» science

Genesis 1 and Science

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, creation, culture, evangelism, science | 3 Comments

Genesis-7It’s difficult to think of any piece of literature as supportive of the modern scientific enterprise as Genesis 1. All the necessary foundations are in place:

1. Laws Up Above

The ancient Chinese had incredible technology but not science as we know it. Why? Because however great their minds were, they didn’t conceive of the world operating similarly according to a Great Mind. They didn’t think there were ever-present, always-applicable laws of nature that governed the universe. They went out into the world and tamed it through technology but they didn’t seek to press into the deeper laws of the universe.

That’s because they didn’t have Genesis 1. They didn’t believe that “In the beginning God” and that through his word an ordered cosmos is created which shows all the hallmarks of dependable regularities – seasons and spheres with boundaries and signs in the heavens, all going round and round – evening and morning, evening and morning.The God of Genesis 1 is a God prior to nature and beyond nature, therefore He gives us every reason to expect laws of nature. This is absolutely vital if you want to do science.

It’s not uncommon to find scientists today expressing their doubts that a “Grand Unified Theory” of everything may be found. That’s quite consistent. To believe in a grand unified theory sounds remarkably like Genesis 1, and who believes that anymore? But actually it’s belief in the God of Genesis 1 that will engage you further with the scientific enterprise. Disbelief will make you give up the investigation prematurely.

2. A World Out There

The ancient Greeks were smart cookies. All philosophy is footnotes to Plato and all that. Philosophy, mathematics, art and literature were all spheres of excellence for the Greeks. Science? Not so much. Because science requires you to believe in a stable and predictable world out there that is open to investigation. Science occurs when you make repeatable observations and check your theories against the cold hard facts. But Greeks didn’t believe in cold, hard facts. They believed in minds and reason and laws but not in empirical investigation. To study something for the Greeks meant a journey within the mind – not a venture out into the field. And so, no science.

But in Genesis 1 you have a genuinely concrete, genuinely real world. It’s not this second-class excretion from the gods, it’s positively willed by God, different to God (contingent not necessary) yet at the same time declared very good. It’s the kind of place you can move out into and have dominion over. It is open to us. In fact we are told to fill it, order it, develop it. Science is not just enabled by Genesis 1, it’s virtually commanded.

3. Minds In Here

If human minds are the product of mindless operations which only honour survival, not intelligence (the two are not at all synonymous), then why should we trust our minds to understand the laws up above and the world out there. If we are a part of the cosmos thrown up by the cosmos with no higher calling than to pass on our genes then why trust a brain that whirs away according to its own survival imperative?

If you really want to have confidence in scientific endeavour then turn to Genesis 1 where humanity are specially created in certain relationships with the Orderer above and the world out there. The image of God is on us and the command of God is to rule and fill the world. More than this, if humanity is created in God’s image it is because we are destined in Christ (the Image) for face-to-face fellowship with God. If that is so then we can have every confidence that the human mind is indeed capable of grasping those things above, even as we are sent into the world out there.

Genesis 1 is very far from being anti-science. It gives us these three building blocks and every reason to believe that they will triangulate to yield fresh insights. If we turn from the Bible, what right do we have to expect rational order to the cosmos? What right do we have to expect a comprehensible universe? What right do we have to privilege the processes of these 3 pound blobs of grey matter between our ears? Actually, to turn from the Scriptures is to weaken science, not strengthen it.

The realities spoken of in Genesis 1 provide the scientific enterprise with its firmest possible foundations.

Podcast: Christianity and Science

Posted on by Glen in 321, apologetics, evangelism, podcast, science | 4 Comments


Episode 57: Andy and I speak about science and how the truths of 3, 2 and 1 give us the strongest possible foundation for scientific enquiry.



For more on the issue of science:

Previous Podcast

Hasn’t Science Disproved God?

Are You Sitting Comfortably? Then Let’s Do Science!

Why The World Exists

We All Have Our Creation Stories

Faith Seeking Understanding


Why the world exists

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, atheism, culture, science | 4 Comments

Why does the world exist

A fascinating 40 minute discussion between a philosopher a theoretical physicist and a cosmologist. I even understood some of it!
I can’t get the video to embed so click the image or go here.
Below are some highlights from the discussion. My comments in blue.
David Wallace (philosopher):
If philosophy’s learnt anything in two and a half thousand years… it’s that you can’t start from no-where in trying to understand something. Descartes famously did try to start from nowhere… it was a glorious failure.
Trying to understand things pretty much always presupposes some background set of things that are our starting point. So we can ask all manner of questions about the universe… in asking those questions we are always going to be having certain starting points and presuppositions.
Crucial point
So if we interpret the question in its widest possible sense: ‘Why is there something rather than nothing in the widest possible sense? Why is there mathematics, why is there law, why is there logic?” At that level I actually think science can’t answer those questions, philosophy can’t answer those questions. I actually think those questions aren’t answerable. There’s nothing to grip onto and so nowhere to start.
But that presupposes naturalism. Aren’t you at least curious to employ a presupposition that gives you more answers rather than the naturalistic presupposition that limits the answers?
But if you want to ask more specific questions about why the world that looks anything like this exists, then I think we have learnt a lot. And in a sense what we’ve seen is a conflict [and a victory] between two very different ways of looking at the world.  A way of looking that tries to build everything up from the ground, to explain complicated things in terms of simpler things and to explain more purposeful things in terms of less purposeful things versus an understanding that starts with meaning and purpose as a basic starting point and gets the meaningless and the factual things from it.
The bottom-up approach (empiricism) is attractive because it means we can get our hands dirty by investigating the world. It’s satisfying to see complex systems broken down to component parts (but only to a point – taking apart the grandfather clock is fascinating, but the whole is superior to the parts and the story behind it might be even better).
The top-down approach (rationalism) is also attractive because it means that the highest levels of explanation are also the ones with most meaning and purpose. The danger is that it’s pure supposition and not grounded in empirical fact.
I think the development of science since the renaissance has almost completely vindicated that first way of thinking about things.
Hang on.  For a start you’ve admitted that the bottom-up approach has rendered us completely unable to answer the question at hand in this debate: Why does the world exist? That’s a pretty major short-coming (unless we want to say that everything our empirical net doesn’t catch aint fish).
What’s more, you’ve said that presuppositions underlie any understanding of the world. Therefore even the “bottom up” method of empirical enquiry assumes over-arching realities.
Therefore top-down understandings have not been dispatched by the onward march of empirical science. They are unavoidable… BUT ALSO bottom-up enquiries have been extremely fruitful in answering certain questions (with one glaring exception in the question at hand)
So then, how can we hold onto both?
Here’s a presupposition that gives us our cake and let’s us eat: “The Word who became flesh” There’s a Logos to keep the rationalists happy who became a sarkos for the empiricists to investigate. And, hey presto, the unanswerable question gets an answer that is worthy of a universe as gorgeous as ours.
George Ellis (cosmologist, multiverse sceptic):
The “Multiverse” tries to say this universe is incredibly unlikely to be good for life but if you think of all possible universes, they’re incredibly unlikely to have life in them, but nevertheless if you have an infinite number of universes then some of them will make it ok and this will give you a scientific explanation…  This is a philosophical hypothesis. I can say anything I like about it and it can’t be proven true or false. That’s the basic observational situation of the multiverse. I think it’s a very fine philosophical hypotheses but… it’s a faith position. You can believe in the multiverse but you can’t prove it.
Well said. But fascinatingly, fear of having a faith position is what drives multiverse proponents too…
Laure Mersini-Houghton (theoretical physicist, multiverse proponent): I always get alarm bells when I hear things like ‘one universe’, ‘one creation moment’ and ‘purpose’… If I were to replace those words with ‘divine intervention’ or ‘God’ that would take us 2000 years back to square one.
So both the multiverse sceptic and the multiverse proponent dislike faith positions and that drives them to what they say.
All the while David Wallace points out that we all have presuppositions.
David Wallace: If you want to reason your way to the fact that the world exists you’re going to have to make assumptions to that story. You might learn that if you make this very simple assumption or that very simple assumption or these very simple starting points then it will follow that the world exists. That could perfectly well be true. You then have the question of where those starting points arise from…  At some point you’re going to have to stop explaining. And that’s not a matter that science won’t be able to explain… it would be a matter that we wouldn’t have any resources to explain.
…Your explanation [of anything] is always going to have a thing that you’re presupposing to do the explaining.
Ok, what about a presupposition that manages to bridge the top-down and the bottom-up positions. One that accounts not only for a life-sustaining universe, but for the kind of life that we call life. What about an explanation for life that actually LOOKS like what we call life: loving, joyful, personal, self-giving life-in-relationship kinda life.
Maybe we should go back 2000 years and investigate the Word become flesh. We might find that going back is the way forward.

Outer Space or Heavens Above?

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, culture, science | 4 Comments

From Camille Flammarion’s L’atmosphère (1888)

Pagan superstitions are always threatening to crowd in.  Either Christ reigns or malign spirits will.

It was the gospel that supplanted pagan superstition in Europe.  Through the spread of Christ’s word freedom was offered from a bondage to enslaving beliefs.  The world was awash with gods, demigods, and other spiritual forces.  Fatalism ruled and the best you could hope for was some kind of propitiation of these spiritual slave-masters.

But as the gospel comes into this context, people are confronted with a good Lord who has shown Himself to be utterly for us.  He has provided the propitiation.  He has ransomed us from the devil’s power.  And He has brought us to the Most High God who reigns over (not within) this world with Fatherly power.

It was the gospel that enabled the West to be secular.  The gospel drove out the spirits from this world and freed a people to become more prosperous than any who have lived before.  It freed us to love the world and explore it.  To experience some of that dominion which the Bible speaks of.

Yet, having rejected this gospel, the gods are flooding back in.  The new priests are telling new myths, but these ones are like the pagan ones: bleak and bloody and utterly tragic.  Impersonal, immoral and fatalistic to the bitter end.

Of course we scoff at superstitions regarding earth.  We feel as though science has dispelled the mysteries of this planet.  Yet our latent paganism shows itself in our views of outer space.   Go onto Youtube and search for any of the hundreds of videos offering a journey through the universe.  Here’s one, almost at random:

Notice the soundtrack.  All the soundtracks are virtually identical:  blasts of slow, austere, rhythm-less synth-brass.  If you subtract the synthesizers it’s precisely the kind of music that, in bygone days, made lowly subjects bow in fear to their king.  But our new masters are the giants and supergiants.  And this video literally does command us to bow to our lords.

It is a naked power-play.  The heavenly bodies are presented purely in terms of their strength, blinding brilliance and sheer immensity.  And as we listen to the music, how are we meant to feel about these monstrous powers?  Small, insignificant, uneasy, fearful.  They are the impersonal, uncaring forces and many of them are malign (think black holes).  Ultimately, so the story goes, the powerful will win the day.  Our fate is to be swallowed up by the strong and, in the meantime, all we can do is cower in their presence.  The best we can hope for is to get on in our own corner of the universe with our insignificant little lives and await the inevitable.

It’s the old paganism, this time with CGI.

In the Bible, “the morning stars sing together and the sons of God shout for joy” (Job 38:7).  When the LORD asks us to consider the heavens He doesn’t play Mahler’s 5th.  It’s more like the Hallelujah Chorus.  Joyous, personal, harmonious, rapturous.

Or consider how David viewed the sun: “Like a Bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a Champion rejoicing to run his course.” (Psalm 19:5)  The sun speaks of the Light of the world who makes the journey from east (God’s absence) to west (God’s presence).  And He does so not as a display of His own power, but as our rejoicing Champion and our loving Bridegroom.  His power is for us.  You see, when David looked up He saw love.  He saw a Bridegroom who runs the race as our Champion, and joyfully so.  What soundtrack is appropriate for that?  Jean-Michel Jarre on morphine?  Not likely.

But I wonder how much this latent paganism affects Christians.  I wonder whether documentaries like the one above shape our reading of Psalm 19 and not the other way around.  In fact on Youtube I’ve found Christian videos of Psalm 19 that use the same barren soundtracks.  It’s as though we think the “glory of God” is like the old pagan deities but with the trumpets turned up to eleven. May it not be!

In Out of the Silent Planet, CS Lewis imagines the first journey through “space” taken by his hero Ransom. He finds the reality of ‘outer space’ very different to the scientific mythology:

Ransom, as time wore on, became aware of another and more spiritual cause for his progressive lightening and exultation of heart. A nightmare, long engendered in the modern mind by the mythology that follows in the wake of science, was falling off him. He had read of ‘Space’: at the back of his thinking for years had lurked the dismal fancy of the black, cold vacuity, the utter deadness, which was supposed to separate the worlds. He had not known how much it affected him till now-now that the very name ‘Space’ seemed a blasphemous libel for this empyrean ocean of radiance in which they swam. He could not call it ‘dead’; he felt life pouring into him from it every moment. How indeed should it be otherwise, since out of this ocean all the worlds and all their life had come? He had thought it barren: he now saw that it was the womb of worlds, whose blazing and innumerable offspring looked down nightly even upon the earth with so many eyes-and here, with how many more! No: Space was the wrong name.”

Don’t think “space”. Think “heavens”.

Talking about evolution, creation and intelligent design

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, creation, culture, evangelism, science | Leave a comment

imageA friend on Facebook is studying Biology and just posted the question: “Any ideas for or against intelligent design” she has a classroom discussion on the issue coming up.

The first bit of advice was this:

I’d just take a copy of ‘On the origin of the species’ ( hardback) and smack any proponent of ID over the head with it :)

Another commenter said:

Cordyceps fungi and various parasitic insects (i.e. wasps). No way they could have been ‘designed’.

I weighed in, as is my wont, with these two comments. (I’ve altered a word here and there for clarity). Perhaps it might be useful in your context…

I’m a Christian who believes the universe was designed (in one sense every Christian believes in intelligent design – since God’s quite smart) but I don’t like ID as a movement, cos the Christian story is actually that A) Creation is *fallen* and B) God is known, not by studying irreducible complexity but by seeing Him in the face of Christ.

That said, ID proponents are not dummies (some are, many aren’t). And when they raise tough questions about thorough-going naturalism, they should be heard. How do systems increase in informational content without an intelligent input? That is a good and vital question? How can natural selection account for irreducible complexity (systems where incremental developments could never add up to the system as a whole because the individual stages don’t add survival value)? That is a good question and needs more than a dismissive answer. Like I say, I’m not any kind of proponent for the ID movement, but they do raise vital scientific questions that shouldn’t simply be dubbed stupid.

On another note, for the Christian, parasites are a brilliant testimony to the Bible’s story. Parasites are secondary things that come along and spoil an original and ultimate good. That is precisely the Bible’s picture of good and evil. There is an original and ultimate good (God) spoiled by something secondary and derivative (evil).


Like I say I’m not a fan of the ID project – but… Remember where the whole discussion begins. It begins with the undoubted and gob-smacking *appearance* of intelligent design. Everyone agrees that the world looks designed. A biologist might come along and say “I’ve found a mechanism that accounts for that appearance.” But even if the mechanism has tremendous explanatory power (and natural selection does), remember:

A) Good science involves questioning paradigms, and IDers should be allowed to question “Does this mechanism really explain this and that?” Irreducible complexity and the information problem are some *excellent* questions to ask of the materialistic paradigm. It’s not good science to ridicule that questioning. It actually starts to sound like a power play.

B) Even if we grant that Darwin has sewn up ‘the origin of the *species*’, there are still three other origins questions that are at least as pressing: origin of the cosmos, origin of life itself, origin of consciousness. You might want to argue that natural selection explains all of these, but at that point I recall the old saying: If all you’ve got is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Natural selection is an excellent hammer to be applied to certain features of the natural world, but I’d seriously question its ability to explain everything. Darwin’s finches are fascinating and tell us much about evolution – it’s quite a stretch to make them explain the cosmos!

C) Remember that discovering a mechanism says precisely Nothing about the existence of a Maker. It’s useful to know the workings of an internal combustion engine, but no matter how comprehensive the knowledge, the existence of Henry Ford is an explanation beyond the wit of reverse-engineering. Mechanism and Maker are two different questions.

D) Remember where the conversation begins. It begins with everyone agreeing that the world looks eerily like it’s designed. Even if you come up with an elaborate mechanism and provide convincing answers to all objections, the simplest explanation (i.e. that it *is* designed – and natural selection is one mechanism among many) is a perfectly reasonable position to take! Those who ridicule it are betraying the rational, scientific ideals they claim to be upholding.

Like I say, I’m not an IDer, I’m just a Christian, but I look on the debate with interest.

Hasn’t science disproved God?

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, evangelism, science | 12 Comments

god-scienceI’ve been asked to write brief answers to six thorny questions:

Hasn’t science disproved God?

Is God homophobic?

Why does God appear so violent in the Old Testament?

Are the gospel accounts trustworthy?

Why isn’t God more obvious?

Why has the Church caused so much pain?

I’ve got to keep it under 600 words. I’d love if you could help. What have I missed? What have I got wrong?


Hasn’t science disproved God?

Thinking God’s Thoughts

When Johannes Kepler discovered the laws of planetary motion in the early 17th century he did not lose his strong Christian faith. Instead he spoke of the wonderful privilege of “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” That’s been the mind-set of so many giants in the history of science: Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Faraday and, in our own day, Christians like Francis Collins, leader of the Human Genome Project. They have not imagined “a God of the gaps” who was ever shrinking as their science progressed. They have believed in “the God of the whole” whose thoughts they were thinking after Him!

Faith and Foundations

Einstein said, “The fact that the universe is comprehensible is the greatest miracle.” Science depends entirely upon this “miracle”. We need our minds ‘in here’ to correspond to the world ‘out there’ and for both of those to correspond to dependable laws of nature ‘up above.’ The fact that this triangle lines up so perfectly is astonishing. But Christians should not be surprised. Jesus, our Maker, sustains the universe (Hebrews 1:3) and at the same time has entered our world and assumed our humanity (John 1:14). He is the One who unites the laws ‘up above’, the world ‘out there’ and our minds ‘in here’. Faith, therefore, does not undermine science. Faith in Christ is the strongest possible foundation for scientific enquiry.

Mechanism and Maker

Science is wonderful at discovering mechanisms in nature. But understanding a mechanism does not rule out a Maker! If you explain the inner workings of a new contraption, I don’t say “Wonderful, now we can do without the inventor.” Instead I say “So that’s how they did it. Ingenius!” Same with science and God. We love to find out more of the mechanisms, but this should make us exalt our Maker, not exclude Him!

Pragmatics and Purpose

Professor of Mathematics, John Lennox often asks people to imagine a cake baked by Aunt Mildred. The cake is passed around various scientific departments. They discover 1001 facts about the cake’s nutritional content, it’s chemical and physical properties, they reverse engineer the recipe and replicate its tasty goodness. Wonderful! But can any of the scientists tell you why the cake was baked? No. For that you’d have to ask Aunt Mildred. Science is wonderful at answering the pragmatic questions: what? and how? It is simply not in a position to answer questions of purpose: why?

Evolution and Creation

Christians take different views on the question of evolution but some things we all agree on. Every creationist believes that natural selection happens – after all, from a single pair of cats on the ark we now have tabbies and tigers. At the same time no Christian evolutionist thinks natural selection explains everything about life. So we can all agree that natural selection happens while questioning its ability to explain the whole show.

For the sake of argument though, let’s imagine that random mutations and natural selection account for all the varieties of life on planet earth. This only explains the origin of the species. That’s as far as Darwin can take you. He cannot explain the origin of life itself (he must assume the origin of life). He cannot tell you the origin of the cosmos. And he cannot tell you the origin of consciousness. Those three origins questions are far more pressing, yet natural selection is no help for any of them. Science simply does not have a credible mechanism for explaining these deep issues. And even if it did, the mechanism would not disprove the Maker.

Podcast: Atheism – the final episode

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, atheism, evangelism, podcast, science | 5 Comments

TEP-PodcastCover-1024x1024In previous episodes we have thought about:

1. Introduction. Six kinds of atheism

2. Six things that atheists get right

3. Six things that atheists miss

In this final episode on atheism we tie up some loose ends. In particular we address six hot topics in engaging with atheism:

  • Don’t believers just believe in ‘fairies at the bottom of the garden’?
  • Who made God?
  • Don’t miracles break the laws of nature?
  • Doesn’t science rule out God?
  • What about Evolution?
  • Surely Christians reason in a circle?



Podcast: Science

Posted on by glenscriv in apologetics, evangelism, podcast, science | 1 Comment

TEP-PodcastCover-1024x1024Brian Cox wants the Large Hadron Collider to show him ‘the face of the cosmos’. But if that’s what you want, there’s a much better scientific method…

Episode 9 of The Evangelist’s Podcast: Science



A VIDEO of a science talk from last year:


Are you sitting comfortably? Then Let’s Do Science

Posted on by glenscriv in apologetics, atheism, science | 2 Comments

Test patternOk boys and girls, today we’re going to do science. I know, I’m very excited too. If you want to join in at home here’s what you will need:

  • One rationally comprehensible universe.

Not just any universe. You’ll need to be particular here. It must be a rationally comprehensible, rationally ordered cosmos.  Not a chaos, a cosmos, I must insist on this point.

Next, you’ll need

  • One consistent set of discoverable laws.

Some of the boys and girls will claim that you don’t need the laws yet – science will produce them for you later. But that’s just silly, isn’t it children? You might not know the laws yet but you need there to be laws. And you need to trust that they’re out there and that you have ways of approaching them.

Thirdly, you’ll need

  • At least one rational scientist.

This one ought to go without saying, but you’d be surprised how often it gets left out of the ingredients list!

And finally – this is the one you were all waiting for…

  • A scientific method by which to proceed.

Now if you’ve been following us for a while, the good news is you’ll have a scientific method left over from yesterday’s activities. If you haven’t already got a scientific method, please don’t just “borrow” one from the other children. That really isn’t fair.  You should go back to the original episodes and build it up from first principles. A scientific method is made from very expensive ingredients, and if you haven’t bought them yourself, then using someone else’s method is stealing.


So there you have it – the four ingredients you need to do science. Now before you all complain… before you all complain – yes I know… I know that none of you can afford the ingredients.  I’m sorry about that, but that’s the way it is.  When we’re dealing with such valuable things, there’s no way around it.

All I can say to you is this: If you want to do science – and I sincerely hope that you do – you can’t take shortcuts, you must have these ingredients. If you don’t have them – and you don’t – then you’ll have to ask Mum or Dad.

Religion ‘hijacking’ the word… and the world [repost]

Posted on by glenscriv in atheism, bible, culture, Dawkins, science, theological method | 11 Comments

Below you can watch Richard Dawkins speaking in advance of the 2011 KJV celebrations. He makes the case for being steeped ‘to some extent’ in the King James Bible.  If we don’t know the KJV we are ‘in some small way barbarian.’  But he ends by saying:

it is important that religion should not be allowed to hijack this cultural resource.


Notch it up as another Dickie Dawkins classic.  But before we laugh and point, let’s make sure there aren’t three fingers pointing back.

You see, because he’s talking about the bible the stupidity of his position is obvious.  Of course it’s ridiculous to view the bible as first a cultural resource that religion then hijacks.  Any fool knows that the bible is originally, purposefully and most meaningfully a religious text (or if you don’t like ‘religious’, say ‘spiritual’ or ‘theological’ or even ‘Christian’).  It is evident (but not to Dawkins) that the essence of the bible is appreciated only when it’s treated according to its true theological nature.  And that to read it through atheistic lenses is the real hijacking.

But Dawkins’ inability to appreciate the bible according to its true nature is only one more example of his inability to appreciate the world according to its true nature.  The whole atheistic project follows exactly the same line.  It says that everything is most ultimately a physical, chemical, biological, historical or cultural artefact, let’s not allow ‘religion’ to hijack it.  But to pretend you are honouring the world by treating it non-theologically is just as ridiculous as pretending to honour the Word by treating it non-theologically.

The only reason we don’t see its foolishness is because we have, to some extent, bought the double-decker atheistic approach.  When it comes to the world around us we pretty much assume along with the atheists that there are brute facts that are perfectly understood in non-theological terms and that we then work with this raw data to make our theological (or atheistical) pronouncements.  And even if we do dare to wear some theological lenses to view the world, we have a slight guilty feeling that maybe we are hijacking a properly non-theological reality.

But no.  You’ve got to begin by treating the Word theologically.  And you’ve got to begin by treating the world theologically.  And it’s best you do so in that order.

It’s those who fail to see the world according to its essentially theological character who hijack it.


Rimons twitter widget by Rimon Habib