What do we know so far?
In this series, we have been thinking deeply about origins and destiny and comparing the atheistic worldview of Materialism (Naturalism) that currently dominates science, to the theistic worldview that most people have held since the beginning of human history. We’ve been asking Big Questions in the spirit of Socrates that seek out evidence-based answers using modern scientific, philosophical, and theological reasoning, not just concluding a matter based on dogma or blind faith. We have noted along the way that our initial assumptions and worldview play a major, if not defining, role in arriving at our conclusions, sometimes even transcending the clear verdict of evidence. We’ve learned to discover and challenge our own presuppositions, then follow a path of unencumbered inquiry no matter where it may lead, whether we like the conclusion or not. We are curious. We want to know. We are compelled to know.
Since it is evidence that points to the best explanation, we’ve learned to measure any proposed hypothesis against how well it conforms to reality. In other words, is what we know objectively true and not just what we want to believe? We have found that to arrive at a conclusion almost always requires an element of faith to close the gap between “absolutely true” and the evidence, which can only be “the preponderance of” or “beyond a reasonable doubt.” For our kinds of questions, some evidence is always missing. Only in formal logic, e.g., 2+2 = 4, can we be absolutely sure of a conclusion without closing the gap with an element of faith. This is true in science as well as religion. Evidence is what minimizes the gap.
What can we know about God?
In this final session, we explore the deepest of all questions: What can we know about God? We may ask, “What or who is God?” however our main thrust has been based on the Western culture’s Judeo-Christian conception of God as given in the Bible. I am using the definition of God proposed by Saint Anselm (11th century). He is perhaps the first to reconcile ancient Greek philosophy with the Bible and is considered the father of the Scholastic Movement. He developed what is known as the “ontological argument” for the existence of God. Anselm developed a workable definition for our study: “God is that entity of which nothing greater can be conceived.” Or alternately, “the greatest conceivable Being.” Anselm encourages us to keep elevating our questions and investigation until we reach the greatest conceivable dimension of the subject. As we seek to compare an understanding of God derived from science with one derived from religion, we might say: God is that “Being” maximally endowed with capabilities in any and all “material” attributes imaginable, e.g., power, knowledge, presence; as well as all “immaterial” attributes imaginable, e.g., love, goodness, justice, forgiveness, mercy.
Using Anselm’s definition, our question becomes “Who is God?” eliminating an impersonal God since “life” is obviously greater than “non-life,” and “personhood” greater than “non-personhood.” God must be a Who and not a What. We are not investigating what science says from the perspective of the Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism and their derivatives, since they are not open to scientific comparison because they do not profess an essential differentiation between the creator and the created, i.e., the spiritual and material universe (Pantheism). In Pantheism there is no “Creator” that is separate from the material creation. There is one impersonal animating force that coexists with all things. Therefore, there is not a subject/object distinction which is required for scientific investigation. Also, we are not investigating ethical-based religious belief systems such as Taoism, Confucianism, and Shintoism. They, too, are not subject to evidential-based analysis. Nor are we comparing the polytheistic religions of the Greco-Roman empire whose gods were mythical and metaphorical entities. They are insulated from scientific inquiry. We have been evaluating evidence for creation from the perspective of the three great monotheistic religions of the world: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. All three view God as a transcendent Creator. Even though they have differing conceptions of God’s attributes, they all agree that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and all things in them.” This assertion is open to scientific inquiry. I refer to it as the “Genesis account.” We are employing logic and reason to evaluate the “Genesis account” of creation against the hard data of today’s empirical scientific findings, but without the arbitrary ideological restriction imposed by Materialism.
What is open-minded science?
In its original form, the scientific method was open to 360-degree evaluation of competing hypotheses. As we have previously discussed, modern science was given birth by the Christian worldview in the 16th through 18th centuries as the first great scientists were believers and saw the universe as comprehensible and rational, and being created by a rational God who had design and purpose in mind. When Materialism took over the National Academy of Sciences in the mid-19th century, it established the dogma to remove God from “scientific consideration.” But who gave the National Academy of Sciences the right to decide that science can only consider “materialistic explanations,” and that explanations involving, “In the beginning God created,” were unworthy of consideration? Who gave the National Academy of Sciences the authority to decide that only scientific conclusions of the materialistic kind are valid, and that conclusions derived from the humanities, philosophy, theology, and history — the best of human thought — are not equally valid paths of discovery? It is ironic as science was founded on philosophical not scientific presuppositions. Who gave the National Academy of Sciences the right to say that incorporating any thinking in the classroom other than Materialism “stifles the development of critical thinking patterns in the developing mind and seriously compromises the best interests of public education… hampering the advancement of science and technology” (quoted from NAS published documents)? Really? Tell that to Plato and Aristotle, and Newton and Kepler who originally taught us how to think critically and consider all possible causes for events — transcendent ones such as design and purpose, as well as every-day causes such natural law. Materialism arbitrarily limits investigation to the mundane (a 180-degree view) no matter how ridiculous the explanation may be — and its proponents are even proud of that! Richard Lewontin, a key leader in evolutionary biology articulated it this way:
“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs… in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment… to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
In our study we have allowed “a Divine Foot in the door” (in the customary Socratic manner) and found the result to offer a more robust explanation than Materialism. We implore the academy to return to its foundational principles of scientific investigation and be open to “causes” whether visible or invisible, whether they like the path being explored or not, and base the inquiry strictly on evidential merit not dogmatism. Especially when they have to resort to censorship of ideas they don’t like. Ironically, Materialism accuses Theism as being dogmatic and not worthy of scientific consideration. Wouldn’t it be best to eliminate the dogma wherever it appears and allow evidence to speak for itself, deriving conclusions based on merit alone? Reason will prevail. Fantasy will be readily exposed. The inquiry will develop the path to follow and lead to where it should go — truth!
Our Current Series – “Has Science Rediscovered a Creator?”
#1 Science and Faith — Contrary to popular belief, science and faith have had a rich complementary history, beginning with the development of modern science in the 17th century. Nearly all modern historians agree that science was birthed within the traditional biblical worldview and the two collaborated in the academic world for the next 150 years. However, tensions began in the mid-18th century when the Enlightenment movement stressed “reason and experience” and distanced itself from theology. These tensions increased in the mid-19th century when conflict arose over the Darwinian theory of evolution and its implications regarding God. By the end of the 19th century, a political struggle for the preeminent seat of authority came to a head. Evolutionary science won the battle and assumed the mantle in academia. It defined science in terms of the ideology that “nature is all there is,” which is an atheistic worldview (no God is allowed). Since God claimed that he created nature — a theistic worldview — the ensuing ideological battle intensified as neither side was able to prove or disprove the other’s assumptions. So the question became, is nature all there is, or did God create nature? This series examines the scientific evidence and what it reveals, Session 1.
#2 Beginning of the Universe — Science and Genesis both agree that the universe had a beginning. The universe cannot create itself or be born out of nothing. Furthermore, science says it cannot tell, or even know, what was before the beginning of the Big Bang. “Something” has to be self-existent, transcendent and amazingly powerful to start it off — or we wouldn’t be here to inquire. Science’s current best explanation is the “multiverse,” which is scientific speculation and not subject to verification. The multiverse, since it too needs a beginning, doesn’t explain our universe except to push off the cause to some unknowable “universe-generating machine.” So it too requires an explanation. The multiverse is just “kicking the can down the road.” On the other hand, the Bible clearly identifies that “something” to be the Creator God, Session 2.
#3 Privileged Planet Earth — Science and Genesis both agree that Earth has been elegantly tailored with purpose and design for life to originate and be sustained. For the “just right, extremely fine-tuned” conditions to happen by natural law and chance alone is beyond the bounds of credulity. Materialism might plead to withhold judgment until a better explanation is forthcoming, but offers no empirical basis for such a hope. Genesis has already given an answer. God is the Creator, and he had a purpose for his creation: to build a home to give birth to and nurture human life, Session 3.
#4 Origin of Life — Science doesn’t have a credible hypothesis regarding how life originated, although materialistic speculations abound that involve unknown and unsubstantiated processes. That hope starts with someday we will find the first “self-replicating molecule.” This hope is passing as knowledge in science but is in reality just a faith premise. Media headlines that life has been created out of non-life in the laboratory turn out to be either false reports, or an extrapolation of human intelligent manipulation of previously living matter. Genesis, on the other hand states that God directly created life from non-life, Session 4.
#5 Origin of the Species — Science claims that Darwinian evolution (natural selection working on random mutation) has the power to create all the variety of life on earth. There is not any demonstration that this is a realistic hypothesis. Only minor adaptation to environmental changes has been demonstrated (micro-evolution). That evidence has been unduly extrapolated to be the so-called basis for large-scale evolution (macro-evolution). There is no causal link between the two, only speculation and hand-waving. The historical evidence (the fossil record), and the empirical evidence (biochemistry) of the irreducible and specified complexity of the living cell, are best explained by intelligent design of the species, Session 5.
#6 What Is Being Human? — Evolution claims that mankind (along with his mind) is just an evolved variation of an ape-like ancestor, but Materialism has not demonstrated that nor does it have a credible hypothesis of how that might happen. Evolution of man is a speculative assumption of Materialism supported by very little concrete evidence. The competing hypothesis, that man is a direct creation of God, is not only more likely but also provides the theological reasoning for man’s privileged position within the realm of creation. Humankind is made in God’s image to rule over his creation, Session 6.
#7 What or Who Is God? — In this last session we ask the biggest question of all. Materialism (Naturalism) assumes that “God” is wishful thinking (theism), or is some unknown remote force or agent of creation that is not involved in sustaining the creation (deism). Or that the creation is co-equal somehow with God — we are part of him and he is part of us (pantheism). Theism, however, is based on evidence (above) that God exists and he is the Creator and we are the created. This conclusion is more convincing than the proposed alternatives, Session 7.
It’s time for open-minded science
Neither Materialism nor Theism can be fully proved, but in our study each has been given the opportunity to present its evidential support so that people can make up their own minds. It’s outrageous that in our public education system, students are not exposed to all the data, nor to legitimate competing hypotheses. They’ve only been exposed to the handpicked data of materialism and atheism. That’s not education, that’s indoctrination.
Materialism is not a requirement for doing good science as is proclaimed by the National Academy of Sciences. In fact, in the 20th century, of all the Nobel Prize winners in science, some 65% self-identified as Christians and 20% as Jews — believers in God! They are obviously familiar with the “Genesis account” and it didn’t point them in the wrong direction. Only 11% of the winners self-declared “no belief in God” i.e., atheists and agnostics (Baruch Shalev report, Los Angeles, 2005). Yet over 90% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences self-identity as atheists or hard-core agnostics. Through their influence and power they determine what can and cannot be taught in public schools, universities, museums, textbooks, and public broadcasting presentations. And that determination is grounded in Darwinian macro-evolution with no criticism of it or skepticism permitted.
On the other hand, dissent over the plausibility of Darwinian evolution is rampant among professional biologists (in private), but some are speaking up. Over 1,000 PhD scientists have publicly declared that they are skeptics of evolutionary theory and signed a public document attesting to the fact — A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism (dissentfromdarwin.org). Most signers hold doctorates even professorships from top universities, including Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, MIT, Penn, Berkeley, and UCLA, among many others.
Many open-minded self-identified atheistic or agnostic top scientists, who are ideologically committed to Materialism, are even coming to theistic-laden conclusions as they consider the empirical data with an open mind. Consider these statements by world-class scientists who have self-identified as atheists/agnostics:
Francis Crick, molecular biologist. An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going. (Crick, however, goes on to defend his atheism in spite of the evidence by believing that design in nature is an illusion.)
Paul Davies, mathematical physicist. The laws of physics “seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design.” “The impression of design is overwhelming.” “If physics is the product of design, the universe must have a purpose.” (Davies maintains his agnosticism in spite of his evidence-based conclusion by holding out for some future scientific teleological discovery.)
Fred Hoyle, astronomer. A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question. (Hoyle remained agnostic/atheistic.)
Freeman Dyson, theoretical physicist. Knowledge of good and evil, knowledge of grace and beauty, knowledge of ethical and artistic values, knowledge of human nature derived from history and literature or from intimate acquaintance with family and friends, knowledge of the nature of things derived from meditation or from religion, all are sources of knowledge that stand side by side with science, parts of a human heritage that is older than science and perhaps more enduring. (Dyson remained agnostic.)
Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist. The harmony of natural law reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. (Einstein believed in an impersonal intelligence behind the universe.)
Great science can be done no matter what one’s ideological or theological worldview may be if the science is conducted in an open-minded manner. By arbitrarily limiting science to materialistic (atheistic) answers only, scientific inquiry has become shackled, and young minds have been prevented from exploring the full range of options. They have been discouraged from using science to mature in the full range of human inquiry and development. I know, I was one of them.
My search for a “reasoned faith”
I was a hard-core skeptic as an undergraduate physics major, and a systems engineering graduate school major, firmly entrenched in the assumptions of Materialism. In my mid-30s, and at a crucial time, I went in search of answers for meaning and purpose to life. Materialism communicated to me that there was no meaning and purpose — other than accepting what is known about the universe as a natural entity — and I was to make the most of that. Carl Sagan, astronomer, science communicator, and originator of the award-winning TV series Cosmos (still popular after four decades) put it this way, “The Cosmos is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be.” Steven Weinberg, theoretical physicist, Nobel laureate, and atheist, adds, “Human life is… just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes” (of the Big Bang). “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” Theoretical physicist and atheist Lawrence Krauss: “You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded. Because the elements, the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars. And the only way they could get into your body is if the stars were kind enough to explode. So forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.” I needed something more satisfying than that — not a “blind faith” of materialistic dogma, but a “reasoned faith” with evidential support.
The Biblical Worldview
As part of my search I was introduced to the Bible and the Christian worldview through the work of philosopher Francis Schaeffer. I couldn’t shake off the possibility that the Bible was correct regarding creation since my scientific training kept bringing me back to the first and second laws of thermodynamics. #1: Matter and energy cannot be created nor destroyed. Yet here it is, and here I am, “created”! #2: The universe is running down like a wound-up clock (entropy). If the universe has an ending, it had to have a beginning — otherwise we wouldn’t exist at this point in time. Along with the fundamental law of cause and effect, the idea of a self-existent, transcendent, all-powerful Creator became a logical possibility — actually more logical since the universe could not come out of nothing, and it was not infinitely old. I investigated the claims of the Bible and was amazed at how it not only accurately described the sequence of the creation events in Genesis 1 and 2 but, more importantly, it better explained our human condition and the secular milieu in which I was living. It opened my mind to the spiritual, moral, and philosophical dimensions of life from which I was sheltered in my secular science education. I considered that the idea of God would give me the meaning, purpose, and hope I was seeking. And I was right.
What is the Bible?
I was a skeptic about the Bible and its claim to be the Word of God, a special revelation by the Creator himself (John 1). How could I possibly believe such an extraordinary claim? That would require extraordinary evidence. What I discovered is that the Bible, unlike many other holy books, makes testable evidential claims of history and science using standard academic disciplines that are used routinely to validate the accuracy, authenticity, and authority of any historical document. The Bible has been put to that test for 2,000 years and has been shown to be true. It is beyond the scope of this study to review the evidence and methodology, but the reader is urged to investigate the claim. Perhaps a good place to start research would be a general analysis of the truth-claims of the Bible in the recommended sources in the Resources section.
When you read the Bible, you will discover that it asks you to “examine it and hold fast to that which is true” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). God begs the reader to “reason” with him (Isaiah 1:18), which I did. It declares that nature herself gave an unambiguous testimony to her Creator (Romans 1:20) — even of God’s supernatural attributes (Hebrews 11:3). The Bible introduced me to the reason for man’s separation from God and his redemption plan for mankind through Jesus Christ, as well as a future destiny of eternal life John 3:16). This was not only reasonable once I understood the biblical worldview of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration, but its explanation of reality far outshone any other secular or religious truth-claim I had been investigating. And there had been many: from the great religions of the world to the prevailing secular philosophies of existentialism, objectivism, materialism, nihilism. Today, more than 40 years later, those truths are even more real to me since life’s abundant experiential opportunities and challenges have testified to the reality of the Bible’s wisdom. Christianity has become the organizing principle of my life — my worldview — and it has given me the meaning, purpose, and hope I was seeking; and as a bonus, eternal life and a concluding destiny. Elizabeth Elliot verbalized my commitment well, “There is nothing worth living for, unless it is worth dying for.” I had taken Socrates’s challenge seriously – “know thyself” – and examined the Big Questions of life through the eyes of scientific knowledge and biblical faith. I have followed the path of both for over 40 years with joy and without regret. Click here if you are interested in my personal journey.
What are your conclusions?
How has this study impacted your thinking about origins and destiny? About meaning and morality? About the Big Questions of life? What are your takeaways? How might you be different as a result of what you have learned? Are you more aware of your own worldview? Do you better appreciate the worldview of others? How might you want to follow up in action and study? Join us at Socrates@SaddleBrooke through the link below and start asking questions and entering into discussions at the Socrates Forum.
Blaise Pascal was a renowned 17th century physicist, mathematician, philosopher, and theologian. He argued that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. He put the terms in a probabilistic formulation known as Pascal’s Wager: “If God does not exist you will have only a finite loss (perhaps of some pleasures and luxuries), whereas if he does exist you stand to receive infinite gains (heaven) and avoid infinite losses (hell).
Pascal said it this way, “If you win you gain all. If you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then without hesitation that He exists.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning expressed her conclusion in her epic poem, Aurora Leigh
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes —
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware…
Author Oscar Wilde put it a little less poetically, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
RECOMMENDED READING FOR FURTHER STUDY
The Case for a Creator, A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points toward God, Lee Strobel, Zondervan, 2004
Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief, Huston Smith, HarperSanFrancisco, 2001
The Reason for God, Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Timothy Keller, Penguin, 2018
There is A God, How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, Anthony Flew, Harper One, 2007
The Great Quest, Invitation to an Examined Life and a Sure Path to Meaning, Os Guiness, IVP, 2022
Signals of Transcendence, Listening to the Promptings of Life, Os Guiness, 2023
Reflections on the Existence of God, Richard E. Simmons III, Union Hill Publishing, 2019
The Question of God, C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud, Armand Nicholai, The Free Press, 2002
Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, William Lane Craig, Crossway, 2008
Theistic Evolution, A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, Moreland, Meyer, Shaw, Gauger, Grudem, Crossway Publications, 2017
Why Does God Allow Evil, Compelling Answers for Life's Toughest Questions, Clay Jones, Harvest House Publishers, 2017
Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism, Phillip E. Johnson and John Mark Reynolds, IVP Books, 2010
The Fingerprint of God, Reasons to Believe Collection, Hugh Ross, NavPress, 2010
The Mind of God, The Scientific Basis for a Rational World, Paul Davies, A Touch Book, 1992
Chance or the Dance? A Critique of Modern Secularism, Thomas Howard, Ignatius Press, 1989
Is Reality Secular? Testing the Assumptions of Four Global Worldviews, Mary Poplin, IVP Books, 2014
Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis, HarperOne, 1952
The God Who Is There, Francis Schaeffer, IVP Books, Anniversary Edition, 2020
Escape From Reason, Francis A. Schaffer, IVP Books, 2006
The Bible. If you haven't read the Bible, pick one up and check it out. You might be surprised as to how well it tracks to and explains reality.