A Philosophy of Science and Belief in God - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahonIntroduction to the Writings of Dr. Gordon Clark - Apologetics
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The following article is a summary of the book, “A Philosophy of Science and Belief in God”.
It has always been the case that some philosophers and scientists have used scientific conclusions to attack Christianity, and religion in general. There are men at various ends of the spectrum that deny miracles but allow the existence of God, and others who are completely naturalistic and deny any “god” whatsoever. To a certain extent, the theologians who reply to these attacks are at a disadvantage. When a scientist or philosopher argues against religion, he almost never has enough information about that religion, and knows little about it. It is not as though a scientists has made a life-long study of all the world’s religious beliefs and then says that science rules them all out. Rather, he simply uses science as a sounding board for what he believes is right. The theologians, on the other hand, must know quite a lot. He is suppose to have enough knowledge to discuss space, time, motion, energy, the solar system, natural law, quantum theory, relativity and other scientific ideas. However, when dealing with the refutation of a naturalistic science, really, one does not need to go into all of that. Rather, a person only needs to be able to prove how science cannot explain the simplest of things – like a marble rolling across the table, or the fact that when one picks up one end of a pencil, the other end comes along with it.
Science begins with a study of motion. If there was no motion there would be no need for science. Nothing would materially exist. Everything, in one-way or another, in this universe has motion. Plants grow, birds fly, volcanoes erupt, the earth rotates, and motion is seen all over the planet.
Zeno begins scientific history with a quaint little puzzle about motion. If point “A” to point “B” is five feet, and a person was going to walk from point A to point B would this be possible? Is movement an illusion or is it real? Suppose the distance is divided in half? It should be self evident that the person walking must get to the halfway mark before they reach the end. But what if we divided each half into quarter, and then each quarter into eights and so on? How could the person walking actually move through an infinite number of points before getting to the end? Is motion illusionary? Well, the answer to the puzzle is a bit more complex than some think. How could a person pass through each point and actually move from one point to the other? Think about that for a moment. After thinking that through the reader should make the connection that none ever passes through one point at a time, rather, they pass through them all in one step. It is not that each point is considered, rather, they are all considered. Zeno confused a collective “all” with an individual “each.” The puzzle actually is a logical fallacy.
How does Zeno’s puzzle help science? It really does not. It only serves to state that motion has always been contemplated. If all things change and are in a constant state of change, then what follows this change? Is there anything? Does science have an answer? Aristotle said, rightly, that if all things are changing, then nothing really exists and knowledge would be impossible. Thus, going back to a first cause, Aristotle came up with the unmoved mover. All motion requires a subject that remains unchanged while that which is affected moves. Motion presupposes an unmoved substratum. But, how does one know that there is motion and that there is an unchanging substratum? Motion must be defined if the truth is going to be known. Aristotle used the undefined terms “potentiality” and “actuality” to define motion. Something not actual is potential, whatever that means. Aristotle actually says potentiality cannot be defined (it seems he is going in a vicious circle). Motion is never really, or helpfully defined.
During the Renaissance the scientific method emerged. Hopefully the scientific method can use some of what Aristotle came up with, but give a helpful definition of what motion is really about, and for that matter, what life is about. Newtonian science emerged to help Aristotle understand why a falling body falls. Why does motion happen? Bodies fall because they are heavy. Is this adequate? Bodies fall faster when they have more time to fall. Now there are more problems to consider. What makes them fall faster? This is where Newton’s laws of inertia came into play. Planets move. This was not denied by anyone. Some, like Copernicus said that certain planets move certain ways – like the earth revolving around the sun. But it really makes no difference which plant revolves around any other since the question remains as to how planets move at all. What makes the planets move? It seems that Newton’s “discovery of gravity” was the answer. But then, what causes gravity? Because in looking at the universe through a telescope, there are these anomalies called comets that zig zag about the universe with no path, and no rotation. What makes them move? It may be that all this seems a bit confusing. But think of this way: if someone says “Why does this rock fall to the ground when I let it go?” And another answers him by saying “Gravity,” has that person really answered him? What makes the stone fall to the ground instead of it just sitting in mid air? This is where science meets philosophy. The scientists can say how a stone falls – thirty-two feet per second – but cannot tell anyone why it falls.
Whenever one asks “why” to a “how” they are asking about significance. Science must be able to offer significance to its claims if it is to be trusted at all. This is where scientific philosophy must take over. Science must have a philosophy of life. If it does not, then it cannot furnish anyone with any real information about anything at all. A statement of fact is not an explanation. It is the very thing that needs to be explained. In this way, science explains nothing at all.
Scientists have attempted to rid themselves of the dilemma that science explains nothing. Some embraced the mechanistic model to cover their tracks. This taught that the universe worked a certain way and as a result of this “mechanistic” model, universal laws could be established. However, can science establish the truth of anything? W. K. Clifford said, “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” If this is true, then how can science possibly ascertain the sum total of a given “thing” (whatever that “thing” may be) in order to verify it? If science is contained in a laboratory setting, how can it possibly give universal laws of nature an absolutism? How can they possible describe how nature works as a whole? Actually, the scientists knows he cannot, but he gives his best guess. Guess? Yes, just a guess. Theories. Even in mathematical equations about a given “fact” the actual weight of an object or length of a measurement is never perfect. It is always plus or minus some amount, no matter how small that measurement may be. So science is never working with a perfect environment, not a universal environment. Can science tell men anything? Not really. Scientists simply choose from an infinite number of possibilities what they think is best for the situation at hand. If mathematical equations alone could describe nature, for instance, the chance that the scientist will choose the correct formulation is one in infinity (or zero). Therefore, in reality, all the laws of physics are false.
Because of this great conundrum of absolutes, science does not claim to have “absolute truth.” This is especially true of the 21st century secular thinker. If earlier scientists would have claimed to found absolute truth, and it was verified in some way, then science today would not continually be revamping laws and ideas to suit new information. Einstein’s law of relativity now replaces Newton’s law of inertia. Mechanistic determination, then, is not, nor ever was, based on scientific observation, but on some other a priori idea. This sounds more like philosophy 101 than science 101.
So science attempts to creates laws that are not really true to justify itself while it investigates the universe. Yet, even in these temporary ideas, the laws of physics, for example, do not describe how nature goes on. It just supplies men with some facts (some guesses) about what is going on right now. Operationalism attempted to prove the laws of nature and to erect scientific principles of nature and religion upon them. But as the mechanistic theories collapsed, so does Operationalism under the hard facts of guessing science. Really, all science does is lead to skepticism about everything.
Science leaves men guessing about the nature of the universe, and as a result, the philosophy of science collapses immediately. Operationalism is offered as the best guess science can offer. But this is nothing more than asking people to believe what some hope to be true, and cannot prove it, or ever prove it. Science, then, can never determine its own value because it cannot make any universal judgment about ultimate reality. Science does make “things” possible. Men have nuclear missiles to blow up other men. That is possible. But science cannot offer any explanation on why one should blow up other men or not. Can science determine that life should be extended as something good? Not at all. The only answer that is really available, since no empirical scientific conclusions can be made about anything, is to turn to a Christian philosophy of theism.
Even in the early Genesis narrative, culture has adopted agriculture, the arts, and industry. This is part of the cultural mandate to dominate the world for the glory of God. Science has its place in Christian theism, but it is subservient to the goal of humanity which is the glory of God. God demonstrates His power in the world through the message of His word and its affirmation in the miracles surrounding the ones He sends to proclaim that word. Science, offers no refutation, no satisfactory refutation, to exclude miracles. There is no scientific basis for the rejection of miracles at all. Any anti-Christian sentiments that rely on science will in a few years or decades be discarded for new one. This demonstrates the irresponsibility of science in its attempt to simply overthrow the Christian faith. If scientific laws really overthrew the Christian faith, then those laws (like Newton’s) would not crumble, ever. Whether or not science believes something now does not mean it will ever believe it in the future. How can science possibly be trusted? Anything that scientists find are not findings at all but simply formulations. Formulations mean nothing without objective truth behind what the formulations are trying to prove. Experimentation, then, never discovers how nature works. Einstein rightly said, as a secular scientist, “We know nothing about it [nature] at all. Our knowledge is but the knowledge of school children…We shall know a little more than we do now. But the real nature of things-that we shall never know, never.” From this point alone, Einstein would be right in stating that science can never disprove Christianity as false; never. Since science is always tentative, it has no basis for ultimate reality. Why do people hold to science then? Science, for secularism, attempts to fill a void that can only be spiritually filled by faith with something that they think is provably tangible. That is because most scientists are not philosophers and do not take time to figure out that science has no answers. Regardless of what science can do, it has no justifiable cause to do it. If it creates something that aids in human life, it has no reason, no basis at all that it should be used. Or if it synthesizes something that would be the destruction of mankind, like a super virus, it has no justification as to why it ought not to be used first on the inventor, and then on the rest of the populace. Science can never speak about ethics. They are putting the cart far before the horse!
Is science helpful? To those blessed by divine revelation who have all the non-contradictory and consistent answers to ultimate reality, of course it is. Laws do not need to be completely true in order to be useful. Newton’s laws gave birth to other laws. Newton’s laws were ultimately overthrown by newer “laws”. They were helpful, but in error.
Science is forever incapable of producing valid arguments against the existence of God. It is simply not in a secular humanist, or secular scientists power to do so. They have no valid arguments for arguing against miracles, supernatural revelation, or life in heaven or hell. Science is always false, but is often useful.