Tagged: Science

Sagan and Tyson and Nye, Oh My!

Recently we’ve seen quite a rash of “celebrity scientists.” Most everyone knows this started with Carl Sagan and his popular, newly revamped show, Cosmos. Bill Nye and Neil Tyson have stepped up to fill his celebrity role as a scientist who is also good at speaking.

In case you think I’m picking on materialists, Ken Ham could probably be considered a celebrity scientist as well.

But that’s the thing. Most of these men stand in direct, outspoken opposition to the gospel. Can a Christian in good conscience appreciate The Science Guy or the new (or old) Cosmos? We may agree with some of the science presented here – but a great deal of it is not science at all; rather it is propaganda carefully crafted by fools (who say in their heart, there is no God) and falsely called science.

I like science. I like knowing weird things like how gravity might work and what relativity means. It’s temptingly refreshing when a man like Tyson brings that sort of thing into public opinion and makes it popular.

Despite that, despite how much I want to say I enjoy Nye and laugh at Tyson’s jokes and sit in awe of Sagan, I can’t. If I am of Christ, I cannot ally myself with men who have spit on his Name. That’s all there is to it.

“Sure, Hitler committed terrible crimes, but his paintings weren’t half bad, so I’m a big Hitler fan.” (The best defense against Godwin’s Law is to admit it right away)

These men are militant atheists. We are the Body of Christ. How can we who died to sin live any longer in it?

Understanding Our Preconceptions

Before proceeding further with this series on Creation, it is helpful, nay necessary, to examine preconceptions about nature, science, and the like.

Scientism (called by many names today) has as its core tenant “nothing is true until proven so by empiricism.” This is not really a correct view, although it has some helpful elements. As a scientist, I generally require proof before believing in magnetic monopoles, for instance.

This empiricist model claims that it preconceives nothing in order to arrive at truth. That’s simply impossible. First, you must suppose that logic is a thing that even exists, and that you are capable of understanding it. Then, you must assume that nature is uniform everywhere, and that your observations in one corner of the universe are applicable in every other square. Then, you must assume that your mind is equipped to handle observations about nature in the first place. None of this is able to be proven, yet scientists routinely take it on faith that these things are so (I believe them to be true as well, so I’m allowed to do science).

The only position that makes any rational sense of the universe (and indeed accounts for rationality at all) is the Christian position. This is the basis for presuppositional apologetics. The above principles are in fact consistent with and implied by Scripture.

So what am I presupposing? I am presupposing that the Bible is God’s unfallible and unchangeable revelation, perfect and true in all its teachings, though not exhaustive in its subject matter. Even an attempt to prove this puts us in the jury seat while the truth of God is held in doubt, if just for argument’s sake. That’s unacceptable.

What does that mean for our studies in Genesis?

  1. We must think as the Bible thinks. When the Spirit inspires the word “day,” is it internally consistent for this to be interpreted “age?”
  2. The only standard to compare to is the rest of the Bible which is always internally consistent. Babylonian texts that contain the same literary structures use those (usually heptameric) structures because the Bible does, not the other way around.
  3. Is creation/evolution consistent with the God revealed in Scripture?
  4. Science is a tool, not a worldview or a hermeneutic. Although it is often used as such, this is absolutely incorrect. Saying “I only believe in science” is equivalent to saying “I only believe in hammers.” So what? Hammers hammer nails because the Bible allows them to. They do not hammer nails despite what the Text may imply.

I am continuing to explore Meredith Kline’s framework hypothesis in order to respond accordingly.

Scientism 10, “Modern Physics and Ancient Faith,” Part 1

I’ve got good and bad so far.

The Good

Within the first couple pages, he’s already laying out the terms. There is no battle between science and Christianity. Science is a tool…it’d be like saying WWII was a battle between the Allies and the guns. Doesn’t make any sense. The war is between differing philosophies – the philosophy of Christianity and the philosophy of materialism.

At root, materialism is “an epistemological critique of religion.” The materialist claims that the Christians basis for truth is incorrect (God) and that there is a better source of truth (which varies but is inevitably dependent on the infallibility of man). These sorts of debates are never about the actual proofs or evidences involved; those may help or hurt a case, but the real issue is “Who do we believe?” Who is the more credible witness?

Of course, because materialism is not based on the Triune God of Scripture, it is inherently illogical from the start. There is also a glaring error in assuming that the self is the basis of knowledge.

For a person to accept as knowledge only what he had discovered and proved for himself from direct personal experience would put his knowledge at the level of the Stone Age.

There is very little (if anything) that we know based on our own experience. Even that which we claim to know from our own experience is interpreted based on rules or methods we picked up from other people.

Science is not scientism. Scientism is essentially materialism in the specific guise of the scientific community. And it is not the basis of truth.

The Bad

Then he started to go into specifics. The first problem he tackled was that of genesis, concerning beginnings.

He considers the theory of the Big Bang a great leap for Christian science, because it implies that time had a finite, defined beginning. Unfortunately, this is the common conception of the Big Bang, not the scientifically stated theory, which says nothing about the Big Bang being the absolute beginning. The theory was developed in light of anti-creationism and only holds true in that light. Barr appears to be (at least so far) in favor of a theistic evolutionary mindset, which Bolton Davidheiser eloquently demonstrated was paramount to denying the Gospel altogether.

We shall see how this develops.

New Book on Review

So I am breaking my scheduled faith-science book reviews for a new book I just borrowed. Looks awesome, detailed, and promising

Modern Physics and Ancient Faith – Stephen M. Barr

Maybe I’m out of the loop, but I’ve never heard of this guy. I flipped though this book and was immediately entranced by all the scientific lingo and indepth discussion of physical concepts. I have high hopes for this book – at least it will provide a framework for biblical views of things like quantum theory.

Scientism 9: “Evolution and Christian Faith,” Part 3

And so we come to the last installment of Evolution and Christian Faith. He continues to wow me with his direct, to-the-point attacks.

I left off right in the middle of a discussion on the evidences for evolution. It seems that he’s left no stone unturned.

There is a popular misconception that if animals or plants are crossed and produce fertile offspring they belong to the same species; otherwise not. This is no longer recognized as an adequate criterion in taxonomy by most scientists.

He readily makes the distinction between facts, and facts that are twisted.

Natural selection is a fact; the trouble comes when one tries to apply it as a factor in real evolution.

Charles Darwin was greatly perplexed as to how to explain social organization, such as the organization of an anthill or beehive…In the end Darwin “explained” it much as he did the evolution of the eye – merely by deciding that it should not bother him any longer.

He brings up a form of “evidence” that I was not previously aware of: serological tests. If blood samples from two foreign species are mixed, they should react violently, and the degree of this reaction is a measure of how similar the blood serum is. The results of these tests were inconclusive at best and completely random at worst. (To be honest, I think this has great potential for medicinal purposes, but not for evolution.) The reason I’d never heard of this method is, despite being touted as the greatest proof of evolution at the time of its conception, it was proven inconsequential and quietly swept under the rug.

Hyenas appear to be more closely related to cats than cats are to themselves.

It was found that even different parts of the same organ may react differently, and even different parts of the same cell.

Of course, not all possibilities can be open to the closed scientific mind:

An honest evolutionist should consider the possibility of creation and not dismiss it on the grounds that it removes the matter from the field of scientific inquiry.

The fossil record is the most commonly cited evidence for evolution – sadly it’s the most damning. Worst of all is the blatant manipulation of data. Any other field, and this sort of scientific misdemeanor would result in harsh penalties.

Sometimes strata are designated as of a certain age and then as fossils not seen at first are discovered in them, the designations are changed accordingly.

If the shoe don’t fit – make it.

But of supreme importance, as always, is the fact that Christians are actually believing this stuff. Atheists have to believe in something – we expect that. And evolution is that something, at least for now. Something must replace God. But for someone who calls himself a Christian to believe it…unacceptable. We must remove the plank from our own eye before attending to the speck in the world’s eye.

While the evolutionists are exerting more and more pressure upon the public to accept evolution, a number of conservative Christians are playing into their hands by telling the Christian public that it is now all right to accept at least a certain amount of evolution.

This is one of my favorites so far:

In a letter to the editor of the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, Dr. John R. Howitt of Toronto chides the editor for taking the compromising view that “God may have worked through a biological process of natural selection.” Dr. Howitt replies that of course God could have worked through any process, but the question is not what God could have done, but what He did do.

Speaking of carbon dating:

This method of dating depends on a number of assumptions. Of course there is the assumption that the half life of carbon-14 has not changed during the period which is being measured…However, there is evidence that there have been alterations due to changes in the earth’s magnetic field, and also there seems to be evidences of changes in the radiation flux itself.

I first heard about variable half-lives about a year ago. Fascinating topic. Very hard to find any literature on it, either for or against it. That is suspicious.

The scientist who discovered radioactive dating (Willard Libby) was well aware of its limitations, including the following interesting fact:

Libby himself later said that he was very much surprised to find out that no material with a known date of more than about five thousand years was available as a standard.

So the man who discovered radioactive dating could not verify his method (shown by Ney and Winkler to be incredibly inaccurate) with any objects older than the Flood. That’s rather telling.

We can only speculate, but the evolutionists do a very great deal more speculating than Christians do.

What follows is 6 pages of single spaced quotes (81 to be exact) from respected evolutionary scientists admitting that evolution is “a baffling mystery.” (Andre Lwoff) It is a quite impressive collection as well as a useful arsenal. Buy the book.

If scientists produce something which can be defined as living, this does not necessarily mean that life on earth was produced by a similar method. If the scientists are successful in their endeavor, it will be through much intelligent planning and the use of elaborate equipment. It will be very different from the chance actions which they postulate started the original life on earth.

Interestingly enough, some scientists claimed a few years ago to have made amino acids assemble into proteins by replicating what they thought to be primeval conditions. Whether this was actually what happened or media hype remains to be seen (by me, since I can’t find the paper), and there is no doubt it is a significant source of controversy as to whether this constitutes the creation of life. Davidheiser makes the excellent point, “so?” a point that is far underused. What’s the real issue? Does this prove what they want it to? What are their assumptions and preconditions? All important questions for good scientists to ask, yet often ignored when the answers are unsatisfactory.

Speaking of man in the image of God:

In Old Testament times, certain men were privileged to see and talk with God as a man, and we understand this to be the Lord Jesus, for no man has seen God the Father at any time (John 1:18).

I point this out for two reasons. First of all, most people have apparently forgotten this in their haste to throw the Old Testament baby out with the Old Covenant bathwater. Second, it is stunning the ease at which Davidheiser goes from talking about complicated scientific concepts to Old Testament theology in the Gospel of John without skipping a beat. We need more men like him.

I will conclude this post by briefly summarizing the section on the ancestors of man. Davidheiser goes through all the famous hoaxes and points out the ease with which they are disproven, as well as the comments by the few scientists who were able to view the better preserved skeletons – all of whom conclude that there are no features in any case that point to a “missing link,” and in many cases, the skeletons were indistinguishable from “modern man.” Surprise! Of course, if you want to study these remains now, good luck with that. They are not allowed to be studied, on account of damage through handling. I’ve never been one to call conspiracy…

Scientism 7: “Evolution and Christian Faith,” Part 1

The next book on my list is Evolution and Christian Faith, by Bolton Davidheiser (I hereby reserve the right to name my child “Bolton”). This book was published in 1969 by the Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company. Before this time, evolution wasn’t seen as that big of a deal in Christian circles. Of course, it was, and had infiltrated much of Christian thought. This book was a wakeup call. Almost every active creation science group today can be traced back to Davidheiser’s work. He was the primary inspiration for Dr. Morris and all of his wonderful work on the subject.

Scientism 6: “Science and Grace,” Part 3

This is the last installment of the series on Science and Grace.
It is important to make sure that even as we hold fast to the Scriptures, we aren’t making silly intellectual mistakes.

Given who our beloved is, we Christians ought to be the ones most careful about getting it right in the details, about accurately representing the world in our thinking and in scientific papers, presentations, and discussions. We are not to consciously distort or ignore data to make the world fit our ideas or to score rhetorical points against opposing arguments. This is not just a matter of the rules of science, not just a matter of scientific integrity, but a matter of love and respect for the Maker and Redeemer of it all.

At best, speaking out when we are obviously behind in our scientific homework is embarrassing to our Christian brothers and sisters, and at worst it brings the Christian faith and Christ’s gospel into disrepute.

It’s very important to realize that we are not trying to "prove" God through science. This is the same mistake as those who deny the necessity of presuppositionalism (or rather that group of philosophies described as such). This is empiricist at best and rationalist at worst. That’s the big problem with the ICR – they tend towards empiricism when it is quite clear that the pagan scientist will not and cannot accept this as truth. Their work is far better as they show how evolution/pagan science is a religion and not science at all (science is impossible from an atheist framework).

In the early seventeenth century, Francis Bacon, the “father of modern science,” decried even in his day the use of human reason in such a way as to “treat God no better than a suspect witness” in a legal proceeding.

It is one thing to ask how we might best understand His works. It is quite another to seriously ask whether our comprehensive explanations leave room for God to act, or whether given the laws of physics God might actually be able to accomplish certain things. We are not in a position to demand explanations.

It is simply a recognition that although many of God’s works might seem amenable at some level to human description and manipulation, submission and even just basic honesty require that when we have no idea, we ought to say so.

Again, we see that too often we use our Christian science (which is indeed correct, and the ICR guys are doing great work don’t get me wrong) as evidence. We bring it before the throne of Scientism and say "well, Science, judge between me and God." You don’t judge God that way. You bring the two systems of thought before GOD and He shall judge. Don’t ever forget who the ultimate authority is, or you’ve lost the battle before you start.

First, the use of scientific evidence in apologetics may inadvertently cede to science the ultimate truth authority.

In fact, we convince ourselves that “they” are so easily shown to be wrong that short weekend conferences are all that is needed to give people with no scientific expertise all the necessary tools to debunk the fruits of countless lifetimes of work by “them.” In these ways, the proper and central offense of the gospel message, inherent in its proclamation, too easily devolves into the offensiveness of an argumentative messenger.

So, in looking back over the chapter, what have we claimed that a faithful scientific servant will be about in his scientific work? God’s servant in science will be firm in faith, will believe what God says, will be highly motivated by what God has done, will be obedient to the commands of God, and will act out that obedience in science-related attentiveness, submission, and stewardship.

There is a huge difference between playing to win because you have nothing to lose and playing only to keep from losing.

It was widely assumed among our colleagues that science had in some way invalidated traditional religious belief, and some consciously saw their science as confirmation of a materialist understanding of the universe that left no room for a consideration of a God or His claims upon them.

Explicit Christian convictions were not welcome in the halls of science and sometimes generated surprising hostility.

It is perfectly legitimate to use the knowledge and methods developed by scientists who are in rebellion against God. Their festering sin doesn’t change the beauty and inner workings of God’s world (though often it leads to a misinterpretation of those workings).

It is by His common grace that He restrains sin, promotes cooperation among regenerate and unregenerate alike, and propels positive development of the good potentials of His creation through a variety of human institutions and human spheres of activity.

We live in amazing times in the sciences, and we need not dwell in fear and apprehension of unfolding wonders or keep a tight leash on our admiration for scientific achievement because we fear it will somehow aid “the enemy.” Praise be to God for the marvelous favor He shows in the science of our times.

Those working in the sciences must not only be willing to opt out of the cultural practice when necessary, but also to speak prophetically against it at times. We must consistently assert our belief in the rule and purposes of God in His created universe over against a universe that by chance creates itself and thus lacks purpose and value.

Nothing is neutral – neutrality is an impossibility. The convictions (dare I say presuppositions) you have will affect everything you do. Why? Because your presuppositions are those things that we hold to regardless of evidence, because they are what we use to interpret evidence. The unbeliever cannot accept God as a cause. Therefore he simply cannot see the way a certain process must unfold. His presuppositions direct him to find another way. Our presuppositions, the truth, power, and majesty of God, lead us to a biblical interpretation through the Sovereign Word. But don’t think that just because they accuse you of holding to "blind beliefs" that they have none – of course they do. They just don’t (can’t, won’t) admit it.

Well, of course those who come at the science from a naturalistic perspective will oppose you. What do you expect? The science one does is impacted in a variety of ways by the convictions one has.

Kuyper seems to be the go-to guy here.

Rather, Kuyper encourages Christians to go back to our own basic principles and based on them to engage in vigorous scientific work. Our task as Christians in science then is not primarily negative—just to find ways to tear the other side down or to try to recapture some lost golden age of Christian dominance in science, but to faithfully do our own scientific work—to do it well, to “own” our convictions, and to fully participate in the cultural tasks we have been given.

Declare your givens. That’s the first step in any engineering problem. What are you working with? Did you assume frictionless pulley and weightless ropes for the sake of argument? Then say so. Are you going to ignore God, in spite of any possible evidence? Say so. Are you going to work from the bounds of Scripture with the Word alone as your ultimate authority? Say so. Don’t be shy.

We should insist that all participants in science have a right, even an obligation, to work out their science in the context of their deeper convictions. But with such freedom also comes the responsibility to declare openly what some of these principles are. Among other things, this will require that Christians explicate the relevant components of a Christian “life-system” that may become part of the banner Christians raise above their scientific work.

This is a very good point. Darwinism is not the only kind of evolutionary theory (it existed in Greek culture as well). This means there’s no one single approach to refute it. Each piece must be dismantled separately.

Both “sides” in evolution controversies seem to find it advantageous to treat evolution as a single unit, to be entirely rejected or embraced, either as a symbol of orthodoxy or as a symbol of being serious about science. The symbolic status of “evolution” obscures a clear understanding of the complex and multilevel issues involved. Modern evolutionary theory is a complex of many theories. The individual theories differ widely in the claims they make and in the kinds of supportive evidence they appeal to. Each theory needs to be presented and evaluated individually rather than always pressing for an all-inclusive up-or-down “vote” as if evolution is some kind of omnibus bill in a legislature.

May God deliver His people from the idols of our age and engulf us in His glorious gospel of grace in all our knowing, being, and doing.

All in all, a very good book. Brings together everything from covenant theology to histogrammatical interpretations. Also a very easy read. Probably one of the better books I’ve read on the subject – very few stress the need for the God of the Bible, as this one does, as opposed to settling for a "god" in general.