Showing posts with label teleology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teleology. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Faith vs. Science: Checkmate (part 2)

If you missed part one of this discussion you can read it here.  Also, as I mentioned in that entry there are two sections of Dr. Lennox's lecture here and here.  I highly recommend you listen to his words as he is much more eloquent that I can convey here.

Part one started from the position of fear, but this part is about how even science requires faith.  He gives several quotes about how scientists all have to have faith that there is something out there in the universe to be understood.  Atheists all have faith in the rational intelligibility of the universe, and that human powers of reason have a certain power of validity.  What reliability do our cognitive faculties have if we're nothing more than a collection of accidents?  If our thoughts are just the movements of atoms in our brains then why should we trust them at all?  C.S. Lewis uses this type of argument as well.  If there's nothing more than materialism then we have no reason to believe what we believe.

Here's a powerful quote from the lecture:  "If Dawkins is right, that we are a product of mindless unguided natural processes, the he has given us strong reasons to doubt the reliability of human cognitive faculties and therefore inevitably to doubt the validity of any belief that they produce, including Dawkins' own science and his atheism."  Why do the New Atheists seem to claim that it's more rational to believe that a random series of mutations and natural selection led to our faculties of reason and the ability to discern truth, and on the other hand claim that it's irrational to believe that those abilities were endowed by a creator?

Dr. Lennox says that his reason for rejecting this idea of materialism of Dawkins, Hitchens and others when it comes to science, is that it destroys science not just belief in God.  Of course their goal is to destroy faith in God and so by definition they destroy peoples' belief in God but they also take down science.  Apparently that is a price they are willing to pay for their beliefs.

So many of the fathers of Western science saw the power of the biblical view of God and it led them to seek out reasonable answers for their questions.  They expected law and logic in nature because they knew of the Law Giver.  The history of science shows how important the biblical worldview has been in the rise of science in western culture.  Even secular historians agree that the historical evidence given against the biblical worldview is worthless.

The heart of the issue according to Dawkins in his book The God Delusion, is in the assumption that introducing God would mean an end of all science.  His logic behind this idea is quite convoluted and (as Dr. Lennox argues) wrong.  According to Dawkins, God cannot be an explanation for the universe because God is by definition more complex and therefore less probable than the thing being explained.  Secondly he adds the idea that God was always there and you might as well say that life was always there and DNA was always there and leave God out of it.  To sum it up, it's two arguments, the explanation for something cannot be more complex than that which is being explained, and the schoolboy argument; who created God?

In answer to the first portion of the argument Dr. Lennox talked about the idea of one finding a book called The God Delusion and then looking for an explanation for the book's existence.  It's a fairly complicated book, over 400 pages, and one finds that it's written by a man named Richard Dawkins and a human mind is by far more complex than any book.  So, by Dawkins' own rules, this idea would bring an end to all science.  This is true of a great many things, often the explanation for a thing is much more complicated than the thing it explains.  He uses a similar example with two scratches on the wall of a cave in China.  The scientist that finds them says, look, I've found human intelligence.  To which Dawkins must respond, using this logic, that to postulate human intelligence would mean an end to all science even though it's clearly the Chinese symbol for man (⼈).  The rational scientist understands that this is the start of all science, one makes these types of observations, postulates part of the answer, then seeks out the rest of the answers.  Obviously, the real answer is that explanations aren't always more simple than the things being explained.

The second part of the argument (who created God?) is refuted, simply in definition of God.  God is the uncreated, creator.  Therefore, the question, "who created God?" is futile.  If the book had been The Created God Delusion no one would care, because most everyone agrees that man-made gods are delusions.  The uncreated God is a totally different idea. That's the whole point of John 1, "In the beginning was the Word" and "all things came into being through Him."  Any other type of god is a delusion.  The universe is not primary, it is derivative God is NOT derivative He is primary.  If the question, "who created God?" is a legitimate question, then how about, you believe the universe created you, then who created the universe?"

Another powerful argument from design...  If you're walking on the beach and see the first couple letters of your name written in the sand, you assume that some intelligence wrote those letters there.  Then later you're analyzing the human genome and you see the ATCG sequence of genes, over three billion of them in exactly the right order for it to work and you ask what the origin of that complex code is, and the answer, from an atheist point of view must be, chance and necessity.  Why, in the instance of seeing part of one's name written in the sand one postulates an intelligence, but when seeing the unique encoded design behind all life as we know it, does one postulate chance and necessity?

Both the atheist and the theist end up believing an Ultimate fact either the universe or mass energy or some other physical thing, or, for the theist, it's God.  The key question of life is not that there's an Ultimate fact, but which Ultimate fact is correct?  Two world views... in the beginning, mass energy or gravity or some other thing (it doesn't say where that came from), or in the beginning, God.

One thing that's come to my mind since I read Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter, it seems to be that the Gödel Incompleteness Theorem would add to the teleological arguments that Dr. Lennox and others have made.  In my simple, basic understanding of the theorem that mainly applies to the philosophy of mathematics, is that no system, if it's sufficiently complex to make a statement, can be complete.  Take Euclid's theorem that there are an infinite number of prime numbers there is no way to sufficiently list all prime numbers, that's part of what infinite means.  There's no way to count to infinity, so even though there are a couple of proofs for an infinite number of primes nothing in mathematics can explain all possible combinations of numbers.  Here's where the idea of God makes sense.  Take the set of the whole universe, we cannot get outside this logical set, but as Gödel implies, there must be something outside that set.  In Hofstadter's book he uses his characters in the book reading a book about a book about a book in which they're having adventures.  In the course of the story within the story within the story (you get the point even if I didn't match up the number of stories!) the characters pop out of each story till the (almost) get to the top level.  Well, God is outside all levels, and the sets all stop with Him.  The uncreated, creator that makes all logic make logical sense.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Faith vs. Science: Checkmate (part 1)

Just a quick interlude in my Discovering the Philosopher in You series.

I recently listened to an intriguing podcast of a lecture from a Dr. John Lennox part one here and two here if you care to listen.  The first quote mentioned in the lecture from Bertrand Russell, "What science cannot explain, humanity cannot know."  Dr. Lennox retorts, "that statement is not of science, so if it is true it is false."  I've written of the conflicts between science, philosophy, and religion before in this entry, and this one, and here about the Higgs boson, and it seems like a common theme in my life, so this lecture was right up my alley.

He starts off with a quote from Psalms 91:5 You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day.  We all have fear.  Especially in this context of that there's someone somewhere that's smarter than you.  In defense of one's faith this is terrifying, I know I've struggled with this at times.  I know I'm not really all that smart, I'm not as well read as I'd like to be and I'll never catch up to others that have focused their lives their studies.  The context of 1 Peter 3:15 [(NASB) but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence] is one of fear.  Fear of not having all the answers when someone asks.  Dr. Lennox says that he's afraid in this area, which seems crazy to me to hear that from this powerful apologist.  He gives the story of Peter's denial of Christ, and how even this giant of the Church (at least in this story) is afraid and when accosted about his association with Jesus and he denies it three times (vs 34)!

The good news of Dr. Lennox's message is that we (as Christians) don't need to fear science's attacks because in reality there is no war between science and Christianity, the real conflict is between belief in God and disbelief in God, and the conflict has been going on at least since the beginnings of Greek philosophy.  The atomists, and their assertion that the universe is all there is, non-derivative against Plato, Aristotle, and others that believed god or gods were responsible for creating the universe.  Now obviously I believe the Greek gods were wrong, and I think history has proven that.  If the Greeks were right about their view of creation then their religion wouldn't have died out so many years ago.  The New Atheists are waging war against religion/Christianity using the power of science, and for a quite a while now they've been succeeding.  Some seem to think that science excludes faith, but that isn't borne out in reality.  There are so many prominent scientists that have powerful outspoken testimonies for Christ.  I've read Dr. Francis Collins' (Dr. Lennox mentions Dr. Francis and other preeminent scientists that have powerful faith) book and I've written about it on two different occasions, and while we have our differences, his testimony is powerful and he's obviously a consumate scientist.  So obviously scientists can, and many do, have faith.

Authorial intention...  I love Dr. Lennox's anecdote about authorial intention.  He talks about meeting with a man that had written a book about the idea that there is no such thing as authorial intent.  To which he replies, so, if I read your book I'll be convinced that there's no such thing as authorial intent?  Then I'll pass.  (**laughter from the crowd**)  In case it's not obvious, if the book has no authorial intent, then there's no point to the book.

Here are the limitations of science, and they're clearly shown in science's inability to answer the questions of a child; why am I here, where do I come from, and what is the purpose of life.  Scientist cannot give us morality either.  There are ethical foundations of science but not the scientific foundations of ethics, and looking back in history (his not so veiled reference to Nazi eugenics ideals) we can see what ethics are like when based on science.

Dr. Lennox also references what is commonly called an argument from design or a teleological argument.  His example goes like this, say you have a Ford Galaxy like this one:

Now, looking at this car and you're forced to choose an explanation for the car.  New Atheists say you must choose either the laws of physics, mechanics, engineering, and internal combustion, but on the other side you have Henry Ford.  Obviously you can't choose just one, both are required.  The idea is that one has to choose either science or faith, which is a false dilemma.  One of the reasons for this dangerous disagreement is the idea that God is only a god of the gaps, the idea that God is only good for explaining what we don't understand. This is a flawed view of God, because He's the reason for everything.  Science is about studying a given with a given.  Because neither science nor the scientist created the universe.

These problems stem from a misunderstanding of laws and mechanism and agency.  Newton's Principea Mathematica was written so that the thinking man would believe in God.  The more you know about a thing the more impressive one's understanding of what you're studying.  The more you know about art the better you can appreciate Rembrandt; the better you understand mechanics the more you appreciate a Rolls-Royce.

New Atheists are confused about the nature of faith.  It's not about belief without evidence.  It's about belief where there is evidence.  There are so many reasons to believe and there is evidence.  Belief without evidence really is dangerous.  It's where suicide bombers come from.  When Jesus blesses doubting Thomas for his belief, He isn't saying that we should believe without evidence, He's saying that many will do so; it's true there are millions of people even today that still believe in Jesus without seeing Him.  Not without evidence, but just the simple logistics of not seeing Jesus.

I know you all love when I loquaciously carry on, but I'm going to have to divide this into two parts.  I've only covered the first half of the lecture and there's so much more he has to say that I want to pass on to you.  So stay tuned for part two.

Such a beautiful place to live

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Teleology and Chance

Sorry (again), for the long time between entries!  I've been so busy.  It sucks too because I've been trying to focus on reading a book I borrowed from a coworker and I haven't been prioritizing well and my Bible reading has been suffering.

Anyways, in the course of my listening to the History of Philosophy podcast, I've recently come across a couple recordings talking about Aristotle's ethics.  Well, two of the ideas Professor Adamson has mentioned about Aristotle that I've enjoyed learning about are the ideas of chance and teleology.  I'll cover chance first because it is the most interesting and in my mind the most controversial.

According to the podcast talks about Aristotle defining chance being only intelligible in the light a final cause or goal.  In general, I enjoy this professor's impartiality, however, in this particular podcast Professor Adamson makes it abundantly clear that he is completely convinced that Darwin's theory of Evolution is completely true and unquestionable.  Aristotle clearly believes in a teleological view of nature and that chance as something that is NOT the norm, incredibly exceptional.  Aristotle wouldn't have any concept of how nature, which is uniform (in many ways) and has predictable processes, could come about through random chance, since chance is NOT normal.  To this concept, Prof Adamson says that Darwin has since proven that random chance does lead to nature/life as we understand it.  I'm sorry Prof but I have to disagree with you, no one has yet to prove that random natural occurrences/changes can lead to the diversity/complexity of nature.  I'm not stupid, there appears to be some evidence, and I certainly don't have answers to all the evidence and some of my answers are based on faith, but it's certainly not proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.  What bothers me is that Prof Adamson takes Darwin's ideas one-hundred percent on faith as truth.

The other concept that I can get behind from the lectures on Aristotle I've already somewhat alluded to, teleology.  If you're not familiar the idea revolves around the concept of a sense of purpose.  The main argument for God that comes from this concept goes like this.  Do your eyes have a purpose?  Do your ears?  Do all you separate organs/body parts?  How can it be that each disparate part could have a purpose and come together as a random assortment.  Life does have purpose.  I feel that Aristotle and so many others have missed that purpose, or as the Bible says "[they have] changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen."  (Romans 1:25 KJV)  I'm not usually one for ceremony but I like the way the Westminster Shorter Catechism states this final end for which man was made by God, "What is the chief end of man?  Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.  If one lives with that in mind the teleology of Aristotle is clear, that God made mankind with the purpose of loving God forever.

I love this beautiful place