Thursday, May 28, 2009

Episode XIII


I'm reading a book right now called "The Reason for God" by Timothy Keller and it's blowing my mind. I have read several chapters more than once. After I read something profound, I have to go try and explain to my Return of the Jedi poster what I just read. After this, I usually go back and try to read it again. After all, hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster.

I'm in a section that Keller discusses the miracles that are proposed by the Bible and I hit something that I found very interesting. Now, I know that regardless of your religious belief, the miracles of the Bible sound more like Return of the Jedi than Dallas Morning News to even some of the most devout Christians. Most would say that Science has or can disprove the plausibility of miracles such as healing, rising from the dead, water parting for a nation to cross a river, etc. But of course, we all thought the world was flat until someone crazy enough to challenge the cultural norms went to the "ends of the earth," only to find that we were all wrong. That scientific discovery started with a belief, not a fact. Interesting.

However, the point isn't to debate the validity of miracles, but of science's authority to write them off. Here's a quote from the book:

"It is one thing to say that science is only equipped to test for natural causes and cannot to speak to any others. It is quite another to insist that science proves that no other causes could possibly exist."

He also says that "...when studying a phenomenon, the scientist must always assume there is a natural cause. That is because natural causes are the only kind its methodology can address."

"There would be no experimental model for testing the statement: 'No supernatural cause for any natural phenomenon is possible.' It is therefore a philosophical presupposition and not a scientific finding."

I believe in miracles. Not because I don't believe in science, but because I believe that by the very nature of miracles being supernatural (i.e. foreign to the natural realm) that science (the testing of the natural realm) cannot presume to test their validity. Yes, we can deduce from our past experience and knowledge, but when something new happens, then something new happens! Just like Columbus.

So all that to say this: Science and Miracles are like apples and oranges in a sense. You can squeeze them for all they are worth, but they will always be full of different sorts of juice.


  1. If a person can believe in a god capable of creating not just our world, but the entire universe, who can govern all of the universe's natural laws, and who can simultaneously hear everyone's thoughts and divvy out help, comfort and judgement accordingly while existing and working out of a 4th dimension, then its not at all difficult to believe that said god is easily capable of suspending his own laws and operating outside of them.

    That being said, when you're claiming that seemingly impossible acts have occurred, I feel like the obligation rests with the supernaturalist to prove it happened, rather than with the naturalist to prove it didn't because the natural laws that we all exists inside obviously dictate that miracles don't happen.

    I was watching a documentary the other day about SETI, the astronomers who look for aliens, and one guy said that 'in science, it only counts if we can reproduce the results.'
    So science may never be able to prove or disprove miracles because miracles, by their very nature, can't be reproduced at will, or at least at our will, apparently.

    But this all begs the question, is the inability to disprove something enough reason to believe in it? After all, to people with enough imagination, almost anything is possible. Technically, we can't disprove that Santa Claus exists either, or that Buddha was born speaking. As far as miracles and science being apples and oranges, I think the metaphor works to some degree but at the same time, if supernatural miracles happen, then they happen in the natural world and fall under the jurisdiction of science, so to speak. Just like Columbus, just because we can't prove or disprove something now, doesn't mean that that will always be the case.

  2. looks like i have been deleted...thats a sad state of affairs.

  3. You have. No matter the point, I won't allow language like that on my blog. Four letter words are for those who aren't smart enough to deliver their point with words containing more letters.

  4. no worries. your space to see fit what you will. I however disagree with your assertion of knowledge in terms of language (though they were quoted and not my own). But I suppose that is a subject for another day.

  5. I count 8 words with only four letters in your comment, big brother;-) (have, won't, like, that, blog, four, with, more)

    Surely the fact that Cameron is a person who is exceedingly talented in the area of "profanity" shouldn't be held against him. However, a lesson that I've learned, yet continue to ignore, is that using "profanity" gives some people an excuse not to listen to what you're saying, no matter how eloquent the sentiment might be.

  6. I think that people use science as an excuse not to conform to an age-old belief system. Conformity has never been the strong suit of the human nature. On the other hand, arrogance and ego-centrism are. Probably because some people thousands of years ago decided that that believe system didn’t work for them, since it didn’t provide them with all of their wishes and desires.

    It is easy to banter about the truth or validity of miracles. My question is, who is to say that science is not a miracle in and of itself? The Being that created us provided us with the very intellect it has taken over history to determine what have become the laws of physics and all the derivatives thereof. The reason for this is most likely that we can sustain life here on earth. We should be cautious not to become so arrogant that we allow intellect to overtake spirituality. This supposes, however, that one does believe in a “Creator” and we didn’t evolve from sludge.

    A miracle is not meant to be proven. Otherwise it would not be a miracle. So it's a moot point. Believing, however, is a choice. The issue here is to determine upon what you are going to base your decision - the feeble minds of men, who have been repeatedly disproved? I certainly don't. That would be foolish.

    Maybe for some it is too scary to yield to a more powerful being. It's intimidating to think that our actions cause reactions, and they may not be pretty. The Bible never promised we Christians would be perfect - we're still humans. It never promised that our "walk" would be easy. In fact, it promised otherwise. We were prepared for it by the Scriptures! It would be too easy to believe in something that always pampered our desires, never chastised us for wrong-doing, or never subjected us to the injustice that is this world. What would that teach us? What would we earn for "persevering" though that? And that would be much less fulfilling. Just like a body can’t live on only chocolate cake, we would never grow as individuals if we experienced nothing but good things with nice, tidy explanations. HOW BORING.

    Good things happen. Bad things happen. Bad things happen to good people. But guess what, good things happen to bad people. Injustice goes both ways. Life ain't fair. Improbable things happen without "scientific" explanation. Get over it and stop indulging your minds with what can be explained and embrace the exploration of what cannot.

  7. I'm not even really sure where to start with a response to that Lindsey. I guess I'll start by saying that that was one of the most condescendingly arrogant and convoluted things I've read in quite some time. I'm, honestly, pretty unclear about what point you're trying to make, though if I had to guess I would say its that science and reason are for stupid, weak and arrogant people, whereas religion and unquestioning faith are for the exceptionally noble, brave, and adequately intellectual.

    Paragraph 1: Does the fact that a belief system is "age old" validate it as truth? If age is a category you judge your religions by, then Christianity isn't even close to being the "best." And who are these people 1000 years ago who decided it didn't work for them?

    Paragraph 2: I would agree that science and everyday life are full of things that a person could consider miracles, assuming that person lives with a sense of wonder about the world and not of cynicism. However, the miracles that I think you're talking about are things that are impossible becoming possible.
    "We should be cautious not to become so arrogant that we allow intellect to overtake spirituality. This supposes, however, that one does believe in a “Creator” and we didn’t evolve from sludge."
    But why is spirituality or faith good? I guess you look at people who question it as arrogant, but we look at people who don't question it and see it as naive. I don't suppose that belief in a creator and belief in the proven theory of evolution have to be mutually exclusive, though most scientists disagree.

    Paragraph 3: Yes, the issue does come down to what you base your belief on because miracles can't be proven. Although, Christianity is based on the "feeble minds of men" just as much as science is, only for Christianity, the men who wrote your playbook didn't know what a star was, made ritualistic blood sacrifices, waged wars on innocent peoples, were racists, were sexists who saw women as property of men, gave up their daughters to be raped by mobs, were slavers and slave owners, and the list goes on and on, all done because your god willed it, of course. All the scientists try to do is figure out how stuff works. Why be so hostile towards them? Its not their fault that whoever wrote Genesis was either writing in metaphor or had no clue whatsoever about what he was writing. I'm not sure you should be calling them foolish as they have reasons to believe the things they believe and your choosing to have faith in things you can't prove and have no evidence of because....I don't know why?

  8. Paragraphs 4 & 5:
    "Maybe for some it is too scary to yield to a more powerful being."
    Perhaps, but I think its scarier still for some to face the possibility that there isn't a "more powerful being," or maybe it isn't the one they wanted, or maybe it isn't one that matters or one that promises us any reward for our good behavior, which is what I think is most probable. You talk a lot about "arrogance." Have you ever wondered if its only our arrogance that has convinced us that we're so important that god guarantees our immortality?
    The rest of your post doesn't seem very Christian in nature, to me, because I think its more typically Christian to act as if everything happens for some higher reason. But I agree with you, if I'm understanding you correctly. Good things happen and bad things happen just as often to both good and bad people. Its not terribly profound but it is the nature of the world, though I'm confused about what it has to do with the rest of the post.
    "Improbable things happen without "scientific" explanation."
    No, they don't. If something is improbable then its still possible and has an explanation even if the event was unlikely. That's not even science, its just logic. Maybe what you meant to say is "impossible things happen without scientific explanation." To which I would ask, "like what? What have you seen, or heard or felt, that was 100% impossible but god made an exception for you?" I'm going to guess, "nothing."
    " Get over it and stop indulging your minds with what can be explained and embrace the exploration of what cannot."
    What does that even mean? Stop learning? How does religion explore what cannot be explained? I think you may have science and religion confused. Religion is the one that takes what it can't explain and postulates an answer, most often one that protects and glorifies one people above all others, science is the one that is exploring the unexplained. And why do we need to get over it? I don't follow your logic. If you'd like to continue the discussion, you can email me because I doubt Seth wants this all on his blog.