The Problem of Science

The first message in our series The Problem of God. We are preaching on Faith to build your hope. Find all the Problem of God messages here and build your faith.

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Here’s a typical scenario that plays out at our house. I’m asleep and Nicole says to me, did you hear that noise? What was that? Now when we were first married I’d spring out of bed and go see. Now I respond with, “huh? I didn’t hear anything. You’re hearing things…” If she persists then I’ll say, “It’s nothing.”Why? Because I’m tired and I’m half asleep.

Somewhere in between the beginning when I’d go check like some kind of ninja and now where I basically just roll over and fall back into sleep, Nicole woke me up because she heard a noise and had me go check. I was so out of it, but I went stumbling down the hallway, and some point between the bedroom and the kitchen I dozed and woke up- something happened and when I got to the kitchen I thought I had gotten up to get a midnight snack…

Soooo instead of checking for bad guys I started making a snack. A few minutes later Nicole comes inching down the hallway…. whispering, Daniel? Daniel? She’s been back in the bedroom terrified that I didn’t come back, thinking there really were bad guys… She comes into the kitchen to find me eating a snack, and I ‘m so out of it that I don’t even think anything of it,  I’m like, “oh hey!” She’s like “really!?”

We say, oh it’s nothing because we’re tired, we’re sleepy, or we’re comfortable where we are at and we don’t want to mess with that, but we all know that it’s not nothing.

It’s something. It may not be a thief, but it is something.

This morning I want to tell you that I’m afraid we don’t like to wrestle with the Problem of God because we are comfortable with where we are at, and we really don’t want to mess with where we are at, the way that we live, the things that we do, etc.

So we look at the big questions of life, we look at this spectacular world around us and we say, “yeah, it’s nothing.” If you’re here this morning, I’d bet that you have some desire, some curiosity about is this something? Is there something more? Is there someone there?

So I appreciate you taking the time to join us this morning, I’m thankful your listening in or watching online…

We’re calling this series The Problem of God because it’s inspired by a book of the same title written by Mark Clark.

Mark Clark grew up in an atheist home.

His father was so anti-christianity that when Mark’s older brother was born and their mother wanted to name him Matthew, their father insisted they spell it with only one “T” to make it clear that he wasn’t named after the book in the Bible. When their second son was born he apparently didn’t know about the next book in the New Testament because he did not protest the name Mark at all.

Mark’s parents divorced when he was 9 and a short time after that he developed serious OCD and Tourette’s syndrome.

He would smack his face compulsively because ehe was convinced bad things might happen if he didn’t. As his Tourette’s developed, he would yell out every so often without thinking. Often he would yell the F word. When he got into high school his father died of lung cancer and he hand not told his family he was sick, so they didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.

Mark says he stood at the funeral and wondered what this all meant, what life really was, and if his father was still out there.

He answered these questions by turning to drugs and then stealing from people to pay for his drugs.

Then something remarkable happened. A guy he knew in school who was a drug dealer suddenly was completely different and he told Mark it was because of Jesus. He challenged Mark to check it out for himself. So he did. He started reading up on science and philosophy and he came to the conclusion that there was not only a God, but that God had revealed Himself in the person of Jesus.

Now, this pothead who compulsively yelled the F word and smacked his face leads one of the fastest growing churches in British Columbia. He no longer yells the F word.

Mark says that one of the biggest break throughs for him was when he recognized that the debate in the public square has been rigged, or portrayed in a very particular way by media.

Now, I’m sure that everyone in here, whatever your political leaning might be can name a media source that to you is clearly leaning toward the political party, right?

Some of you would say, can you believe people watch that channel or listen to that guy, they are clearly biased. Meanwhile they’d say the same thing about the news that you watch.

I feel that way about the Faith vs Science debate that takes place in the public forum. Again and again it goes something like this…

Today speaking of this latest find at an archeological site we have Professor Smith who has 3 degrees from Cambridge, 7 from Oxford, and has written 19 books on the Pre-Cambria era.

We’ll also hear from Joe, a fundamentalist christian who was homeschooled and is best known for his appearance on the Television show “Swamp People.”

Seriously, some of the biggest publicity that Christian perspectives have received in the past decade were when the guy from Duck Dynasty gave us his thoughts on sexuality or when they asked the owner of Chickfila his views on marriage…

In a pretty shocking and telling admission, Harvard Biologist Richard Lewontin wrote in the New York Review of Books that he PREFERS a naturilistic explanation in everything he studies.

He’s biased! He says-

“have a prior commitment….to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes….We cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

Because the debate has been portrayed in a very particular way, let me unravel four quick misconception that have been framed by this debate.

1.Science and God aren’t opposed.

In our court system cases are often referred to as Jones v Smith or the People of the State of Indiana v Green.

We look at that as versus, as in a head to head duel or competition. However, the “v” in Jones v Smith actually comes from Latin uses where it means “and” so the appropriate title of a case is not Jones versus Smith but rather it should be referred to as Jones and Smith.

Likewise, when people think of the case of God and Science or Faith and Science they view it as an opposition or a duel, when in reality there’s no battle between Faith and Reason or between Belief and Science. Instead, Reason can lead us to Faith and Belief can spur Science.

Where this get’s fuel is the idea that the church persecuted scientists and worked against them.

People will tell you, well the Catholic Church persecuted Copernicus, Galileo, and Giordano Bruno- they tortured them for their heliocentric view of the solar system.

Bruno was not executed for his heliocentric view, but rather because of his view on the trinity. I don’t think that was a good idea, but it wasn’t because he was a scientist.

Galiley was a practicing catholic and held audiences with the Pope and he later became critical of the Catholic Church so they became critical of him as well, but he wasn’t tortured for his views on the universe.

Oxford Professor McGrath said

The Ideas that science and religion are in perpetual conflict is no longer taken seriously by any major historian of science.

Nature just is — in all her complexity and 

diversity, in all her sublime indifference to our desires. Therefore we cannot use nature for our moral instruction, or for answering any question within the magisterium of religion.” 

-Stephen J Gould

Francis Collins who mapped the Human Genome was a doctor and researcher when it dawned upon in treating patients that he had not been scientific in his approach to many areas of his life, including his lack of belief in God. He determined to have an open mind and go where the science led him, where his research led him.

He said,

I have found there is a wonderful harmony in the complementary truths of science and faith. The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome. God can be found in the cathedral or in the laboratory. By investigating God’s majestic and awesome creation, science can actually be a means of worship.

This leads me to my second misconception…

2. Not all scientists are atheists

In addition to Francis Collins there are many reputable scientist making great advancements in research who believe in God.

Alan Rex Sandage, referred to as on of the greatest observational cosmologist of all time has said,

“It is my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is more more complicated than can be explained by science.”

And these guys aren’t alone, this isn’t hey I’ve got 2 Diest scientists let me tell you about them…

In a 2009 poll done by the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that 51% of scientist believe in some form of deity or higher power.

The number is actually a little higher if you just zero in on the hard sciences, as in physics, cosmology.

However, belief in God is on the rise in the soft sciences. In fact a few years ago Quentin Smith wrote about how upset he was that so many philosophy departments had Christians in them.

He warned his colleagues that philosophy is being de-secularized.

He said,

“In Philosophy, it became, almost overnight ‘academically respectable’ to argue for theism.” 

By the way, this is large part due to Alvin Platinga who is considered by many people to be the greatest living philosopher and calls himself a Christian.

3. Christianity is not anti-intellectual

Earlier we read Psalm 24 which speaks of nature, then it tells us a couple times, “Selah.”

Literally, stop a moment and think on this. Consider it.

Scripture is full of calls to think! To meditate, to consider.

Christianity does not push us away from thought, it pushes us toward it.

Many great discoveries and advancements have been spurred by faith.

The university was a 12th Century Christian invention.

Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, and several other presitigous institutions were all started as Christian institutions.

Many other cultures lacked a framework to develop significant technological and scientific advancements because they did not have a philosophical framework that led to expirement.

Why is it storming? The God’s are angry. We must just try to appease them, then it will stop!

Why is there this hurricane? Poseidon is Angry!

But when you have a belief system that says the world is ordered and has laws and principles, then you can go about looking for them and understanding them.

A Christian worldview promotes curiosity, observation, scientific research, and technological advancement.

Kenneth Richard Samples cites 10 variables which Christianity brings to culture that leads toward scientific experimentation and research.

  1. The universe is a distinct, objective reality.
  2. The laws of nature exhibit order and pattern.
  3. The laws of nature are uniform throughout.
  4. The physical universe is intelligible.
  5. The world is good, valuable, and worthy of care and study.
  6. Because the world is not divine, it is not an object for worship but of study.
  7. Human beings have been given intelligence to study the world.
  8. The free agency of a designer or greater means the empirical method a necessity.
  9. God encourages and propels science through his command to subdue nature.
  10. The intellectual virtues necessary for carrying out the scientific enterprise are part of God’s moral law.

Okay, so we’ve unraveled those 3 misconceptions,

God and Science aren’t opposed.
Not all scientists are Atheists.
Christianity is not anit-intellectual.

I want to quickly point to two scientific principles that point to Theism or belief in God.

The first is a weakness built into evolutionary thought. 

Naturalism’s Flaw.

Charles Darwin revolutionized science with his book, Origin of the Species (not the full title, btw)

In this idea he tells us that everything is filtered through survival of the fittest. Natural Selection. The strongest survive and thrive, the weak die. So those with the best traits carry on and reproduce and those with weaker traits don’t reproduce or not to the same degree…

So everything about me is the result of generation after generation of my ancestors trying to survive.

So Naturalism, this idea revolves around 4 Fs.

Feeding, Fleeing, Fighting, and Fornicating. 

Eating, getting away from danger, overcoming enemies or predators, and procreating, carrying on my genes to another generation….

So truth takes a back seat to survival, it doesn’t matter if it’s true, it matters if it helps me survive.

Therefore, they say that religious thought is an aberration, merely a coping mechanism that we created to survive harshness of life.

Atheists use that as a reason to not believe in God, that religion is just a coping mechanism or a crutch.

Naturalism’s Flaw

If you can’t trust your rational faculties to understand the truth about God, you can not trust your mental faculties to tell you the truth about evolution or even science.

“…because there’s no telling whether unguided evolution would fashion our cognitive faculties to produce mostly true beliefs, atheists who believe the standard evolutionary story must reserve judgment about whether any of their beliefs produced by these faculties are true. This includes the belief in the evolutionary story. Believing in unguided evolution comes built in with its very own reason not to believe it.”

-Mitch Stokes PHD

Evolution saws off the branch it’s sitting on…

Guess who wondered about this too….

Charles Darwin…

“But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

The Atheist’s Big Bang Problem

Many years ago, scientist who took issue with Theologians would say, there is no reason to believe in God. The universe has alway been and it alway will be. This reality that we are living in, it has always been here, there is no reason to try to deduce what caused it all to be because it has always been.

1800 Skeptic David Hume even said, I would never assert such an absurd position that things that are suddenly just came to be, that anything might arise without a cause…

Then just about hundred years ago in 1929 Edwin Hubble looked into his 100 inch telescope in California and started working on some calculations….

He was that the galaxies were rapidly moving away from one another, and based upon his calculations, he came up with a formal or two fast the universe was expanding….

He realized that space was getting bigger.

The galaxies weren’t moving, but they weren’t getting farther from one another because space itself was expanding like a balloon getting bigger….

Balloon illustration

So he ran his formula in reverse and could see that there was a time that it wasn’t all there, and then through further study concluded that something explosive had flung the galaxies…

Now all cosmology confirms that all the galaxies, stars, planets, energy, and matter had a common point of origin.

The Big Bang was not a challenge to Theists, but rather it was a challenge of Atheists because now they had to hold the position that all of this came from nothing.

Nothing x Nobody = Everything

Not only do you have to consider that everything didn’t come from nothing, you have to consider the precision at which everything came from something…

Stephen Hawking has concluded:

“If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in 100 thousand million millionths, the universe would have re-collapsed, before it ever reached it’s present size, into a hot fireball.  The odds agains a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous. I think there are religious implications.”

In the beginning God said, let there be light.

After we moved into our house there were new sounds to get used to… One of them was the water softener. We hadn’t had a water softener before, so when it recharged in the middle of the night, it sounded like to me that a water pipe had burst. I sprang out of bed and ran toward the noise.

I hope that wherever you’re at, that what I’ve shared with you this morning will help you spring out of bed to see what all this is, because it’s not nothing, it’s really something, and I think it all points to someone….