Science and Christianity Rutgers University 11/21/09 John Oakes, PhD
Our Outline • Science and Religion: The Limits of Science • The “Christian” Response • The Age of the Universe and the Age of the Earth • Genesis 1 and Creation • Evolution • The Anthropic Principle: Evidence for Design • Science and the Bible (other than creation and the flood) • Science and Other Religions
Science and Religion • What is Religion? • What is Science?
Science The use of experiment to test theories about the laws of nature.
Science • Scientific knowledge is a relationship between observations • Scientific knowledge is quantitative • The observations are subject to refinement • Scientific knowledge is progressive and tentative • Scientific knowledge is neither true nor false, but rather consistent with the observations and consistent with prior knowledge
Religion • Religion is a belief in something • The belief is not necessarily substantiated by physical or material evidence • Religious knowledge obtained through holy writings, authority, revelations and religious experiences • Religionists have faith or trust in such knowledge
Religion • Religious knowledge is qualitative not quantitative. • Religious knowledge is not gotten through measurement • In religion knowledge is taken as either true or false. • Religious knowledge is neither progressive, nor tentative.
Questions Science Can Answer • When? • What? • Where? • How many? • By what means?
Questions Science Cannot Answer:(That Religion Does Answer) • Why am I here? • Is that the right thing to do? • How valuable am I? • Does God exist? Does God act (theism)? • Will that God respond if I pray? • Do supernatural events (miracles) happen?
Science, being incapable of answering the question of meaning, will always give the impression of meaninglessness, even though such a conclusion requires metaphysics. As Torrance notes, “patterns may be created [by science] but not meaning...” Naturally, science should not be forced into answering this question – it should be allowed to perform its task under the guise of materialism, even if this results in meaninglessness. Science can never be permitted to insert supernatural or metaphysical explanations into its theories:
A statement a scientist should not make (if he or she is well trained and is not manipulating you): • Evolution is true. • The Big Bang happened. • Better statements: • The theory of evolution is by far the best model we have to explain both the fossil evidence and the genetic evidence with regard to the origin of all species. • The Big Bang model is in dramatic agreement will all known facts about the origin and history of the universe. • Science seeks consistency, not “truth.” What is the simplest and most consistent explanation of the observation.
Conclusions about Science and Religion • Religion and science ask different kinds of questions and define words differently • Religion and science appear as if they were two incommensurate paradigms addressing the identical information area • Are they “Non-Overlapping Magisteria? (NOMA) as Stephen Jay Gould suggests? No! They inform one another to some extent.
Unanswered questions which seem to relate to science • Consciousness (what is consciousness and why are we conscious?) • Origins of life • Origin of the universe. Why is there anything (as opposed to nothing) • Why is this a Goldilocks Universe?
“It is mere rubbish to think at this point of the origin of life. One might as well think of the origin of matter.” Charles Darwin
The Conservative Christian Reaction Scopes “monkey trial” 1925 Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan
1940’s and afterward: Creationism Movement Very Bad Science!
Intelligent Design: An Improvement? • Irreducible Complexity Does this “disprove evolution?” • Beware of “God of the Gaps” arguments. • Is ID “scientific”? Do they do experiments? Are their conclusions refutable by an experiment? • The Anthropic Principle • A possible explanation for “why” the laws of the universe are what they are. • The laws of the universe are what they are so that we (ie human beings) can exist.
A Christian Response • Remember Galileo vs Roman Curia • Remember Augustine vs Faustus (Manichaeism) • Remember that science and religion are largely incommensurate • The Bible and science do NOT contradict one another! • Do not overreact 1 Peter 3:15,16 • Do not be defensive 1 Peter 2:23 • Remember, science is your friend: materialism/naturalism is the “enemy” • Be confident. The universe was created, life was created and Jesus upholds all creation (Coll 1:15-17)
Can Science and Religion peacefully coexist? • The Language of God
Reasons Collins believes in God 1. There is something instead of nothing. 2. The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics. 3. The Big Bang. 4. Nature does not solve the problem of why. 5. The existence of time. 6. Fine tuning of the universe. The “Goldilocks Paradox.” 7. Ockham’s Razor. 8. The existence of moral law.
The Age of the Universe and the Age of the Earth Bishop Ussher 1640: The universe was created on Sunday October 23, 4004 BC
Cosmic Speedometer • When a galaxy is receding, light waves travelling to us are red-shifted • Hubble measured the spectrum of these galaxies and found the spectral lines to be red-shifted • The faster the recession, the greater the red-shift
Expansion of the Universe … ‘winding’ backwards, the universe must have had a beginning
Image of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation From COBE satellite red = slightly warmer The “smoking gun” of the Big Bang
Tests of the Big Bang Theory • Expansion of the universe • Cosmic microwave background • Relative abundances of hydrogen, deuterium, helium and lithium
Obtaining the Age of the Universe • Extrapolate the current expansion rate (Hubble constant) back to the Big Bang • 13.5 billion years • Look for the oldest stars (in globular clusters) • 13.0 billion years old • Best current estimate is 13.4 ± 1.6 billion years M10 Globular Cluster
How Old is the Earth? Hutton Lyell
How Old is the Earth? • James Hutton, 1787 Uniformitarianism “No vestige of a beginning, no concept of an end.”
WILLIAM SMITH: Index Fossils “Each stratum contains fossils peculiar to itself” Cenozoic (new life) 65 mya to present Mesozoic (middle life) 250 mya to 65 mya Paleozoic (old life) 530 mya to 250 mya
Genesis Chapter One: Creation • Young Earth Theory • In agreement with science • With an appearance of age (disagrees with science) • Day/Age Theory • Framework Theory • Literary rather than historical account. Days 1-3 and 4-6 are parallel triads describing how God created the heavens (1,4), the seas and land(2,5) and life (3,6) • Gap Theory • A huge “gap” of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 • It’s all just a myth Each view has its problems
A Quick Summary of Genesis One: a. God pre-existed the universe b. God created the universe: “Let there be light” c. God created the earth d. God created life e. Last of all, God created mankind
A More Detailed Summary of Genesis OneFrom the Viewpoint of an Observer on the Earth: a. The earth created and is spinning: night and day. Day 1 b. Water covers earth, Very thick atmosphere forms. Day 2 c. The earth cools, land appears out of the water. Day 3 d. Life appears on the earth. Day 3 e. (Photosynthetic life dramatically changes the chemistry of the atmosphere from reducing to oxidizing.) f. Finally, the heavenly objects appeared in the sky Day 4 g. More advanced life forms; first in the water, later on the land Day 5 h. Even more advanced life forms. Last of all human beings Day 6 Where is the scientific error in this?
Is Genesis 1:1 a Myth? • Yes! It is a true myth. • A myth is a simplified story, given to explain the gods (or God) to common people.
Creation Myths • Babylonian Creation Myth • Primeval swamp. Marduk kills Tiamat. Blood + mud = humans • Egyptian Creation Myth • Primeval ocean “Nun” from which arrises a Primeval hill. • Greek Creation Myth • Prometheus and Epimetheus form clay molds. Earth supported by Atlas. • Iroquois Creation Myth • Enigorio and Enigohahetgea: Good and evil brothers battle Genesis One is an obvious exception to this pattern
Iroquois Creation Myth: Enigorio and Enigohahetgea Battling the Ronnongwetowanca (Stone Giants)
Is the Metaphorical Day a Reasonable Interpretation?Pre-Science Theologians Who Said Yes. • Philo 1st century • Origen early 3rd century • Augustine early 5th century • Thomas Aquinas 13th century
Translations of yom in the Old Testament (NIV) • 1181 times as “day” (but with several different connotations of the word, some not being literal) • Isaiah 4:2 In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful… • 67 times as “time” • 30 times as “today” • 18 times as “forever” • 10 times as “continuously” • 6 times as “age” • 4 times as “life” • 2 times as “perpetually”
Evolution and the Bible • What does the Bible say? • What does the physical evidence say? • Fossil evidence • Genetic/DNA evidence • Is there “Irreducible Complexity?” • Human evolution?