Session Three: 2015 Westminster Conference on Science and Faith

Dr. John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, conducted two sessions, and he was quite entertaining with his English whit. His first session was titled The Nature of Science and the Nature of Nature.

He began with a basic definition of science and defined it as knowledge. Science involves the study of nature, but it’s a difficult term to define precisely. For example, the origin of the universe and life aren’t repeatable events, so they’re not exactly science in the traditional sense. The study of origins is also called historical or forensic science because, like a murder mystery, the events belong in the unrepeatable past. This type of study involves inference and abductive reasoning, and may be the best explanation of the data we have. But studying origins doesn’t have the same weight as operational science because it’s not based on empirical data and repeatable experimentation.

Additional problems we face when studying cosmology is that it’s not objective; it’s subject to our presuppositions. Objectivity, in this realm, is impossible because it’s an activity done by humans, and that means it’s not free from prejudice. This type of science involves basic convictions done within a paradigm. And this paradigm- also called a worldview- contains prearranged answers to some of the fundamental questions about our origin. Our culture drives our worldview, and we need to be able to adjust the lenses we see through so that we’re aware of our own lack of objectivity.

Lennox is exactly right. Most people don’t realize this about science. Think of it this way: when conducting a murder trial, the prosecution intends to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. They’re not concerned about the truth or giving the accused a fair trial. They’re being paid to produce a conviction. Therefore they’ll stack the evidence against the accused to get the conviction they want. The defense’s job is to have their client be declared innocent, even if he’s guilty. Neither side is impartial, and that’s how the science of origins works as well. All the various camps are trying to demonstrate that their particular cosmology is the most reasonable conclusion.

Secular science, therefore, begins with the assumption that science and God are at odds, and that God should be excluded from the equation. Lennox rejects this idea and calls it a myth. He suggests that there’s a deeper conflict between the worldviews held by atheism and theism. While atheists claim that the supernatural is irrational, Lennox says that the notion that there is a creator is rational. And he points out that atheism contains an a priori faith at odds with science. It’s a paradigm designed to exclude the existence of God and is deliberate. Therefore, he says, they shouldn’t be surprised that their science cannot detect God.

Naturalistic explanations have value, but they’re not absolute. Lennox argues that Humanism is one of the driving forces in science, and he calls it scientific fundamentalism. It’s the belief that materialism is the all-purpose explanation for life, and it dominates the western world. Atheist professor Thomas Nagel once said, “I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

Richard Dawkins is another atheist who believes there’s nothing beyond the physical, and he claims that atheists have no faith, but he’s wrong because he demonstrates faith with his beliefs. He believes in the multi-verse, for example (the idea that there are an infinite number of universes with an infinite number of outcomes), but such a belief is based on faith alone because there’s not a shred of evidence to support it. The only rationale for such a belief is to eliminate the existence of God.

Lennox concludes that God doesn’t compete with science to explain the universe. If we understand the limitations of science, then we can eliminate confusion. Critics might scoff at the idea that “God did it” by labeling it the “God-of-the-gaps theory”. But that doesn’t help the atheist because they have an “evolution-of-the-gaps” problem, believing that “evolution did it”.

In his next session Lennox gave a presentation on the mystery of the beginning of the universe. Why is there something rather than nothing? He answers this in part by suggesting that the universe depends on God’s existence. God upholds the universe and caused it to be.

I found it interesting that he used the Big Bang as an example of evidence to support this statement. As a young earth creationist, I reject the Big Bang cosmology because it’s in conflict with the Genesis account of creation. But Lennox uses this because he considers the Big Bang to be the moment of God’s creation.

Back in 1920, based on Einstein’s equations, it was hypothesized that the universe was expanding from a singularity, and in 1929 the astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered a red shift, or Doppler effect, and this was considered “hard evidence” that the galaxies were receding and that the universe was expanding. The Big Bang, therefore, represents the creation event and was the beginning of space-time.

Of course there was strong resistance from atheists, such as astronomer Fred Hoyle, who implied that if there was a beginning, then God must have created it. And this led him to coin the term “Big Bang” as a pejorative. It seemed to be an inescapable problem because it gave creationists a reason for their beliefs. Stephen Hawking even said that the Big Bang smacks of divine creation.

I found it interesting that Lennox claims cosmologists can no longer hide behind an eternal universe and have to face a cosmic beginning. There’s actually plenty of evidence to suggest that the Big Bang cosmology should be rejected. There are problems with inflation, and we still haven’t found the dark matter and dark energy necessary for the Big Bang to have happened. In addition, there are plenty of scientists proposing theories for an eternal universe. Lennox did briefly address these concerns, but he didn’t go into much detail.

I have some other issues with the Big Bang and/or an eternal universe. First, the Big Bang cosmology doesn’t correlate to the Genesis account without reinterpreting Genesis. Second, the Big Bang has so many holes in it that it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Thirdly, if the Big Bang is abandoned for a different theory- such as an eternal universe, then what happens? It appears that science supported the Bible, but once the Big Bang is abandoned, does that mean that science no longer supports the Bible? I think it’s a matter of time before that happens, giving atheists an opportunity to claim victory.

Personally I’d rather trust the Bible than any of these proposals. Lennox is right that God built the universe in steps and made it come into existence. But we don’t need to resort to secular dead-ends just to accommodate the idea of billions of years. A six day creation is a perfectly reasonable conclusion if we follow the evidence where it leads.

4 thoughts on “Session Three: 2015 Westminster Conference on Science and Faith

  1. Hello Sixdaysblog: It puzzles me why scientists are so avid about experimenting with the material realm and so shy about experimenting with the spiritual realm. There are easy and reliable ways to experiment with spirituality. For instance, if you are already living by the Ten Commandments, try this simple experiment for only four consecutive Sabbaths. Keep the Sabbath the way the Bible requires that it be kept. That is, prepare all food in advance, don’t require anyone else to work and don’t do any work at all, unplug the TV and phone/Internet. You may attend a religious service and/or read the Bible, but not to excess, sing, pray, meditate, socialize with loved ones, and rest. The Sabbath should begin at sundown the “day before” and continue to about an hour past sundown on the Sabbath. Keep a journal every day throughout the four weeks. One thing you will discover is that by keeping the Sabbath as God requires you will receive guidance for how to be even more efficient during the six day week. If you are perceptive you will also notice that you had experiences of God’s presence and communication during the four weeks. This is an easy and short experiment. Even a scientist can do it — if they aren’t afraid of learning that God is real, omniscient and intimately concerned about them. ND (Nancy Dobson) (nomagicwandchristianity)

    • Good question Nancy. I think there are a number of reasons. First, they’re committed to the material realm and don’t know anything else. Many don’t give much thought to the spiritual realm and wouldn’t know how to experiment with it even if they wanted to. Some scientists are atheists and would have no interest in testing for something that might challenge their own belief system. And for those scientists who are Christians, some of them do experiment with the spiritual realm in some form when they challenge the reigning secular paradigms and provide evidence for a young earth.

      Of course the material realm is much more familiar, so it doesn’t require as much abstract thought, which such an experiment would. The material world is far easier to deal with. But I would be interested in seeing scientists experiment with the spiritual realm, although that might require God to cooperate. The Bible also tells us not to put God to the test, so Christian scientists would have to find a way to experiment without doing so. Overall, I think it’s a very challenging concept.

  2. Reblogged this on Jesusfortheseriousspiritualseeker and commented:
    Thank you for your response. It isn’t putting God to the test to experiment with the Laws God gave us to live by — it’s putting us to the test. If one keeps a journal, then look back after experimenting with a law you haven’t been keeping and you will perceive God’s presence in your life. This presumes you are starting with a base of keeping the Ten Commandments. Otherwise, the reaction might be painful.

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