Roadblock #2 = The Intellectual Factor
TYPICAL WORDING: “I’m scientifically and rationally minded; I only believe in what can be proven empirically. I resist taking any leap of faith which religion requires.”
PROBLEM: Many in western society since the time of the Enlightenment have pitted faith against science in a way that makes science seem more true, real, and accurate, while religion is relegated to dealing with myths, wild hopes, unproven assumptions, or unwise speculations. This dreary shadow cast across faith’s landscape creates a tendency for those educated in the sciences to look down upon faith and back away from its pursuit. It also makes faith seem a mere pleasantry or a side issue, not anything to take seriously or academically. Dabble with it if you like, search for your own path of peace, but it is inconsequential when dealing with real life.
SOLUTION: Science, no doubt, is a helpful tool, but it is hardly infallible or encompassing of all knowledge. Besides, despite what many confident scientists claim, no one is purely scientific in their approach to life – nor can they be. Some faith still cannot be avoided. This is not to say that the idea of God is only invented to fill in the gaps of our knowledge. Insightful people have learned that even to practice science certain assumptions (faith) are needed. Why does science work in our universe? Why is the universe orderly and its laws work so consistently? Not to provide an answer to these questions reveals the fatal flaw of the “science only” approach. These are legitimate questions which necessarily lead beyond science. God is not only needed for gaps in knowledge, but for how the entire universe works and holds together in the first place.
To assume that a scientific explanation for an event in nature disposes of the need for God is to commit the logical error of reductionism. For example: A whistling sound is heard coming from the stove top. Upon investigation one sees that a tea kettle filled with water is steaming and causing the whistling sound. However showing that as the cause does not nullify other causes. In this case, earlier the woman of the house placed the kettle on the stove and turned it on to heat it. So for science to show that a lightning bolt is produced from charges is not the whole explanation. How did the charges get there? Why does nature work that way in the first place? And why did it produce that lightning bolt at that time to hit that object? Science will never be able to answer those questions. The immediate physical explanation of an event cannot be assumed to be the only or the complete explanation of an event without committing the error of reductionism and stepping outside of science into the realm of metaphysics.
So science should not be a stumbling block to pursue religion because a quality faith will be in accordance with facts which modern, educated people can duly embrace including all scientific facts.
EXPLANATION: Many educators assert that only science should be trusted, for only science has the ability to prove something to be certain. Science is testable, repeatable, and verifiable. It is confirmed by the senses. Therefore, they conclude, it can be trusted when it makes a truth claim. Gravity, they say, is known to be real by experience; Heaven and angels we can’t be too sure about – can’t touch it, smell it, see it. Spiritual things cannot be subjected to the scientific method. How does one put the idea of salvation in a test tube to analyze it? Therefore spiritual claims are regarded as suspect. Since no one wise believes in things he cannot verify, reliance on science is wiser than reliance on faith. So the thinking goes.
The rap on religion is that it comes from the heart and generates feeling and wishful thinking. It may be needed to give man hope or the feeling of meaning, but it is unreliable. Science, though comes from the mind, deals with logic, and grapples with facts. This leads many educated people to ask skeptically: “With all the knowledge we have today, how can I maintain faith in some old book with its ancient superstitions?” Miracles too seem to have been disproven. Evolution seems to have made the idea of supernatural creation a myth. The events surrounding Jesus’ life just seem too fantastical for science. So faith is sidelined as irrelevant at best.
At first blush this intellectual roadblock and objection seems to make sense, especially since most of us have been educated in schools which instilled this way of thinking. We were instructed to believe what you can see, not, believe what you can’t see. We were told that the only universe worth studying was the physical.
Upon further analysis, though, this view of “science only” falls apart entirely. It may seem foolproof, but it is not defensible. The use of science is beneficial, but the view of “science only” or even “science primarily” is a fallacy easily exposed.
It is not defensible because it is a self-defeating statement. A self-defeating statement is something which contradicts itself. As soon as someone says it, it defeats itself. An example would be the statement: “I can’t write one complete sentence in English.” Of course, that is a complete sentence in English. So it falsifies its own claim. Another self-defeating statement is one that is commonly made, “There is no such thing as absolute truth.” Except that belief is stated as an absolute truth. So it contradicts itself.
The same is true with the “science only” claim. Just consider the contradictory way the position is required to be stated. The statement (or its equivalent) is this: “Only what can be proven by the scientific method should be accepted as true.” But that statement cannot itself be proven by the scientific method. There is no scientifically testable way to prove that science is the only true and believable source of knowledge. So the statement fails to meet its own standard. It is in fact a self-contradictory and self-defeating statement.
This is a conundrum those who claim to believe exclusively in science must face. Amazingly many who hold this view have never realized that their view falsifies itself. Whatever falsifies itself cannot be true, because if their view is false, then it is false. If their view is true, it is still false because it falsifies itself. Either way the assertion, “Only what can be proven by science should be believed,” is provably false. That means logically science cannot be the only method for determining truth. The door is wide open for faith. Indeed faith is demanded. To think otherwise is to abandon reason.
Furthermore, religion, including Christianity, has always had men and women who have answered the intellectual arguments foisted against it. There have always existed apologists to refute false charges and resoundingly show the inconsistencies of those charges. Many great minds have seen the limitations of science and have wisely rested their ultimate beliefs on reasonable faith. Some of the greatest scientists and intellectual giants in history and presently have had faith in God, and some had faith in Christ and Scripture. Copernicus, Pascal, Einstein, Kepler, Bacon, Descartes, Newton, Pasteur for starters. There is a reason so many intellectual giants accept that there must be a God. As we will hopefully explore in a future post, the scientific method itself cannot stand on its own. It needs a worldview to justify it as a method for truth gathering.
Unfortunately it seems not enough scientists ask why science is able to work in this universe so effectively. They were taught science in school. They use science, but they don’t understand the basis for science. Their education failed them there. That basis has to go back to something other than itself — something set up in the universe so that the regularity and principles ingrained in the universe can actually work and allow humanity to do the work of scientific discovery. The same is true of mathematics. “Why does mathematics work?” is not a question math or science can answer. It goes back to metaphysical realities.
In our next post we will continue removing other common roadblocks.