Monday, December 14, 2009

In Response To The Atheist

My post "What is Life?" brought the following great comment:

Well, precisely because of that huge silence I'm glad that there are people willing to investigate biological life instead of declaring it "unexplained and unknowable" and leaving it at that.

As I see it, scientists do what they are supposed to do, and pastors do too ;)

- the atheist

I started to reply, but ended up deciding to blog instead. This is my response.

Dear Atheist Friend -

Thanks for your magnanimity in your comment, but you are completely missing my point. The world of science is NOT investigating or explaining biological life. The nature of "life" is evidently declared "unexplained and unknowable" by the world of science.

Please tell me if you know of any science that identifies life apart from describing its effects when it is present. I would genuinely appreciate seeing what you come up with. So far as I can find they completely skip the question.

For my part, I believe life is both explained and knowable. The Living God - Infinite, Eternal and Almighty - created it. Then, He thoughtfully revealed the basic facts about that in the Bible.

I have no grudge against genuine empirical science. I have an enormous grudge against naturalistic, materialistic, uniformitarian philosophy masquerading as science. Evolutionary philosophers have made up any number of "just so stories" about how things might have happened - but all of their accounts fly in the face of empirical science and must be accepted by faith - against all scientific evidence.

At least my faith in God's account of things squares with what can be tested by science. Life comes from life (e.g., basic biology.) Complexity takes work (e.g., 2nd law of thermodynamics.) Coded information (e.g., DNA) always comes from a source of information (e.g., information theory.)

I would hope that both scientists and pastors would be in the SAME business - discovering, explaining and applying the truth. But, alas, evolutionary philosophy, masquerading as science, is only there to obfuscate the obvious. Why does this marvelous, incredibly complex, interdependent world that's throbbing with life suggest intelligent design to so many people?

Their answer - "Anything but THAT."


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your clarification.

Recently I bought this book, aptly titled "Genesis", which shows that abiogenesis is a very active field of research. Science doesn't shy away from the subject.

Your assertion that life is some mysterious, supernatural force imbued by God seems strange to me. There's a reason why rabbits are animate and rocks are not, if you know what I mean. If eventually the function of the interconnected parts is understood, I don't see why it would be fundamentally impossible to "reverse-engineer" a rabbit. Although life could well be a matter which will never be fully understood/reproduced (an other being the brain) due to its sheer complexity.

But it's just too soon to rule the possibility out on the ground that there don't seem to be great advances in the field at the moment. History shows that one better not take that stance. In my opinion it's therefore not fair to science but certainly not wise to use this argument in a theological argument.

You're right when you're accusing scientists of keeping God out of the equation at all costs. But like those scientists, I don't see how God and science can be reconciled. Can you imagine a scientific paper presenting a hypothesis in which a god (can you provide a definition?) created (ditto) life at some point? It's unworkable. Note the explanatory leaps science made when religious dogma lost its influence in the 18th and 19th century.

- Harmen, the atheist
Please excuse any awkward sentences, English isn't my first language.

Pastor D said...

Harmon -

Thanks for your excellent response. I appreciate the tone of your conversation, even where I don't necessarily agree with you.

I agree that abiogenesis is an active field of research. The problem is that (as far as I have read) there is no evidence from all that research that life ever springs from non-life.

Even if men could build a rabbit by creating all the necessary parts, how are they going to make it live? If I gave them a rabbit that was alive a few minutes ago, it already has all the parts (original equipment) and they still cannot make it live. (By the way, if people could reverse engineer a rabbit - how would that prove evolution rather than proving intelligent design?)

I don't think this is because of the complexity of rabbits. The same is true of a single celled creature.

Why should I be optimistic that they WILL come up with an example if they are given indefinite time?

Besides that, they are using the presumed possibility of abiogenesis to prop up their philosophical presuppositions to support THEIR THEOLOGY. But I should not point out that they have no evidence in defense of my own theology?

I think that life is mysterious and also supernatural. That's why I talk about life when I am arguing against the anti-supernatural philosophies of naturalism and materialism.

One final point. Your imaginary scientific paper is indeed ludicrous. But what about a paper that tries to prove the negative of your example? Is that not just as ludicrous? But it is the subject of many (so called) scientific symposiums. Their hypothesis is that no god created life at any point. It just happened.

Sincerely yours,
Dave Denny

Pastor D said...

Sorry, Harmen, I just realized I misspelled your name in my reply. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to just edit the comments.

Hope you are having a great day!

Anonymous said...

Ha, no worries, as Harmen is a not very common name in the US.

You said: "Why should I be optimistic that they WILL come up with an example if they are given indefinite time?" Because science and especially the study of life is very young. Essential things like DNA are just being understood. Scientists usually must build on the findings of their peers and predecessors, so there is progress as time progresses. No reason to be pessimistic this early in the process!

I think our opinions diverge on the topic of human potential. While I'm hesitant to declare a strict limit on the scientific knowledge and progress of humanity, you are declaring the creation of life one step too far on religious grounds. As I were a Christian once, I think I understand where that comes from. If you allow me? In your worldview, humans must be one step "lower" in the hierarchy of the world. Because God is the only Creator of life, we humans cannot attain the power of creation. We only can tinker with it. There is some logic to this I guess. It could also be called a consequent stance given the disapproval of abortion and euthanasia by Baptists. But I don't think it's necessary, as many Christians don't subscribe to it. I respect your position, however.

As for the materialistic professional worldview of scientists (as opposed to their private views - many scientists are Christian, esp. in the US), it's something that's unavoidable given the empiristic nature of scientific research. It's not a religious opinion or "theology" as you call it, nor should it be. It's a system, a set of rules to make research as reliable as possible, so that it can be reproduced and either discarded or improved. "Meten is weten," as we say in the Netherlands - to measure is to know. That's all there is to it, basically.

I see how believers can get upset by that; they think science should take God/faith into account, because it would otherwise get corrupted and false (at least in a religious sense) and in part because science happens to concern itself with fields that overlap with topics from the Bible, like the creation of the universe and life.

But again, I don't see how a materialistic system can ever be combined with transcendental knowledge and revelation. Luckily, privately it's very well possible to do research AND believe, although it can be a struggle for Christian scientists sometimes.

- Harmen

Pastor D said...

Harmen - I knew I liked you. If my Aardsma grandparents had made different decisions, maybe we could be having this conversation in Dutch.

I think you are close to understanding my viewpoint. My presuppositions (worldview) determine my argument - as with anyone. As an atheist, you have faith in a naturalistic and materialistic cause for the universe - afterall - there isn't anything else. You believe that given a million years, science will come up with the answers.

I, believe God exists and has revealed the 'how' of this world in the Bible. The world I observe is consistent with my expectations. It gives me pleasure to point out the complete lack of evidence for macroevolution.

Since materialism holds that there is no such thing as the transcendant, they will be impossible to reconcile. But a theist (Newton?) can still be a scientist!