originally posted at Inside Shalom
Science vs faith? Or Telos vs Causality?
Lesslie Newbigin sums up the Enlightenment as the birth place of the Western Culture as we now know it. It was a movement that was also an entire culture’s “conversion experience”*. Among the many paradigm shifts that we see during and since is that of a scientific one.
The thinkers of this age had come to conclusions that the old “explanatory framework”* in science and reality, what the Greeks called, telos, or purpose, was to be replaced by another. The “real world disclosed by the work of science was one governed…by natural laws of cause and effect”*. So purpose was stripped from science, math and really all of reality. The idea of a Creator or God was relegated to the private realm of an individual’s “religious experience” and had no actual say or part in the true explanation or running of things in reality.
Causality is not only the premise adopted by scientists over the past centuries, but it is seen in the politics of Francis Bacon, the historical theory of Progress supported by the epistemology of John Stuart Mills and sociologist, Herbert Spencer. It is a challenge indeed to find an ideology, or aspect of our society that has not accepted the premise of Causality and Progress as the foundations upon which to build ethics, politics, educational systems, and of course, science.
Recently the physicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, has been getting a lot of attention. This is due to the success of his Television series, ‘Cosmos’ as well as his very vocal objections to “religion having any say” in “his science classroom”. My case is that his thinking, and this thinking is the common one amongst most, is based on the Enlightenment premise that Cause and Effect, not Telos, is the explanatory framework through which reality is understood. According to the thinking of the Enlightenment, any science that does not work from Cause and Effect, is invalid.
My purpose is not to argue against this but rather demonstrate what I believe is the real problem, one of antithetical presuppositions. Abraham Kuyper during his Stone Lectures at Princeton in 1898, laid out one the most poignant and precise observations during his talk on Calvinism and science. He says that the there is never a problem between faith and science, Science always presupposes faith:
“… [F]aith in self, in our self-consciousness; presupposes faith in the accurate working of our senses; presupposes faith in the correctness of the laws of thought; presupposes faith in something universal hidden behind special phenomena; presupposes faith in life.”
The real issue is that Science is something that comes through our observations. These observations are being made by two very different types of people, the believer (Theist) and the un-believer (Atheist). The believer has a presupposition that God created the world and therefore will interpret the data through that paradigm. The unbeliever will interpret the same data through their presupposition that there cannot be a God. According to Kuyper, there are two sciences competing with each other.
Is a science that presupposes the existence of God a valid one? This can be answered in a couple ways depending on how the question is understood for it can be demonstrated that even the most avid atheist cannot escape a deep down theistic presupposition. But the answer on a surface level is also, yes, of course it is.
If science is a method of investigating evidence through observing and testing data, then the one who affirms causation cannot claim exclusive rights to the term “scientist”. He is merely a scientist who interprets his data and evidence through his worldview, he sees the world through atheist colored glasses. The theist uses the same method yet his data and evidence is seen through his worldview, God colored specs.
One more thing that I would like to challenge Tyson and the Atheist on: His call for religion to stay in the Church and out of the science classroom is usually argued from a radical and inconsistent interpretation of Separation of Church and State. How does separation of Church and State mean that it is possible to not be a theist in the science classroom? Why is it that they have exclusive rights to teach their science but the theist is not allowed to teach theirs? One cannot demonstrate that a certain science is more valid, yet it is assumed that the one affirming causality is, therefore telos is relegated with religion as something only for “private religious experience”.
Tyson and others need to be consistent. Their Atheism is a worldview that speaks about all of life, it is not something that can be turned off or kept away during “science” or baseball. An Atheist is an atheist always and in every situation. The same is true for the Theist. The Theist is a theist when testing their hypotheses in the lab, or while brushing their teeth before bed. A worldview is all encompassing and holistic.
Church and State are separate for the purpose of freedom of religion and to keep the State from controlling and influencing religion. It is in our Constitution due to the debacle our forefathers saw with the State Church of England. It has nothing to do with the ideas and views one has regarding science.
So Tyson’s claim of “my science classroom” is false. The science classroom belongs to all who are in it, both atheist and theist alike. The issue is not one of science vs. faith, but an issue of what premise one has from which they observe and test the data?
Quotes are from Newbigin’s “Foolishness to the Greeks“