categoryOrigins + Science

Origins and Science

Stephen C. Meyer on Demarcating Science

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Philosophers of science have generally lost patience with attempts to discredit theories as “unscientific” by using philosophical or methodological litmus tests. Such so-called “demarcation criteria” — criteria that purport to distinguish true science from pseudo-science, metaphysics and religion — have inevitably fallen prey to death by a thousand counter examples. Well-established scientific theories often lack some of the allegedly necessary features of true science (e.g., falsifiability, observability, repeatability, use of law-like explanation, etc.), while many disreputable or “crank” ideas have often manifested some of these same features. … As the philosopher of science Larry Laudan has shown, such contradictions have plagued the demarcation enterprise from its inception. As a result, most contemporary philosophers of science regard the question ‘what distinguishes science from non-science’ as both intractable and uninteresting. Instead, philosophers of science have increasingly realized that the real issue is not whether a theory is scientific, but whether a theory is true, or warranted by the evidence.

Complementarity, Agency Theory, and the God-of-the-Gaps

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There has been a growing debate about the proper way to integrate science and theology. On the one side are those who accept a complementarity view of integration and claim that science must presuppose methodological naturalism. On the other side are those who accept some form of theistic science. Central to this debate is the nature of divine and human action and the existence of gaps in the natural causal fabric due to such action that could, in principle, enter into the use of scientific methodology. In this article, I side with the second group. To justify this position, I first state the complementarity view and its implications for the nature of human personhood, second, explain libertarian agency in contrast to compatibilist models of action, and third, show why "gaps" are part of divine and human agency and illustrate ways that such a model of agency for certain divine acts could be relevant to the practice of science.

Scientific Creationism, Science, and Conceptual Problems

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Among other things, scientists try to solve both empirical and conceptual problems. Conceptual problems, in turn, are of two basic types: internal and external. In this article, I offer a taxonomy of both types of conceptual problems that have constituted scientific practice throughout its history and argue that certain activities done by creationists fit this taxonomy nicely. I then conclude that these creationist activities cannot be faulted as being non-science or pseudo-science once we see how they fit a proper scientific pattern of addressing conceptual problems in other areas.

Pearcey and Thaxton on Hubris and Math

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At the time of the scientific revolution the reliability of human knowledge was grounded in the belief that God had created humanity in His image, to reflect His rationality. But the success of the mathematical approach to science was so intoxicating that Western intellectuals no longer felt that the need for any external guarantee of knowledge. They regarded mathematics itself and the axiomatic method derived from it as an independent means of gaining indubitable, infallible knowledge. They set human reason up as an autonomous power, capable of penetrating to ultimate truth. Mathematics, as the crown of human reason, was essentially worshiped as an idol. ¶ But then something unexpected happened. With no grounding in divine creation, human knowledge was cut adrift. If the universe is the product of blind, mechanistic forces, how do we know it has any intelligible structure at all? If there is no Designer, how can we be confident there is a design? If human beings are not created in the image of God, how can we be sure the design we think we detect is really there? Where is the guarantee that the concepts in our minds bear any relation to the world outside?

Pearcey and Thaxton on Mathematics and Relativism

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When the idol of mathematics fell, it brought down with it confidence in any universal truth. The sharp ring of truth that characterized mathematics had inspired hope that truth could be found by similar methods in other fields of scholarship. Now that hope died… Filtered to the rest of the academic world, the crisis in mathematics was symbolized by the emergence of non-Euclidean geometries. Euclid’s axioms had stood the test of time for some two thousand years. That physical space is Euclidean seemed part of common sense. But now Euclidean geometry had been relegated to one of many possible geometries. Far from being a universal truth, Euclidean geometry was a merely human invention that might apply in some contexts but not in others. The crisis in geometry became a metaphor for the shattering of established verities, the inadequacy of deductive systems, the loss of a single, unified body of truth.

Pearcey and Thaxton on Copernicanism and Supposed Anthropocentrism

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In The Making of the Modern Mind historian John Herman Randall writes that the Copernican revolution “swept man out of his proud position as the central figure and end of the universe, and made him a tiny speck on a third-rate planet revolving abut a tenth-rate sun drifting in an endless cosmic ocean.” ¶ The implication is that Christians mobilized against Copernicanism to resist this shattering of their cozy cosmology, but the literature of the day does little to support this portrayal. It is true that medieval cosmology, adapted from Aristotelian philosophy, placed the earth at the center of the universe. But in medieval cosmology the center of the universe was not a place of special significance. Quite the contrary, it was the locus of evil. At the very center of the universe was Hell, then the earth, then (moving outwards from the center) the progressively nobler spheres of the heavens. ¶ In this scheme of things, humanity’s central location was no compliment, nor was its loss a demotion. In fact, in Copernicus’s own day a common objection to his theory was that it elevated man above his true station. In medieval cosmology, human significance was rooted not in the earth’s central location but in the regard God showed toward it. Hence, the idea that Copernican theory threatened the Christian teaching of human significance is an anachronism. It reads back into history the angst of our own age.

Pearcey and Thaxton on Scientists’ De Facto Realism

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The majority [of scientists] continue to be naive realists, blithely assuming that science yields reliable facts. And given that the number of working scientists far exceeds the number of science historians, that makes realism the dominant view in science today. It is a view, moreover, that appears to be buttressed by the everyday experience of the bountiful practical benefits of science. When science works so well, it is difficult not to conclude that it bears at least some
relation to a world that really exists.

William Lane Craig on the Importance of Worldview

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It is imperative that we turn the whole intellectual climate of our culture back to a Christian world view. If we do not, then what lies ahead for us in the United States is already evident in Europe: utter secularism. Throughout Europe, evangelism is immeasurably more difficult because the intellectual climate and culture there are determined by the conviction that the Christian world view is false and therefore irrelevant. Therefore, Christian missionaries often must labor years to get a handful of converts. If we lose the theoretical issues, then in the end our practical application will be fruitless.

Pearcey and Thaxton on Tendentious Science Histories

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In The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers Carl Becker argues that histories written in the eighteenth century were designed with one purpose in mind — to discredit Christianity. Enlightenment philosophers knew they were engaged in a cultural battle for people’s hearts and minds. In Becker’s words, they felt themselves “engaged in a life-and-death struggle with Christian philosophy and the infamous things that support it — superstition, intolerance, tyranny.” Their historical accounts were intended as weapons in the struggle. ¶ These histories would generally open with the Greco-Roman world, praised as a golden age of reason; move to the Middle Ages, denounced as a dreary period of ignorance and oppression, and end with the contemporary age, the Enlightenment, heralded as a revival of ancient wisdom and rationality. Clearly, this was no attempt at objective, fact-base history.

Pearcey and Thaxton on Christianity and the Presuppositions of Science

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To begin with, Christian teachings have served as presuppositions for the scientific enterprise (e.g., the conviction that nature is lawful was inferred from its creation by a rational God). Second, Christian teachings have sanctioned science (e.g., science was justifies as a means of alleviating toil and suffering). Third, Christian teachings supplied motives for pursuing science (e.g., to show the glory and wisdom of the Creator). And fourth, Christianity played a role in regulating scientific methodology (e.g., voluntarist theology was invoked to justify an empirical approach in science). Among professional historians the image of warfare between faith and science has shattered. Replacing it is a widespread recognition of Christianity’s positive contributions to modern science.

Darwin on Trial

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In his own era, Darwin’s most formidable opponents were fossil experts, not clergymen. Even today, according to the author, the fossil record, far from conclusive, does not support the presumed existence of intermediate links between species. A law teacher at UC-Berkeley, Johnson deems unpersuasive the alleged proofs for Darwin’s assertion that natural selection can produce new species. He also argues that recent molecular studies of DNA fail to confirm the existence of common ancestors for different species. Doubting the smooth line of transitional steps between apes and humans sketched by neo-Darwinists, he cites evidence for “rapid branching,” i.e., mysterious leaps which presumably produced the human mind and spirit from animal materials. This evidence, to Johnson, suggests that “the putative hominid species” may not have contained our ancestors after all. This cogent, succinct inquiry cuts like a knife through neo-Darwinist assumptions. ~ Publishers Weekly

Is Science a Threat or Help to Faith?

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From space travel to organ transplants, one of the most important influences shaping the modern world is science. Amazingly, people who lived during the Civil War had more in common with Abraham than with us. If Christians are going to speak to that world and interact with it responsibly, they must interact with science. The question is, how are we to understand the relationship between science and Christianity? At a dinner party I was introduced to a professor of physics. On learning that I was a philosopher and theologian, he informed me of the irrational nature of my fields, contending that science had removed the need to believe in God.

Stephen Jay Gould on Scientific Presuppositions

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An evolutionist, is metaphysically based at some level just as much as… some creationist… And to a certain extent, I must confess, in the ten years since I performed, or I appeared, in the creationism trial in Arkansas, I must say that I’ve been coming to this kind of position myself… I mean I realize that when one is dealing with people, say, at the school level, or these sorts of things, certain sorts of arguments are appropriate. But those of us who are academics, or for other reasons pulling back and trying to think about these things, I think that we should recognize, both historically and perhaps philosophically, certainly that the science side has certain metaphysical assumptions built into doing science, which — it may not be a good thing to admit in a court of law — but I think that in honesty that we should recognize, and that we should be thinking about some of these sorts of things… And certainly, there’s no doubt about it, that in the past, and I think also in the present, for many evolutionists, evolution has functioned as something with elements which are, let us say, akin to being a secular religion … And it seems to me very clear that at some very basic level, evolution as a scientific theory makes a commitment to a kind of naturalism, namely, that at some level one is going to exclude miracles and these sorts of things come what may.

William Dembski on the Origin of Life

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Dawkins, to explain LIFE apart from a designer, not only gives himself all the time Darwin ever wanted, but also helps himself to all the conceivable planets there might be in the observable universe (note that these are planets he must posit, since no planets outside our solar system have been observed, nor is there currently any compelling theory of planetary formation which guarantees that the observable universe is populated with planets). Thus Barrow and Tipler, in order to justify their various anthropic principles, not only give themselves all the time and planets that Dawkins ever wanted, but also help themselves to a generous serving of universes (universes which are per definition causally inaccessible to us).

Brennan Manning on the Fine-Tuned Universe

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The slant of the earth, for example, tilted at an angle at 23 degrees, produces our season,. Scientists tell us that if the earth had not been tilted exactly as it is, vapors from the oceans would move both north and south, piling up continents of ice. If the moon were only 50,000 miles away from earth instead of 200,000 the tides might be so enormous that all continents would be submerged in water, even the mountains would be eroded. If the crust of the earth had been only ten feet thicker, there would be no oxygen, and without it all animal life would die. Had the oceans been a few feet deeper, carbon dioxide and oxygen would have absorbed and no vegetable life would exist. The earth’s weight has been estimated at six sextillion tons (that’s a six with 21 zeros). Yet it is perfectly balanced and turns easily on its axis. It revolves daily at the rate of more than 1,000 miles per hour or 25,000 miles each day. This adds up to nine million miles a year. Considering the tremendous weight of six sextillion tons rolling at this fantastic speed around an invisible axis, held in place by unseen bands of gravitation, the words of Job 26:7 take on unparalleled significance: “He poised the earth on nothingness.” The earth revolves in its own orbit around the sun, making the long elliptical circuit of six hundred million miles each year — which means we are traveling in orbit at 19 miles per second or 1,140 miles per hour. Job further invites us to meditate on “the wonders of God” (37:14). Consider the sun. Every square yard of the sun’s surface is emitting constantly an energy level of 130,000 horse power (that is, approximately 450 eight-cylinder automobile engines), in flames that are being produced by an energy source much more powerful than coal. The nine major planets in our solar system range in distance from the sun from 36 million to about 3 trillion, 6,664 billion miles; yet each moves around the sun in exact precision, with orbits ranging from 88 days for Mercury to 248 years for Pluto. Still, the sun is only one minor star in the 100 billion orbs which comprise our Milky Way galaxy. if you were to hold out a dime, a ten-cent piece, at arm’s length, the coin would block out 15 million stars from your view, if your eyes could see with that power.

Stephen Jay Gould on an Interdisciplinary Exercise

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Clearly, I believe in this interdisciplinary exercise, and I accept the enlightenment that intelligent outsiders can bring to the puzzles of a discipline. The differences in approach are so fascinating—and each valid in its own realm. Philosophers will dissect the logic of an argument, an exercise devoid of empirical content, well past the point of glaze over scientific eyes (and here I blame scientists for their parochiality, for all the world’s empirics cannot save an argument falsely formulated). Lawyers face a still different problem that makes their enterprise even more divergent from science—and for two major reasons.

Stephen Jay Gould on Science, God, and Darwinism’s Compatibility with Religion

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To say it for all my colleagues and for the umpteenth million time (from college bull sessions to learned treatises): science simply cannot (by its legitimate methods) adjudicate the issue of God’s possible superintendence of nature. We neither affirm nor deny it; we simply can’t comment on it as scientists. If some of our crowd have made untoward statements claiming that Darwinism disproves God, then I will find Mrs. McInerney and have their knuckles rapped for it (as long as she can equally treat those members of our crowd who have argued that Darwinism must be God’s method of action). Science can work only with naturalistic explanations; it can neither affirm nor deny other types of actors (like God) in other spheres (the moral realm, for example). ¶ Forget philosophy for a moment; the simple empirics of the past hundred years should suffice. Darwin himself was agnostic (having lost his religious beliefs upon the tragic death of his favorite daughter), but the great American botanist Asa Gray, who favored natural selection and wrote a book entitled Darwiniana, was a devout Christian. Move forward 50 years: Charles D. Walcott, discoverer of the Burgess Shale fossils, was a convinced Darwinian and an equally firm Christian, who believed that God had ordained natural selection to construct a history of life according to His plans and purposes. Move on another 50 years to the two greatest evolutionists of our generation: G. G. Simpson was a humanist agnostic. Theodosius Dobzhansky a believing Russian Orthodox. Either half my colleagues are enormously stupid, or else the science of Darwinism is fully compatible with conventional religious beliefs — and equally compatible with atheism, thus proving that the two great realms of nature’s factuality and the source of human morality do not strongly overlap.

Charles S. Pierce on Science

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We believe the proposition we are ready to act upon. Full belief is willingness to act upon the proposition in vital crises, opinion is willingness to act upon it in relatively insignificant affairs. But pure science has nothing at all to do with action. The propositions it accepts, it merely writes in the list of premises it proposes to use… Belief is the willingness to risk a great deal upon a proposition. But this belief is no concern of science, which has nothing at stake on any temporal venture, but in pursuit of eternal verities, not semblance to truth, and looks upon this pursuit, not as the work of one man’s life, but as that of generation after generation indefinitely… The only end of science, as such, is to learn the lesson that the universe has to teach it. In Induction it simply surrenders itself to the force of facts. But it finds that this is not enough. It is driven in desperation to call upon it inward sympathy with nature… and nature is something great, and beautiful, and sacred, and eternal and real, the object of its worship and its aspiration.

Inventing the Flat Earth

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Neither Christopher Columbus nor his contemporaries thought the earth was flat. Yet this curious illusion persists today, firmly established with the help of the media, textbooks, teachers―even noted historians. Inventing the Flat Earth is Russell’s attempt to set the record straight. He begins with a discussion of geographical knowledge in the Middle Ages, examining what Columbus and his contemporaries actually did believe, and then moves to a look at how the error was first propagated in the 1820s and 1830s and then snowballed to outrageous proportions by the late 19th century. But perhaps the most intriguing focus of the book is the reason why we allow this error to persist. Do we prefer to languish in a comfortable and familiar error rather than exert the effort necessary to discover the truth? This uncomfortable question is engagingly answered.

Phillip E. Johnson on Darwinism’s Presuppositions

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Darwinist scientists believe that the cosmos is a closed system of material causes and effects, and they believe that science must be able to provide a naturalistic explanation for the wonders of biology that appear to have been designed for a purpose. Without assuming these beliefs they could not deduce that common ancestors once existed for all the major groups of the biological world, or that random mutations and natural selection can substitute for an intelligent designer. Neither of these foundational beliefs is empirically testable…

Phillip E. Johnson on Darwinists Craving to Be Right

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Darwinists took the wrong view of science because they were infected with the craving to be right. Their scientific colleagues have allowed them to get away with pseudoscientific practices primarily because most scientists do not understand that there is a difference between the scientific method of inquiry, as articulated by Popper, and the philosophical program of scientific naturalism. One reason that they are not inclined to recognize the difference is that they fear the growth of religious fanaticism if the power of naturalistic philosophy is weakened. But whenever science is enlisted in some other cause — religious, political, or racialistic — the result is always that the scientists themselves become fanatics. Scientists see this clearly when they think about the mistakes of their predecessors, but they find it hard to believe that their colleagues could be making the same mistakes today.

Keith Parsons on Tentative Science

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Scientific hypotheses are always tentative; they are designed to be held only so long as they conform to the evidence. Proponents of the theistic hypothesis, on the other hand, are already sure that their
hypothesis is correct; they only seek evidence to buttress a foregone conclusion.

Modern Biology and Natural Theology

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This work re-opens a controversial subject by calling into question how well theological views of human nature stand up to the discoveries of modern science. Alan Olding explores the question of whether the argument for the existence of God is fatally undermined. Emphasizing the metaphysical implications of biology, Modern Biology and Natural Theology takes up issues currently of concern to many thinkers, particularly those interested in the impact of Darwinism on natural theology. This book will interest not only professional workers in the fields of philosophy of biology and philosophy of religion and theology, but also students and laypersons, and is bound to provoke further debate on this controversial subject. ~ Product Description

Stefan Bengston on the Cambrian Explosion

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If any event in life’s history resembles man’s creation myths, it is this sudden diversification of marine life when multicellular organisms took over as the dominant actors in ecology and evolution. Baffling (and embarrassing) to Darwin, this event still dazzles us and stands as a major biological revolution on a par with the invention of self-replication and the origin of the eukariotic cell. The animal phyla emerged out of the Precambrian mists with most of the attributes of their modern descendants.

The California Science Curriculum Framework and Criteria Committee

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At times some students may insist that certain conclusions of science cannot be true because of certain religious or philosophical beliefs that they hold … It is appropriate for the teacher to express in this regard, “I understand that you may have personal reservations about accepting this scientific evidence, but it is scientific knowledge about which there is no reasonable doubt among scientists in their field, and it is my responsibility to teach it.”