That the world as such, exists at all
That the world exists (as such) at all
One of my little trouble making hobbies is to inflict confusion upon students who rotate through the lab by telling them (when I'm asked) that my degree is in Religion. (Yes, I let slide the information about my lessor degree in Biotechnology). I just enjoy seeing the facial expression that personifies the social dichotomy that is generally perceived to exist between religion and science.
As most of you know, I am Research Technologist who spends no small part of my days tinkering with viral DNA, reading scientific papers, and generally being enveloped in the logically and enlightened world of science. Contrastingly, some would say, every Sunday (and more) I thrown on a black cassock and head off to a Temple in order to participate within a community whose religious faith and worship extends back thousands of years. Furthermore, we believe that we participate in the most astonishing thing one can scientifically imagine: that in offering up bread and wine in our Liturgy, they are returned to us as the Body and Blood of God become man to eat...and we believe in this is the key to eternal life. So, while I believe in my work to help find ways that we can better identify pathogens through DNA analysis, I also believe that anointing someone with the oil oozing from the body of a Saint may be a catalyst through which God can bring miraculous healing.
Honestly, in having a foot placed in both worlds and described thusly above, I can see why some would see a pretty big contrast...a paradox even. Is there a war between science and religion? I don't think so...but there is a war between scientism and religion. Let me explain.
Science is a method. Scientism is a belief system in which all that is, can and should be discerned through the method of science. But even more than that, scientism is founded upon the notion that all things must have a natural explanation, and by "natural" we mean: the presupposition of "as-is" or by itself. It is quite simply atheism and secularism. Thus there are no such things as miraculous healings, no burning bushes that are unconsumed, no rising from the dead, no walking on water, and there is certainly no possible way for bread and wine to become a god-man's body and blood.
Science has become (wrongly I believe) to rabid atheists, what the Bible has been (wrongly I believe) for rabid fundamentalists. They both go about their business thumping their associated "holy writ" which they believe firmly and rightly upholds their particular world view.
Of course one HUGE battleground that has seen many a conflict has been the issue of evolution. For atheists, one of the biggest intellectual problems for them to face is the very existence of the world and the life found therein. For many, Darwin's theory (the notion that life evolved over the ages via genetic mutations and natural selection) has been a validation of their world view because they had finally found an explanation (they believed) that was "natural"...like gravity, it just happened and no "god" was necessary. As such, many have great need to defend this belief system...at least as much as some Christians feel they have need to defend creationism. No one is immune from the need to have their world views validated.
Scientismists (I can't really call them scientists can I?) tend to take their "god-negating" theories and apply them universally. Suddenly, Darwinism can explain everything from your marriage woes to your nation's economy...in fact there is nothing that cannot, indeed SHOULD NOT have some Darwinian explanation. In times past this role of an all-encompassing explanatory factor was commonly applied to God or SIN...now it is genetic mutations and natural selection. Generally, I think we ought to be very cautious with such universal explanations. But, scientismists have grown wildly successful in doing this in the 20 odd years since I discontinued counting myself as one of them. Some of their greatest success has been in schools and in beaching formally traditional Christian denominations upon the shores of secular humanism: even the Resurrection was abandoned for "reason."
One of the reasons why I left atheism and became a theist (Christianity would come later) was rather simple: I could not reconcile the world atheists believed existed with the world that my heart, that for some reason, told me OUGHT to exist. I realize this may sound strange...but I'm not sure how else to explain it. Scientismists would simply say I am clinging on to some old left-over evolutionary social coping strategy.
What IS the world scientismists would have affirm as existing? A world in which one giant, brutal, cruel, and mindless biological "arms" race and war has lead to you and me: the pinnacle accomplishment of this grand "deathmatch" struggle of "survival of the fittest." Random luck and brutality has born us. Thus Life's goal is little more than survival and sexual conquest and achievement...anything more than this is really not REAL per se, but mere social constructs which we have evolved. An objective right and wrong are illusions, of course. Random mutation and natural selection as an all-encompassing theory of our existence rather demands all of the above and if you are like me, it is a rather ugly and bleak picture...but the scientismists would tell you: "Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it isn't true."
Now, admittedly, most atheists don't spend much of their time considering their daily application of their world view (as such it does indeed advocate an intelligent form of hedonism: play this game of life so that you win), but I am the sort who spends far too much time pondering things and so it bothered me a lot. Yes, people will say you cannot take science so far...but once scientism has been granted its keys to the gates of reality...well how does one argue with it when it tells us WHO we are, HOW we got here, and WHY we do the tings we do?
I personally do not see how this scientism can be easily reconciled with Christian belief: not because it conflicts with a literal interpretation of Genesis - not at all. But rather it does not jive with our understanding of the world. Scientismists point to the cruelty that we DO indeed see in "nature" and claim that it is representative of the mechanism by which we all came into being. Whereas I believe Christian anthropology and cosmology would suggest that such things are more representative of the world's fallen nature and not it's "nature" as such. One could, I suppose argue, that God has redeemed the fallen cruelty of the world to utilize it's brutal and selfish mechanism to bring us into being...but this would require some rather complex and lofty timeless understandings of sin pre-existing humanity. Could the angelic rebellion have played a role...ummm...pretty speculative stuff here. I might suggest a different approach.
There are many reputable scientists who are speaking of a general rumbling in the scientific world or Darwinism. These folks are not creationists or even necessary ID'ers...but rather cutting edge evolutionary biologists and such who believe that biology is on the verge of a radical revolution akin to what Newton's physics went through with the advent of Quantum mechanics.
This is happening partly because of the enormous complexity of genetics that we have both come to understand better and come to understand less in the last decade or so, but also because of some known holes in the mantra of Darwinism as delivered to us and to our children and now with some newer and fascinating theories coming out that open up whole new and complex doors. It is thinking that moves humanity - and indeed all of life - a little further away from a genocentric theory toward something that could be seen as viewing organisms as a whole and complete unit - more than just a vessel for the "selfish gene" to propagate many copies of itself.
The direction this heads will not be toward creationism nor toward ID directly, but it could lead to a world view that is a bit kinder and gentler than Darwin's of utter competition...and perhaps as much as our common and popular understanding of the universe has moved away from creationism it might consider also moving away from scientism? Unfortunately, I think much of what our kids are getting in school these days is unadulterated scientism...and we shouldn't be surprised given the secular bent our schools are forced to adopt.
For my part...I take this world to be a miracle...that this world, as such, exists at all, I take to be an impossible miracle. Yes, I do buy into the "fine tuning argument"...though I do not expect it will convince anyone of much of anything, because generally I find most people hold to opinions for reasons far more varied than simple logic and common sense - and this includes me. Some scientismists have also noticed the hard to believe "fine-tuning" that our universe, our solar system, and our planet seems to have, and thus have come out with "natural" theories about multiple universes existing. I'm not sure how much faith THAT takes to affirm.
When I chant the opening psalm for Vespers, I find myself truly reflecting upon the astonishing existence of this world. If Darwinism is indeed wholly true in all it facets, I give glory to God for such an astonishing miracle, for as I tell my beloved atheist: if random "natural" processes in THIS universe can bring forth such profound complexity...if the universe and the matter therein can by some random "natural" means literally become aware of itself...then truly THIS IS a miraculous and wondrous universe. My faith in an unseen God or His glorious Resurrection seems to demand no more faith that a belief in the accidental and random accomplishment of the profound improbability of matter collecting into enough living complexity to eventually have a blog called "Paradosis."
Put simply...all of us Christians really do believe in Intelligent Design whether we choose to admit it or not. No Christians, who ascribe to evolutionary science, truly believe that the blind hand of random mutations and natural selection brought all of us into being...without some notion of God ultimately being behind it somewhere. They will decry any idea that there is evidence for God in the science of our existence, I'm inclined to ask: why shouldn't there be some evidence for God's hand? I mean, really, as science is more and more dominated by adherents to scientism...should we be surprised if they tell us there is no evidence for intelligence in our universe? Hmmm...that sentence came out funny didn't it?
Everyone's welcome to their opinion of course...but I truly believe that the Heaven's declare the glory of God and that this world is an amazing miracle.
Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty...Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever. Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains. At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away. They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them. Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth...O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts...The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.
-excerpts from Psalm 103 (104)
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
- excerpts from Psalm 19
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
- Colossians 1:16-17