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Daniel Ray
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Hi Just did an MA thesis on this topic from a cosmological point of view, using the thoughts of C.S. Lewis from his work on literature in the 16th century in The Oxford History of the English Language. Lewis believed another significant revolution took place after 1543 (the death of Copernicus and the publication of his work) in addition to heliocentrism. For Lewis, the birth of a much more mathematical understanding of the heavens nearly eviscerated the universe of its divine nature/characteristics. Lewis was not opposed to mathematics or the sciences per se, but believed that they unintentionally engendered a revolution of cosmic existentialism. Amidst this burgeoning cultural tendency to quantify nature, "meaning" was eviscerated from the heavens, especially the glory which the heavens regularly proclaimed (Ps. 19:1). Mathematics certainly has a beauty and elegance all its own, but man cannot live by equations alone. Human nature resists being reduced to numerical abstraction. Beauty, wonder, love and awe, things of which the heavens reminded Lewis, cannot finally be explained with sophisticated equations. In my thesis, I note that at the popular level, many times the idea of human significance is mentioned in light of recent astronomical discoveries since the mid twentieth century, most notably with the Voyager I image of Earth that Carl Sagan popularized as the "Pale Blue Dot." Sagan claimed human beings are nothing more than a "thin film" floating about on a "solitary lump of rock and metal." And since then, secular cosmologists and astronomers have commented on man's "insignificance" in relation to the rest of the universe. But this is not a scientific statement. It is made by scientists, but it is a value judgment that gets afforded the term of "scientific" simply because scientists make the statement. This, I think, is the underlying problem in the ongoing tentatio between science and religion. What is man and, well, says who? Are we an accidental collocation of atoms? (Russell) Are we "just" our DNA? (Crick) Are we an unintended branch, evolving from a single organism through time and through slipshod trial and error of different ever-changing species, with no particular reason for being here? (Darwin) And now science is searching for "life" in the universe. The irony is that if they find it, even microbial life, no one would view such a discovery as insignificant. Why is it then that science views ourselves as insignificant? We are the only life in the universe for light years in every direction. Is that an accident or was it intentional? Methodological naturalism really is ill-equipped to answer the existential dilemma it presently faces. To answer the kinds of questions people ask of the universe require more than what mathematics and science can presently provide. Christians certainly do benefit from modern scientific discoveries, of course. The dilemma posted above, I think, is more a reflection of an overreaction on both sides of the argument. It is not science per se that is the problem, but the philosophical and metaphysical conclusions about human nature that scientists make in regards to the physical data they examine. They are of course free to make those conclusions(Fred Hoyle personally believed, based on his careful examination of the universe, that "someone monkeyed with the physics."), but in the end they must be admitted as value judgments, not hard scientific data. Christians, on the other hand, who critique contemporary scientific paradigms, would do well to be more precise in defining just exactly what it is they criticize. The term "science" has tended to become a catch-all, but care should be taken in explaining what one means when one offers a critique.
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Aug 9, 2016