RELIGION and SCIENTIFIC NATURALISM - WEEK 4
John W. Burgeson BURGY@www.burgy.50megs.com www.burgy.50megs.com
Three questions which both science and religion ask. 1. The origin of the universe
2. The origin of life
3. The origin of mind.
Last week we considered question 2.
On question 1, I recommend two web sites: www.ASA3.ORG
On question 3, see notes on Julian Jaynes' book at www.burgy.50megs.com\jaynes.htm
On the relationship of science & religion, see: http://www.utas.edu.au/docs/focus/May97/harmony.html
1. The Faith of Scientists
Exploding a myth:
Most study physics to satisfy some requirement. Some study physics to learn the tricks of Nature so they may find out how to make things bigger or smaller or faster or stronger or more sensitive. But a few, a very few, study physics because they wonder -- not how things work, but why they work. They wonder what is at the bottom of things -- the very bottom, if there is a bottom. -- Lewis Epstein, in THINKING PHYSICS, 1989
It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns only what we can SAY about nature. -- Neils Bohr
LONDON, April 2 (Reuter) - Most U.S. scientists do not believe in a god, but 40 percent do -- the same percentage as did in 1916, researchers reported on Wednesday. The findings show that better and more widespread education has not destroyed the need to believe, Edward Larson, a historian at the University of Georgia and Larry Witham of Seattle's Discovery Institute, said. In 1916, researcher James Leuba shocked the nation with his survey that found only 40 percent of scientists believed in a supreme being. He predicted such ungodliness would spread as education improved.
``To test that belief, we replicated Leuba's survey as exactly as possible,'' Larson and Witham wrote in a commentary for the science journal Nature. ``The result: about 40 percent of scientists still believe in a personal God and an afterlife. In both surveys, roughly 45 percent disbelieved and 15 percent were doubters (agnostic).''
Belief in a personal God:
Belief 42% 39%
Agnosticism 17 15
Disbelief 42 45
Quotations from selected scientists
There are problems to whose solution I would attach an infinitely greater importance than to those of mathematics, for example touching ethics, or our relation to God, or concerning our destiny and our future; but their solution lies wholly beyond and completely outside the province of science. -- C.F. Gauss, quoted in The World of Mathematics, 1956, p. 314.
It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason. Reason's last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it. - - Blaise Pascal, Pensees, 1670
Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543) was an astronomer and clergyman in Poland. His research he regarded as `a loving duty to seek the truth in all things, in so far as God has granted' (Peacock, p.147).
Robert Boyle (1627-1691), founder of the Royal Society in London, is sometimes called the father of modern chemistry (Peacock, p.149). Well known for his Christianity, he believed there were things we could never know, but that God's purposes were not completely inaccessible to us.
James Clerk Maxwell's (1831-1879) electro-magnetic field equations were comparable to his religious beliefs conceived in symbolic, almost abstract terms. Maxwell renounced physical models represented in terms of sensory experience. He proceeded from the contemplation of material relationships to spiritual truth, as he did from the model of the electro-magnetic field to the equations. He was aware of the limitations of a rigidly deterministic outlook and replaced mechanical causation by a statistical approach. This was a decisive step towards quantum physics and the principle of indeterminism.
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) made it clear that in his beliefs and conduct of life, he took more into account than acquired science. He believed there were two distinct domains in man, the scientist and the man of sentiment and belief. He could not understand those who assert that matter has organized itself, and who are not moved by the transcendent.
Marconi apparently came upon his idea of wireless waves extending beyond the horizon, remembering that the human mind knows no barriers to God, but can reach Him by prayer (Clark, p.50).
Thomas Edison (1847-1931), while searching for a material from which to make electric light filaments said, "Somewhere in God Almighty's workshop is dense woody growth, with fibers almost geometrically parallel and with practically no pith, from which we can make the filament the world needs." (Clark, p.51)
Wernher von Braun was director of the Marshall Space Flight Center. He wrote a forward to the 1971 Pacific Press book, Creation: Nature's Designs and Designer in which he says: “Manned space flight is an amazing achievement, but it has opened for mankind thus far only a tiny door for viewing the awesome reaches of space. An outlook through this peephole at the vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its Creator. I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science. “
James Irwin formed the evangelical High Flight Foundation the year after he walked on the moon. When asked what he would have said were he able to dialogue with God while on the moon, he answered: "I would have said, `Lord, is it all right if we come to visit this place?'" And how did he think God would answer? "`It's all right as long as you give Me the honor.'" (Kossick, p.9)
Robert Jastrow, founder and director of the Institute for Space Studies at the Goddard Space Flight Center, writes frequently about science's confirmation of theism. He considers evolution "plausible" but not "certain". In a recent book, he and others attack "naturalistic" science for neglecting God and the supernatural. They also get in some digs at the young-earth creationists, who they feel give creationism a bad name. (McIver, p.271,274) In his book, God and the Astronomers, he says: "For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries." (Jastrow, p.116)
John Polkinghorne, a former mathematical physics professor at Cambridge University and Fellow of the Royal Society, began to train for the Anglican priesthood in 1979. In his book, One World: The Interaction of Science and Theology, he says: "The rational order that science discerns is so beautiful and striking that it is natural to ask why it should be so. It could only find an explanation in a cause itself essentially rational. This would be provided by the Reason of the Creator ... we know the world also to contain beauty, moral obligation and religious experience. These also find their ground in the Creator in his joy, his will and his presence." (Polkinghorne, p.79)
Arthur L. Schawlow is a Professor of Physics at Stanford University and shared the 1981 Physics Nobel Prize with for his contribution to the development of laser spectroscopy. Schawlow says: "It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one must ask why and not just how. The only possible answers are religious. . . . I find a need for God in the universe and in my own life." (Margenau/Varghese, p.105)
Web sites of interest
The Affiliation of Christian Geologists is at: http://www.wheaton.edu/ACG/
Francis Collins: http://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/bio/coll-body.html
The science & faith website: http://www.mat.univie.ac.at/~neum/sciandf.html
Scientists keep the faith: http://www.utas.edu.au/docs/focus/May97/scientists.html
American Scientific Affiliation http://www.asa3.org/
Access Research Network (Intelligent Design) http://www.arn.org/
Reasons (Progressive Creation site) http://reasons.org/index.shtml
Center for theology and the Natural Sciences (Process Theology) http://www.ctns.org/
Engineering fellowship http://christianengineer.net/
Christian neuroscience fellowship http://www.cneuroscience.org/
Metanexus (weekly e-mail essays on science/religion from many different points of view)
Scientific & Medical Network http://www.datadiwan.de/SciMedNet/home.htm
Dr. Loren Haarsma's web page: http://www.calvin.edu/~lhaarsma/scifaith.html
Dr. Allan Harvey's web page: http://members.aol.com/steamdoc/
Dr. Ted Davis's web page: http://www.messiah.edu/hpages/facstaff/tdavis/home.htm
Dr, George Murphy's web page: http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/
Dr. Robert Schneider's web site: http://www.berea.edu/GST/Gst475/Schneider475.html
Books of interest
Scientists of Faith, Dan Graves, 1999
Doctors Who Followed Christ, Dan Graves, 1996
Faith in Science, Mark Richardson, 2001
Paths From Science Towards God, Ian Barbour (see http://www.burgy.50megs.com\barbour.htm)
2. Relativity and Quantum Mechanics
Epitaph on Newton: Nature and Nature's law lay hid in night:
God said, "Let Newton be!," and all was light.
It did not last: the Devil shouting "Ho.
Let Einstein be," restored the status quo
A web site to "explain" both these concepts is at www.science-spirit.org
Space and time are not absolutes
Light travels at 300,000,000 meters per second
The Michaelson-Morley experiment
Faster than light travel is not possible
As a spaceship (or any object) moves faster, it becomes heavier, and time for the people inside slows down. Most astronauts are about 300 microseconds younger because of this..
Twins. One blasts off at near light speed for 10 years (measured from earth) then returns. The twin on earth is 20 years older. The traveling twin is - perhaps - a few months older. He has only been gone a few months, he thinks.
2b. Quantum Mechanics
Light is a wave. Light is a particle (photon). Which is it?
The expression "quantum mechanics" was first used in scientific literature by Max Born in a 1924 article in which he discussed "the formal passage from classical mechanics to a quantum mechanics."
"Quantum mechanics is very impressive. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory produces a good deal but hardly brings us closer to the secret of the Old One. I am at all events convinced that He does not play dice." -- Albert Einstein. Quoted in SEDUCED BY SCIENCE, HOW AMERICAM RELIGION HAS LOST ITS WAY, by Steven Goldberg, 1999. Page 124.
Quantum Mechanics is really very easy. Let’s start with:
OK. Maybe not.
The so-called "Copenhagen Interpretation," which claims that, in essence, things are not "real" until observed, was developed by Neils Bohr (a citizen of Denmark) in the late 1920s and was given fame by Erwin Schroedinger in 1935 with his "cat" gedanken experiment.. It is still a valid model today (2001) although other models are in contention. A recent (1986) book, THE GHOST IN THE ATOM, by Paul Davies, allows eight different physicists, each with a different model, to argue their cases.
Consider a cat in a box. A quantum event will trigger poison inside the box IF it occurs at any time. The probability of that quantum event taking place in – say – one hour – is 50%. The experiment: -- at the end of one hour Is the cat alive – or dead? The QM answer – neither – until someone looks. Weird? Yes. Demonstrated? Yes (not with an actual cat).
An alternative explanation is the “multiverse” theory, in which after one hour there are two universes in existence, one in which the cat is dead, one in which it is alive. There is a review of a book on this concept at www.burgy.50megs.com\fabric.htm
An experimental setup:
Change the setup:
Eight physicists argue eight different QM models, Copenhagen, Multiverse and others, in
THE GHOST IN THE ATOM, Paul Davies, 1986.
The book I recommend; for physicists & non-physicists
SCHROEDINGER'S KITTENS, John Gribbin, 1995
A much more difficult book on the nature of time & QM
TIME'S ARROW, Huw Price, 1996
Schrodinger’s cat died yesterday.
He died in a tragic accident,
quietly and alone,
when a tree silently fell on him in the middle of a forest.
Exactly in the middle of the forest, as it happens,
we know this, for when we left the accident scene,
we were all walking *out* of the forest.
There were no witnesses, but those who knew the cat well
say he went into the forest of his own free will.
From page 158 of Gribbin: “"If the Bell inequality is violated (which it is) then local reality must be abandoned even if quantum mechanics is completely wrong. The result of the Aspect experiment shows that the Universe is not 'local and real', whatever kind of scientific description you might dream up to describe how it works."
The Aspect experiment, in France, in the early 1980s, showed clearly that single photons demonstrated both wave and particle properties. But photons, after all, are massless, and travel at light speed. Japanese experiments in 1987 did the same thing with particles known to be particles -- electrons -- at Gakushuin University. But electrons, after all, cannot be photographed. So the skeptic could still argue against QM. Few did, or do, for QM is so good at PREDICTION, even if it is not good at EXPLANATION. Now atoms are particles, and atoms CAN be photographed. And it was at the beginning of the 1990s that researchers at the University of Konstanz, Germany, did the experiment using helium atoms. Too small yet? A year later, at MIT, the experiment was done with sodium atoms. All of these results are the same. A single atom going through two holes goes both ways at once and interferes with itself. In other words, a single atom is in both places (both holes) at the same time. A little later on the experiment was done with even larger particles, iodine molecules. The results were the same, wave/particle duality.
There is a simple experiment you can do yourself to demonstrate the wave nature of light. Look at a distant light source through the spaces between your fingers, palm toward your face. Most people can see one, two, even three or more dark lines in the space, the result of the light waves interference as they go through the narrow slit.
Then there is the EPR "two kittens" gedanken experiment. In this one, we have two kittens, each neither alive nor dead, but in an undefined state, separated from one another by a great distance. As soon as someone looks at one, if he sees a live kitten, the other one is dead. And vice versa. But until someone looks ... . Crazy? Sure. But the experiment HAS been done (not with cats) and the results were exactly as I've described them.
For more information, see
and also www.burgy.50megs.com\qm.htm
3. Panentheism (Theistic Naturalism)
RELIGION AND SCIENTIFIC NATURALISM, OVERCOMING THE CONFLICTS, by David Ray Griffin. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 2000. 345 pages, index, notes, bibliography. Softcover; $25.95. ISBN 0-7914-4563-1.
David Ray Griffin, Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Theology at Claremont, a prolific writer on issues of science and religion, has written a watershed book, one which has received the Book Award for 2000 from the (UK-based) Scientific and Medical Network. This volume, one in the SUNY series in Constructive Postmodern Thought, argues a Whiteheadian based philosophy that religion does not require supernaturalism and science does not require materialism. Griffin describes himself as a panentheistic Christian, one who sees God as more than the universe and yet the universe as part of God. He sees God at work in the universe, but in a "persuasive" rather than in a "coercive" way.
Both Whitehead, writing in 1925, and Griffin see a middle ground between materialism and supernaturalism. Griffin uses the term "theistic naturalism" for this worldview. While some may view that phrase as oxymoronic, a study of this book will show it has significant meaning. Griffin writes (Page xv): "The central question of this book is simply whether there is anything essential to science that is in conflict with any beliefs essential to vital religion, especially theistic religion. My answer is No, but the dominant answer has been Yes... .”
Griffin defines two metaphysical terms, "naturalism(sam)" and "naturalism(ns). Naturalism(ns) is all science requires, he argues, and is fully compatible with theistic religion. He defines naturalism(ns) as being simply a rejection of supernatural interventions which interrupt causal relations, and naturalism(sam) as including naturalism(ns) plus sensationism, atheism, materialism, determinism, reductionism, no causation from mind to body, upward causation only, no transcendent source of religious experience, no variable divine influence, and no ultimate meaning to life (nihilism). The (sam) comes from the terms “sensationalism,” “atheism,” and “materialism.” He also observes that other writers call naturalism(sam) by the names reductionistic naturalism, materialistic naturalism and atheistic naturalism. I have been used to the term "metaphysical naturalism."
Seeking a religion/science harmony, he sees three things as necessary:
1. They must share a worldview.
2. Science must insist only on naturalism(ns), not also on naturalism(sam).
3. Religion must agree that it can live with naturalism(ns)
and therefore without supernaturalism.
Arguing against the supernaturalistic version of theism. Griffin, like Whitehead, believes that the basic causal principles of the world are never interrupted. How, then, does Griffin find a "genuine robust religion?" Disdaining modern liberal religion, because it denies divine activity in the world, he asserts such activity for theistic naturalism, arguing that there are nine features to the "generic idea" of God:
1. a personal, purposive being
2. supreme in power
3. perfect in goodness
4. created the world
5. acts providentially in the world
6. experienced by human beings
7. the ultimate guarantee for the meaningfulness of human life
8. the ground of hope for the victory of good over evil
9. alone worthy of worship
Theistic naturalism retains all nine of these features, he says, by modifying the traditional understanding of #2, from coercive power to persuasive power. This, in turn, modifies the traditional meaning of #4, #5 and #8. He rejects Creation ex Nihilo, arguing that it is not biblical, and is the concept that leads to the problem of theodicy. He sees God as one of the causal influences on every event.
Griffin addresses "Darwinian Evolutionism," arguing that it is not an all-or-none affair, but a mixture of ideas. Darwinian Evolutionism has fourteen dimensions:
2. Macroevolution (all present species have come from previous species)
Griffin accepts these dimensions, but rejects the next ten:
5. No theistic guidance, either non-causal or "directing influence"
6. Positivism. All influences are, in principle,
detectable through sensory perception
7. Predictive (in principle) Determinism. No teleology.
8. Macroevolution understood as microevolution happening long enough
9. Natural selection acting on mutations the sole cause
10. Gradualism. Tiny step by tiny step
A significant argument for Darwinism is that we require a materialistic theory (because we are good methodological naturalists) to explain how we got here and Darwinism is not just the best such theory, it is the only such theory (garbage dumped on the earth millennia ago just moves the area of interest from the earth to another location). Therefore, if materialism is true, Darwinism must be true. Materialism being the scientist's presupposition, Darwinism is the only game that can be played.. Griffin observes that this argument can be turned against Darwinism. If materialism has proved inadequate for other issues, such as human consciousness, or for psi effects, or for certain religious experiences, then the obvious presumption ought to be that it is also inadequate for evolution.
God, says Griffin, not being external to the universe, is essentially the soul of the universe, and exists with the universe, with equal necessity, being coeternal. He identifies himself as a Christian, but points out that one implication of theistic naturalism that some will find problematic is that it provides no basis for arguing that Christianity is “The One True Religion.” Not considering this implication a drawback, Griffin, an advocate of religious pluralism, sees it to be a benefit. He argues that classical theism’s depiction of God is, itself, unbiblical.