Friday, December 7, 2012

Does "Progress" Trump Faith?

"All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn't be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed... to be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin." ~ Paul Davies

Today Fox News published an article called "Science vs. god: does progress trump faith?" discussing some of the high points between a debate over the existence of God between a set of scientists. It poses the question: "Does science refute religion?", and then points out that three out of five scientists are atheists but that of course means that two out of five are not, showing there is no "consensus" like some claim, at least on the question of God.

I do not have a lot of time to write a full response, especially since I have written about a lot of these issues before, but I wanted to point out a few things. First, as the quote above from Paul Davies' (an atheist) comments, there is faith in science. As I have written about here, here, here, and here, science is far from the purely "objected" and "empirical" tool that atheists claim it is. Now, those of you who know me know I love science and think highly of its ability, but we have to call a spade a spade, it takes faith to do the scientific enterprise. And, those who believe that science is the end-all-be-all of understanding reality are as religious as the most fundamental Christian.

Second, one of the scientists in the debate, Lawrence Krauss (whose book The Physics of Star Trek is awesome, by the way), stated, "Science has taught us we don't need God to exist..." Stephen Hawking's book, The Grand Design was cited as an example of this. That is simply not the case. I have written about that here and here.

Third, the article also states, "Proponents for religion argue that the universe is finely tuned for life, with certain fundamental parameters in nature that make our existence possible. But Krauss turned this argument on its head. 'We would be surprised to find ourselves in a universe in which we couldn't live,' Krauss said." They are trying to make the point that "of course" we live in a universe finely tuned because that is the only universe that would support life. This statement, however, rests on the presupposition that there are many universes in the "multiverse" (which is far from an universally accepted scientific theory) most of which do not have any possibility for life and we find ourselves in the one that "by chance" evolved all the right parameters. If you have enough universes, eventually one will be right for life, right? This is a sophisticated argument but it in no way shows God does not exist or that science does not take its fundamental laws by faith. Paul Davies (another atheist scientist at Arizona State) states in an article that he wrote for the New York Times:
A second reason that the laws of physics have now been brought within the scope of scientific inquiry is the realization that what we long regarded as absolute and universal laws might not be truly fundamental at all, but more like local bylaws. They could vary from place to place on a mega-cosmic scale. A God’s-eye view might reveal a vast patchwork quilt of universes, each with its own distinctive set of bylaws. In this “multiverse,” life will arise only in those patches with bio-friendly bylaws, so it is no surprise that we find ourselves in a Goldilocks universe — one that is just right for life. We have selected it by our very existence.
The multiverse theory is increasingly popular, but it doesn't so much explain the laws of physics as dodge the whole issue. There has to be a physical mechanism to make all those universes and bestow bylaws on them. This process will require its own laws, or meta-laws. Where do they come from? The problem has simply been shifted up a level from the laws of the universe to the meta-laws of the multiverse.
As he states, the idea that Krauss and others put forward is really just skirting the issue. It pushes it back a level, but it is still there. They have in no way shown that science is not taken on faith and that God is not necessary for our universe. For some more reading on this, I would recommend two books: Why the Universe Is the Way It Is and Who's Afraid of the Multiverse? Both are excellent resources in this area. I would also recommend Jeff Zweerink series of articles on "Multiverse Musings."

I will leave it at that. I do not want to make your head explode, nor do I have the time to keep writing (have a sermon on which I should be working). This should give you enough food-for-thought for a while on the whole subject of "science vs. religion" and whether or not science, the physical laws, and the universe can exist without God.

 By His Grace,


Joseph Davis said...

“Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me.”

- Immanuel Kant

A. Taylor Rollo... said...

Thanks, Josh! I did not even write anything about the moral argument but it is a powerful one.