Tuesday, January 24, 2006

SCIENCE FINDS GOD?

July 24, 1998

"Science Finds God"

This was the title of the cover story of the July 20, 1998 issue of Newsweek. But as it turns out, it's a lie. Not a single scientific proof of God is presented. Here is what we got instead:

"(Astronomer Alan) Sandage, who says he was ‘almost a practicing atheist as a boy’, was nagged by mysteries whose answers were not to be found in the glittering panoply of supernovas. Among them: why is there something rather than nothing? Sandage began to despair of answering such questions through reason alone, and so, at 50, he willed himself to accept God."

This is not science finding God: quite the opposite. It is a scientist ‘willing’ himself to believe in spite of *not* finding God through science.

"Rather than undercutting faith and a sense of the spiritual, scientific discoveries are offering support for them, at least in the minds of people of faith."

This is not science finding God. This is people who *already* believe in God reading religious significance into scientific discoveries.

"But now the very science that ‘killed’ God is, in the eyes of believers, restoring faith."

Ditto.

"Physicists have stumbled on signs that the cosmos is custom-made for life and consciousness. It turns out that if the constants of nature - unchanging numbers like the strength of gravity, the charge of an electron and the mass of a proton - were the tiniest bit different, then atoms would not hold together, starts would not burn and life would never have made an appearance."

This is called the Anthropic Principle. Basically, it says that it’s possible to concieve of a great many universes with constants that do not allow for life. Okay, sure. But in the absence of any knowledge about how these constants came about, assuming that "God did it" is the same as assuming that God is responsible for anything else that we don’t have an explanation for yet. This is the "god of the gaps" in action. God is assumed to be responsible for that which we don’t understand. When we understand it, the gap available to house God will be pushed back that much further. Until we understand it, and find that it *is* the result of divine intervention, it is premature to claim to have evidence of God.

"…the world follows rules, rules that are fundamentally mathematical, rules that humans can figure out… This points, says Polkinghorne, ‘to a very deep fact about the nature of the universe,’ namely, that our minds, which invent mathematics, are somehow tuned in to its truths. Since pure thought can penetrate the universe's mysteries, 'this seems to be telling us that something about human consciousness is harmonious with the mind of God.'"

Hold on now. They just got through explaining the Anthropic Principle to us, which points at something we don’t yet understand about the universe and concludes that this means God must have been responsible. Now they’re saying that our ability to understand things about the universe *also* leads to the conclusion that God must have designed it. So when we don’t understand the universe, that means there’s a God - and when we *do* undertsand it, that *also* means there’s a God? What sort of reasoning is this? They can’t have it both ways!

In a naturally ocurring universe, intelligent beings would reasonably expect to find some things that they *can* understand, and other things that they cannot (at least, not yet). Since that is what we find, there is no evidence of God in the understandability of the universe.

"To most worshippers, a sense of the divine as an unseen presence behind the visible world is all well and good, but what they really yearn for is a God who acts in the world. Some scientists see an opening for this sort of God at the level of quantum or subatomic events… ‘Quantum mechanics allows us to think of special divine action,’ says Russel."

As a matter of fact, everyone is already "allowed" to think whatever they want. You don’t need to get permission by invoking quantum indeterminacy. The *real* question is whether or not quantum events are truly random, or whether they display any sign of intelligent control. So far, they never have. Until such time as direct intelligent control is deduced from the random decay of atoms, it cannot be construed as evidence of the existence of God.

"Most scientists still park their faith, if they have it, at the laboratory door."

So much for science having "found" God.

"It turns out, says Primack, that the largest size imaginable, the entire universe, is 10 with 29 zeroes after it (in centimeters). The smallest size describes the subatomic world, and is 10 with 24 zeroes (and a decimal) in front of it. Humans are right in the middle. Does this return us to a priviledged place? Primack doesn’t know, but he describes this as a "soul-satisfying cosmology."

"Soul-satisfying" or not, there are all kinds of problems with this sort of reasoning. Imagine a 100 pound weight and a one pound weight. Would it be correct to say that a 10 pound weight was "right in the middle" between 100 and 1? Only if you’re speaking about a exponential scale in base 10.

"Religion ‘is incapable of making its moral claims persuasive or its spiritual comfort effective [unless] its cognitive claims’ are credible, argues physicist-theologian Russell. Otherwise, says astronomer and Jesuit priest William Stoeger, religion is in danger of being seen, by people even minimally acquainted with science, ‘as an anachronism.’

Ah. In other words, religion has an agenda here: to appear scientifically credible at all costs.

"Science cannot prove the existence of God, let alone spy him at the end of a telescope."

Then why was this article entitled ‘Science Finds God’?

Thankfully, the remainder of the story continues this retreat away from the promise of the title. What the article is ultimately telling us is that believers can no longer reject science without looking like complete idiots, and so they’re turning around and claiming that science now supports what they’ve believed all along. Instead of clinging to nonsensical interpretations of ancient fables, they’re now turning to nonsensical interpretations of the findings of science. What a surprise.

2 Comments:

At 9:42 AM, Blogger lilmama_rc said...

I believe in God. I believe that He watches over me and that he blesses me. I also believe that humans have discovered through falsification many scientific theories. I know that science is ever changing it's meaning of truth, with each new discovery. And like the different religions, there are hundreds of scientists bent on proving their theories right because they disagree with one of their peers. I really don't feel the need to know everything, nor do I claim to, I keep an open mind and listen to different points of view. However, no one will change my belief in God, until they can prove that He doesn't exist beyond a reasonable doubt. I am not talking about Him turing the Nile to blood or what religious rules are created by man, but Him. For you to knock another's faith and make fun of other's beliefs is the main reason I pity those who won't even consider God, you will always be hypocritical and bitter.

 
At 7:54 PM, Blogger Jeff Dee said...

lilmama_rc wrote:
"I believe in God. I believe that He watches over me and that he blesses me."

You are, of course, free to 'believe' anything you want. I'm just curious to hear *why* you decided to believe those things.

"I also believe that humans have discovered through falsification many scientific theories."

Scientists do not 'discover theories'. Scientists *formulate* theories, and then test those theories to see whether they make accurate predictions. If they do, then the scientist hasn't 'discovered a theory' - they've discovered a *fact*.

"I know that science is ever changing it's meaning of truth, with each new discovery."

That is incorrect. Scientists think that 'the truth' is 'whatever happens to actually be the case'.

"And like the different religions, there are hundreds of scientists bent on proving their theories right because they disagree with one of their peers."

But *unlike* the different religionists, scientists decide who among their peers is correct on the basis of objective, testable evidence.

"I really don't feel the need to know everything, nor do I claim to, I keep an open mind and listen to different points of view."

Okay.

"However, no one will change my belief in God, until they can prove that He doesn't exist beyond a reasonable doubt. I am not talking about Him turing the Nile to blood or what religious rules are created by man, but Him."

It is not the unbeliever's responsibility to prove that your god doesn't exist. It is *your* responsibility to prove that he *does*. YOU are the one who claims to know something about him, after all. So cough up whatever evidence convinced *you*, and we'll take a look. If you can't provide the evidence, or refuse to, or if you try but your evidence turns out to be lacking, then it should be no surprise if other people decline to share your belief. What right do you have to expect anything more than that?

"For you to knock another's faith and make fun of other's beliefs is the main reason I pity those who won't even consider God, you will always be hypocritical and bitter."

You're going to have to explain what you mean by 'hypocritical'. As for *mocking*, well, it's not my fault that you've decided to believe stuff that you can't prove - stuff that was never even proved *to you*! And it's not my fault that, despite an obvious lack of understanding of what science is and how it works, you feel qualified to babble about it incoherently on blogs. In short, *it's not my fault that you behave in a ridiculous manner*. So why are you blaming *me* when you get ridiculed for it? If you don't want to be ridiculed, then don't be ridiculous. 'Nuff said.

-Jeff Dee

 

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