Afraid Of The Dark

Stephen Hawking died this past week.   I was aware of him, and had been for years.  I could probably tell you that he wrote A Brief History of Time.  But I didn’t know that much about him.  In fact, I thought his name was Stephen Hawkins.

I prayed for him when I heard about his death, though.  I do that when I hear about people who die, particularly enemies of The Faith.  I prayed for Christopher Hitchens this way (and truly do regret that he died; I truly am sorry that his life was cut short by a disease).  And I prayed for Stephen Hawking too.  I liked him, actually; I liked his proof against time travel (as you know if you read this post).  So I prayed for him.

And I don’t know that Hawking was as big an enemy of The Faith as Christopher Hitchens was.  I don’t know if he considered himself an enemy of The Faith at all.  But I do know that he once made a statement against The Faith or at least against people of faith.  He did so in a 2011 interview with The Guardian.  In that interview, Hawking said:

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Now I don’t have a huge problem with his assertion that he does not believe in “heaven or afterlife”; I’ve heard many people make similar assertions.  What I have a problem with is how he jumps to a conclusion about people who do believe in them.  He says not only is that they are a “fairy tale” (which is  an insulting way to describe someone’s beliefs) but that the only reason people believe in such a fairy tale is that they are “afraid of the dark” (that is, of what will happen to them after death).

And the reason I have a problem with this statement is that it is an unproven (and probably unprovable) generalization.   It is an “all” or “every” statement, which we try to avoid because they are usually false.  It is also a statement based on knowledge Hawking does not have and can not possible have.

Hawking was a smart guy, as I understand it.  He certainly knew a lot of things I don’t know.  But one thing I know that he does not is why I have faith, why I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  And it isn’t because I’m afraid of the dark.  It is because I find faith/Jesus/God to be reasonable and supported by multiple streams of evidence.

Here’s a short list of such reason/evidence (one of many I could post and certainly not exhaustive):

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Honestly, I haven’t considered all of these things.  But I have considered a lot of them (particularly moral law) and have come to believe there is a God and Jesus is His Son because of them.  I have not, then, clung desperately to this belief simply because of an infantile fear of the dark or because I was raised to believe (the subject of another post) or any of these other things that non-believers accuse me of.  I have thought my beliefs out.  I have investigated them.  I have come to conclusions about them.  Just because I came to a different conclusion than you did doesn’t mean I didn’t do those things.  So please, all you intelligent atheists out there, please stop saying I didn’t.  Why I believe really is something you don’t know and can’t possibly know, and making general statements about what you don’t and can’t possibly know is not intelligent.

Science Tests Faith

 

Today I listened to an excellent podcast called Speak Life.  The episode I listened to was titled “Is Science The Enemy of Faith?”  It contained a short lecture delivered by a guy named Glen Scrivener.  The lecture was brilliant on several levels.

It started with a story  about a botanist named Betty who analyzed rather than appreciated a rose she had received for Valentine’s Day.  With this, Scrivener was showing that it is possible to understand the inner workings of the universe without understanding what the universe was for.  This is an idea that I’ve been mulling for about 20 years.  The idea first came to me when I saw a rainbow in the sky over Cincinnati during a snowstorm (yes, a snowstorm, not a rainstorm) and I realized that science could explain how that rainbow got there but could never explain why it was there or why it excited me so much.  I wrote a poem about this, in fact.  That poem is now lost, and probably for the better.  But Bettys (or is it Betties?) are still around, and every time I encounter them I feel like Ted Danson in this scene from Gulliver’s Travels:

 

Another great thing Scrivener said in the lecture was “scientism of the gaps”.  There was a question time following his lecture, and someone asked about Christians using “God of the gaps” arguments.  These arguments merely apply God to whatever is unknown, and for that reason they are not regarded very well.  Scrivener in reply said that some scientists are guilty of a similar poor argument he called “scientism of the gaps”.  As the name suggests, this is just applying some scientific principle, such as “natural selection”, or, even worse, some scientific fact which simply has not been discovered yet, to whatever is unknown.  I had never heard that phrase “scientism of the gaps” before, but I had encountered this type of thinking.  I particularly encountered it when I wrote a paper on the Cambrian Explosion in grad school.  At that time, I ran across this video:

Professor Valentine there states that there “must have been” the kind of biological build-up Darwinian evolution requires, and he admits that there is no evidence for that build-up, but still concludes that such a build-up is “probably right” and “must have been”.  I just don’t see the qualitative difference between saying something like that and saying something is because “God made it that way”.  It does seem like scientism in the gaps to me, and it seems as poor as God in the gaps.

More than anything, though, this podcast reminded me of a TV special that aired on Fox during my final year of Bible college.  The special was called Signs From God: Science Tests Faith and was hosted by Giselle Fernandez.

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For some reason I thought this was called “Science Vs Faith” and was hosted by Soledad O’Brien, which is why it took me forever to find.

I remember the special being promoted less as “science tests faith” and more like “science versus faith”.  And I remember thinking at the time, “What science?”  I probably could have also asked, “What faith?” as the “signs from God” being tested were not signs I would have based any of my faith upon.  Indeed, while the general consensus seems to be that all science is against all faith, a quick survey of the many branches of science shows that this is not close to being true.

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Not even close to being exhaustive, but the best I could do in the space I had.

Does geology argue against faith in any degree?  Or forensics?  Physics?  What about math?  Computer science?  Political science?  None of them do.  In fact, no true scientific fact (that is, an observation of the natural world) can argue against faith, and no scientific field does, either.  Rather, as Scrivener says in the podcast, what really argues against the faith (or tries to argue against it) is a scientific philosophy, a worldview or even religion which uses science and looks like a science and influences science but is not itself a science.  You can also call it naturalism, materialism, philosophical materialism, etc.  But you really can’t call it science.  It isn’t.

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That, as Alvin Plantiga says, is where the conflict really lies, what the conflict really is.  It is not science versus faith.  It is scientism versus faith.  It is not a conflict of “fact versus myth”, as some would like to present it.  It is a conflict of one worldview against another.

Scrivener ably defended my worldview in his lecture.  He left lots of room for true science (observation of nature) as well (indeed, based on his comments, there were lots of Christian scientists in the room with him).  He showed that science is not and really cannot be the enemy of The Faith and vice versa.  And I completely agree.