Two articles appear below:
  1. Seeking Truth – The Two Aproaches    Bob Potter
  2. Seeking Truth – The Two Aproaches    Kevin Rogers


SEEKING TRUTH – THE TWO APPROACHES

(Investigator 134, 2010 September)


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:
"A scientist 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 strugglers..."
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 autobiography:
"…Whenever 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,
"I know 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!

Bob Potter



Seeking Truth: The Two Approaches

Kevin Rogers

(Investigator 137, 2010 March)


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 ready-made answers.

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 Spirit,
"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,
"Any thinking 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."
www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5889
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.

Scores of Bible debates on this website:

http://users.adam.com.au/bstett/

http://ed5015.tripod.com/