Tag Archives: Supernatural

Science and Religion in Competition?

Several atheistic blogs I read are guilty of “scientism.”  Scientism is not science but rather deductions and speculations arising out of scientific observations.  Truth is truth no matter the source.  Scientism, however, sees science and empirical observation as the only source of truth.  Consider this definition:

Scientism sees it necessary to do away with most, if not all, metaphysical, philosophical, and religious claims, as the truths they proclaim cannot be apprehended by the scientific method. In essence, scientism sees science as the absolute and only justifiable access to the truth.

Here’s an example from a blog called, Unreasonable Faith

Belief never invented a laser, or pressed a CD, or kept a ‘plane in the air, or restarted a heart – Science has done all of that and more, a whole bunch of times.” And, “Against this staggering work and monumental achievement (the proof that one of Einstein’s theories is correct – DW) on one single scientific project out of hundreds of thousands, there stand some old men in robes, telling us that God did it, because it says so in the nth translation in the chain of some bronze-aged myths written by some camel-herders.

For the moment let’s ignore the ridicule and the reality that many respected scientists believe that “God did it.”  More to the point: science and faith are two different things and, thus, not in competition. Faith is defined as, “…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). On the other hand, science is totally based on what can be seen. When interpretation of scientific observations moves beyond the observable, it becomes speculation. Speculation is fine and useful for building hypotheses but it is still speculation.  And there’s nothing wrong with speculations as long as they are recognized as such.  Just don’t ask me to accept them as incontrovertible truth.

Many religious people have rightly been resistant to speculations contradicting the concept of a Creator. Others have stubbornly held to their own religious speculations that are in obvious contradiction to observable and undeniable facts. This is foolish in light of the reality that observable facts (sans speculations) do not contradict the concept of a Creator God.  In truth, some of those facts call loudly for a first cause and a designer.

Science and faith operate in two separate realms. Faith presupposes the existence of a supernatural realm (things not seen). Science can only operate in the natural realm. To place them in competition is ridiculous.


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The Universe: Two Perspectives

My wife and I enjoy reading and watching mysteries – you know, Agatha Christie, etc.  I like to watch the television versions with her because I often get lost in the details and she doesn’t.  I have to have things spelled-out in simple terms. “Okay, was it the long-lost cousin who showed up from Kenya who took the papers from the study in the dark of night or was it the daughter who stood to lose her inheritance?”  “Who done it,” is easy for her (and Miss Marple), difficult for me.  I have noticed I have to do this with most things.

I can’t claim to have always been a solid theist.  In my university days, I followed in the footsteps of my father and began my studies as an agnostic.  My professors reinforced that position since most of them were either atheist, agnostic or ambivalent on the matter of belief.  Thanks to a teacher who helped me to see there are two sides to the question of belief, I came down on the side of faith in a Creator.  It just seemed much more reasonable.  Still does.

In my life-long attempt to get things straight, I have looked long and hard at the ongoing debate between theists and atheists. I have begun to see that whether to believe or not believe is largely a matter of perspective. We are part of an amazing, spectacular, unfathomable, intricate universe.  Before we even consider our microscopic little blue planet, there are the stars orbited by uncountable planets, gathered into galaxies numbering in the multiplied millions.  Then there is our tiny island with the only life we are presently aware of.  Intricate complexity and design is increasingly evident as we delve into the subatomic realms. Are the complexity, intricacy, design and order we see the results of accidental, random yet unobservable processes?  Is life the outcome of chemical processes that we don’t yet understand? How do we account for all this?

As for me, this is how it all boils down: The theist looks at the universe and concludes there is no way this complexity, intricacy, design and order could happen by itself.  The atheist looks at all the complexity, intricacy, design and order and concludes that it did indeed happen by itself. Two perspectives – which one makes more sense to you?

My blogs:
Whitticisms: dwhitsett.wordpress.com
In the Charamon Garden: charamongarden.wordpress.com
Whitsett Carving: whitcarv.wordpress.com
Mission South Pacific: missionsouthpacific.wordpress.com

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Sir John Carew Eccles, Believer

“People who believe in God are ignorant and superstitious.  Intelligent, educated people do not believe in God.” Perhaps you have read or heard such nonsense spouted by the so-called “new atheists.”  This is an ignorant and arrogant falsehood.  From time to time in this blog, I will feature quotations from highly respected scientists (many Nobel Prize winners) who are solid theists.  Hopefully, such information will put to rest such misinformed arguments among open-minded readers.

Consider Nobel Prize winner Sir John Eccles.  Sir John was an Aussie, born in Melbourne in 1903 and died in 1997.  More information can be found in Wickipedia and at Nobelprize.org.

Science and religion are very much alike. Both are imaginative and creative aspects of the human mind. The appearance of conflict is a result of ignorance.

We come to exist through a divine act. That divine guidance is a theme throughout our life; at our death the brain goes, but that divine guidance and love continues. Each of us is a unique, conscious being, a divine creation. It is the religious view. It is the only view consistent with all the evidence.

There has been a regrettable tendency of many scientists to claim that science is so powerful and all pervasive that in the not too distant future it will provide an explanation in principle for all phenomena in the world of nature, including man, even of human consciousness in all of its manifestations. [Karl] Popper has labeled this claim as promissory materialism, which is extravagant and unfulfillable.

Yet on account of the high regard for science, it has great persuasive power with the intelligent laity because it is advocated by the great mass of scientists who have not critically evaluated the dangers of this false and arrogant claim.

I regard this theory as being without foundation. The more we discover scientifically about the brain, the more clearly do we distinguish between the brain events and the mental phenomena, and the more wonderful do the mental phenomena become. Promissory materialism is simply a superstition held by dogmatic materialists. It has all the features of a Messianic prophecy, with the promise of a future freed of all problems—a kind of Nirvana for our unfortunate successors.

We have to recognize that we are spiritual beings with souls existing in a spiritual world as well as material beings with bodies and brains existing in a material world.

The amazing success of the theory of evolution has protected it from significant critical evaluation in recent times. However, it fails in a most important respect. It cannot account for the existence of each one of us as unique, self-conscious beings.

Thanks to John Clayton and Does God Exist? Quotes were downloaded from http://www.doesgodexist.org/MayJun10/Eccles-Nobel.html, 18 July 2010

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Dawkins at it Again

Richard Dawkins is again venting his spleen at believers, this time in a contribution to the Washington Post, “Haiti and the hypocrisy of Christian theology”.  You can read it here.  Dr. Dawkins sees the Haitian earthquake, no matter how tragic and heartbreaking, as an opportunity to shake up theists.  I don’t know who he is trying to convince but “Darwin’s Rottweiler” is certainly not out to “…win friends and influence people.”

He mainly has his dander up at folks who are calling earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and other disasters acts of God’s judgment.  Well, they make me angry too but I’m not ready to throw a blanket of condemnation over every believer for the sins (oops!, I mean “mistakes”) of the few.  But why am I expecting a Rottweiler to be reasonable?  However, dear reader, you may be open to some alternative thoughts.  So, I have chosen five points from his article to address.

  1. “The religious mind…restlessly seeks human meaning in the blind happenings of nature.” We do?  Wow…I didn’t know that!  To the best of my memory I don’t believe I, or any other theist of my acquaintance has sought to assign human meaning to natural disasters.  We do, however, allow such events to remind us of the brevity and vulnerability of human life.
  2. He assures us that the embarrassing Pat Robertson is the “true Christian,” and true to the Bible.  I’m not quite sure how God looks at Mr. Robertson but, of all people, Dawkins would seem to be the least qualified to judge the Christianity of anyone.  He really doesn’t like any of us and has made no secret of his disdain.  Additionally, he calls those of us who oppose Robertson and distance themselves from him, “hypocrites.”  Well, I wonder if Dr. Dawkins endorses all the statements and positions of his fellow-atheists?  What does he think of his wild-eyed atheist friends who, in the name of reason and science make outrageous statements?  Nietzsche and O’Hair come to mind.  Will the real hypocrite please stand up?
    In another place he refers to Robertson’s “hick, sub-Palinesque ignorance.”  According to the records, Robertson has a pretty good education which has not served him very well in many of his public statements.  This should prove, Doctor Dawkins, that degrees have very little to do with making sense.
  3. He says we Christians see God as “suffering on the cross” in the ruins of Port Au Prince.  Not me, Richard, or any fellow-believer I know.  Such a notion is certainly not the “centerpiece” of my theology.  It is true that Jesus, in the most supreme act of love and grace came to make atonement for the sins of mankind.  But he came for so many other reasons as well.  I have a list if anyone’s interested.
    And, by the way, how does he know our anguish is “faux?”  Could it be he has some supernatural powers he so eloquently deplores?
  4. And you gotta love this next one, “Where was God in Noah’s flood?  He was systematically drowning the entire world…as punishment for ‘sin’.  Where was God when Sodom and Gomorrah were being consumed with fire and brimstone?  He was deliberately barbecuing the citizenry…as punishment for ‘sin’.  Dear modern, enlightened, theologically sophisticated Christian, your entire religion is founded on an obsession with ‘sin’ with punishment and with atonement.” It is interesting that Mr. Dawkins cites these supposedly fictitious events perpetrated by a non-existent God upon mythical populations and cities.  Since we are referring to these “myths,” is he aware of the behavior of the people in both cases?  Is he aware of the century Noah spent seeking to persuade his fellow men, whose “…every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time,” to turn from their evil and save themselves?  Is he aware of the total depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah’s populations?  Maybe he should re-read the accounts (if he has read them at all) and tell me who was obsessed with sin.  To those aware of the whole story, his ignorant comments loudly proclaim, “I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
  5. He informs us that our “…entire theology is one long celebration of suffering: suffering as payback for ‘sin’ – or suffering as ‘atonement’ for it…” To celebrate suffering we Christians certainly seem to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to alleviate it.  The high count of Christian organizations struggling to ease the suffering of the Haitian people is no “celebration”, Richard.

I have a few suggestions for Dr. Dawkins:

  1. Try to make informed diatribes.  Your ignorance negates your reasoning.
  2. Be nice.  Arrogant, elitist intellectuals have a terrible track record of persuasion.
  3. Avoid hasty generalizations.  Lumping all religious people together so you can more easily squash them may sell books and make money but it doesn’t make sense.
  4. Avoid silly, inflammatory catch-words like “Palinesque.” and theological terms like “theodicean.”  These may reflect your elitist, intellectual self-perception but the guys in the oilfield won’t “get it.”

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The Christian Difference — 3

The essence of religion consists in the feeling of an absolute dependence.
Friedrich Schleiermacher

In a world where selfishness reigns and materialism prevails, Christians are different. We are different because we strive for complete dependence upon God; easy to say…hard to achieve.  One outstanding example of success is George Mueller.  In the 1830’s he began to build orphanages in the city of Bristol, England.  Mueller was a man of prayer.  He never asked for a penny for his work, depending instead upon the providence of God.  He built and supplied the orphanages without ever incurring debt.  During WWII, Bristol underwent heavy bombing attacks by the Luftwaffe.  But, instead of scattering for the safety of bomb shelters, many of the people of Bristol stood around the orphanage buildings defiantly praying for God’s protection.  George Mueller would have been proud!

Jesus demonstrates complete dependence upon the Father.

John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
30 I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

So, how can we who follow Christ be content to depend upon ourselves or any other human institution?  Well, that’s easy – they are tangible. But tangible does not equate with trustworthy.  As the old song reminds us:

Stand up, stand up for Jesus! Stand in His strength alone,
The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own;

— George Duffield, Jr. – 1858

It’s our human tendency to trust observable things.  But, God calls us to trust His intangible self.  Just like Israel, we drift back toward our idols because we can, at least, see them – touch them.

It is easy for us to get sucked up with millions of others in the pandemic of entitlement and dependence upon the money, military might, justice, democratic process and promised protection of the State.  But, as the psalmist said, “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man” (118:8).  Jeremiah says,

This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who depends on flesh for his strength
and whose heart turns away from the LORD.

On the other hand…

…blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
8 He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:5ff)

A culture of dependence upon material possessions, government welfare and our 401K, works until hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, disease and catastrophe remind us that such trust is misplaced.

Psalm 37:5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

Even though my livelihood depends on the generosity of my partners, I have difficulty depending on others…including God.  I carelessly and prayerlessly make plans, start projects, set out on journeys, deal with problems and worry about the future. I think this is partly because I’m a child of the West Texas culture of independence.  At home, at school and the workplace I was taught not to depend on others but to “pull myself up by my own boot straps.”  But here’s the fundamental fallacy: no one succeeds without help and opportunities provided by others.  Alas, another flaw keeps even this proposition from being completely trustworthy – others are human.  Humans are fallible.  We forget stuff, overlook things.  We tend to be self-centered, self-interested, forgetful, insensitive, careless and foolish.  We easily disappoint each other and cannot co-exist without heavy doses of forbearance, patience, love and forgiveness.  Only one being is infallible and absolutely dependable – God.

The task for one as unfinished as I is to murder self-trust (in cold blood); wrap it in my cast-off pride, resolutely dig a hole in my self-sufficiency and bury it.  As Oswald Chambers put it, “Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence.”

In these early years of the 21st Century, the greenback of the U.S. dollar still bears the phrase, “In God we trust.”  But, in what do we trust really? Is it money, position, power, possessions, appearance?  Would you agree that these are fleeting and fragile?  Ultimately, we can only depend upon God.  We look to His promises for something to hold on to – something solid, beneficial, hopeful and wise.  It is this solid dependence upon God that sets Christians apart.  It is one of the differences we must understand, practice and allow the world to see.

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Intelligent Design

MaynardSmithI would really like to know who gathered the following information but it is really by our old friend “Anonymous.”  According to atheists, life is the result of a series of propitious accidents and random mutations that just happen to be beneficial.  If they take the time to read this, they will attribute each example of intelligent design to unintelligent processes.  Whatever your belief or lack of it, this is pretty good food for thought.

God’s accuracy may be observed in the hatching of eggs.  For example,

  • The eggs of the potato bug hatch in 7 days;
  • Those of the canary in 14 days;
  • Those of the barnyard hen in 21 days.
  • The eggs of ducks and geese hatch in 28 days;
  • Those of the mallard in 35 days.
  • The eggs of the parrot and the ostrich hatch in 42 days.

(Notice, they are all divisible by seven).

God’s design is seen in the making of an elephant. The four legs of this great beast all bend forward in the same direction. No other Quadruped is so made.  God planned that this animal would have a huge body, too large to live on two legs.

  • For this reason He gave it four fulcrums so that it can rise from the ground easily.
  • The horse rises from the ground on its two front legs first.
  • A cow rises from the ground with its two hind legs first.

God’s wisdom is revealed in His arrangement of sections and segments, as well as in the number of grains. How wise the Lord is in all His works of creation!

  • Each watermelon has an even number of strips on the rind.
  • Each orange has an even number of segments.
  • Each ear of corn has an even number of rows.
  • Each stalk of wheat has an even number of grains.
  • Every bunch of bananas has on its lowest row an even number of bananas, and each row decreases by one, so that one row has an even number and the next row an odd number.
  • All grains are found in even numbers on the stalks

The waves of the sea roll in on shore twenty-six to the minute in all kinds of weather.

God has caused the flowers to blossom at certain specified  times during the day, so that Linneus, the great botanist, once  said that if he had a conservatory containing the right kind of soil,  moisture and temperature, he could tell the time of day or night  by the flowers that were open and those that were closed!

Design is evident.  Design requires a designer.

Many have decided not to believe and that is certainly their prerogative.  For myself, I choose to believe in a Creator.  Too much of what I see is inexplicable without Him.

In Romans 1 Paul writes, “…that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…”

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The Absurdity of Atheism

Further to our discussion on my previous post, I recommend an article by Fred Klett on Mike Ratliff’s blog. Check it out. mikeratliff.wordpress.com/2008/01/30/the-absurdity-of-atheism/

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