intelligent design

Romans 1:18-20

 

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  Romans 1:18-20 (ESV)

I consider Romans 1:16 to be the fulcrum of the first chapter of a letter that encapsulates Christian theology.  That said, I constantly reference the life of Christ in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) as I read Paul.  Paul’s words would mean much less to me if I didn’t have a chance to meet Jesus.  I suppose that all philosophy, civil or religious, is trying to both define and answer a question.  Is there a problem?  What is the problem?  Is there a solution?  What is the solution?  Although there must be people who say there is no problem, I have not yet met them.  My skeptical friends argue, sometimes rightly so, that the religious are the problem – – words say love, actions say bigotry.  My religious friends will decry the godless atheists (ironic, no?) and militant gay agendists.  Surely the kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven if only the abortionists and gays would go away.  No.

Is there a problem?  Yes.  What is the problem?  According to this passage of Romans, the problem is that God is angry at our actions that suppress the truth.  Is he angry at us or our actions?  Without semantic gymnastics, I am uncomfortable separating the two.  I remember angry mother, father, teacher or friend and find a difficult time in recognizing if it was me or my actions that received the wrath.  So – – the text says that I am not godly and not righteous – – and that by my unrighteousness I suppress the truth.

How do I suppress the truth?  Pause here to recognize the difficult assertion that there is capital “t” Truth.  Consider that in respect to what Russell has recently written about the solutions of science.

I suppress the truth by not acknowledging God.  How can I know anything about God?  There are two threads in Romans 1 and in fact in Christian thought – – words (scripture) and creation.  Russell and I know scripture well and we’ll open the discussion about reliability here.  Are these the words of God given to man?  Billions of people feel that way about very different words in different religions.  Let us only agree now that words have power for humans.  I would place spoken and written language in the top 10 accomplishments of evolution and technology.  Pascal – – why did you locate creation and evolution in the same paragraph?  Keep reading.

I believe (true or false belief I acknowledge) that God created this universe.  I also believe that truth with a capital “t” is truth.  Can I have it both ways – – specially pleading for God’s truth and science’s truth?  Not if I want to be consistent.  I desperately want to be consistent – – and I ask that from you.  So, in my philosophy, truth is truth.  If God is the author of truth, then science is not the Devil’s Workshop.

How old do you think the earth and universe is Pascal?  Is that not the shibboleth of the authentic Christian?  Do you find your answer here or here?  Who made it?  How?

For question 1, I answer with the truth of science and start with Google.  For question 2, I answer with philosophy and start with Genesis.  For question 3, I honestly go to both – – more on that later.  According to Romans 1, what can be known about God by pre-scientific man?  His invisible attributes:  eternal power and divine nature.  Thats not a lot to go on.  But somehow I get it.  I’ve seen stars away from city lights.  I’ve hiked a 14,000 foot peak.  I’ve felt so small at the edge of the ocean.  Either I am a happy accident, or I was a part of created plan.  How insecure of me to desire the latter.  How human of me to have desires at all.  Welcome to my wish fulfillment Dr. Freud.  More about my Daddy issues soon.

Pascal

–1:16

 

The Solution – Part 2

This is a continuation of The Solution – Part 1, which is an answer to The Problem.

So science is supposed to yield more true beliefs and fewer false ones… but how does it work and why should I trust it?

I studied science some in school, but I only recently began to understand it. My faith caused me to be suspicious of science and not to trust it. I learned how to conduct experiments, but my formal education didn’t teach me much (that I remember) about the overall process of science – how those individual experiments fit into the larger body of science, what the goals and methods are of a community of scientists, and how it works at a high level. Just in case anyone hasn’t had these insights, I’d like to share what science actually is and is not.

Science is a disciplined process of evaluating our experiences (those consistent ones that can be evaluated) in order to make extrapolations and generalizations (a process of induction) to come up with a description of our experiences that is more correct than incorrect. The goal of science is not absolute Truth. The goal of science is a successful theory that provides explanation, prediction, and control over nature. The supernatural is, by definition, not a scientific endeavor because from the outset science seeks explicitly to explain natural experiences with natural causes. Only natural causes. That does not mean it cannot disprove supernatural claims that do interfere with nature. Disproving claims is what science does best.

If an experience, or group of experiences, seems to conflict with a current theory (i.e. an anomaly is found that isn’t explained by the theory) then a new theory may be needed to better explain the experiences. Science works from the ground up by looking at multiple observations, making some assumptions, and forming generalizations in order to explain the consistency within the observations.

Science works by following a simple set of rules. Examine the data, make a prediction (called a hypothesis), test that prediction (often through mathematical modeling, experimentation, observation, simulation, etc.), analyze the results, see if your prediction is disproved by the tests, make some conclusions, repeat. Make sure the tests account for falsifiability (the hypothesis must be able to be shown to be false if it is false). After a sufficient amount of tests if the hypothesis still hasn’t been disproved, it escalates to become a more viable candidate for an accepted explanation of reality. Other scientists will then look for flaws in the research, testing, controls, approach, materials, conclusions, etc. If no mistakes are found, more scientists will test the implications of the hypothesis against existing theories, and the hypothesis will be tested by still more scientists in different labs with different techniques and tools. At some point in all this testing one or more of these studies may make it into a peer-reviewed journal where many other experienced scientists will pick it apart for holes. If they can’t find any, other experiments will be conducted. Eventually, if it has passed enough tests and can provide enough explanation, prediction, and control, the scientific community at large will accept it as a theory (or possibly a law if it just describes observations).

An accepted theory is not seen as representing what IS. It is seen as the best explanation we have at the time… the best candidate for what IS. The moment the theory fails to explain (or at least allow for) certain significant data in it’s scope, or the moment a better theory comes along that explains the data better (or with fewer underlying assumptions) it will be replaced.

Theories include the theory of relativity, or of plate tectonics. They are not theories like we use the word in everyday speech. When you have an idea or a theory, that’s a scientific hypothesis. A scientific theory is an objectively justified explanation for some phenomena about the natural world. It would be the equivalent of a fact in common speech, but the caveat is that theories and laws are all open to new data which may lead to their revision. Theories may be revised more often than laws, in general, because they often explain phenomena that are subject to new evidence. Theories are not less factual or certain than laws and will not graduate to become laws. Theories are just different than laws because they offer explanations and often include other theories or laws as part of those explanations.

Theories, like the theory of evolution, are as scientifically rigorous, and as close to scientific knowledge as it gets. Practicing scientists in overwhelming numbers accept evolution as a fact. It has graduated to be an accepted theory in the scientific community. This doesn’t mean that we know all the mechanisms at work that account for every step of every species transformation, but the basic idea that species evolve over time is accepted as fact. A fact is something that logically fits the data. It’s only as good as its assumptions, however, which means a theory does not necessarily accurately represent the Truth (with a capital T – representing what IS). More on this in a moment.

Laws are not more accepted than theories. Laws are descriptions of reality that we don’t have an accepted explanation for. Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity is a theory because it explains why things fall. Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation is a law and not a theory because we can model it mathematically and describe it, but we don’t have an explanation for how it works – that’s where General Relativity comes in. So Universal Gravitation is a law, but like a theory, it is subject to new data and is not necessarily True (we could potentially find an exception, though that is very unlikely). All science works off of some assumptions (even deductive logic has some initial axioms which have built-in assumptions), which is why justifiable beliefs are measured in probabilities, not in absolutes.

If something has made it to the level of a theory or law, I know of no justification for not treating it as a fact. It is the best mankind has been able to glean from nature, and if you aren’t going to believe it, what will you believe – and how can you justify such a belief?

The point here, is that there is great motivation and ambition in science to disprove a hypothesis, and even more to disprove a theory or a law. If you’re a scientist proposing a hypothesis, you want to disprove it yourself early so your work isn’t shot down later. The goal of science is to increase our understanding of nature, and that means keeping us from going down the wrong path. If you can disprove the law of gravity, the second law of thermodynamics, or the theory of evolution, you’ll be responsible for a major breakthrough in science.

Science is self-corrective and scientists work together to help humanity. It’s a collaborative effort. Einstein proved Newton was wrong about his view of separate eternal states of space and time. Maybe Einsteins theories are wrong and someone will disprove them someday. There is great incentive for that.

What does science not do? Every scientific theory is based on some assumptions which is why science does not provide absolute Truth, or certainty. We are not lifting the veil of the curtain of reality. We are offering explanations of our experiences inside reality. We’re trying to get to what IS, but we have no guarantee that we will get it right using the methods of science.

Science also is not an organization of God-haters out to remove God from our society. It’s not a conspiracy theory, either. It’s not a thing at all. It’s a process.

Please don’t see science as something with an agenda against religion. Religious claims are a part of science. They are hypotheses. A few of them aren’t capable of being scientific theories because they aren’t falsifiable. Most of them, like the God of the Bible, are capable of being scientific theories to some extent. My view, which I will attempt to demonstrate in later posts, is that they fail to make it passed the hypothesis stage because the results of the tests don’t support the hypothesis and/or the null hypothesis cannot be successfully rejected (I won’t get into null hypothesis testing here).

As I mentioned, the goal of science is to explain what we experience in nature with natural causes (not supernatural ones). This one idea literally brought us out of the dark ages. A scientific belief is always probabilistic and never completely certain. It is based on evidence alone, and relies on as few assumptions as possible. It is also the best method we have of determining what is more likely to reflect Truth (absolute, necessary and certain truth of the objective reality that IS).

So science is great, and we should trust it because it is the best mechanism we have to ascertain reality and avoid false beliefs. But how does that impact faith? How does one put this into practice by applying science to personal faith-based beliefs about scripture? That topic is coming soon. And yes, I will finally get around to supplying some specific examples of problems in the Bible.

Gentleness and respect
–Russell

P.S. I’d like to add that I am not a practicing scientist and the last three posts have all come rushed from my head on little sleep. If you spot any obvious errors, please let me know so I can explain them better or learn from my mistakes. I’m also without the aid of my beautiful editor, so please forgive my typos and grammatical errors. 🙂

iMultiverse

The 5th grader noticed one of his apps had auto-updated on his quantum iPhone 72, so he opened it.

He watched as multiple fluctuations began to appear and disappear randomly in all shapes and sizes — sometimes bumping into each other and merging, sometimes exploding. He zoomed into one of the isolated bubbles and saw nothing but emptiness. In another bubble he saw white hot plasma. Time sped up and he watched it cool and dissipate into nothing as the bubble disappeared. Many more bubbles began to form. One expanded and collapsed again, causing part of the bubble to grow back out the other side. Some bubbles expanded so quickly some of the simulated energy cooled to form superheated matter, which eventually cooled further and began to clump together. He zoomed into one in time to see countless clumps collapse into beautiful stars which exploded into heavy elements that coalesced into planets. Eventually a chemical on some of the planets replicated, and in time, living things emerged. The small life forms evolved and some became intelligent and self-reflective like him. One of them wrote a speculative blog post about him and his app. He smiled, intrigued. His bus arrived at school. “Time to go”, someone said. With a small grin still on his face, he thought, “I’ll play it again on the ride home”. As he popped the bubble, trillions of virtual creatures ceased to exist. He closed iMultiverse and walked to class.

In another reality, fingers moved, and the bubble the fifth grader was in left the screen. The creature was excited to see that some of the bubbles on her app had developed life forms that could create virtual worlds of their own. However, the creature was heartbroken at the mindless loss of life. Did they not realize the simulation was real to those inside each bubble?! She suddenly froze, captured by a thought. Am I in a simulation, too?

Somewhere else, a smile formed.

Author’s comments…
What did the smile belonged to? Perhaps another simulator in an infinite regression of simulators? An uncreated creator with the special ability to create events in an existence that has no events? Nothingness itself? A random fluctuation in the first uncreated eternal nothing? An entity with a mind in an original uncreated eternal universe? Something else?

One point of this post is to illustrate that the cause for our universe could be eternal, or there could be no meaning to asking about a first cause if time/events once did not exist, or any number of things could exist outside it and causally before it. This story is one example of many potential a-priori realities in which a creator does not have to be all-knowing, all-good, etc. The events in any reality outside the universe we live in are not necessarily subject to our laws of causality (which, incidentally, may not even be laws in our universe). All we can have confidence in is the things that exist at scales we can measure in the known universe. We can know nothing of what might exist outside our universe.

Questions

  1. Is it justifiable to be absolutely certain about the cause of the Big Bang (assuming such a cause is even meaningful or required)?
  2. Are “an eternity of nothing” or “an all-knowing, all-loving God” the only options? Is that a false dichotomy?

We welcome your thoughts.

Gentleness and respect,
–Russell

P.S. Here is the app’s skeleton code for my fellow geeks


defaultStateOfRelationalExistence = nil; // set the initial state to nothing, 0, void

while appOpen { // keep running this loop until the app closes

   function universeGenerator() {
      return (totalFluctuation + totalOscillation + totalInstability + totalExcitation + totalOpposition + totalForce + totalCharge + totalPotential); // etc; basically the sum of all values for all relationships between all real and potential forces in the default state of the default environment
   }

   function checkStatusOfUniverse(previousStatusOfUniverse) {
      return previousStatusOfUniverse * defaultStateOfRelationalExistence;
   }

   function continueUniverse(relationalExistence) {
      while (relationalExistence) { // keep repeating the loop until the value of relationships exactly equals 0
         refreshScreen(relationalExistence); // displays interesting patterns to the iPhone screen
         relationalExistence = checkStatusOfUniverse(relationalExistence);
         continueUniverse(universeGenerator()); // if a new instability exists at any reference point, recursively call continueUniverse

         if (relationalExistencePoppedByUser) relationalExistence = nil; // if the user pops a bubble, remove all its relationships
      }
   }

   do {
      defaultStateOfRelationalExistence = universeGenerator();
   } while (!defaultStateOfRelationalExistence); // keep repeating the loop until at least one relationship emerges in the default environment

   continueUniverse(defaultStateOfRelationalExistence);
}