Friday, September 23, 2005
The housefly and the scientist
As I see it, naturalistic science bears many of the marks of a religious system. In particular, it has a system of doctrine. Some doctrines are considered to be open for debate if not open disagreement, whereas other doctrines are held to be non-negotiable or, to put it another way, fundamental. The doctrine of naturalism is one of those fundamental doctrines, so fundamental that if you dare to deny it, you will be accused of not practicing true science. You will surely be branded as a scientific heretic!
By naturalism, I refer to the belief that the natural realm--matter, energy, space, etc.--is all that exists. In naturalism, if something exists, it will somehow be observable, or it must be possible to logically or mathematically deduce its existence from objects that are observable. Since all who hold to naturalism are human beings, it follows that whatever constitutes the natural realm is presently observable (or deducible) by humans or someday will be observable (or deducible).
If you think about it, this is a huge presupposition. The naturalist is invariably an evolutionist, so he would hold that man, although the highest of all known creatures, is a mere animal who evolved over many billions of years through the process of natural selection. Anyone who's familar with the animal kingdom would readily confess that a lower animal such, say, a housefly is very limited in its powers of observation and reasoning. As a lower animal, the housefly has utterly no hope of unlocking the secrets of the universe. Compared with the housefly, man is much, much more capable in every way. In his powers of observation and reasoning, man vastly outstrips the lowly insect, and is thus vastly more capable of unlocking the secrets of the universe. Indeed, it almost seems foolish to compare the two.
But yet, to the naturalistic thinker, man remains an animal. As such, man must surely have limits of his own. Indeed, man's powers of observation have been greatly enhanced through modern techology. Why, men have repeatedly sent space probes to visit comets, asteroids, and planets. Man's outreach to the universe has vastly increased since that apple struck Dr. Newton on his head, and the available data about our universe has grown exponentially. We've gone far beyond the once-amazing realizations that the earth is a globe that revolves around the sun, and now realize that even our galaxy is just one amongst countless other galaxies. All of this we have learned through man's increasing powers of observation.
But yet, the most brilliant scientist yet has much in common with the common housefly. Even with his amazing instruments and computers, he remains but a creature. Even with all that he can observe, both directly and indirectly, he remains limited, so limited, in fact, that he cannot even see his limitations. The housefly buzzing around my office has seen only a tiny fraction of the city in which I work, but as far as he is concerned, he's seen all that there is to see. Likewise, our scientist assumes that what he sees is all that there is to see, and if there's anything he can't see right now, scientific progress will eventually make it possible to see it.
All this our scientist assumes, but how does he know that his assumptions are any more valid than those of the housefly? How does he know that everything this _is_ can be, or will someday be, observable? After all, isn't man just a creature?
All of these assumptions and more must be accepted by those who accept the doctrine of naturalism, but yet man, being a mere creature, cannot get beyond the simple truth that he cannot and will not ever know or observe all things. If there is a transcendent, personal God who exists beyond time and space, man would of course never see him with his scientific instruments or deduce him with computerized calculations, but yet the believer in naturalism must assume that because God cannot be seen, that He does not exist. Our housefly no doubt believes that the earth is flat, a belief that we would rightly ridicule, but is man truly so far above the fly that he can get by with his presumption that what he sees is all that there is to know?
In today's world of scientific orthodoxy, naturalism is a fundamental doctrine, and evolution is hardly less fundamental, so much so that anyone who espouses a belief in beings or processes that are unobservable will be laughed out of the laboratory. The evolutionist recognizes that creationism and intelligent design deny the doctrine of naturalism, so he denounces them as heresies beneath contempt. He must do so, of course, because they deny the very doctrines on which his system of belief is founded.
On the other hand, the Christian holds to presuppositions of his own: preeminently, that God exists, and that the Bible is His Word. On these presuppositions the Christian builds a worldview that is diametrically opposed to that of naturalistic science. Of course, the Christian would not consider calling his presuppositional beliefs into question than would the naturalistic scientist. The two simply cannot come to agreement. Both cannot be right.
Thus, so long as naturalism prevails as the orthodox doctrine of the scientific community, the models of creationism and intelligent design will never be given serious consideration, and God will continue to be ignored and denied in the classroom and in the laboratory. But yet if there is a God--a God that cannot be wished out of existence by any presupposition--He must and will have His way, and if He is indeed Creator of all things, He will make this known to all creation in due time. Although I won't go far as to say that it's wrong for the church to strive to have creation or ID taught in the schools, I submit that it will be far more fruitful for the church to faithfully preach the Scriptures at every pulpit, proclaiming the Word of the God who is not only Creator but also Savior.