The Great Debate: "Has Science Refuted Religion?

by dark angle 239 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • botchtowersociety

    A few quotes from Max Planck, winner of the Nobel Prize, and founder of the science of Quantum Physics.

    • My original decision to devote myself to science was a direct result of the discovery which has never ceased to fill me with enthusiasm since my early youth—the comprehension of the far from obvious fact that the laws of human reasoning coincide with the laws governing the sequences of the impressions we receive from the world about us; that, therefore, pure reasoning can enable man to gain an insight into the mechanism of the latter. In this connection, it is of paramount importance that the outside world is something independent from man, something absolute, and the quest for the laws which apply to this absolute appeared to me as the most sublime scientific pursuit in life.
    • Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: Ye must have faith . It is a quality which the scientist cannot dispense with.
    • Both Religion and science require a belief in God. For believers, God is in the beginning, and for physicists He is at the end of all considerations… To the former He is the foundation, to the latter, the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view.
    • Under these conditions it is no wonder, that the movement of atheists, which declares religion to be just a deliberate illusion, invented by power-seeking priests, and which has for the pious belief in a higher Power nothing but words of mockery, eagerly makes use of progressive scientific knowledge and in a presumed unity with it, expands in an ever faster pace its disintegrating action on all nations of the earth and on all social levels. I do not need to explain in any more detail that after its victory not only all the most precious treasures of our culture would vanish, but – which is even worse – also any prospects at a better future.
  • botchtowersociety

    I think this interview with Allan Sandage fits nicely with the subject of this thread and the question posed.

    A SCIENTIST REFLECTS ON RELIGIOUS BELIEF, by Dr. Allan Sandage, world famous cosmologist

    Dr. Allan Sandage, The world's greatest observational cosmologist Alan Sandage, of the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution, won a prize given by Swedish parliament equivalent to Nobel prize (there is no Nobel prize for cosmology) became a Christian after being a scientist

    Q. Can the existence of God be proved?
    I should say not with the same type of certainty that we ascribe to statements such as "the earth is in orbit about the sun at a mean distance of 93 million miles, making a complete journey in 365.25 days," or "genetic information is coded in long protein strings of DNA that, in cells of a particular individual, replicate during mitosis, and in reproduction unite with DNA from another individual to produce the hereditary similarity of progeny with their parents, etc." The enormous success of modern science is undeniable in producing such facts, which have a strong ring of certainty, and this success simply cannot be ignored.

    Proofs of the existence of God have always been of a different kind-a crucial point to be understood by those scientists who will only accept results that can be obtained via the scientific method. God can never be proved to them for that reason (Those who deny God at the outset by some form of circular reasoning will never find God.) Science illumines brightly, but only a part of reality.

    The classical proofs of God by Anselm and by Aquinas via natural theology do not give the same type of satisfaction as proofs of propositions arrived at by the method of science. To the modern mind they seem contrived. Nevertheless, they were sufficient for Pascal to finally approach his certainty in God's existence by preparing his mind for God's necessity, if the world is to make ultimate sense. After that preparation, he simply could then abandon the God of natural theology and of the philosophers, and could at last will himself to faith by leaping across the abyss, from the edge of reason on this side of the chasm. For those who have experienced this way to God, I would say that God's existence has been proved beyond doubt for them.

    Q. Must there necessarily be a conflict between science and religion?
    In my opinion, no, if it is understood that each treats a different aspect of reality. The Bible is certainly not a book of science. One does not study it to find the intensities and the wavelengths of the Balmer spectral lines of hydrogen. But neither is science concerned with the ultimate spiritual properties of the world, which are also real.

    Science makes explicit the quite incredible natural order, the interconnections at many levels between the laws of physics, the chemical reactions in the biological processes of life, etc. But science can answer only a fixed type of question. It is concerned with the what, when, and how. It does not, and indeed cannot, answer within its method (powerful as that method is), why.

    Why is there something instead of nothing? Why do all electrons have the same charge and mass? Why is the design that we see everywhere so truly miraculous? Why are so many processes so deeply interconnected?

    But we must admit that those scientists that want to see design will see design. Those that are content in every part of their being to live as materialistic reductionalists (as we must all do as scientists in the laboratory, which is the place of the practice of our craft) will never admit to a mystery of the design they see, always putting off by one step at a time, awaiting a reductionalist explanation for the present unknown. But to take this reductionalist belief to the deepest level and to an indefinite time into the future (and it will always remain indefinite) when "science will know everything" is itself an act of faith which denies that there can be anything unknown to science, even in principle. But things of the spirit are not things of science.

    There need be no conflict between science and religion if each appreciates its own boundaries and if each takes seriously the claims of the other. The proven success of science simply cannot be ignored by the church. But neither can the church's claim to explain the world at the very deepest level be dismissed. If God did not exist, science would have to (and indeed has) invent the concept to explain what it is discovering at its core. Abelard's 12th century dictum "Truth cannot be contrary to truth. The findings of reason must agree with the truths of scripture, else the God who gave us both has deceived us with one or the other" still rings true.

    If there is no God, nothing makes sense. The atheist's case is based on a deception they wish to play upon themselves that follows already from their initial premise. And if there is a God, he must be true both to science and religion. If it seems not so, then one's hermeneutics (either the pastor's or the scientist's) must wrong.

    I believe there is a clear, heavy, and immediate responsibility for the church to understand and to believe in the extraordinary results and claims of science. Its success is simply too evident and visible to ignore. It is likewise incumbent upon scientists to understand that science is incapable, because of the limitations of its method by reason alone, to explain and to understand everything about reality. If the world must simply be understood by a materialistic reductionalist nihilism, it would make no sense at all. For this, Romans 1:19-21 seems profound. And the deeper any scientist pushes his work, the more profound it does indeed become.

    Q. Do recent astronomical discoveries have theological significance?
    I would say not, although the discovery of the expansion of the Universe with its consequences concerning the possibility that astronomers have identified the creation event does put astronomical cosmology close to the type of medieval natural theology that attempted to find God by identifying the first cause. Astronomers may have found the first effect, but not, thereby, necessarily the first cause sought by Anselm and Aquinas.

    Nevertheless, there are serious scientific papers discussing events very shortly after the big bang creation (ex nihilo?) out of which all the types of matter that we know (baryons, electrons, photons, etc.) were made, and in what quantities. Even the creation of matter is said now to be understood. Astronomical observations have also suggested that this creation event, signaled by the expansion of the Universe, has happened only once. The expansion will continue forever, the Universe will not collapse upon itself, and therefore this type of creation will not happen again.

    But knowledge of the creation is not knowledge of the creator, nor do any astronomical findings tell us why the event occurred. It is truly supernatural (i.e. outside our understanding of the natural order of things), and by this definition a miracle. But the nature of God is not to be found within any part of these findings of science. For that, one must turn to the scriptures, if indeed an answer is to be had within our finite human understanding.

    Q. Can a person be a scientist and also be a Christian?
    Yes. As I said before, the world is too complicated in all its parts and interconnections to be due to chance alone. I am convinced that the existence of life with all its order in each of its organisms is simply too well put together. Each part of a living thing depends on all its other parts to function. How does each part know? How is each part specified at conception? The more one learns of biochemistry the more unbelievable it becomes unless there is some type of organizing principle-an architect for believers-a mystery to be solved by science (even as to why) sometime in the indefinite future for materialist reductionalists.

    This situation of the complication and the order to function of an organism, where the sum is greater than its parts (i.e. has a higher order), becomes more astonishing every year as the scientific results become more detailed. Because of this, many scientists are now driven to faith by their very work. In the final analysis it is a faith made stronger through the argument by design. I simply do not now believe that the reductionalist philosophy, so necessary to pursue the scientific method and, to repeat, the method which all scientists must master and practice with all their might and skill in their laboratory, can explain everything.

    Having, then, been forced via the route of Pascal and Kierkegaard in their need for purpose to come to the edge of the abyss of reason, scientists can, with Anselm "believe in order to understand" what they see, rather than "understand in order to believe." Having willed oneself to faith by jumping to the other side, one can pull, at first, a wee small thread across the abyss, pulling in turn a still more sturdy rope, until finally one can build a bridge that crosses in reverse the chasm that connects the sides of life that are reason and faith. It is, then, by faith that a scientist can become a Christian, and yet remain a scientist-believing in some form of Abelard's dictum.

    Without that faith there is no purpose, and without purpose all the arguments for its need drive one once again to build Pascal's bridge

  • ziddina

    Also, ultimately he's just one man - one scientist.

    Science is generally going in a direction that sheds the primitive mythologies of our origins... I am constantly amazed that most people have not yet figured out how egocentric it is to imagine a 'creator' that puts things in 'order' just so humans can exist...

    And nearly everyone continues to conveniently forget that the Hebrew 'god' is one of the youngest 'deity' illusions around - hell, the deities of Crete and the Sumerian goddesses and gods are older than the Hebrew 'god' - let alone the deities worshipped at Gobekli Tepe, the deities worshipped using cave paintings, and going as far back as currently known, the Tan-tan goddess and the Berekhat Ram figurine...

    In order for a deity to have even a prayer of being "real", it - and you'll notice I used the term "IT" - would have to be the OLDEST deity ever worshipped, not one of the YOUNGEST deities ever to have been invented by mankind.

  • ziddina

    Burns, don't even bother with "appeal to authority" approach.

    That technique is innately flawed, and reveals a mono-theistic basis for your particular belief systems and authority values...

    It merely indicates that early programming is still influencing you - as well as the scientists you've quoted, so far.

  • botchtowersociety
    Burns, don't even bother with "appeal to authority" approach. That technique is innately flawed,

    I haven't. All I've done is attempt to show that science and religion have coexisted in the minds and hearts of truly great scientists. I think the conflict--from both sides-- is something conjured up in small minds.

    and reveals a mono-theistic basis for your particular belief systems and authority values... It merely indicates that early programming is still influencing you - as well as the scientists you've quoted, so far.

    Ah, so the "begging the question" approach is in some way better? This is dangerously close to a reductio ad NewChapterium fallacy as well.

  • botchtowersociety

    Here is a quote from physicist Freeeman Dyson:

    Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but they look out at the same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete. Both leave out essential features of the real world. And both are worthy of respect. Trouble arises when either science or religion claims universal jurisdiction, when either religious or scientific dogma claims to be infallible. Religious creationists and scientific materialists are equally dogmatic and insensitive. By their arrogance they bring both science and religion into disrepute. The media exaggerate their numbers and importance. The media rarely mention the fact that the great majority of religious people belong to moderate denominations that treat science with respect, or the fact that the great majority of scientists treat religion with respect so long as religion does not claim jurisdiction over scientific questions.

  • botchtowersociety
    Because he's expressed a decided preference for a deity that I've already figured out cannot exist, his "neutrality" and "impartiality" are severely compromised for me.

    One more thing, that is what many said about Georges Lemaitre and his Big Bang Theory (he called it a Cosmic Egg).

  • botchtowersociety

    1964 Nobel prize winner Charles Hard Townes on the conflict between science and religion (which I consider a false conflict arising from small minds).

    Nobel laureate and laser inventor Charles H. Townes told a packed Science Center lecture hall Monday (June 13) that science and religion are parallel, rather than antagonistic, disciplines and that he sees them ultimately coming together.

    "I look at science and religion as quite parallel, much more similar than most people think and that in the long run, they must converge," Townes said in his 40-minute talk.

    Townes' speech, "Logic and Mystery in Science and Religion," coincided with a weeklong conference at Harvard on recent advances by a new astronomical facility, the Submillimeter Array on the slopes of Hawaii's highest volcano, Mauna Kea....

    .... In describing religion and science as parallel, Townes rejected the often hostile relationship between the two, evidenced today in the ongoing battle over teaching evolution in schools and by religious objections to certain scientific procedures, such as stem cell research.

    Instead, Townes said, science and religion are both efforts to understand the universe. Science seeks to understand how the universe works and how humans work, while religion is an attempt to understand the meaning and purpose of the universe and of humankind, which requires an understanding of their workings.

    Both deal with large, unproved mysteries, and operate on the best knowledge available today. Faith is a central tenet of religion, but Townes said a certain amount of faith is also shown by scientists, applying theories that they know have shortcomings in an effort to understand the vast amount of the universe that remains unknown.

    "We accept that we just don't understand at this moment and that we'll figure it out some day," Townes said, adding that we shouldn't be afraid of new ideas to explain the things we don't understand. "I think it's important for us to recognize that we don't understand everything."

    Townes won the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics while at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) "for fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics, which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser-laser principle."

    Born in 1915, Townes was described as "one of the founding fathers of radio-astronomy" by Donald H. Menzel Professor of Astrophysics James Moran, who introduced the talk. Townes also pushed to have investigators explore the interstellar medium, looking for molecules floating between stars. Today, Moran said, more than 128 molecules have been identified.

    Townes first addressed the topic of science and religion in the 1950s, when he moved from Bell Labs to Columbia University and delivered a talk on the subject at a local church. The text of the talk was published by publications at IBM and MIT, gaining widespread attention....

  • ziddina
    "One more thing, that is what many said about Georges Lemaitre and his Big Bang Theory (he called it a Cosmic Egg)...." Burns, page 6, post #5507

    Yes, and the "Cosmic Egg" figures large in many creation myths...

    Again, pulling from past human mythology to illustrate - or would that be, to legitimize scientific discoveries in the minds of theists....

    "1964 Nobel prize winner Charles Hard Townes on the conflict between science and religion (which I consider a false conflict arising from small minds). ..." Burns, page 6, post #5508

    Wow.... June 13, 2007... Such current infor - well, actually, opinions...

    None of the quotes you've pulled actually mention any solid FACTS - they're comprised largely of the opinions of a few men with decidedly limited religious knowledge. Not a one of them appears aware of the numerous deities which existed long before the Bronze/Iron-Age Middle-Eastern 'god[s]' that have generally informed their theology...

    As I've stated many times, if one is going to claim that some "deity" organized the universe, then one at least ought to get the CORRECT "deity" - not some Johnny-come-lately Middle-Eastern male upstart of a mere 3,500-year 'life' span.

    And only a "small" mind continues to ignore the very significant question of the validity of the OLDEST "deity" versus some recently-generated Middle-Eastern fantasy and the modern "world-fusion" nebulous "god" that some have tried to transform it - "him" - into.

  • ziddina

    The AGE OF THE DEITY, Burns...

    That is the most significant aspect.

    All else is window-dressing to confuse spectators.

    If you - or ANYONE - is going to attempt to claim that there is a valid "deity" hovering over earth or ordering the universe, either for the specific benefit of humans or hiding away so we can attempt some bizarre game of "hide-and-seek", trying to find it...

    Then it MUST be ONLY the OLDEST DEITY - DEITIES - that are considered as valid 'candidates' for such a 'position'...

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