Can Science and Faith Co-Exist? Video and Excerpt from The Veritas Forum | The BioLogos Forum


(system) #1
Can Science and Faith Co-Exist? Video and Excerpt from The Veritas Forum Note: I stumbled across this video a couple of months ago, and I was captivated by the civility of this conversation, and the counter-cultural perspectives of both of these scholars. The video features a conversation hosted by The Veritas Forum between Princeton philosopher Hans Halvorson (a Christian) and NYU professor Matthew Stanley (an atheist). It's amazing how different the scholarly conversation is from the popular media narrative when it comes to faith and science. For those who wanted to engage the intersection of faith and science at a deeper level, I strongly recommend viewing the whole video. A short transcripted excerpt of Dr. Halvorson's remarks appear below, which gives a taste of what to expect in the full video. -BK Excerpt of remarks by Halvorson: "Among religious believers who have some views on philosophy of science, I have a minority view maybe about this. Let me say it in a simple way first and then nuance it a little bit. I think—this is going to sound paradoxical at first, then I’ll explain—I think naturalism in science is a religious way of doing science, in fact is a Christian way of doing science. Now I’ll dissolve this paradox for you because what in the world could I mean by that? First of all, I’m just following here in the footsteps of the early Christian scientists, so late middle ages, who said, “Look, God created the universe, God could have created the universe however he wanted to and so how can we know about the universe? Well, the only thing we can do is go out and do experiments and look. And that’s the only way we can figure out what the universe is like.” Notice that that actually is what we now call naturalism, the idea of de-personifying nature, taking the spirits, the gods, out of physical reality and saying there is a creator that lives outside of this that made it, but let’s just study that thing, that thing that depends on the creator. Nowadays, people forget what the original philosophical foundation was for this maneuver. We now call it “naturalism.” The funny thing is what it originally should have been called is a creationism-type view, the idea that this is a creation, what we’re looking at. I actually think all the great stuff that’s happening in science these days, with the way it’s naturalistic, owes to its religious heritage. Now the fact that it can keep on going without people being aware of that, well it’s a bit sad, I think. But I actually don’t think that there is, in a philosophically coherent way, a naturalist foundation for science. I think there’s just this view of physical reality as being de-personified. And I think that view originally came from a religious origin." Note: Video and excerpt are published with permission from The Veritas Forum and Hans Halvorson. Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team. Brad Kramer is the BioLogos content editor. He completed his M.Div. at Biblical Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and earned a BS in politics, philosophy, and economics from The King’s College in New York City. His articles have appeared in The Daily Beast, Patrol, and OnFaith.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blog/can-science-and-faith-co-exist-video-and-excerpt-from-the-veritas-forum

#3

@Hans Halvorson,

I’ve only read the excerpt, but I agree with it completely. The problem is that God may occasionally choose to intervene and create something new (e.g., life, phyla, human beings), which would be different from what He has created up to that point in time. If theistic scientists insist that God couldn’t have done it this way, then they will never be able to see that He probably did do it that way. And that seems to be the boat that BioLogos is in. Though they claim that they aren’t handcuffing God, they really are.


(Brad Kramer) #5

Since Dr. Halvorson is not the “author” of this post, I cannot guarantee that he will see or respond to any comments. However, you are free to discuss his ideas or anything pertaining to this video.


(James Stump) #6

@Bilbo What boat are you referring to that you take BioLogos to be in? I don’t know anyone associated with the BL community who would disagree with the statement that God could have created any way he chose to, so we have to actually go out into the world and look to see what the evidence says. And Statement #6 of our “What we believe” speaks directly to your concern about miracles: “We believe that God typically sustains the world using faithful, consistent processes that humans describe as “natural laws.” Yet we also affirm that God works outside of natural law in supernatural events, including the miracles described in Scripture. In both natural and supernatural ways, God continues to be directly involved in creation and in human history”


(Mervin Bitikofer) #7

That was a great example of an informative exchange. I would call it civil, except that I got the sense they never suffered any temptation to be otherwise. The “atheist” to his credit (was he even an atheist? --it was difficult to identify him as such --certainly not any of the militant variety) was a picture of open mindedness and indeed had more to say about Buddhism than about atheism, much less anti-theism; he came across as more agnostic though even that I think is only my inference.

They spent nearly all their time agreeing and none of their time trying to take each other to task. Not that I’m complaining about that, mind you, but I’m just channeling the anti-theists I know of, who would be squirming in their chairs at various points, wanting to chase down some of the loose ends. This must all be a real head-scratcher for those who can’t imagine that people of different religions agree on much anything.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #8

I quite agree it was a very interesting discussion. I would say that Matthew Stanley did not portray himself as an atheist, but as a Buddhist, which is a very different thing. In fact it should have been the basis of the conversation, How does Buddhism see reality differently from a Christian?

The issue that caught my eye was the one that Brad highlighted. Hans said that “naturalism” is Christian. First I would agree that the experimental method, which was the basis of modern science is Christian. Christianity is based on experience and facts, not speculation.

However “naturalism” has become defined as meaning that the universe is composed solely of matter/energy which results in the belief that reality is irrational and without meaning and purpose, which is false. The ultimate conclusion of this thinking is that life is based on random events and conflict which is the basis of Darwinian evolution, which is also false.

Christians believe that the world is not divine as many pagans did, but that the world was created by the Father through the Son/Logos and Spirit of Love. Thus we cannot separate these relational aspects from our understanding of reality. We do not believe in a dog eat dog reality of Darwin, but in a reality where cooperation and consideration win out.

Matthew Stanley spoke of relationships, but Hans did not, even though Love is at the center of our faith. This relational view of reality does present a basis to criticize our faith and science. Does might make right or does right make might? Do we live in an irrational world of chaos and conflict or a rational world of harmony?


(Brad Kramer) #9

Roger, thank you so much for that correction. Although atheism and Buddhism have some things in common, calling Stanley an atheist is probably not accurate. I have changed the text to reflect this.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #10

Brad,

let me show you something else that came up in the video. In the full video which you so kindly referenced, Halvorson said quite rightly that God does not appear in a mathematical model. But the reason for this is because God in a sense is the model.

Allow me to explain. God for Christians is the Trinity, or to put it in different words, unity in diversity. In the equation, E = mc squared, you have diversity; E and mc squared, and you have unity in =. Thus you have unity in diversity which gives meaning to our understanding of the world, because the universe is unity in diversity, humans are unity in diversity, created by the Trinitarian God Who is Unity in Diversity.

God is not the universe as pantheists and panentheists claim, but God gives form and content to the universe as Christians claim. The problem Halvorson has is that he does not see God as Trinity, but as Being.


(Merv Bitikofer) #11

I wasn’t concluding that Matthew Stanley wasn’t an atheist either --only that he didn’t make any issue of it in this particular exchange. I don’t think there is anything inconsistent about a Buddhist being an atheist. And the parts of Buddhism which might be considered outside the domain of science that involve rebirth or spiritual experiences were not being promoted by Dr. Stanley, so I doubt atheists would have any problems with anything he said, other than being too friendly and open-minded about other religious experiences.


#12

I found the interesting concept to be whether naturalism is Christian or not. Nature was created by God, and if he established general natural laws, then it makes sense to discover those laws and principles in nature. We discover those laws on the basis that God is a God of order and understanding, not random unprincipled events. As Christians we sometimes have difficulty in distinguishing the difference between “the sinful nature” or the “old nature” and what is “natural”, and then, what is the “new nature”. Perhaps because of that, we are not naturalists. In addition, christians are not materialists, because we know there is something beyond the material universe. So while in general we follow material and natural ways of discovering creation, we also know that God is greater than creation, and that he has shown that in various ways. For that reason, we believe scripture shows us that God trumps nature… this means that scripture is our guide to understanding nature. Nature also helps us to understand scripture… we would have a hard time understanding some of the parables if we did not understand some things about nature.

The tension between nature and God is found in our understanding of it. It seems that this tension is also a way of discovering more about nature. At the moment, the cause celebre is evolution. But YEC scientists and OEC scientists challenge the assumptions and the data and the interpretation of the data, which forces evolutionists to sharpen their swords and their evidence and their thinking. But it also works the other way around, where YEC are forced to study and learn in order to deal with the challenges posed by evolutionists. So ironically, almost everyone learns something more about creation. Almost everyone is confronted by the unknowableness, their own inadequacy, their grand mistakes.

How it will resolve in the years to come, or as we meet our Lord, is unknown, but without the struggle, it might seem that we have more of an opportunity to ignore God altogether, while in this struggle, we are forced to come to grips with God.


(David Hume (nom de plume)) #13

To all: note that there is a somewhat large and growing Secular Buddhist movement, in which atheists like me adopt Buddhist practices and insight.

To johnz:

YEC scientists and OEC scientists challenge the assumptions and the data and the interpretation of the data, which forces evolutionists to sharpen their swords and their evidence and their thinking.

I know many scientists who have been induced by creationism to work harder at clear explication of evolution and geology when communicating with the lay public. In fact, I and many others worry that scientists don’t do enough of this—we need more clear and patient interactions with non-scientists, addressing the data but also the assumptions and interpretations that underlie evolutionary biology. But I think it is incorrect to claim that YEC or OEC has any influence on how scientists theorise or analyse evidence. There just isn’t a significant amount of credible contribution by creationists to discussions about assumptions or interpretation of data. Creationists induce scientists to think about how to better explain the basics. That’s all.


#14

Interesting, android. Scientists only need to better explain, that’s all, according to you. Well yes, sometimes they need to explain better. This is true for both evolutionists and creationists who are scientists. But that’s also true for bankers, investors, preachers, teachers, etc. This is a diversion or sidetrack to the fact that by addressing scientific problems of evolution, YEC and OEC scientists confront the data, and the interpretation. They do not require a better explanation as if the language used is too complicated, but rather require an answer for the contradictory evidence, or for the non-evidence. If the problems with evolution do not lead to a revision of the theory or to a new way of examining evidence, then it is possible that creationists might have to explain the problems in simpler terms to the evolutionists. Evolutionists working in geology for example have created a sort of false law that a lack of fossils in a particular layer of sediment generally means that animals that might leave fossils in the past were not in existence at the time the layer was laid down. We know from scientific evidence that this is false. Yet evolutionists persist in using this false law in their interpolations.

An example of dialogue of a sort between YEC and OEE takes place, is where Michael Oard pointed out difficulties with estimating annual layers for ice cores, and then Heely responded to each of the concerns, and then (2004) where Oard refuted many of Heely’s statements. This was not a matter of simply dialectics or using understandable words. It was a matter of confronting the facts, the options, the possibilities, and providing alternative explanations.

When YEC point out from literature where radiometric dates allocated to certain sedimentary layers has been changed due to the desired placement of a particular fossil, this has nothing to do with speaking more clearly, and everything to do with how the actual evidence is analyzed. And while you are right that sometimes the dialogue results in no change in methods or theory, even when it should, it is also clear that the theory itself often determines the value of the evidence and whether it will be accepted within the paradigm of the theory.

When an evolutionary paleontologist finds a jaw bone that looks like a human jawbone, and speculates from this one piece that the entire so-called evolutionary history of man could be revised on the basis of one jaw bone, then we can be assured that this is not science, since the reasoning is not based on scientific evidence at all. But you are right. Most lay-people will not understand why such a conclusion is not science.


(David Hume (nom de plume)) #15

Evolutionists working in geology for example have created a sort of false law that a lack of fossils in a particular layer of sediment generally means that animals that might leave fossils in the past were not in existence at the time the layer was laid down. We know from scientific evidence that this is false. Yet evolutionists persist in using this false law in their interpolations.

This is really misleading, which is to say that it is both inaccurate and inappropriate in a forum emblazoned with ancient quotations about respectful conversation. I can respect odd religious beliefs about earth’s history, but I find it harder to respect this kind of talk about science. To other readers: johnZ would seem to claim that palaeontologists infer absence of a particular lineage merely from a lack of fossils in a rock layer. That is false.

An example of dialogue of a sort between YEC and OEE takes place, is where Michael Oard pointed out difficulties with estimating annual layers for ice cores, and then Heely responded to each of the concerns, and then (2004) where Oard refuted many of Heely’s statements.

I could find no record of the dialogue to which you refer. (I also don’t know what “OEE” is.) But it probably doesn’t matter, since I was critiquing your claim that creationists somehow help scientists to “sharpen their swords and their evidence and their thinking.” A substantive response would refer to a dialogue involving professional scientists in which there was a shift in analysis or theory. A substantive response would most certainly not include examples of creationists’ claims being answered by scientists. If in fact Dr. Oard raised critiques that led to changes in theory or interpretation, no matter how minor, I would be quite interested in seeing them, especially if they were published in the professional literature or discussed at a scientific conference.

*Note: I do not mean to suggest that creationists cannot be scientists, but I am keen to avoid the term ‘evolutionist’ that creationists prefer. So I have simply referred to responses (to creationism) from scientists.


#16

David, our discussion highlights the possibility of inflamed words being used. You could give instances where evolutionists assume and believe that various species were in existence in spite of being absent in the fossil record; that would be valid, and I could do so myself. For example, kangaroo fossils are apparently plentiful in Europe, but not in Australia. Nevertheless, I am sure that evolutionists would not claim that kangaroos did not exist in the intervening time or in the intervening locations, in spite of lack of fossil evidence. This is why I said a “sort of false law”. We know from the fossil record that many ancient fossils represent animals which still exist today, with fossils not present in many intervening sediment layers. So we know they must have been present. What we don’t know is when other species which do not exist today, exactly went extinct. We only know when they were still there, but we don’t know if they were not there. This principle can also be applied to older sediment layers. Just because a species is not fossilized in the early cambrian is not evidence that it did not exist then. The presumption that it did not exist is part of that false law, and yes, is an assumption based on theory. But negative evidence is not real proof, as has been demonstrated. So I reject your accusation of disrespectful talk.

The dialogue between Oard and Heeley is distant and in the third person. In other words, they are not face to face, and not soley addressing each other, but the discussion is written papers, which address each other’s concerns in different ways. www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2003/PSCF12-03Seely.pdf , answersingenesis.org/environmental-science/ice-age/ice-cores-vs-the-flood/ ,

Note: I am keen to avoid using the term scientist as a pseudonym for evolutionist. Scientist is a very broad term, including creation scientists, evolution scientists, physicists, chemists, etc. So the responses given by evolutionary scientists to creation scientists ought not to be framed as a distorted parallel or contrast. It is not lay people who raise the real science based objections to certain evolutionary ideas and interpretations; it is other scientists. If you like to use the term creationism, then you ought to have no objection to the term evolutionism. Or you ought to be consistent and avoid both terms. A number of creation scientists have suggested that much of evolution theory is not science at all, in terms of its stated conclusions. If they are right, then it would be valid to say that scientists are giving scientific responses to evolutionism. Respect ought to consider not using inflammatory terms or hinting at intellectual superiority which is not demonstrably true. Such an unwarranted bias destroys the opportunity for meaningful dialogue.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #17

Merv,

There are several issues here concerning whether Matthew is an atheist or Buddhist.

First is self identification. Stanley said he was a Buddhist, so why not take his word for it. A Buddhist certainly does not believe in God as Christians do, but it is a religion which Matthew indicated in the video.

Second, Buddhism being a religion has a positive morality. An atheist may also be moral, but atheism per se means only non-belief in God. If we think that religion of any kind makes a difference, then we must commend both presenters for their positive attitude, as opposed to the anti- and pro- God rant.

Third, some forms of Buddhism seem to be more of a philosophy as opposed to a religion. This opens the door for a discussion of the relationship of philosophy to religion, which is most important, but usually overlooked.

It also raises the question of how philosophy evolved out of the ancient Indo-European faith in the West, and how Hinduism and Buddhism evolved out of the same faith in the East.

Fourth, it would seem that Buddhist “atheism” is more like traditional philosophical atheism than the New Atheism of today, which is more ideological and emphasizes the anti-God and anti-religion aspect of atheism.


#18

I won’t comment on Matthew, but I have a few comments on buddhism. In a conversation with a Buddhist a number of years ago, he said that buddhists would accept all religions. I found that a curious statement. It would imply that buddhism might be deist, but on the other hand, my understanding is that it is focussed on Buddha, who they regard as a prophet or wise man, almost like Confuscius. Buddhism is not really focussed on a supreme being, or a god. It is non-theistic. In that sense, it is only about a right way of living in an a-theistic sense. It is about a mystical way of discovering reality, or at least what they would believe to be reality.

So I think that if you take someone’s word for being a buddhist, you can generally say legitimately that they are atheistic. This is quite a bit different than Hinduism, which has many, many different gods. Not all religions require an identifiable God. Some religions are atheistic. Buddhism is not the only atheistic moral system. since most atheists believe that murder is wrong (except for abortion perhaps…). Most atheists have a type of moral system, although sometimes it is very relative to the situation, as in situational ethics. Do no harm, that sort of thing.


(Merv Bitikofer) #19

@Relates

“Stanley said he was a Buddhist, so why not take his word for it.”

Which I did. Absolutely. It would seem he may also be an atheist as well (in addition to being one or another forms of Buddhist), but as I made clear before, he leaves it open ended in this particular talk as to whether he is atheist or not. Hence no conclusion drawn. We’ve probably already spent too much time ruminating on it when other things are being showcased in this exchange.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #20

JohnZ

I think that you were right the first time. Buddhism is a “non-theistic” faith.


#21

Can Faith and Science Co-exist… sort of presumes they are not coexisting now. But they are. They always have. People of faith have always used elementary science to live their lives, whether it is the science of food, growth and death of animals, science and mechanics of physical work, etc. But today, we have people of faith taking on different approaches and perspectives towards science as well. They do not ignore science any more than atheists or people of non-faith do.

I wonder if anyone here has read any of Dr. Sarfati’s books, such as “Refuting Compromise”. If you did, did you find any glaring errors in this book? Another book I found fascinating was “Evolution’s Achilles Heels” written by nine PhD scientists who reject evolution. These PhDs were in science, such as genetics, marine biology, physical chemistry, plant physiology, physics, engineering, agronomy, geology, nuclear physics, mechanical engineering. The introduction is by a medical doctor. Because this book deals so much with the science, it is impressive. Anyone has read it?


(system) #22

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