Tag Archives: evolution

The Limits of Science

I was talking with some new friends who are ardent atheists and believers in Darwinian evolutionary theory.  They continuously call my position (I’m a Christian) a faith-based proposition.  Yet, when I pressed them and noted that their very belief in science as a legitimate means to finding truth (can’t be proved in a lab), their assumption that the universe is rational, their assumption that the universe is governed by laws, and the fact that we assume that our minds correspond to reality…are all necessary to even begin to do science—they overwhelmingly accused me of playing tricks and word games. No.  Word games is when I say, “If you like your plan you can keep your plan.”  We all know the truth there.

When I talked with them about evolution and the problems with it, they seemd like I was speaking from some manual of holy dogma.  For example, I asked them:

“Suppose a group of French Cistercian monks began to copy Don Quixote from Spanish to French…keep in mind that they don’t speak Spanish, but only French.  Would it be plausible than in their accidents while copying the manuscript, and through a process of a certain amount of time, that the manuscript would randomly change and become War and Peace?”

I followed that up with this question:

“We know that to turn a Buick into a submarine would be an extraordinarily complex engineering problem.  At my most basic estimates, I would say that such a project would require at least 50,000 changes.  How many intermediate forms of the car/sub would we expect to see?  If i told you that we had in the record, 49,999, that would lead you to one conclusion.  What If I told you we had seven?  What would that do to the theory?  What if instead of a car, we had a cow, and instead of a submarine, we had a whale?  What would have to change?  Well, you would have to add a diving apparatus, a breathing mechanism, change the skin to make it watertight, change the intestinal tract to make it conducive to the sea–and these are just estimates on the surface.  How many changes would you expect?  How many intermediate forms?  49,999?  Maybe so.  Do you know how many intermediate forms we have between the primitive cow-like creature and the whale?  Seven.”

Further, when I asked them how on an evolutionary paradigm, they could believe that truth was worthwhile—they looked confused.  I told them that on an evolutionary view, survival is more important than truth; therefore, one must reject truth outright if it means it will give them a better chance at survival (keep in mind these Darwinists don’t typically believe in absolute truths–well except that one).  Perhaps the most articulate atheist of our time, John Gray (professor emeritus at the London School of Economics) says in his book Straw Dogs, that all that matters is survival.  He goes on to say that morality is only something to be used in times of comfort, and when it comes down to it, morality is a means to being exterminated.

Now—What about the truth of what would happen if I jumped out of a building?  If I were in a 20 story hotel room, and I looked out the window, the truth is—jumping out the window will hurt or kill me.  On the other hand, if a nerve agent were released in my room, or if a man with a gun came in and started shooting—or if by some chance occurrence, the entire building became engulfed in flame; I would have no choice but to go against what I know to be true and jump out of my window in the name of survival.  Survival is more important than truth to the Darwinist—and this is true even if our actions will only ensure a few more moments of survival.  On a Darwinian view, this must happen.  Survival is the predominant ethic.  It just is, and as Dawkins says: “we dance to its music.”

The final straw was when I asked them if they came to believe their views on Darwinian evolutionary theory because they weighed the pros and cons and listened to arguments—or if they were determined to hold these views.  I asked them, “Based on the evidence and the pros and cons, would you say that you hold to smooth evolutionary process or punctuated equilibrium theory?”  One of them replied, “I haven’t looked into Punctuated Eq yet…I have no opinion.”  Wow!  This is stunning.  They are actually asserting that there might be a choice!  When I pressed that point,  they again said that I was engaging in asking trick questions and resorting to metaphysics.

Are their objections true?  Notice that in their replies, they never took my arguments on.  Instead, my arguments are rendered as faith based or illegitimate.  They aren’t interested in debate, they want to remove the possibility of debate.   And I’m the narrow minded one they tell me.

Let’s talk about the belief that science is a legitimate endeavor at finding truth.  If we only take things to be true based on evidence and proof, what proof is there that the statement, “Science is a legitimate endeavor at finding truth” true?  How can this be demonstrated in a laboratory?  It can’t.  It is presumed before science can begin.  What about the assumption that the universe is rational?  Why is it that our universe is governed by an extremely accurate and fine-tuned set of numerical constants?  Why is it that if we changed the expansion rate of the universe by one part in a hundred thousand million million, we would have no universe and no life?  Why?  We assume these things to be true, but can’t even begin to answer the question why.  The truth is, there is no reason for these things to be.  They just are.  We have to assume them to engage in science.

What about proof itself?  Why is it that people who call themselves ‘scientific’ often ask for proof of God?  My dear friends, proof is only found in pure mathematics.  In science we can give explanations.  The problem is, science is not the only means of explanation, and in many ways it falls short.  If I were to ask you to explain the boiling kettle on the stove, science would say:  A heat source warms the container with water to a point where the molecules become agitated and turn to steam.  Another answer would be, “I wanted a cup of tea.”  Both are correct.  Neither is a better explanation.  What explains a Ford car?  Internal combustion, chemistry, and engineering…or Henry Ford?  You tell me.

What about the presumption that the universe is governed by laws?  Joel Primack asked an interesting question. He asked what compels the electron to follows the laws of nature.  What compels it to stay in its orbit? Good question. I don’t know. But Heinrich Himmler, who had presided over the destruction of churches and synagogues throughout Europe and was the mastermind behind the extermination of the Jewish people, asked a very similar question in 1944. When confronted with the onerous treaty obligations the German state had adopted with respect to its own satraps, he asked insouciantly but pregnantly, “After all, what compels us to keep our promises?” Moral relativism is very often derided as an unhappy consequence of atheism. I don’t think moral relativism is a particularly deep issue, but I do think the issue of what compels us to keep our promises is very relevant.  But, in the universe what compels anything to follow laws?  This cannot be demonstrated in the laboratory.  We don’t even know what gravity is.  We don’t know what energy is.  Try this experiment—ask a quantum physicist what energy is.  Then correct them:  “Sir, I didn’t ask you to describe the effect of energy, I asked you to tell me what it is.”  Just because we don’t know what something is doesn’t mean it ceases to exist.  We should be more humble.  The universe abides by laws, and we assume them to be there.

What about the existence of the mind and its ability to adjudicate the world as reality?  How can this be proven?  Many will tell you that our minds are merely grey matter that includes the random firing of neurons and so forth.  Really?  They will tell you that the brain is a product of time plus matter plus chance—and that what we think is hardwired in.  Ok—if I told you that the airplane you were flying on—that the onboard computers were the products of time matter and chance—would you trust the plane enough to fly on it?  Obviously not—survival remember?  Then why would you trust the pilots who have a brain that comes from the same process?  Further, if our brains are really randomly evolved things, why should we trust anything we think is true?  I mean, if I am predetermined to think the things I do (as is the view among Dawkins, Dennett, and their ilk), it follows that I don’t come to know things based on evidence or pros and cons.  I believe it because I am determined to believe it.  But the question is deeper yet.  This view of determinism, and that the brain is hardwired—have I come to know that based on evidence and pros and cons?  Or have I come to believe it because it is hardwired in?  How can one trust this?

Finally, what about the fact that words and semiotics carry meaning?  If matter is all there is, how can ink on a typed page carry information?  Why is it when we go into a cave and see a 30,000 year old marking on the wall, we instantly assume it is an ancient Chinese character rather that the product of time plus matter plus chance?  Further, why is it when we see the letters, “ILOVEYOU” written on the beach, we assume an intelligence?  Why don’t we assume intelligence when we look at the longest word in the world, namely, the human genome?

I love science, but one must have just as much faith to believe in a purely naturalistic view of the universe as the theist does to believe in an all-powerful God.  The conflict isn’t between religion and science; on the contrary.  It is between theism and naturalism.

I am reminded what the Nobel Laureate Peter Medwar said in his book, The Limits of Science:

 “The existence of a limit to science is, however, made clear by its inability to answer childlike questions having to do with first and last things—questions such as: ‘How did everything begin?’; ‘What are we all here for?’; ‘What is the point of living?’”

Science leaves too many things unanswered.  If matter and science were all that existed, we might as well tear down the literature, music, art, and history departments.  They can tell us nothing.  As John Gray says, “A purely naturalistic view of the universe leaves no room for secular hope.”  I fully agree.  We can make the moral case for science, but we cannot make the scientific case for morality.

Consider a story:

I have in front of me a rather remarkable button. If you should press it, yours would be untold riches, everlasting life, all the wishes you want, and whatever else you desire. The only consequence to pressing it beyond your happiness is the death of an anonymous Chinese peasant. Who among us would you trust with this button?

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Yeah you know that whole Tony Dungy thing?

With just a few words, the great coach and football analyst Tony Dungy has literally found himself in a red hot imbroglio.  It’s really a shame too.  Let’s look at his comments:

Dungy noted in an interview, that if he were still coaching today, that he wouldn’t have drafted Sam “(n)ot because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. It’s not going to be totally smooth…things will happen.”

I cannot for the life of me see any problems with this statement.  Let’s take something a bit less controversial.

What if a player was drafted in the 7th round who actively campaigns for the KKK?  What if he had made numerous comments in interviews that included the “n word,” referred to blacks and other minorities as less than human, and was regularly on the cover of white supremacy literature?

What if a player was drafted in the 7th round who was an ardent supporter of the 9-11 terrorists?  What if he said that he was going to use his platform in the NFL to bring attention and provide support to al Qaeda terrorists?  What if numerous interviews found him denouncing Americans and calling for jihad on our soil?

If either of those were the case, would you have a problem with Tony Dungy saying, “I do not believe ________’s (white supremacy) (Islamic faith) will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization,” like he said in a statement on Pro Football Talk.com? What if he went on to say about the two cases, “I do; however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction? Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction. I wish __________ nothing but the best in his quest to become a star in the NFL and I am confident he will get the opportunity to show what he can do on the field.”

You have to admit, considering those two egregious hypothetical situations, that is an extremely benign statement! In this case, we have a known racist or supporter of terrorism and Dungy still wants the guy to get a “shot” and to “show what he can do on the field.” I think people would argue for a more vociferous critique by Dungy! “This isn’t enough…he is a Christian, and a man of character. He must stand against racism against blacks.” “How can he support the 9-11 attackers? He must not allow this to be swept under the rug!”

So, now—let’s look at the situation as it really is. We have an openly homosexual Defensive player named Michael Sam drafted in the…7th round by the St. Louis Rams. Upon his draft, leading up to it and following it, he has been the recipient of lavish media praise. In fact, Oprah was in talks to make a television show about him, but it was subsequently nixed because it was decided by his drafting team to be a distraction!

Dungy was asked if he would have drafted Sam. I think a succinct, “No” would have sufficed, but the interviewer wanted more. So, we have Dungy’s comments.

Notice in his comments, he didn’t condemn Sam for his lifestyle choice. He didn’t say, “eww gross.” He didn’t say that Sam was less than human. On the contrary, he said that HE wouldn’t have drafted Sam, but that he felt he deserved a chance to prove himself on the field. What is the problem?

Here is the problem:  On Tuesday, Pardon the Interruption’s Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon were discussing former NFL coach Tony Dungy’s recent comments that media attention would have pushed him away from drafting Sam. Kornheiser said he was optimistic that NFL players would be personally tolerant of Sam, though.

And then this was said:

“I’m more skeptical,” Wilbon countered. “I think there is a component, a subculture of the religious Right, that is very influential in football — maybe not the other sports, but football — and I don’t see this going as smoothly as you see it.”​

Now, what does Wilbon mean when he talks about the subculture of the religious Right?  Well, he is talking about Dungy!  He is talking about the players who circle up and pray after games.  He is talking about Tebow.  He is talking about Christians.

Christianity makes liberals nervous.

You have to remember, Christianity makes some exclusive truth claims.  First of all, it claims that Jesus Christ is The way.  It claims that all men are sinners and in need of redemption that humans are not in a position to secure for themselves.  It claims that who we are is defined by our identity…in Christ—rather than the things we do, or our biological DNA.

The above is highly controversial to the Left.  The Bible even tells us that it will be controversial.

The first statement, that Christ is THE way—that runs right into the oncoming traffic of the leftist ideology.  The liberal believes that all ways are THE way—well, with a caveat:  They believe they are the most tolerant people on the planet—they say that all ideas are equal—but then comes the clincher:  All ideas are equal, until you disagree with the idea that all ideas are equal (which if you really think about it, necessarily follows. If all ideas are equal, then it would also affirm the view that says “no ideas are equal.”  This contradicts.  It cannot be tenable).  At that point, they become the most intolerant group of people on the planet.  They aren’t interested in debate, dialogue, or Obama’s favorite word, “bipartisanship.”  They are only interested in destroying the opposing view.

Christians on the other hand, believe that all people are equal, but all ideas are not.  It is wrong to embrace Nazi ideology.  It is wrong to embrace ideology that affirms pedophilia.  Liberals believe that all ideas are equal but all people are not.  My evidence:  Read Wilbon’s quote.  They are not attacking Dungy’s ideas—or engaging with the arguments:  They are attacking HIM and this fringe element called the religious right.  Notice, they aren’t saying, “I philosophically oppose the view that all men need redemption from God.”  They are instead saying, “Tony Dungy just admitted that Tony Dungy isn’t a skilled enough coach to deal with the distractions of doing the right thing…”  You even have people saying, “Dungy is entitled to his opinion, he just cannot say it aloud.”  Wow—so now, Dungy, who is a black man…is now a second class citizen who is unable to speak his mind?  My how times have changed.

The second statement:  All men are sinners and in need of redemption.  Well, aside from the obvious objections to masculine pronouns that feminists will bring up, this goes against the entire humanist doctrine.  In their view, all people are good; it is society that lets them down.  It is the culture who is to blame for bad behavior, not the person themselves.  They take away all need for personal responsibility.

Why is it that when crime happens, instead of punishing criminals, they always want to find the root cause of it (by root cause, I mean…the societal cause)?  They are not interested in dealing with the personal responsibility of certain actions.  The person CHOSE to commit a crime.  It doesn’t matter what society has or hasn’t done.  They are only interested in how the crime came to happen.  They don’t care to ask, “Are people flawed,” but rather; “why was he born into socioeconomic conditions that produced this type of behavior?”  It is a very different view of human nature.

The other side of this matter is that the left believes that we are all the product of time plus matter plus chance—and as a result, our DNA dictates to us what we will do.  We cannot be responsible for things that happen at the microbiological level.  We are compelled to behave in this way without any choice.  It is determined.  If that were true though—and everything was predetermined, then does the statement, “He should keep his opinion to himself” have any meaning?  On the naturalistic view, which the left overwhelmingly affirms, I haven’t weighed any arguments, or looked at the pros and cons of that statement.  I am just wired to believe it is true.  Why should that hold any weight?

The Christian believes otherwise.  The Christian believes that man is born flawed—as Kant said:  “From the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was made.”  We cannot resist sin, or doing wrong on our own.  We are drawn to it and consumed by it.  In the Christian view, sin doesn’t just describe something we do; it describes a power that controls us.  Until this problem is dealt with, we cannot escape it.  We will continue to be owned by it.  As a result, we need redemption—and it is a redemption that we, because of our sinful nature, are not in a position to secure for ourselves.

 

Finally, the idea of ontological being.  The humanist or liberal believes that we are defined by what we do. The Christian believes we are defined, by our being—and specifically the being of Christ in us.  If we don’t have Christ in us, we are ontologically dead.  The liberal would say that “I am a homosexual,” or “I am a heterosexual.” Even the liberal Christian will say, “I am a body who has a soul,” or, “I am a social activist—and I believe in God.” It is enough to be those things.

The Christian on the other hand says, “I am a Child of God…and I DO things.”  Being is always before action to the Christian.  Being a homosexual or heterosexual is something that we DO.  Being a social activist is something I do.  What I do flows from my being.  My being doesn’t flow from what I do.  I cannot truly be in a relationship until I decide to ACT.  I have to talk to my spouse.  I have to engage with her.  If I lived in a vacuum, I would not be in relationship.  It requires action.  It requires doing.  Saying, “I am a heterosexual” really has no meaning at all without action.  Likewise, you will not hear any denunciation of homosexuality in the Bible as long as it is contained in the person.  It is the act of doing homosexual activity that is condemned.  After all, the Bible clearly says that Jesus WAS tempted.  It isn’t that he was tempted that is important.  What is important is that he DIDN’T do what he was tempted to do.  His being informed what he did—and he didn’t sin.

Being on the other hand only requires…well, life.  In the Christian view, it is the fact that Christ enters us and gives us life, that our ontological being is changed.  We are no longer only a lump of flesh and DNA.  We are more:  We are no longer a body who has a soul; we are a soul who has a body.  Another way to say it—Ravi Zacharias routinely says, “Jesus didn’t come into the world to make bad people good.  He came to make dead men live.”  Being.

With those things being said, I think it is clear why there is such a negative reaction by the secular journalists when someone like Dungy says what he says.  It isn’t so much his comments, as they were fairly benign.  No—the problem is that his Christianity is seen as his prevailing ideology.  It is the fact that his being (Christ) informs all that he does.  He doesn’t believe it is his DNA or societal conditions that inform it.  He believes in Christ as the only way, he believes in original sin, and he believes that he IS a Child of God—not a football coach or a heterosexual.

Do you see the problem?  It is a matter of truth claim.  Dungy and all Christians are making an exclusive claim to truth when they identify as a Child of God.  They are saying that ALL men are flawed, that Jesus is the greatest who exists, and that it is ONLY through Jesus that ALL men can become, unflawed.

Let me put it into the lens of a personal story—and see two reactions to truth:

I once went to get a haircut, and in the middle of my cut, the lady cutting my hair said to the other lady working, “Business is good, but there must be more to life than this.”  I caught her eye in the mirror and said, “You know, in life, we aren’t made happy by what we acquire, but by what we appreciate.”  She was clearly interested, so I went on:  “The trouble as I see it is, that we often think we have nothing to be grateful for, but I think the real problem is, many times we think we have no one to be grateful to.”  She began to engage with me, and told me that she was very fearful about the future; and specifically, about bringing a baby into such an evil world.  I asked her then, “What is more troubling, the evil out there, or the evil inside?”  She agreed that the evil inside was more troubling, and she said, that it often felt like there was a power that controlled her—and that no matter what she did, she always feel prisoner to it.  I told her, “that power is what we call sin—and it doesn’t describe only actions that we do…but like you say, it describes a power that controls us.”  She nodded, and said, “I sometimes wish there was a way to be free from it…its almost like I need a……..”  I interrupted…”A savior?”  She lit up and said, “Yeah!  A Savior.  That is what I need.  What a great word.” 

A couple of weeks later I went back to check up on her…and she immediately sat me and began cutting my hair.  She told me that after our talk, she went home and told everything to her husband.  I thought to myself, “This will be interesting.”  So, I said to her, “what did he say?”   She said, “he said I was preaching at him!?”

Well of course she was.  Can you imagine coming home for dinner and hearing this:  “Hey honey… I need to tell you something….”  First, “You aren’t made happy by what you acquire, but by what you appreciate.”  “It isn’t that you have nothing to be thankful for, but that you have no one to be grateful to.”  “You aren’t held captive by what you do, but instead by a sin that controls you.”  “The only hope you have of getting rid of this sin is a Savior…and that savior is Jesus Christ.”

Was he ready to hear this?  No.  Why was she?  She had stated a cry of the heart when she told her coworker, “There has to be more to life than this.”  That was my way into the game.  The husband on the other hand was just trying to eat.  We need to be very mindful when we talk to people—and actually listen to what they say—to know when to engage them with the Gospel.

Now, I bring that up to show you how the gospel can be effectively communicated without causing a media imbroglio.  I think the left and seculars in general could take note from such a conversation. I don’t know that what Dungy said is any more offensive than the conversation I had with the woman.  He was asked a question and he responded.  Had he refused to respond, he would have been accused of not lending his moral authority to such an important issue in the NFL.

It brings up the issue of tolerance.  Tolerance as properly defined means existing in peace with those who you disagree with.  It has nothing to do with condoning, celebrating, or affirming.  Instead, what it is about is:  People are equal, ideas aren’t.  Because I see all people as equal, and ideas on a merit based plane, I am able to coexist with those whom I disagree.  I engage with their ideas—I do not engage them as people.  A good understanding of tolerance is:  “Gross.  You actually engage in that?  That is disgusting.  I cannot support such egregious behavior, BUT, I am not going to infringe on your rights to do that as long as you don’t infringe on mine.”  That is a textbook understanding of tolerance.

The problem is, tolerance has been redefined to mean, “You cannot disagree with anyone.”  There is a problem.  In saying, “You cannot disagree with anyone,” you are disagreeing with those who say, “You can disagree with anyone.”  It is a self-defeating proposition—it is meaningless.

Can we live in a fully tolerant, free, and just society?  Can those three coexist IF tolerance is defined in this new way?  No.  For justice to occur there will be disagreement.  For disagreement to occur there must be freedom.  For freedom to occur there must be the right to disagree and justice must exist.  If disagreement exists, then the new tolerance cannot exist in a free society.  Or to say it more poignantly, if the new tolerance exists, then there can be no true freedom.

I may disagree with you, but support your right to state your beliefs—that doesn’t mean I support your beliefs.  That doesn’t mean I celebrate them.  That doesn’t mean I would draft you.

 

What may be the most troubling is this:  “Thank God he wasn’t the coach of the St. Louis Rams…And like everyone in America, everyone is entitled to their own opinions.”  Michael Sam is right.  The problem is, there is a priestly class in America who do not really live by that philosophy.

What the media is really saying is, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but we do not agree that all people are equal—and some people should keep their mouths shut.”

Dan Graziano from ESPN said this:  “I’m not here to call Tony Dungy a bigot or to dispute his right to say what he wants to say. My point here is that Dungy has a platform and that his words matter to those who work in and follow the NFL. And on an issue such as this, it’s important for a person in Dungy’s position to understand that and to think about the impact his words have on the world at large. Again, he’s welcome to his opinion. He just needs to remember how many people are listening to it.”

He isn’t disputing his right to say it, but he NEEDS to remember how many people are listening.  Where does this moral objectivity come from?  Dungy NEEDS to…?  I have seen other articles that say, Dungy SHOULD refrain…or Dungy SHOULD have kept his mouth shut…

What gives them the right to stand on this moral platform?  If the fringe religious right and their claim to truth is absurd and dubious—then from what entity do we (read ‘they’) draw objective moral truths and duties?  Those are the questions we should be asking—before it is too late.

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