Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Science vs. God vs. The Church - Part One ...

Originally Published on Facebook (Ned Barnett):  Science vs. God - Part One ...
INTRODUCTION: This essay was originally published on Facebook.  My goal then and now was to demonstrate that Science cannot disprove God - rather, that Science defines a possible way by which God  worked and works his miracles, and provides continuing Godly oversight to the human race.  God and Science are not incompatible - rather, God created the Laws of Science, and He then uses them, modifies them or miraculously steps beyond them - but always in the context that He created those Laws, and that He alone has the power to control those Laws.  That is still my point  here in this longer and more complete essay.
The initial series of opposing-view comments all seemed to come from people who confuse God with the Church ... for instance, they cite Galileo vs. the Pope as a reason for saying belief in God is incompatible with a search for scientific truth. They do so, apparently not realizing that the Catholic Church (not to mention one very fallible Pope), those two forces that blocked and punished Galileo, are not the same as God. They make the same mistake the Pope did, conflating their views with God's views.
 So, before I put forth the first in my series of perspectives on God and Science, allow me to offer a few thoughts on God vs. Church vs. Science.
 CHURCH vs. SCIENCE:  In most cases, when a Church stands in opposition to the pure discoveries of Science, this opposition is due more to a man-driven desire by those in the Church to retain or exert power than to any G0d-based theology.  In some cases, however, this faith-based opposition is due to a man-driven desire to encourage or force society to follow God's law ... as they personally understand and interpret God's Law.  However, most of the time, this situation of the Church or "men of faith" opposing science comes about because of a complete misunderstanding on everyone's part.  
Those of faith mistake their perception of God and His Law for the reality of God and his Law. They don't "get it" that their fallible human perception of God can never the same as the reality of God Himself, because the reality of God is infinitely beyond human ken.  That's why man's relationship with God is built on faith in the majesty of the Infinite God, rather than on provable knowledge about the totality of a well-understood and easily-categorized God.
An example of this misunderstanding can be found in the debates over the teaching of Charles Darwin, father of the Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection.  Those who avidly support Darwin's Theory want to present this Theory (perhaps I should say, "insist on presenting it") as a secular version of Divine Law: absolute, true, infallible and beyond question.  They ignore the fact that scientists themselves insist on calling Darwin's postulate a "theory," and they do so for a very good reason. Darwin's Theory of Evolution has not been proven, and despite how well it seems to explain some observable phenomena, Darwin's Theory may never be proven.  
For all its scientific and lay acceptance since Darwin first published his Theory in 1859, Darwin's vision of Evolution remains just a working hypothesis. It is an hypothesis that seems to explain many or most of the known facts regarding Evolution that the scientific community has been able to come up since 1859 - but because it's a "theory," what Darwin postulated will stand only until the next (and better) scientific hypothesis comes along, probably some time in the very near future.  Breakthroughs in DNA and molecular biology challenge Darwin at a core that he didn't even know existed - life at the sub-molecular level.
Even Darwin himself noted that his theory had many troubling problems to overcome. In his landmark Origin of Species (P.159), Darwin wrote:  "To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree."
Will Darwin's Theory ultimately be replaced?  Almost certainly.  After all, one Harvard scientist and advocate of Evolution has essentially disproved it (but in his loyalty to Darwin, he merely suggest that his new theory modifies or explains Darwin better than Darwin did) with ideas such as Punctuated Equilibrium.  This theory was created by Harvard faculty member Stephen Jay Gould to refine (his words) Darwin's theory.  I was for all of my adult life until his passing in 2002 a major fan of Professor Gould's - I read his collected columns from Natural History, as well as all of his other books, and generally read them more than once.  Genius is not too small a world to describe Professor Gould - nor was "defender of the (Darwinian) faith" too strong an accolade.  Yet it was his own work that ultimately disproved a major and significant part of Darwin, and it was only his willingness to engage in intellectual gymnastics that kept his toppling of Darwin's steady-state natural selection theory from being more widely known.
More recently than Gould's punctuated equilibrium, the science of microbiology has put up perhaps an insuperable barrier between our current Darwin's "Theory" and any future Darwin's "Law."  The same kind of replacement-through-science happened to Newton (more below), but when the dust settles, I believe that unlike Newton's continued utility in the world beyond the Quantum, there will be a completely new and different Theory to replace Darwin's Evolution ... however, I also believe that Christians who are so inclined will still oppose this new theorem, and that evolutionary scientists will, in a total absence of irony, still insist that, like Darwin's Theory before it, the new evolutionary "theory" should be - no, must be - treated as provable fact.
The sciences that are attacking Darwin icnlude molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics.  Over the past fifty years, mirobiologists and genetic scientists have come to know that there are in fact tens of thousands of irreducibly complex systems operating on the cellular level, all of which must be included in any "evolutionary" change. Molecular biologist Michael Denton wrote in his book, Evolution in Crisis, P.250, "Although the tiniest bacterial cells are incredibly small, weighing less than 10-12 grams, each is in effect a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machinery built by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world." 
The challenge against Darwin is found in the electron microscope, not the anthropolgical digs on the Serengeti Plain.  Darwin's Theory presupposed that gross anatomical changes in a species will evolve through natural selection, and that this will occur in order to better assist a species to survive in its current environment.  Over time, these changes add up until speciation - the creation of a wholly new species - ultimately ocurrs.  However, the connection between microscopic cellular changes and gross anatomical changes is so tenuous, and the rift between Darwin's presumed cause-and-effect is so immense, that his theory - as written - shatters and crumples.  
From a purely scientific perspective, I won't be surprised if at least a few of the underlying theses of Darwin's Theory survive into a new, as-yet not-written evolutionary theory.  Darwin was, after all, a genius, and his Theory does seem to define and explain at least some scientifically observable facts.  However, on the global level, Darwin and DNA are just not compatible.  I predict that some already-born future scientist is already on his or her way toward coming up with a challenge that brings down Darwin, even as it brings something at least remotely akin Darwin into the 21st Century.  When that happens, the Darwin that scientists and secularists have insisted be treated as FACT for more than 100 years will be proven false.
Don't think Darwin can be overturned? Then consider Newton.
For centuries, Sir Isaac Newton's three LAWS were considered sacrosanct, beyond question - right up until the moment that Quantum Physics came along.  Quantum Physics demonstrated that Newton's Laws, while still completely viable at the gross physical 3-dimensional level, are completely wrong at the sub-at0mic Quantum level.  Newton identified three laws - each of them repeatedly provable, yet he was overturned at the micro-level.  Darwin, on the other hand offers only a theory which, while it seems to explain some of the observed phenomenon (though not at the molecular or sub-molecular levels - think of those to biology as quantum is to physics), has yet to be proven.  To prove Darwin would require a time-frame for observable evolutionary change that is measured in terms of millenniums, eons and epochs, rather than in years, decades or even lifetimes.
Yet some who "believe" in science, and who presumably know the difference between a "theory" and a "law," nonetheless insist on Darwin being presented and treated as fact. On the other side of the debate, some of faith insist that Darwin's all hokum - but they do so while forgetting that God can exert change by any means He deems appropriate.  
Who's to say that God can't use Darwin's theory to accomplish His timeless aims?
Not me.  And not, I suggest, my fellow believers, or my fellow followers of science.  As the English poet wrote, indeed, "God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform." More important He's not answerable to us ... not to believers, and not to scientists.  He does what He wants, in His way and on His timetable, and any human who says otherwise, be he a believer or a scientist, just doesn't 'get it' about who and what God is - God is the Creator of All Things - including Newton's Laws and their Quantum Corollaries.  God also created the truth behind Darwin's Theory and the truth behind what is now being developed to replace Darwin with a 21st-Century microbiologically-sound alternative to Natural Selection.  
God created it, and God can use it to work his wonders.
CHURCH vs. GOD:  Church is the organized effort by believing humans to codify and act on their beliefs in God - and what those beliefs mean (or should mean) in the lives of humans.  Church is not God, and Church is not God's presence on earth.  Church is man-made.   Because men can't agree, not even on their shared beliefs, within every major religion there are many branches of that religion - denominations, they are called to Christians (I don't know what the Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists or Shintos call their inner divisions, but I do know they have them).  Church is a human construct and has no "authority" to speak for God. This fact means that whatever Churches or Church leaders say on a given subject only refer to what they, themselves, believe is accurate.  The Church's pronouncement is not the Word of God - it's the Word of Man.  
When a Church (or group of believers who share a common belief) speak out on anything to do with Science - and when they speak out AS believers - whatever they say, no matter how logical sounding, is not God's Word ... it is, at best, their honest interpretation of God's Word. At worst, it is something else.  Therefore, it goes without saying that what I present here in this essay is my view, my honest interpretetation of God vs. Science vs. Church, and not God's word.
SCIENCE vs. GOD:  Those who worship "science" (though they call this belief something else, it is obvious that "science" is their "god"), and those among science's worshippers who claim that - while science is pure and noble - churches are at least potentially wrong and maybe even corrupt have a point.  However, they are, at best, only half-right.  All Churches are potentially wrong, and every denomination has, at some point, toyed with corruption, starting with Cain for the Jews and Judas for the Christians.  
On the other hand, however, we need look no further than the "climate-gate" email scandal of a couple of years ago to know that "science" (the belief in it, and the active practice of it by fallible human beings) is just as potentially wrong, and just as potentially prone to corruption.
However, at its essence, "Science" is pure, in that it deals with provable facts, and with theories which  may or may not be provable at some future point.  Just as true, at His essence, "God" is pure, the ultimate source of creation and the one infallible element of creation.  You can believe that or disbelieve that, but it doesn't matter. Regardless of your beliefs (or mine), "Science" is pure at its essence, and so is God.  Neither require your belief, nor mine, for that to be a fact.
 God, in His infallible essence, created the universe. In this process, He created the scientific laws that man continues to try to uncover, and to understand.  At its core, Science is merely a way by which man can try to understand how God works - how He created all of creation, and how he acts within and around and above that Creation in order to express his will for all to see, and to intervene in the world when He deems it appropriate.
A Brief Side Journey - Does God Intervene?  A side point on that whole "God intervenes" thing.  There are perishingly few scholars of the American Revolution and the subsequent birth of our nation who consider George Washington anything but the truly essential man, the man without whom we'd still be British Subjects.  During the battle at Fort Duquense, part of the French and Indian War, during a massive defeat of the British, Washington had two horses shot out from under him.  His coat was pierced with bullets that didn't touch him.  By some counts, 86 holes were shot or stabbed into his clothing - yet he was unscathed.  Perhaps God didn't intervene, but he survived where most others fell, and he didso without a scratch.  He then went on to lead the Continental Army, defeat a superior British force, lead the Constitutional Convention, set an unimpeachable role for future Presidents to follow, and - in the process - proved to be the one key man without whom our nation would not have existed.
Did God intervene?  I choose to believe so, but that's an article of faith.  What is beyond an article of faith are the many prayers that are answered - some in my life, but many in others' lives.  Believe in God or not - that doesn't change this truth.
Science vs. God Part II:  Many "scientists" think (actually, it's not so much a "thought" as it is a "belief," but if I were to call it a "belief," some might choose to be insulted by this, no matter how accurate the description) that if science can prove something, then the fact of that proof must also somehow disprove God. However, this belief (or thought) is based on the unproven and unprovable (and arguably false) assumption - and as scientists, in the realm of science, they would routinely reject any unproven and unprovable assumption.  
They assume, without fact, proof or even logic, that God can only work outside the provable physical realm as defined by scientists. This unproven assumption ignores the provable fact that they are trying to narrowly define a universe-creating God. They are trying to limit a God who is without limits, a God who, in the process of creating the Universe, also created the physics, and the physical laws, that these scientists try to use to discredit their Creator.
He created the universe, and as a universal creator, He is free to choose to work inside those physical laws, or to bend those physical laws to His will.

For instance, there's no reason at all that God could not have decided, from the moment of Creation, to use what Darwin came to call evolution in order to create man, and the beasts, and the plants, and the microbes. 
The only part of Darwin's Theory of Evolution by means of Natural Selection (and Darwin himself called it a theory, not a proven fact) that stands against the idea of God using evolution to create Man is that part of Darwin's theory that calls for random selection. God takes the random out of the selection process, but remember, Darwin called his whole story "a theory" and random selection was just one small part of that.  In his first edition of Origin of Species, P. 6, Darwin admitted as much:  "I am convinced that Natural Selection has been the main, but not exclusive means of modification."
Another:  There is a mounting set of still-disputed scientific evidence that a catastrophic breech in a barrier wall keeping the ocean-level Mediterranean Sea apart from the 330-foot-below-sea-level "Black Lake" caused a  raging flood that lasted for a full year.  "Disputed" because scientists with various personal axes to grind seem to be able to find different answers to the same evidence - however, the find of a populated shoreline 330 feet below current sea level is beyond dispute. 
This deluge occurred at the very dawn of civilization, when man first discovered agriculture, created communities and instituted animal husbandry. Indisputable archaeological evidence of towns surrounding the fresh water lake have been found by reputable undersea archaeologists at the old lake-level shoreline. This great flood, while devastating, tended to advance along the shoreline at a rate of a mile per day. People living around the once-freshwater lake, now a churning and silt-laden dead saltwater sea (the survivors) were scattered to the four winds. In this diaspora, they were no longer connected by navigable waters or trade routes. 
Some survivors went to India. Some followed the Danube into the Balkans, where settlements and technology reflecting that lake-sure culture have been found. Some refugees went to Russia. Some survivors went to Turkey, or Assyria (Iraq), or even Palestine and Egypt.  Everywhere they went, they brought their knowledge, even as they intermarried and blended into aboriginal populations. Over time, their common or connected launguage, known as PIE - or Proto-Indo-European - faded, but remnants of that common tongue remain even today in the various surviving "Indo-European" languages. This language dispersion process happened naturally, but it also happened at exactly the right time for spreading the bedrock of civilization from a single location, while at the same time cutting off those first-to-become-civilized people, one from another.

Who can say with any scientific certainty that God did not speak to a man, Noah, and tell him how to survive the coming great deluge, along with his family and his flocks? Certainly any God who can create worlds can breach a rock barrier wall, when and how he chooses, and give a head's up to people He's chosen to save.  those who debunk the notion of Noah assume a certain kind of "straw man" Great Flood, one that they can then be knocked down.  But even they cannot prove that the largest flood scientifically known to have afflicted Mankind could not have been the means and basis of Noah's salvation.

Beyond that, this flood-diaspora story rings very true with the core elements of the Tower of Babel.  Here around the Black Lake was, for the first time in human history, the most advanced culture on earth. It was there, presumably, because of their proximity, they shared a language in common - a key element in the Babel story.  And, because they were at the very  forefront of humanity's transition from hunger-gatherer to agriculturist/merchant, these first-to-be-civilized humans could have conceivably had a good deal of hubris. 
Can anyone factually and with scientific rigor say that God didn't destroy the Black Lake and send its shore-residents scattering?  The fact of the deluge are there, lacking only a cause for it occurring at this very fragile time in humanity's road to civilization. And who can say for a scientific fact that this great deluge isn't enshrined in the stories of Noah and Babel?
I am not saying that God used these scientifically provable events to save Noah and disperse humanity.  I am saying that there is nothing in Science to disprove this.  Which leads me to my core hypothesis - when people claim that because Science proves something as a fact, then that also proves that God had no hand in the event, or its aftermath.  But that is an unprovable assumption far harder to prove than Darwin on the sub-molecular level.  It can't be done.

There are many other examples where an open mind could see how God both created and used natural events he created to fulfill the stories he was also creating. Some in science claim that the volcanic eruption at Santorini was the proximal  cause of the Red (or Reed) Sea pulling back, just in time to allow Moses to save his people during their Exodus. But why, then, did that super-volcano blow up in just the right way, and at exactly the right time, in order to save the Children of Israel? The Creator of the Universe - determined to save his Chosen People - had many options open to him.  Who's to say that He may have chosen to create a "natural event" in order to save His People.  If not, why not?  After all, He created everything anyway?

I'll reflect on this more from time to time, but with the holiday closing in, I thought I'd use a bit of time off to raise this issue. 
If a creator God exists, then that God created the root cause of science - which means, logically, that God can use science to manifest his Will, his Power, or any Message he cares to share.

No comments:

Post a Comment