articles appear below:
SEEKING TRUTH –
THE TWO APPROACHES
(Investigator 134, 2010
- Seeking Truth – The
Two Aproaches Bob Potter
- Seeking Truth – The
Two Aproaches Kevin Rogers
Scientists live in a
world of uncertainty. Astronomers discovered in the late 1990s (to
their astonishment), the expansion of the universe is accelerating and
not slowing down as many had predicted. It’s as if there is a
mysterious energy creating a repulsive force countering gravity.
Clueless as to the nature of this force, cosmologists have named
it'dark energy' – it seems to account for ¾ of the total
matter (and/or energy) of the universe.
Nearly 90% of the mass of
galaxies seems to be made of matter that is unknown and unseen. We know
it must be there, otherwise the galaxies would have disintegrated – physicists
are now faced with the stark reality that roughly 96% of the universe
cannot be explained with the theories at hand. There are other
mysteries. What happened to the anti-matter that should have been
produced along with matter during the'big bang’?
[Incidentally, not all scientists agree the universe was'created’
during the'big bang’. Stephen Hawking in Black Holes and Baby
Universes (1993) offers alternative hypotheses!]
After almost a century of
believed success at explaining the world using the two major theories
of quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity, situations
where the two domains collide, where overwhelming gravity meets
microscopic volumes, such as black holes or big bangs, demonstrate the
theories don’t work well together – in fact they fail miserably.
To introduce the'mind
set’ of the scientist, I quote the late Richard Feynman, arguably the
greatest physicist of the twentieth century (Nobel Prize for his work
in quantum theory) from a speech he made in Italy, in 1964,
commemorating the anniversary of Galileo:
is never certain. We all know that. We know that all our statements are
approximate statements with different degrees of certainty: that when a
statement is made, the question is not whether it is true or false but
rather how likely it is to be true or false. "Does God exist? When put
in the questionable form, how likely is it?"
It makes such a
terrifying transformation of the religious point of view, and that is
why the religious point of view is unscientific. We must discuss each
question within the uncertainties that are allowed. And as evidence
grows it increases the probability perhaps that some idea is right, or
decreases it. But it never makes absolute certainty one way or the
other. Now we have found that this is of paramount importance in order
to progress. We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no
progress and there is no learning. There is no learning without having
to pose a question. And a question requires doubt. People search for
certainty. But there is no certainty. People are terrified — how can
you live and not know? It is not odd at all. You only think you know,
as a matter of fact. And most of your actions are based on incomplete
knowledge and you really don't know what it is all about, or what the
purpose of the world is, or know a great deal of other things. It is
possible to live and not know.
"Now the freedom to
doubt, which is absolutely essential for the development of the
sciences, was born from a struggle with the constituted authorities of
the time who had a solution to every problem, namely, the church.
Galileo is a symbol of that struggle — one of the most important
Feynman highlights for
me, the embedded excitement of our efforts to make sense of our world –
the methodology of Charles Darwin and his 'golden rule'; from his
a published fact, a new observation or thought came across me, which
was opposed to my general results, to make a memorandum of it without
fail and at once.”
Now consider the
Christian approach to Science — 'anti-Science in practice'!
I was introduced to the
work of Christian evangelist, William Lane Craig, by Kevin
Rogers. Craig has an active web site based in the United States,
supporters in most Western countries, and every month a newsletter.
Craig lectures and debates and wins every battle with the enemies of
Christ – he'll tell you himself! If you want to discover the
Christian's approach to'doing Science', look at his video "Handling
Doubt". Addressing American university students, he explains,
Christianity is true…wholly apart from the evidence and therefore if in
some technically contingent circumstance the evidence should turn
against Christianity, I don’t think that that contraverts the witness
of the Holy Spirit… and in such circumstance, If I were to pursue with
due diligence and correct time, if I could get the correct evidence,
that would support the evidence of the Holy Spirit".
If the evidence
contradicts Christian teaching, the evidence is wrong. There you
have it, from the 'horse's mouth’, so to speak.
As Bertrand Russell put it: "Faith is a belief for which there is no
evidence". Like it or not, it's William Lane Craig who speaks for
Jesus Christ, on earth, today – "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because
thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not
seen, and yet have believed." (John 20: v29)
It appears that only
atheists require evidence!
Seeking Truth: The Two Approaches
(Investigator 137, 2010
Investigator #134 published Bob Potter's article on Seeking
Truth: The Two Approaches. At the beginning of the article Bob
argues the case for scientific humility. The more we learn, the more we
realise that there is more to know. I couldn’t agree more. He then
quotes Richard Feynman. The thrust of the quotation is:
Science grows through uncertainty,
Christianity offers certainty, and
Therefore Christianity is unscientific.
He then refers to me and provides a quotation from the Christian
apologist, William Lane Craig. The thrust of Craig's quotation is that
the witness of the Holy Spirit is sufficient to counter an instance of
contrary evidence. Bob then goes on to claim that:
If the evidence contradicts Christianity, then the evidence is wrong,
Faith is a belief for which there is no evidence, and
Only atheists require evidence.
By implication Bob is making these same claims about me, that I ignore
evidence and believe without evidence. However, Bob's arguments
misrepresent both science and Christianity.
The claim that Christianity offers a simple set of precepts that offers
certainty is not true. God may provide certainty on some issues where
we really need to know, but not in everything. The Bible also has lots
of loose threads. There are many issues that we are meant to think
through ourselves. The Bible is not a simple cook book with a list of
Bob's argument that science is based on universal and unending
certainty is unrealistic. The word "science" is derived from the Latin
word "scientia", which means "knowledge". The aim of science is not to
gain uncertainty; it is to gain knowledge. The main motivator behind
science is not uncertainty; it is curiosity. Those who like science
want to know how things work and look for ways where that knowledge can
be applied. The applied sciences, such as medicine and engineering, are
the application of science that is reasonably well understood, at least
at some level of abstraction. You only have to look around you at cars,
bridges, telecommunications and so on. These are the application of
science in which we have a high level of trust and certainty. Is Bob
claiming that doctors and engineers are unscientific?
I find Bob's position a little bizarre. Bob turns scientific humility
on and off like a tap. He is a dogmatic atheist and evolutionist and
yet he will resort to scientific humility to suit the occasion,
especially when he is losing an argument. I welcome Bob discussing
scientific issues just I reserve the right to comment on psychological
issues, which is Bob's area of expertise. However, apart from the
psychological domain, Bob is not qualified in science, let alone was he
ever a practitioner. He is a spectator, although a relatively
knowledgeable one. I am qualified in engineering, physics and
mathematics and am a practitioner as well. I find it strange that Bob
is inferring that he is scientific whereas I am not.
A good scientist will search diligently for evidence and maximise its
use. An archaeologist will carefully dig the ground in the search for
the slightest piece of evidence and then get very excited about an
artifact which a layman would dismiss as a "rock". However, when it
comes to Biblical evidence, the atheists I know are quite
anti-scientific. They don't search for the evidence; they say "Show me
the evidence!" They want it presented to them on a plate. When I do
show them evidence, they are absolutely intent on dismissing it.
Regarding William Lane Craig, he is an apologist, not an "evangelist".
I find Craig to be a valuable resource but I don’t agree with
everything he says. I analyse his writings in the same way as I analyse
any other. Craig does not represent all Christians, including me. It is
wrong to quote Craig and then impute his statements to all Christians.
Bob's argument is an example of the inductive fallacy. Induction is
arguing from the particular to the general. Bob moves from a particular
quotation from William Lane Craig to the generalisation that "It
appears that only atheists require evidence". Inductive arguments don't
get much weaker than that!
The following quotation summarises Craig's views on the witness of the
"I hit upon a
scheme that has proved to be very helpful to me in illuminating the
relationship between faith and reason – namely, the distinction between
knowing Christianity to be true and showing Christianity to be true. It
has been gratifying to me that what I grasped in a rough and
superficial way has been confirmed by the recent work of religious
epistemologists, notably Alvin Plantinga. I hold that argument and
evidence play an essential role in our showing Christianity to be true,
but a contingent and secondary role in our personally knowing
Christianity to be true. The proper ground of our knowing Christianity
to be true is the inner work of the Holy Spirit; and in our showing
Christianity to be true, it is His role to open the hearts of
unbelievers to assent and respond to the reasons we present."
The next quote from Craig in the same article demonstrates his attitude
towards so called contrary evidence,
Christian will have a "question bag" filled with unresolved
difficulties he must learn to live with. But from time to time, as you
have opportunity, it’s good to take the bag down from the shelf, select
one of the questions, and go to work on answering it. Indeed, I can say
that working hard on an unresolved question and pursuing it until you
finally find an answer that satisfies you intellectually is one of the
most exhilarating experiences of the Christian life. To resolve a doubt
that has troubled you for some time brings a wonderful sense of
intellectual peace and inspires confidence that there are solutions to
the remaining difficulties in your question bag."
Relying on the witness of the Spirit is not believing without evidence.
The witness of the Spirit is evidence, at least to those who experience
it. Christian experience varies with the individual both in form and
intensity. A close friend of mine had quite a dramatic Paul-like
experience of God at his conversion. He has described it to me in
detail and I have no reason to doubt his honesty. Many believers (but
not all) don't feel a need for other evidence, as they feel that their
experience is sufficient. This is what we should expect if Christianity
is true. Not everybody has the time or aptitude to investigate the
evidence. If God is "fair” then He will provide a means for giving
equal certainty to the uneducated and to the privileged.
Bob quoted Jesus' statement to Thomas, "Because you have seen me, you
have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have
believed" (John 20:29). Bob inferred that Jesus was encouraging people
to believe without evidence. Thomas had already received the testimony
of the other apostles but refused to believe them. This illustrates
that 1st century people had the same tendency towards scepticism as we
do. Of course we cannot see the risen Christ. We are reliant on the
testimony that the apostles and others have recorded. In the next
chapter John 21:24 records, "This is the disciple who testifies to
these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is
true." There are other forms of evidence other than seeing. I have
never seen a black hole or an electron. There are many results in
science that I accept, but I have never personally verified. I rely on
the testimony of others. Silly me!
I have always used logic and evidence as the basis of my arguments,
blind faith. Now Bob is attempting to disqualify his opponent on a
supposed technicality because he is losing the evidence-based debate.
Let’s stop this nonsense. The Investigator is meant to be a
discussion forum based on reason and evidence. So stick to the
evidence! There are indeed two ways to seek the truth. We can
investigate it directly without fear or favour, or try to suppress it.
It's your choice.
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