Friday, April 06, 2012

Read Along: Ch2—Are Science and Christianity at Odds?

Today we continue with Chapter Two in the Read Along with Apologetics 315 project. This is a chapter-by-chapter study through the book Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow. (Hear an interview about the book here.) Below you will find an audio intro for Chapter Two, a brief summary of the chapter, a PDF workbook with questions for the chapter, and some notable quotes. You're also encouraged to share your comments and feedback for each chapter in the comment section below. Feel free to interact!

[Audio Intro] - Jonathan Morrow introduces this chapter.
[Chapter 02 Study Questions] (with kindle locations) - PDF study guide.
[Podcast Feed RSS | Podcast in iTunes] - Click to subscribe to the audio.

Chapter Two: Are Science and Christianity at Odds?
(pages 32-43)

Chapter two addresses the claim that Christianity is opposed to or in conflict with science. In answer to this, the authors point out the positive influence of Christianity on science, along with a number of pioneers of modern science who were theists. They describe the supposed persecution of Galileo and correct some of the modern myths that seem to be propagated about the Galileo episode. Furthermore, McDowell and Morrow point out that Christianity actually provides the proper philosophical foundation and motivation for doing science, whereas naturalism is fundamentally at odds with the scientific endeavor.

Apologist John Warwick Montgomery contributes an essay entitled "Faith Founded on Fact." He argues that the finitude of the universe, its beginning, and its fine-tuning point to a creator.

Notable quotes:
Although it is widely believed that science and Christianity are at odds, the opposite is actually true. There is no inherent conflict between Christianity and science. We don't mean to suggest that religious antagonism to science has never existed. It has and does. But the history of science shows that such claims of antagonism are often exaggerated or unsubstantiated. (p. 33)  
Defining these two worldviews shows us the root problem: naturalism and theism are at odds, not science and Christianity. Naturalism is intrinsically atheistic because it sees nothing outside the natural or material world(p. 37)
Science depends on the assumption that the world is orderly and that our minds can access this reality. Even the most secular scientists presume that nature operates in a lawlike fashion. This conviction is best explained by the pioneers of the scientific revolution, who believed the cosmos is orderly because it was designed by the rational Creator of the universe who desires for us, as beings made in his image, to understand, enjoy, and explore his creation. (p. 40)
  1. How do you respond the the statement that Christianity is anti-science?
  2. How does naturalism fail to give an adequate foundation for doing science?
  3. Do you think science is helpful or harmful to the case for Christianity?
Recommended Reading
Next Week: Chapter 3—Are Miracles Possible?


Vicki McGrew said...

I'm really enjoying this book. I appreciated all the background info on Galileo's story. I hadn't been aware of all the details.

I think the most compelling argument in this chapter is that naturalism does not provide a foundation for trusting human reason. I love the C.S. Lewis quote, "If the value of reasoning is in doubt, you cannot try to establish it by reasoning."

Hausdorff said...

I agree that it is an interesting idea. You can't use human reasoning to prove that human reasoning is valid. It's a really neat puzzle, a puzzle with no possible answer. For any answer you could possible come up with uses that same human reasoning which, by this argument, is fundamentally flawed.

So when it is claimed that Christianity gets around the problem, I would ask how you know that. You used the same fundamentally flawed human reasoning to come to that conclusion, this is just as flawed as everything else.

Can someone explain what I am missing?

Brian said...

On the atheistic view, reason is the result of random processes, so we have no way to trust they are reliable; evolution selects for survival, not truth.

On the Christian view, reason is the result of God's creation, so we have a way to trust that God have given us reliable senses and reasoning abilities.

One view provides a way to trust our reason, but the other does not.

Hausdorff said...

But that only works if you start with the assumption that you are correct. The alternate view is being punished by admitting that it might be mistaken

Brian said...

You could state it like this:

IF Christianity is true, then we have grounds to trust our reasoning abilities to bring us to true conclusions.

IF atheism is true, we have no grounds to trust our reasoning abilities to bring us to true conclusions.

You don't have to know which view is true, only that these hypothetical statements are true. No view is "being punished"—it's just exactly what each view gives you if it is true.

Hausdorff said...

I see what you are saying. I guess on the same token I would argue that most atheists would also start with the assumption that the world is generally consistent and logical. Under some kind of repeatability assumptions an atheist does seem able to trust our reasoning.

It is probably obvious that I am a little out of my element as terminology goes, but does it at least make sense what I am trying to say?

Brian said...

Yeah, I think that I follow what you are saying.

I think either way, in order to do science, we must assume that our senses and reasoning is reliable. I think even if you are an atheist, you can see that it seems like they generally are.

But as for what worldview provides the pre-conditions for being able to trust our reason, Christianity gives us one but atheism doesn't.

And thanks for chiming in—great to have some interaction with the Read-Along; though I might not always have the free moments to respond as I would like.

megc said...

This interchange between Brian and Hausdorff was very helpful to me as it condensed the point of the chapter. Particularly the third box above where Brian starts with "On the atheistic view...." Thanks for that!
Aside from that, I could not quite figure out what the "Why it Matters" section at the end by Montgomery had to do with the chapter topic.

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