God’s Not Dead, Chapter 2 – Limits of Science (pt23)
LIMITS OF SCIENCE
Science is certainly important. It explains how the physical world works. It is the process that is used to investigate how to grow crops, cure disease, and develop inventions that make our world safer and more interconnected through technology.
Curiously, the author uses examples of where science answered the question correctly after religion was proven wrong. Growing crops has been a power endowed to many a god throughout history, and disease was (and still is by some) explained as sin or possession. Think about it for yourself, do you know of any question to which an answer was posed by the scientific community but the religious community provided a better, more correct, answer. This doesn’t mean religion could never get something right but it does mean that we are more likely to get a correct answer through the methodical, demonstrable, scientific way.
Finally, the author provides an example of something he says science can’t prove. Peter Atkins is quoted as saying “science is omnipotent” to William Lane Craig; what isn’t quoted is the context. Atkins was clearly being comical, this wasn’t “shockingly asserted”. The items that the author states science can make no claims on are ethics and morality, mathematics, and reason.
Ethics and Morality
Science can’t tell us how we should live our lives-what is right and wrong, good and evil.
Agreed, this isn’t a point for science. That does not however make it default to the area of religion. Many people, myself included, think that the idea of assuming a moral standpoint from a separate individual is less than admirable. Riddle me this; If you hold that the Bible is the moral teachings of God and you choose to follow it but what if you don’t agree with one or more parts in it (slavery, rape, genocide, etc)? Who’s morality did you use to decide that the idea of a raped female being forced to marry her rapist so long as he paid enough for her was wicked? Who’s morality did you use to decide that the god of the Bible was more moral a character than the god of the Qur’an, or Ganesha?
Science can’t answer the deepest ethical issues of our day.
For instance, scientists can study the consequences of certain actions, such as charity or abuse. However, they can never justify why one action is morally superior to another.
An example, lets say murder. Science can have a hand in explaining why it would be detrimental. Let’s think about a community of a set number of people. If someone murders or multiple people murder some of the citizens, citizens are lost. With that, perhaps professions or hobbies are lost that were helpful to the community. That loss causes harm to the community, demonstrable harm. The society and the people discover this loss of a professional and the harm that it caused and perhaps (unknowingly and informally) hypothesized that murder shouldn’t be done. Eventually laws are made against it and the idea of murder became reprobate.
Morality and ethics have been evolving as long as we have been. Good things were advantageous to the society, like justice, fairness, and mercy, these became moral or ethical behaviors. Bad things were those that were disadvantageous to the society, like, dishonesty, murder, rape, stealing, etc became those immoral or unethical behaviors. The examples I have provided are, pretty much, in the black and white parts of the spectrum, but what about those behaviors or actions that fall in the gray area between moral and immoral?
Stealing is wrong, but what if I stole very little, very inexpensive food to feed my two daughters? Murder is wrong, but what about during warfare? Mercy is moral, but what about the justice that has been waived? Fairness and honesty are morally superior to stealing and lying because the society isn’t harmed when its people are fair and honest to each other as it would be if everyone was stealing and lying. The justification is in the result of the action.
Math is pretty complicated to think about. The author makes points like:
The mathematical order in the universe was discovered, not invented.
Even more basic than the order are the numbers themselves; they must be accepted as simply true.
Numbers are an arbitrary representation of an amount or a quantity, and the author even agrees with this a little later in the subsection.
Mathematics is an abstract creation of rules and relationships by the human mind.
The author states that numbers were “discovered” to lend credence to the idea of a creator that put them there, not wanting to accept that they are simply a universal constant that couldn’t be any other way. 1 plus 1 can only be 2, the numbers can have different symbols, they could have different names, but the idea of one (single) is universal.
It’s because of this mathematical order that we can explore the world around us with such confidence. Mathematics allows us to send probes into outer space as well as into our own bodies.
This statement is ridiculous. Space travel and medical technology are scientific advances. Yes, they have mathematical bases, but the advances aren’t purely mathematical. Again and again the author is flawed in his logic and explanations.
In other words, if math is the basis of science, then science can’t be math’s source of verification. It would be like a house holding up a foundation rather than a foundation holding up a house. This is a glimpse of how difficult it is to have science be the ultimate judge of whether God exists, since God is the Creator and ground of all being.
Not all houses have a foundation as we know it now. The ground itself can be the foundation for many houses. The ground is there, just there, it isn’t made or invented to be a foundation. We built the house on that ground because it worked, that doesn’t mean the ground was there to be our foundation.
For someone attempting to breakdown a wall supposedly being built between science and religion the author just keeps attempting to putdown scientific means. By the author’s own analogy and explanation, “if math is the basis of science, then science can’t be math’s source of verification” so if “God is the Creator and ground of all being” what can be used to verify God’s existence?
Similarly, God has created us to be rational creatures.
This is not how an argument goes. You can’t just state that your position is the correct one. You must provide evidence for your position, not consistently flawed arguments.
We can think abstractly, learn languages at an amazing speed, and know the difference between right and wrong. In contrast, natural selection would only have developed in us the basic abilities to survive: acquire food, avoid danger, and find a mate.
Think about it. If natural selection develops the ability to find a mate and avoid danger, just how did we get to that point? I explained above about a possible way that morality/ethics evolved and it fits here too. We see someone who mates with someone who is just and truthful and compare it to someone who mates with someone who murdered them just after and we learn from that situation. It is both beneficial for the individual and also to the society for mates to be honest and true, those thoughts easily develop into those ideas of moral and ethical behaviors.
The notion that the only rational beliefs are those that can be confirmed by scientific observation, experiment and measurement is yet another self-refuting proposition, since it is a statement that itself cannot be confirmed by scientific observation, experiment and measurement.
What?! Just another babble session for the author. I think he just has these throughout the book talking in circles in an attempt to confuse readers. Science is only what we call the idea or way in which we learn about the world. Similar to numbers, the name or letters could change but the idea of confirming truth in your life would be the same.
God must necessarily exist in order for atheists not to believe in Him.
HA HA HA. I thought only the crazy YouTube creationists would use this line. It is ridiculous to even think about it. God doesn’t exist because there are people who doubt his existence, atheists exist because there are people who claim he does exist. If no one claimed a god existed, true, there would be no one called atheist. That is because the term is only used in connection with the god claim. One could say ‘we are all atheists to all the gods of history except I go one farther’, or, better yet, ‘we are all born atheists until we are taught about religion’. But of course no one calls babies atheists, it’s not because they know god exists, no, it is because they have no concept of god.
The biggest limitation of science is that it can’t tell us why we are here. Why was the universe made? Why are we here? Why is there something rather than nothing?
This isn’t a “limitation of science”, science doesn’t answer the ‘why’ questions. Science answers the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, and ‘how’ questions. Another question I posit to you is how do you know there is a reason at all, how do you know there is a ‘why’. The author talks about Richard Dawkins calling the ‘why’ questions “silly” and meaningless. He then brings up a debate from “a couple of years earlier”. I’m glad he points this out and I hope Dawkins understands now that no one can ever change their position. Dawkins states that the why question was the reason he got into science, “my interest in Biology started with the fundamental questions of our existence”. Clearly Dawkins is talking about when he was much, much younger. Like all kids he didn’t fully understand everything and he only says the why question is why he got into science not that it was what he thought science should or could explain since he has matured mentally and scientifically.