the split was after Abraham. This means Muslims accept Genesis 1 as God’s Word.

    What Genesis 1 actually states:

    So we can see that the creatures the Lord Created on the fifth day were of the marine and air variety and those the Lord Created on the sixth day were of the terrestrial variety. Genesis 1:23 makes the day line very clear.

    It also shows this :

    Is a blatant misrepresentation of Genesis. What type of person would do such a thing?

    John Paul:
    It is clear the only contradiction is yours. As I have shown Genesis does not assert that cattle are not living things that move. Sure taken out of context I could see the Biblical novice or blatant Scriptural mis-representative could confuse what is being stated. But that is the difference between a false witness and a witness.
     
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    JOHN BOY

    Helen wrote:
    Helen, I think you misrepresent what Harold is saying in his book, The
    Way of the Cell
    . If you read the last chapter (Chapter 11, I think.
    It's been a few months since I read it), he says that although he is in
    strong doubt about whether or not we will ever discover the EXACT pathway
    that abiogenesis took, the evidence of the Miller experiments and the
    self-replicating molecules are consistent with the theory of abiogenesis.

    It seems to me that you are trying to insinuate the opposite by use of his
    quotes in this manner.

    Take care. [​IMG]
     

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