Science, Faith and Semantics

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Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist and author, debated John Lennox, the Oxford mathematician and philosopher of science, in 2010.  This was the first of the Dawkins Lennox debates. Both men were both well-spoken and well-suited for the task.

Aside from the usual issues and points that are made in these sorts of debates about faith and science, some nuances emerge that I thought were interesting to consider. I highlight one particular interchange in particular.

Dawkins asserted, like an axiom, that faith is belief with no evidence (implying that faith is the antithesis of reason). Not surprisingly, Lennox disagreed. With a such a fundamental disagreement on the definition of faith, it seems to me, the focus should have been on the definition of “faith” – but it wasn’t.

Dawkins claimed that faith would not be faith if it was rational and evidence-based. In other words, Dawkins defined faith, in its very essence, as the absence of reason and evidence.

Lennox, on the other hand, described faith as the willingness to repose belief, trust and commitment in something for which there is evidence, but no “proof” (as in mathematical proof). In other words, Lennox describes faith as confidence in reason and evidence.

The way Dawkins defines faith it is the opposite of reason, while Lennox harmonizes them so that one (faith) emerges from the other (reason). Who is right? Continue reading

Understanding in the Gaps

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Science and religion, depending on the perspective, enjoy a beautiful (or contentious) marriage or have been the victors (or victims) of a bitter divorce in the modern world.  Debates on science and religion dot the Internet, providing plenty of food for fodder no matter which side of the family one might identify with.

One such debate involves Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist and author from Oxford and his Oxford fellow, John Lennox, the mathematician and philosopher of science. Both men are marvelously well spoken and present their competing views eloquently and  convincingly, though they cannot both be right in their ultimate positions.

The debate, which uses Dawkin’s book, the God Delusion, as the subject matter,  is quite long, not the usual fare in the MTV age of tweets and soundbites, but well worth taking the time to listen and watch. They begin with biographical information and early influences that inform their worldviews. The meat of the debate uses statements from Dawkins’ book as the outline.

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Filling in the Gaps: God or the Multiverse?

Betag Ocean Sunset

Photo by Larry Betag

Theists are accused of committing a “God of the gaps” fallacy, which is to assume (insert) God (into the gaps in our understanding). Atheists say that this assumption (faith) is irrational and wholly unsupportable by science or reason. They say they would rather rely on science and reason, and conclude there is no scientific or rational support of the proposition that God exists.

Atheists tend to be materialists, meaning that they believe that the “world” (all that exists) is material, only. They tend not to accept that anything other than the material world exists.

An exploration of these contentions will show that the material world is not all that exists and that atheists who subscribe to the modern view of the multiverse, which is used to explain problems for which science has no answers if only one universe exists, is a resort to the same kind of fallacious thinking pinned on theists. The God of the gaps argument against faith and belief in God conflates science and reason, and a materialist worldview conflates scientific knowledge with all possible knowledge of the world.

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The Nuance of Choice

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Photo by Randy Schoof

Before there was Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, there was Anthony Flew. For most of his career, Flew was a strong advocate of atheism …. But then he changed his mind.

He did not have any spiritual or near death experience. The decision for him was not an emotional one. It was a rational one based on the weight of the evidence.

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Challenger Disaster Restrospective

Official STS-51L Crew Portrait (NASA)

Official STS-51L Crew Portrait (NASA)

I was listening to NPR today, this anniversary of the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, that was etched in our minds because the teacher, Christa McAuliffe, was on board. The host of the afternoon show asked for people to call in recounting where they were and what way they were doing on that day, January 28th, 1986, and how that disaster affected them in regard to teaching or space travel.

This particular event is etched more deeply into my mind that most events. I was living in New Hampshire at the time. Christa McAuliffe was a teacher at a school in Concord New Hampshire, not even 30 minutes away. It was a big deal four people living in New Hampshire at the time. School children were watching the lift off in most schools throughout the State. I will never forget the horrified looks of those children, their teachers, the McAuliffe family and the country as they watched the shuttle explode in real time in the sky.

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Unto Us a Child Is Born

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The prophet Isaiah, spoke of the birth of Jesus Christ over 700 years before Jesus was born according to those who followed Him in the 1st Century. There should be no doubt that the man, Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, was an actual historic figure. That the man, Jesus, lived and died on a cross and had a great following is also a historic fact. 

Consider, then the actual words of the prophet, Isaiah:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

At the end of this blog article is another, later, prophetic word spoken by Isaiah. The application to the historic figure of Jesus is uncanny, if it is not God speaking through Isaiah centuries before the life and death of this man, Jesus.

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