God, Creation and Science

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“Scientific knowledge, by its nature, cannot ever be said to be so “settled” as to justify the silencing of critics.”

Charles C.W. Cooke, National Review

In a video series at answersingenesis.org on deep time evolution, Dr. Terry Mortenson posits a  parallel to the creation/evolution debate. He suggests a scenario of a sheriff’s deputy who is on patrol when he receives a call from the sheriff to drive over to a house and investigate a death. Inside the house is a dead body and the deputy is instructed to only consider natural explanations for that death. What would your thoughts be if you were told to do that? The deputy is being told to exclude any evidence that would point to suicide or homicide, because that would be evidence of intelligent design…

Recent news releases prior to the mid-term elections included statements made by the pope regarding everything from marriage to the poor to the church and science. The media are forever accusing Christians and the church of being anti-science. Where did this come from and when did it start? Even a cursory review of the biggies of science history will reveal men of faith in God, like Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the Swedish naturalist who created a classification system for living things and Nicholas Steno (1638-1686), considered one of the founders of modern geology and stratigraphy. Linnaeus was the son of a Lutheran minister and rather than follow in his father’s footsteps into the clergy, he studied medicine, not abandoning his faith or rejecting biblical historical claims. Steno was the son of a Lutheran Goldsmith. He is credited with being a “pioneer in anatomy and geology.” He later became a Catholic Bishop during the counter-reformation. Both Linnaeus and Steno are considered important contributors to science, even being called ‘scientist’ before the term was ever introduced. There are many others, but considering the creation/evolution debate, their faith is either ignored or only a footnote or abandoned altogether in many instances, as soon as their biographies steer into subject matter that is allowed under the banner of ‘science’. In Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, Enlightenment Era art and science is credited with the whole of human progress that we enjoy today, against the political and religious thinkers of the day. The scientific thinkers who are said to be responsible for propelling humanity into advancement were philosophes. They claimed sole ownership of reason and empirical evidence as their foundation. Their methods for observing the world and addressing the ills of humanity were and still are philosophical. Rejection of any supernatural evidence and only material, natural explanations and evidence would be permitted. They viewed the world through their own philosophy, but demanded that they no longer be called philosophers, but rather ‘scientists’. Their goal was to rebrand their worldview to be accepted  as superior to all others:

“Today “scientist” is not only an accepted title—it is a coveted one. To be a “scientist” is to be someone with an acknowledged right to make knowledge claims about the natural world. However, as the 1894 debate suggests, the term has a fraught history among English-speaking scientific practitioners. In retrospect, Huxley and Argyll’s rejection of “scientist” might seem merely quaint, even petty. But the history of the word “scientist” is not just a linguistic curiosity. Debates over its acceptance or rejection were, in the end, not about the word itself: they were about what science was, and what place its practitioners held in their society.”

~- The History of Scientist, Renaissance Mathmaticus~

Someone, somewhere, decided that the philosophical debate is settled for science and that the scientific mainstream is above the fray and authoritative – That their methods above all others provide proof of that which is true.

Dr. Nabeel Qureshi states in his video about God and medicine:

“The scientific method is not science – It is a philosophy of how to do science…The world around us should be explained by repeated observations. This process of verifying facts through repeated observations is called induction – Inference by induction…This is very different from deduction. For example, 2+2=4 follows the rules of deduction – the rules of mathematics…Inductive conclusions are conclusions reached through repeated observations where we expect to get the same result every time. This is exactly how science works.”

Samir Okasha of the University of York in England states regarding inductive and deductive conclusions:

“The word ‘proof’ should strictly only be used when we are dealing with deducted inferences in this strict sense of the word.  Scientific hypotheses can rarely, if ever, be proven true by the data.”

In the Deep Time Evolution videos I linked to at the top of this blog post, Dr. Mortenson quotes James Hutton (1726-1797), considered the father of modern geology:

“The past history of our globe must be explained by what can be seen  to be happening now…No powers are to be employed that are not natural to the globe…no action to be admitted except those of which we know the principle.”

~ James Hutton~

“Notice what he is saying,” says Dr. Mortenseon. “He is saying we MUST look at things a certain way if we are going to reconstruct the past history of the globe. He just ruled out creation and the flood before he has even gone and looked at the rocks. He has ruled out the supernatural. He didn’t come to that conclusion after doing scientific research. That was an a priori philosophical assumption… Every geologist since 1840 has been trained to think and do geology this way.”

Dr. Mortenson says that this way of doing science, this philosophy of looking at the world, is called uniformitarian naturalism. He outlines 3 assumptions of uniformitarian naturalism:

  1. Nature of matter is all that exists. Not all scientists believe that, but they do science as IF it is true. It is how they are trained.
  2. Everything can and MUST be explained by time, chance and laws of nature. All other explanations are excluded before any research is done.
  3. Processes of geological change have been operating at the same rate, frequency and power as we see today. We have volcanoes and earthquakes and tsunamis, but as we reconstruct the past, we cannot allow any more of the little catastrophes that we observe today or any greater in power to happen any differently, because all things in geologic history have to be assumed to have happened the same as they do today.

“Most significantly, recent work in cultural anthropology and the sociology of knowledge has shown that the conceptual framework that brings the natural world into a comprehensible form becomes especially evident when a scientist constructs a classification of a rock formation. Previous experience, early training, institutional loyalties, personal temperament, and theoretical outlook are all brought to bear in defining particular boundaries as ‘natural’”  ~James A. Secord in Controversy in Victorian Geology: The Cambrian-Silurian Dispute, 1986~

Dr. Mortenson concludes:

“…So when a geologist goes out to look at the rocks, he is bringing with him his previous experience, training and worldview. He’s bringing with him his starting assumptions, before he ever sets foot on the field of study and looks at the rocks…If you start with uniformitarian naturalism, you will end with uniformitarian naturalism. If you start with biblical assumptions, the world confirms biblical history.”

Dr.  Qureshi’s questions are excellent here:

“How is science different from faith? The vast majority of what you know in science is based upon what other people have told you. Have you yourself tested and seen with your own eyes?…In order to do science, it requires faith.” 

Dr. Qureshi states the 4 avenues of receiving knowledge: Our senses and tools to enhance them, testimony or publishing, reason and memory. He explains that science strengthens these avenues, but all avenues are fallible. “Science is just one approach,” he says. “Science and religion are 2 sides to the same coin.”

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