Science v Religion?

Before looking at science and religion, we must be very clear about what we are talking about. There are so many embarrassing conversations and arguments between atheists and people of faith that make the incorrect assumption that science and religion are opposites sides of a given argument. There is also an assumption made by atheists that they ‘own' science and that Christian’s do not. This page is for those who have an interest in science and understand the main arguments and terminologies.

Science

The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment (Oxford Dictionary of English)

Religion:

The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods: ideas about the relationship between science and religion.” (Oxford Dictionary of English)

Atheist:

A person who disbelieves (is unable) or lacks (being without) belief in the existence of God or gods (Oxford Dictionary of English)

Professors and lecturers are fully aware of the above polemical (critical and disputatious) situation in schools and colleges, and to a much lesser extent in universities too. To reiterate, it is the misunderstanding that science and religion are / or cannot not be conjoined. In reality it is a fact that for the large part of Western academic history these two subjects were one and the same field of enquiry. Ironically most of the scientists from academic history were either Christian or Judaeo-Christian in their understanding and faith. Technically speaking, theology is known as the ‘Queen of sciences'. A prominent reason for its academic status is because it asks the most difficult questions of all: Who are we? What does it mean to be human? What is ultimate reality? And, is there a God? 

Those who mock this field of enquiry simply show others that they have not really developed their thinking. Or they do not possess a sufficiently open and flexible mind to appreciate that anything other than a binary methodology can have any validity in addressing answers to the universe.

Granted a person might not have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, as the Holy Spirit might not have revealed Himself to them. However, this person might still have a kind of open and developed intelligence that accepts the fact that they might not know everything and that being flexible in one’s mind will ultimately engender more knowledge rather that less. 

At degree level lecturers across most subjects will at some point encourage students to explore what are called: THE BIG QUESTIONS!'. This is because most subjects (including the traditional sciences) at some point involve some connection to humanity: humanity asking its own big questions concerning ethics and aesthetics. These questions arise at M.A. M by Res. and PhD level.  All of these subjects are historically rooted in theology for three reasons: 

1) Theology was by in large the first subject taught in universities 

2) It holds and agreed status as the Queen of all sciences.

3) Theology starts with the questions that other subjects end by asking at M.A/PhD level.

The science delusion: This dynamic indicated already sets a scene for a flawed frame of reference. The lie is this: 'anyone who is a believer of God is outside of science and those who are not believers are inside science'. What is actually occurring here is that some (not all) of the atheist community are stealing ‘science’ for themselves. Furthermore, they are changing its cultural meaning; to mean something opposite to belief in God. 

This is actually a bit of an embarrassment among the more balanced thinking academics and much of the broader science community. This is on account of the fact that there are millions of scientists across the world who do believe in God, and many who are open to the big questions. 

It is important to understand that much of what we comprehend today came from scientists who unequivocally believed in God. For example, the academic term 'intelligent design’ is used in both the science, philosophical and the theological community. (See list of scientists in the right column).

Challenges face both science, theology and faith of course. One advantage of theology, faith and philosophy is that they can try to answer difficult questions without the restrictions of classical physics for one example: i.e. what we know at the moment... This doesn't mean that all people of faith ignore proven science by the way, that would be silly! Fascinatingly as mankind explores the outer reaches of Newtonian and Einsteinian science, theoretical physics is enjoying a revival relationship with theology and philosophy. This is an example of what is called rhizomatic thinking, (where subjects have grown to such an extent that the tips of their research have now become interconnected with other disciplines). Rhizomatic thinking is at the forefront of all areas of contemporary thinking from universities to T.E.D. (TED Talks). As a result, terms like heaven, hades, hell, the afterlife, the super-natural and the miraculous, suddenly become semantically interchangeable with modern quantum physics descriptions like: dimensions, black holes, string theory, ‘branes', dark matter and the non-classical bizarre realm of subatomic particles…

Philosophy and theology use concepts like 'first mover’ for example to talk about anomalies in science (where science has not yet been able to observe something). Theology, even without faith, is able to ask difficult questions that science has not yet been able to answer, especially concerning who we are and why existence is like it is. It is true that theology delves deep into factual historical writings and records to fill the gaps about mankind and his understanding of the universe, and the claims of God inspiration that have led humanity to record in books and writings which eventually became the Canon. One notable example is the fulfilment of ancient prophesy about a coming Messiah, the Christ. So theology is like a kind archeology, cryptology underpinning faith and spirituality. Science is observation of a different kind.

Some awkward situations occur in atheistic publications in the conclusive argument for the belief in the non-existence of God. Reasoning commonly boils down to something like this: God cannot exist because if He did, who made God? These kind of statements are really like a PhD Physicist arguing with a GCSE R.E. student… This simply reveals that the atheist has studied science in the belief that it is opposite to God or that they have studied science more than R.E.

Atheists get very wound up about the subject of facts, proposing that religion has no facts.

Hear are some facts:

1) Christianity is faith in factual history and prophecy (the future).

2) Theology is the academic factual side of faith in factual history and prophecy.

3) Theology is the mother of all factual sciences.

4) Science is not a faith, though scientists often have faith and feeling in ideas before they can prove them. So imagination reveals facts which are yet to be proven. This faith and belief is also an example of scientists who are open and flexible in their thinking and imagination. Einstein being the obvious example of this methodology. A man like hundreds of other scientists who believed in God.

5) Christianity and sciences are geographically and semantically different things and cannot truly function as opposites, this is a fact. 

6) The worlds top scientists who have ever lived believed in God: fact. 

7) Believers and non-believers can be and are scientists: fact.

8) Science is an intellectual and practical activity using systematic reasoning: fact.

9) Theology is an intellectual and practical activity using systematic reasoning: fact.

10) Faith is one aspect of the realm of the supernatural, and certainly beyond the capacity of traditional reasoning: fact. It is commonly connected with a relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Retorts for Dawkins and Hawkins:

On Dawkins

Dawkins ultimately struggles to be able to frame a discussion in the broader frame of both noumenon and phenomenon. That is one both inside and outside of a 'natural science' context. The problem with this is that the Bible claims and indeed the historical recorded words of Jesus Christ himself teach that 'ultimate reality' is both inside and outside (beyond) our visible space-time-continuum. I.e not only part of this perceivable dimension. This is in fact a position taken by philosophy as we will see later.

Dawkins is further troubled by what theologians call the ontological evidence for God. While he accepts the existence of 'an eye' or his life as improbable (yet knows these things exist), he refuses to apply a similar rational discussion for either the probability or the non-probability for the subject of the existence of God. Under this analysis he shows that he is already prejudice against the concept of God. 

Dawkins seems stuck on an idea that if God exists he must be a 'capriciously acting being'. In his dialogue he fails to understand that scientifically and theologically God has created a system that on the one hand obeys natural science, while equally existing in a broader context in which mankind can interact with God in a way that is both within and beyond the laws of natural science. To explain it in other terms Dawkins seems unprepared to make a cognitive jump or dialogue which is outside of the formulas that exist within the bubble of the visible natural world. The problem with this is his fixation on improbability which he talks about frequently: though in the face of the fact of his own existence. The works of Emmanuel Kant on the noumenon would be a good place to start for Dawkins. It is worth noting that at the age of around thirteen Dawkins moved from faith in Christianity (an intelligent design system and faith) to a trust (‘belief’) in Darwin (evolution) as a better account of life's complexity (as if evolution or science for that matter automatically means there is no God - still he was only thirteen!).

On the late Stephen Hawkins

Clearly Hawkins had a brilliant capacity for thought, insight and imagination which he drew on toward the subject of physics. One of the glaring challenges in his conclusions is that on the one hand he applies great understanding of physics - yet he used a somewhat childish voice when talking about God. To a philosopher or theologian reading his works we see Hawkins in is arguments as a split personality: a heavy weight boxer (the physicist) on the one, fighting a feather weight fighter (his own undeveloped understanding of theology) on the other. In short his massive expertise in one field is used to explain reasoning in a field he had little understanding of. One funny evidence of this thinking is his 'non-existence of God conclusion' found in his book The Grand Design. He said, in effect, that God cannot exist because if he did, who created God? It is bemusing to argue with that level of playground religious education! Hawkins would have done well to have read Jürgen Moltmann's exploration of the Lebenswelt. Then the claims of the Bible pointing to beyond the perceivable lifeworld might have seemed easier to reach. Perhaps then he could have extended his perceiption to a plausibility that mankind's view is only one kind of reality, one lens of approach crucially from within the Lebenswelt (our perciveable space time).

On a more serious note Hawkins stated that God is unnecessary for the creation of the universe yet in his work he talked of the agent and mechanism dynamic, one theologian’s discuss too. Yet in that discipline (theology / philosophy) it is called cause and effect or the first mover principle. Boiling this argument down to its binaries we end with a paradox: the uncaused cause… in fact semantically much the same as the Biblical definition of God the uncreated creator… The IAM, the alpha and omega, the before and after, outside and beyond time and space.

Hawkins said, “the universe can and will create itself from nothing”, the “nothing” he refers to is not the standard definition of the word like: no thing or non-being. Instead, he actually is referring to some-thing: gravity, space, and a quantum vacuum, and a set of laws at work described as M-theory or String Theory. The challenge here is that fundamentally Hawkins tripped himself up semantically. On the one hand he holds to the concept of scientific determinism, (which implies that there are no miracles, or exceptions to the laws of nature) while on the other positing M-theory which is also referred to as mystery theory. Which philosophically leads us on to the topic of the Kantian noumenon… Ultimately this posits the big questions again - about who we are, and the question of God: actually something Hawkin's spent much time discussing! Furthermore, any of these originating factors he contradicts himself by describes are in themselves first movers… To reiterate, the elephant in the room is that ‘nothing' for an atheist isn't really ‘nothing’ semantically it is simply used th not say ‘something (i.e God or a designer)’ as explained above.

In conclusion 

Hopefully we can see that science and faith are not opposites. Evidence in practice shows that both are necessary for exploring our perceived reality. Scientists, whether they believe in God or not commonly claim that they imagine and feel the truth before they can prove it in the lab. 

We see today that theoretical physics employs models and abstractions to rationalise and explain phenomena (both observational and unexplainable). We know too that experimental physics (really theoretical physics with a marketing campaign), uses tools that ultimately fulfil the role of theoretical physics, to explore beyond the boundaries of natural science.

A ‘knowable' phenomenon differs from a noumenon (which is not directly accessible to observation). These two words are academically identified paradigms that appear as opposites on a cognitive scale; from say mathematics on the one side, to spirituality on the other. In addtion, they require different epistemological approaches. For example, a natural scientific approach to the determination of the existence of God cannot be fully academically explored if God as He claims exists in a realm that is both in phenomenon and beyond phenomenon: over the noumenon. I.e. beyond the Lebenswelt (a very useful short cut German word used in theology and philosophy which means the conceived universe and self-evident world that we can experience together). The apostle Paul cites that we merely see through a glass dimly and experience the Holy Spirit supernaturally. In simplified terms we live in a stasis between the natural and the supernatural.

To reiterate: we must appreciate that the hermeneutical (method or theory of interpretation) nature of one subject cannot necessarily be used to explore another. This polemically increases when subject A exists further from one side of the scale to subject Z. 

Simplification: between natural (and phenomenon) and the supernatural (into the noumenon).

Appendix:

The late Christopher Hitchens

On account of the popularity for the Hitchens 'antitheistic' argument I have inlcuded this short appendix to illustrate an example of how many anti-religeous people behave in debate. For example, Hitchens includes his own judgement on the morality of the religious acts which include murder, genital mutilation and the notion of the death cult and religion being the cause of world problems. In his delivery he has a particular focus on dismantling Christianity (largely through the lens of other religions, ignoring the acts of atheist based political systems). In emotion and attitude he projects all and every immoral act conducted by any religion as if it were a Biblical command to pervert morality.

He fails theologically to see the Genesis 6:4 complex (expanded in Enoch and the New Testament), the corruption of the Nephilum as a focus for God’s command to destroy this or that group, and like so many people who have never studied the Bible deeply he sees these acts as arbitrary, random and of a capricious God, despite frequent and clear references to the corruption of genus in the tribes which were to be eliminated. Bible terminologies for these peoples are refers to as Nepihlum, the fallen, the offspring of the fallen, the giants, and so on.

Hitchens unfortunately telegraphs his shortfall in understanding theology by his irritation, anger, body language and wordiness. He eagerly attacks anything and everything to do with religion by the use of emotional florishes and platitudes in his syntax. These emerge as off the cuff philosophical statements. His hyberbole remarks and barbs are used to add weight and point back to himself as 'the’ philosophical superior. To those who are theologians or have read the Biblical text in some depth see through this cloak of pomp. For example, I really wanted his Washington debate with McGrath to be great. Instead he was rude interrupting and verbose even by his own admission.

Hitchens may be quicker and sharper in tongue than Hawkins or Dawkins yet his pride seems to completely cloud his argument’s clarity and the depth of his own understanding. So we never see how deep he can really think (smoke and lights in other words seem to hide the inner man). Hawkins and Dawkins are the strongest atheists though they still resolve to the flawed semantic ’scientific equation’ that something came from nothing. At least Hawkins had his M theory (in theological terms ‘first mover’) and Dawkins showed enough honesty to present doubt for God on account of the non-probability postulate.

After seeing and hearing Hitchens behaviour in public I wonder what circumstances shaped his aggressive attitude to having a normal, balanced, intellectual debate concerning faith and religion. Shakespeare wrote, ‘methinks thou dost protest too much'.

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