Mark vs Cancer

Friday, November 10, 2006

God and Science

TIME ran a cover story last week entitled, "God vs. Science," as if the two subjects were exclusionary. It promised, "a spirited debate between atheist biologist Richard Dawkins and Christian geneticist Francis Collins."

Instead, it presented a polite, thoughtful defense of faith and science by Dr. Collins, and a histrionic, scattershot retort by a belligerent Professor Dawkins. In the end, Dr. Collins bludgeoned poor Professor Dawkins with the weight his own circuitous, post-modern, relativistic philosophy.

The whole dialogue is worth reading, but here is a characteristic exchange between the two:

Dawkins: (attempting to explain away some of the universe's mysteries) . . . there could be something incredibly grand and incomprehensible and beyond our present understanding.

Collins: That's God.

Dawkins: Yes. But it could be any of a billion Gods. It could be the God of the Martians or of the inhabitants of Alpha Centauri. The chance of its being a particular God, Yahweh, the God of Jesus, is vanishingly small . . .

I got the feeling throughout the debate that Dr. Dawkins is an intelligent but close-minded man who has risen to some degree of popularity by advocating a narrow-minded philosophy to his like-minded scientific colleagues, but that in Dr. Collins he finally met his match. When confronted with a man whose scientific credentials and brilliance dwarf his own, Dawkins was reduced to pathetic attempts at mental bullying, leaving him conspicuously flailing in his own philosophical quicksand.

Their dialogue immediately conjures to my mind the Book of Mormon debate between the prophet Alma and his atheist antagonist, Korihor. In fact, Collins' and Dawkins' respective arguments veer so closely to their Book of Mormon counterparts that it reinforces to me the modern-day applicability of the Book of Mormon.

I believe that the whole dialectic revolves around two key points:

1) You cannot prove that God exists.

2) You cannot prove that he does NOT exist.

And yet while irrefutable scientific proof of God will always remain elusive, all things in nature, including human nature's hardwired longing for the divine, speak of design and thus a Designer; of creation and thus a Creator; of good and evil, and thus of God.

Absolute proof? Not there.

An abundance of otherwise unexplainable evidence pointing towards a higher power? It's all around us.

I believe that the existence of God is self-evident in the extraordinary order and exquisite design found in nature, in the human body, in physics and chemistry. He is also found in our collective, eternal longing for divinity, expressed through acts of altruism, through poetry and music, and through family relations and love.

Could the incomprehensible complexity of the human body have evolved through random collisions of molecules and purposeless mutations of DNA, even if it had 10 billion years to do so? Possibly, but extremely unlikely.

Isn't it infinitely more likely that a rarely seen but divine force has gently molded creation towards it present state, leaving conspicuous tracks for even the least educated to observe, and thus to begin to build faith in a higher power?

It's Occam's razor, baby. The most likely explanation for the world we inhabit is the presence of a Creator, a being who wants us to observe His works, seek His love, and exercise our faith. He will always reward that earnest effort, no matter what denomination or religion the seeker professes.

It's not "God vs. Science;" it's "God through Science." His presence is all around us, patiently waiting to be discovered and worshipped.


Tankfos said...

The movie Contact is dedicated to this very subject. (as everyone knows except Dad ) One of my favorite parts of the movie is when Elle and Palmer are discussing Occam's razor. Elle is using it to say exactly opposite of what Mark claims it points to. She says that the first option of the random evolution of life is more practical than the existence of some all powerful being who won't even leave proof that he exists. Palmer's reponse is classic.
Palmer- Did your father love you?
Elle-Yes, of course.
Palmer- Are you sure your father loved you?
Palmer-Prove it.

Of course she could try and prove it by bringing up all of the good things that her father had done for her, the sacrifices he had made. However, I am sure science could find other reasons or causes for such actions. Perhaps with some statistics she could show that her fathers actions were not significantly different than a none loving father's. Maybe Elle's perception of love was simply a biological necessity that would assure that her genes could be passed on to her children and so is evolution. But these studies would be of a superficial nature, how do you classify, label, an measure love. Similarly how can one assume to classify, label, and measure the the human soul. Something inside of Elle told her different. Something that was deeper than hypothesis' and control groups. More meaningful than data and conclusions. The human soul is a beautiful thing that somehow runs deeper and purer than nerves, synapses, and cells. perhaps even more refined than protons, neutrons, and electrons. With this purity comes a subtly that can only be heard by those who want to hear. What a beautiful system it is!!! In order to hear we actually have to try and listen.

Tyler said...

Great post Mark!

I too read the debate in Time. Dana and I actually read part of it and discussed it for family night on Monday. We also read parts of Alma 30 and were amazed at the similarity of the arguments being made.

It is ironic that even though science has indeed come a long way, atheists' arguments against God aren't any more persuasive now than they were 2000+ years ago.

Honestly, I was disappointed overall with the article and I'm not really sure it deserved the front-cover touting that it received by Time. It was interesting, but Dr. Dawkins just didn't seem to make a very persuasive arguments, at least to most people. Not that much has changed, or indeed ever will change in the whole debate because like you said, Mark, it revolves around the two key points of not being able to prove God either way. I believe it is perfect that way because it allows people to exercise their ability to seek and choose for themselves.

Also, the title "God vs. Science" didn't seem to fit the article very well. Indeed, Dawkins was arguing against God, but I didn't think Dr. Collins was arguing against science at all. Ultimately, their disagreement is about the definition and limits of science. The title presupposes that scientists by and large reject God, which I don't believe is true.

Dad said...

I too read the article you mentioned. I found it somewhat unsatisfying as to the arguments offered. It seemed to me that Dr. Dawkins was basically saying that the whole idea of intelligent design or some power or higher law that only God knows is a ridiculous supposition. He seemed to say that because God's existence and involvement in the creation of all we know could not be explained by science it was not possible to believe that He exists.
It would be much like a person 150 years ago saying there is no way man could fly in a machine. What the truth was is that man simply, at that point, didn't know the laws and principals on which a machine can fly through the air.
I have always thought that there is indeed higher laws that have not been revealed to man at this point. It doesn't mean that the law doesn't apply or exist but it is not revealed yet. The Law of Resurretion is an example. How does that work? Someone with faith or a belief in it...please tell me how that works. How does a decaying, dead body come back to life. It seems impossible. From our knowledge of science it simply isn't possible and so Dr. Dawkins response would be that it doesn't exist because we can't explain it by some scientific postulate.
Now whether you believe in the resurrection or not is not my point. If it is a law that will apply to all of us, and I happen to believe it is, it will one day be revealed to us and we will then understand....just like the Wright Bros figured out how to make a plane fly based on scientific principals that were not understood before their work and now we understand.
Is that analogy any good?...I don't know. It just seems to me that it is a bit of a chicken or egg thing. You have to be humble enough to have the faith to accept the possibility.....even the probability that all we are and observe in nature, the beauty of life itself could not have appeared over a huge amount of time by itself. It defies logic reason it seems to me. Life is too complex, to intricate to have just randomly happened, which if it is a random set of many multiple interations of change, is the only possible explaination if there is no higher intelligence like God.
By the way, that was not the message of Contact. Contact simply challenged the belief that there is a God, much like Dr. Dawkins believes. However, Carl Sagan recognized the impossibility of a chain of random events ending in our world and life as we know it. His story tells us there is a higher life form out there....his God if you will that explains it all. I have never said it wasn't a story of haivng or not having faith in guys have pegged me wrong there. It was simply his way of explaining how we could be what we are without there being a God. There is a higher race of life forms that caused this to be. He was an atheist and didn't believe in God. You fools were sucked into his position without even knowing it.

Anyway, it all comes down to faith and I think a certain degree of logic and reasonableness as to this science vs. God argument. It has always been on the earth and always will be. If Satan can undermine that faith in God, then he wins over some to his side.