Let me say before I continue that I’ve had no formal training in science and my views on contemporary scientific theories are completely amateur and I’m sure terribly simplistic. However, if we’re looking for academic credentials, my first university could probably claim to have ‘trained’ me in philosophy of religion and science, cosmological debates etc – that’s what I studied much of the time. But really, that’s not why I’m writing about it. I’m writing about this because these scientific claims are theological. They are all-embracing world-views founded upon a logos other than Jesus. That makes them fair game. It also means I should try to be as even-handed and informed in my criticism as possible and this I will seek to do. But that’s where I’m coming from.
In the last post we considered that belief in multiple universes or belief in an intelligent Designer are just that – beliefs. They are not directly testable by the science that faces them. It is not the case that the naturalistic scientist deals in the realm of pure facts and the supernaturalist shadily slinks off into the realm of faith. Both positions are founded upon and shaped after beliefs.
Yet not beliefs divorced from evidence. Both positions claim that their belief has more explanatory power in accounting for that which is testable and both move forwards on the basis of this belief. Everyone conducts themselves according to the dynamic of ‘faith seeking understanding’.
(As an aside, naturalistic science conducted according to it’s own beliefs and methods will turn up many fascinating things, draw many remarkable links and make innumberable positive contributions to our common life. This is precisely parallel to the ‘good’ done by atheists and other religions in many charitable causes. It is not testimony to the ‘rightness’ of their underlying beliefs but to the inter-relatedness of all things in Christ’s creation. The child who makes a bridge out of their mechano set will, on one level, have produced something good and useful. On another level the components used were meant to form a helicopter and it’s all ‘wrong’ – but it works (but it doesn’t).)
But now that we’ve established that the multiverse and the intelligent Designer are faith-positions – should we accept the dilemma offered to us? Should we prefer a Cosmic Fine-tuner to a multiverse explanation?
Well, both positions are inferences from human reason to possible explanations. Therefore, by my reckoning, neither option is properly Christian. Why not? Well the route to both explanations begins with the certainty of us, of ‘the facts’ and of our ability to assess ‘the facts.’ It then puts confidence in our working towards the truth. Finally, at the end of this process, we come to ‘God’ who is posited as the most probable of the explanations (even if the probability claimed may be astronomically ‘likely’).
Such an intelligent design deism falls into a number of errors.
First, it effectively considers God’s Word as one among many voices to be considered. And in practice it is a much lesser and later voice in the process. First we investigate the strong force of the atomic nuclei, then we listen to God!
Second, it capitulates to the naturalist’s worldview from the outset. It makes the starting point for both the Christian and the atheist the same – us! We decide to go along with the belief (and it is a belief!) that, while the existence of a deity can be doubted, the veracity of ‘the facts’ and of ourselves as competent judges of reality is bedrock truth!
Third, it falls for a god of the gaps. When our human enterprise comes to an end, ‘god’ comes to the rescue as the explanatory cause. God is not the beginning, middle and end of our doctrine of creation, He is the poly-filler to be used only where our ‘understanding’ falters.
Fourth, it is natural theology pure and simple to argue from nature to God. I’ll let David Congdon lay out the perils of this:
[Natural theology] is antithetical to the Christian faith for a number of reasons: (1) we do not know who God is apart from Jesus Christ; (2) we either begin with the triune God revealed in Christ or we do not begin at all; (3) we are incapable of knowing anything about God apart from faith, because the Fall has noetic implications, i.e., our reason is fallen; (4) therefore, knowledge of God is saving knowledge, because we only know the God who saved us in Jesus. There is no other god, no prior abstract deity, no foundational divine reality upon which Christ builds. The point of these (and other similar statements) is that we either know the one true God who reconciled the world in Jesus Christ or we simply have some concept devised by fallen human reason that has no connection to this revealed God. Philosophy does not provide a stepping-stone to theology. We either do theology from the start, or we don’t do theology at all.
(For more on this see David Congdon’s post here. I agree with the first three of his four theses).
So really it’s not a case of sitting with the atheistic scientist, agreeing to their presuppositions, their epistemological self-confidence, their scientific method and then demurring on their conclusions. If ‘their science’ leads them to the Cosmic Fine-tuner that’s interesting. It’s not the stepping stone to faith in the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ. There is only one Mediator and He’s not the god of intelligent design.
What can we say? Maybe next post I’ll give some thoughts.