Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Faith and science

At NRO's Phi Beta Cons, an explanation of why ID, or "Intelligent Design," doesn't meet the requirements of a scientific hypothesis:
"Science, by definition, seeks to provide natural—not supernatural—explanations for the things that we see in the world around us. Why? Because natural theories can be tested and falsified based on empirical observations. Questions and doubts about these natural theories can be settled according to a standard methodology. If you give up on this methodology and start positing unobservable supernatural entities to explain the phenomena you see around you, then you’re no longer doing science. You’ve gone beyond the limits of empirical observation. You’ve moved into the realm of philosophy or theology—which is fine, just as long as it’s not masquerading as science." More
Science is defined by its method and it deals only with those questions which can be addressed by that method. Of course people like Dawkins and Dennett claim much too much for science - arguing that "scientific" knowledge is the only kind of knowledge and that any other claims to "know" are nonsensical.

Obviously, a lot of people find the theistic answer satisfying on another level. What do you see as the problem with that level?
What other level?
At whatever level where people say the idea of God is very satisfying.
Well, of course it is. Wouldn’t it be lovely to believe in an imaginary friend who listens to your thoughts, listens to your prayers, comforts you, consoles you, gives you life after death, can give you advice? Of course it’s satisfying, if you can believe it. But who wants to believe a lie?
So what can you tell us about God?
Certainly the idea of a God that can answer prayers and whom you can talk to, and who intervenes in the world - that's a hopeless idea. There is no such thing.
Yet faith, by definition, means believing in something whose existence cannot be proved scientifically. If we knew for sure that God existed, it would not require a leap of faith to believe in him.
Isn't it interesting that you want to take that leap? Why do you want to take that leap? Why does our craving for God persist? It may be that we need it for something. It may be that we don't need it, and it is left over from something that we used to be.
They are both making claims about reality ("...who wants to believe a lie?," "There is no such thing.") that are beyond the ability of science to demonstrate. Science is actually rather limited by its method and cannot now (or perhaps ever) address the most important questions we ask - questions about meaning and purpose. Science was never designed to answer such questions. Its method limits what it can do. It doesn't follow that there is no answer. Experience, reason, history and, yes, revelation, can give us knowledge that may never be amenable to testing by the scientific method.

Stephen M. Barr:
...We would all be better off if more scientists simply admitted that there are things we don’t understand about the hows and whys of evolution. What we have seen instead is an intolerance of any questioning on this subject that is totally inconsistent with a true scientific spirit.

Moreover, the scientific community has sat by while certain scientists and philosophers, claiming the authority of science, have waged war against religion using the neo-Darwinian account of evolution as a metaphysical weapon. There have been three main prongs of this offensive. The first is the promotion of an extreme form of naturalism and reductionism, sometimes called “scientism.” According to this philosophy (a hang-over from positivism, and widespread among scientists), all objectively meaningful questions can be reduced to scientific ones, and only natural explanations are rational.

The second prong is an attack on the idea of design in nature: Biologists like Richard Dawkins and philosophers like Daniel Dennett claim Darwinian evolution has explained how complex biological structures arise from unconscious physical processes and thus destroyed the Argument from Design for the existence of God, conquered the last bastion of teleology and final causation in science, and showed that the universe and life are without ultimate purpose....

If biology remains only biology, it is not to be feared. Much of the fear that does exist is rooted in the notion that God is in competition with nature, so that the more we attribute to one the less we can attribute to the other. That is false. The greater the powers and potentialities in nature, the more magnificent must be nature’s far-sighted Author, that God whose “ways are unsearchable” and who “reaches from end to end ordering all things mightily.” Richard Dawkins famously called the universe “a blind watchmaker.” If it is, it is miracle enough for anyone; for it is incomparably greater to design a watchmaker than a watch.

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