The Anthropic Principle as a Humanist God of the Gaps

Lee Smolin makes an interesting observation about String Theorists in “The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science and What Comes Next”. He states, “The scenario of many unobserved universes plays the same logical role as the scenario of an intelligent designer. Each provides an untestable hypothesis that, if true, makes something improbable seem quite probable.” In other words, physicists that invoke the anthropic principle to explain our existence, by way of multiverse speculations, are exercising no less faith than Christians who invoke theocentric arguments.

 

 

How complete is Biblical cosmology?

Can we understand the structure of the universe simply from reading scripture? I would say, no, scripture leaves this question wide open.

Exploring these issues in Cosmology and New Testament Theology, Jonathan Pennington observes, “Old Testament writers are not really interested in cosmology for its own sake; one might say that the kind of cosmological reflection we find in the Old Testament is more theological cosmology.” In other words, the Prophets were profoundly interested in the significance of life, the universe and everything, but took the structure of it more or less for granted.

From surveying the New Testament as a whole Pennington concludes that, “There is, then, no discernible, fixed background against which the NT sets forth theories about the physical universe. Instead, the texts appear to draw upon a variety of resources and images to articulate fundamentally theological points. If we focus on the theological orientations of the text, real growth in understanding can be made. If the authors are loath to tell us what they think of the precession of the equinoxes, or the number of primal elements, they are not at all shy about setting their theological concerns on the canvas of the cosmos.”

Therefore, before reading Genesis 1, or indeed John 1, from our side of twenty first century science, we should observe what the Prophets intended to elaborate on and what they did not.

Raptor Jesus and the Flying Spaghetti Monster

flying-spaghetti-monster-jesusThis image combines two popular Atheist memes which are aimed at Christians in general and six day creationists in particular: the Flying Spaghetti Monster, their counter to the idea of a Creator God, and Raptor Jesus, an in your face reference to evolution, extinction and aggressive proselytising.

I take such parodying as an expression of anger, pain and distain delivered with rather broad brush strokes.

But here is a question: have you ever observed that Atheist art is so much more emotionally engaging when it is being anti-Christian than when it is being pro-Atheist? Their path is rather dry when it shifts away from protest. I doubt Atheism would get nearly so much media attention if Christians and Muslims around the world behaved more respectfully towards one another … and others … especially scientists.

I doubt that would stop Atheists protesting about Christianity. But if they must protest, let us make sure Atheists are protesting about the right things – the foolishness of the gospel – and not the wrong things – the foolishness of pseudo-science and moral hypocrisy – by actually keeping the main thing, the main thing in our conversations. I would count it a success if I saw Atheists actually mocking the gospel for a change.

If you have a problem with the Bible being used as a science textbook, that’s okay

The truth is the Bible was never written as a science textbook. Science textbooks did not emerge as a literary genre until science emerged in the seventeenth and eighteen centuries. The books of the bible were all written by the end of the first century. To treat the Bible as a science textbook is anachronistic.

However, to treat the Bible as works of fantasy fiction is equally anachronistic. The letters of Paul were just that, letters, letters of encouragement and correction to communities he was involved with. The gospels, while they unapologetically push a theological interpretation of history, are nevertheless concerned with events in history. Properly they belong within the genre of testimony. Even the book of Revelation, for all its fantastic imagery, is no mere fiction. As a genre, apocalypses used symbolic imagery to talk about religio-political events. Kind of like the way political comics do today.

It is not science, but it is not make believe either.

Last Supper of the Scientists

last-supper-of-the-scientists
Last Supper of the Scientists

This reimagining of the last supper features Galileo, Curie, Oppenheimer, Newton, Pasteur, Hawking, Einstein, Sagan, Edison, Aristotle, Tyson, Dawkins, Darwin. Seems like an Atheist’s religious dream, except Einstein was no Atheist. Now, was that an oops?

 

5 science questions that are actually interesting

Most conversations about Christianity and Science bore me. Not because I am uninterested in Christianity. Not because I am uninterested in science. Not because I am uninterested in the interactions between the two. But because the conversations seem to revolve around the same stale question – did we or did we not evolve?

Personally I would like to see the Christianity and Science conversation evolve beyond this. I would like to see more attention to other questions. Questions like this:

1/ Artificial Intelligence. What questions does artificial intelligence research raise about what it means to be human?

2/ Quantum Cosmology. Can a multiworlds interpretation of quantum mechanics be reconciled with a Christian worldview?

3/ Genetic Engineering. If scientists ever create a human-animal chimera, will it have a soul? What is a soul anyway?

4/ Entropy and Time. What do we, as Christians, have to say about entropy? Can we speak of a new heavens and new earth without entropy?

5/ Scientific Neutrality. Are scientific theories ideologically neutral, or might monotheistic, pantheistic and polytheistic bias go deeper than we think?

Christianity and Science: Damned Either Way?

In “Humble Apologetics”, John Stackhouse highlights some curious inconsistencies with how Christianity is viewed in popular consciousness:

Another sort of widespread belief regarding other religions is particularly ironic in the light of the supposed opposition of science and Christianity. Those of our neighbours who are in fact disaffected with science, technology and modern life in general – and their numbers are growing – often include Christianity in that contemptible package. Western civilization, so the story goes … has brought us sexism, racism, environmental degradation, imperialism, and a huge gap between the rich and the poor. Christianity has enabled these disasters with its domineering God, its licence to exploit nature, its privileging of males, its motifs of God’s chosen people rising above all other nations. Because Christianity has been part of this destructive complex, it should be set aside in favour of religions that have kinder gods, or none; religions that cooperate with nature, or at least ignore it; religions that make no gender distinction, or perhaps even privilege women; and religions that no longer elevate one nation over another. Thus Christianity is not condemned as the enemy of “good” modernity but is implicated as a conspirator in “bad” modernity.

I am indebted to Stackhouse for pointing this out, because in the past I had this happen to me on a number of occasions without realising what was going on. The typical scenario: person with grip against Christianity starts castigating it for its Dark Age mentality and opposition towards science … but by the end of the conversation is castigating it as responsible for all the evils of science. The shift is sometimes hard to pick when you’re in the middle of such conversations, but lay it out like this and self contradiction becomes absurdly apparent. Ever experienced this yourself?