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Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Soul of Science

The Soul of ScienceThe Soul of Science by Nancy Pearcey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I very much enjoyed this book. Nancy Pearcey is an excellent writer and a great mind. Her Biblical worldview makes reading her works worthwhile. The quotes below should challenge all of us. We need to know what we believe and why we believe it! When we or our children and grandchildren read science books are we (they) discerning. We need to train our minds to be aware of truth and discerning of non truth. Enjoy her quotes below:

In the spirit of the Reformation, the astronomer Johannes Kepler wrote of being “called” by God to use his talents in his works as an astronomer. In one of his notebooks, Kepler broke spontaneously into prayer: “ I give you thanks, Creator and God, that you have given me this joy in thy creation, and I rejoice in the works of your hands. See I have now completed the work to which I was called. In it I have used all the talents you have lent to my spirit.” ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

In the same spirit [of Kepler], the early chemist Jean-Baptiste van Helmont insisted that the pursuit of science is “a good gift,” given by God. This broad concept of calling lent spiritual and moral sanction to science as a legitimate way of serving God. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

The mathematical laws sought by science were legislated by God in the same manner as a king ordains laws in his realm. ~Rene’ Descartes

One of the most distinctive aspects of modern science is its use of mathematics – the conviction not only that nature is lawful but also that those laws can be stated in precise mathematical formulas. This conviction, too, historians have traced to Biblical teaching on creation. The Biblical God created the universe ex nihilo and hence has absolute control over it. Genesis paints a picture of a Workman completely in charge of His materials. Hence in its essential structure the universe is precisely what God wants it to be. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”


Matter in the Platonic sense, which must be ‘prevailed upon’ by reason, will not obey mathematical laws exactly: matter which God has created from nothing may well strictly follow the rules which its Creator has laid down for it. In this sense I called modern science a legacy, I might even have said a child, of Christianity. ~Physicist C.F. von Weizsacker

Johannes Kepler first major book sought to demonstrate that the planetary system could be inscribed within a series of three-dimensional geometrical shapes. Although he later had to abandon the schema, it reveals his Pythagorean conviction that numbers and geometry are the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe. As Kearney puts it, Kepler believed “God created the cosmos upon the basis of the divinely inspired laws of geometry.” In fact, it was his intense commitment to mathematical precision that led Kepler through failure after failure until he finally hit upon elliptical orbits for the planets. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

The reason Newton felt free to avoid ultimate causes was, of course, that for him the ultimate cause was God. He viewed gravity as an active principle through which God Himself imposes order onto passive matter – as one of the avenues through which God exercises His immediate activity in creation. As Kaiser puts it, for Newton things like gravity “depended on God’s immediate presence and activity as much as the breaching of an organism depends on the life-principle within.” Like breathing, these active powers were regular and natural, and yet they could not be explained in purely mechanical terms. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

Today we are conditioned to think of the history of science as a warfare between science and religion. In the development of classical physics, however, what we see is not a battle between science and Christiany but a debate among Christians over the best way to conceptualize God’s role in the world – a debate over how to construe divine action in a world increasingly understood to operate by natural law. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

These ideas breathed life into scientific work, especially after the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers rejected the nature/grace dualism of the medieval church and taught that one could honor the Creator by studying His creation. Scientific work acquired great dignity. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

Science became, as Kline explains, a “religious quest”: “ The search for the mathematical laws of nature was an act of devotion which would reveal the glory and grandeur of His handiwork. … Each discovery of a law of nature was hailed as evidence of God’s brilliance rather than the investigator’s. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

We find these convictions expressed, for example, in the writings of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). They conceived of God as the Cosmic Lawgiver, who created the world according to mathematical laws. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

Listen to Kepler: “The chief of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics.” This was not mere religious piety, incidental to Kepler’s scientific contributions. His convictions about God and mathematics were in fact the central inspiration for his scientific work. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

… for Kepler it was a “law of creation” that “just as the eye was made to see colors, and the ear to hear sounds, so the human mind was made to understand … quantity.” Many of the early scientists like to cite a passage from the apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon 11:20, “Thou hast arranged all things by measure and number and weight.” ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642 summed up the new worldview in his well-known statement that the book of nature is written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics. Today this idea has become so familiar that it strikes us as a platitude. But in Galileo’s day it was, as philosopher R.G. Collingwood puts it, “a fighting speech” – a declaration of war on Aristotelian philosophy and a ringing endorsement of the conviction that God had created the world on a mathematical plan. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

God had designed the universe, and it was to be expected that all phenomena of nature would follow one master plan. One mind designing a universe would almost surely employed one set of basic principles to govern related phenomena. ~Mathematician, Morris Kline

God, who founded everything in the world according to the norm of quantity, also has endowed man with a mind, which can comprehend those norms. ~Kepler

Certain laws which God has so established in nature and of certain notions which He has impressed in our souls. ~Rene’ Descartes

For the early scientists, there had been no epistemological dilemma. They believed that the Biblical God had created the world according to an intelligible pattern – and that He had designed the human mind to apprehend that pattern. God provided the link between the natural world and the human mind. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science

If the history of mathematics reveals anything, it is the crucial role that the Christian faith has played, and must play, in the world of science and scholarship. The history of mathematics was decisively shaped by its interaction with Christianity. This is not to assert that the early mathematicians were evangelicals in the modern sense of the term. Yet they did assume a broadly Christian worldview – that the world has an ordered structure because God made it; that humans made in God’s image can decipher that order; that in studying the creation, we honor its Creator. The notebooks of such giants as Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton overflow with praises to God for His orderly creation. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

The earliest attempts to formulate a mechanistic theory of life’s origin leaned heavily on chance – on random interactions of chemicals in a warm pond on the early earth. Given the complexity of life, its chance origin was a highly unlikely event, of course. But biologists hoped to vault that barrier by injecting immense quantities of time. Given enough time, they said, the most improbable event becomes not only possible, not merely probable, but inevitable.
However, at a symposium held in 1966 at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, the computer revolution caught up with the biologists. Using high-speed computers, mathematicians simulated the trial-and-error methods of chance. The outcome was devastating. Computers showed that the probability that life arose by chance processes is essentially zero, no matter how much time is allotted.
Since that time, there has been a gradual shift away from chance models of life’s origin to models that rely on some force inherent in matter. Chance has proved to be the materialist’s God-of-the-gaps, continually pushed back by advances in scientific knowledge.
As chance theories lost credibility, they were replaced by theories that rely on some inherent self-ordering force within matter. ~ Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”


But this particular form of predestinist theory has lost its initial plausibility. To begin with, it has not been confirmed experimentally. Experiments designed to simulate conditions on the early earth have not revealed any significant ordering effects due to differences in chemical bonding forces. Dean Kenyon, one of the authors of Biochemical Predestination, has since rejected the theory on experimental grounds. “If you survey the experiments performed to date designed to simulate conditions on the early earth,” he said in an interview, “ one thing that stands out is that you do not get ordered sequences of amino acids. Nor do you get ordered sequences of nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA. These simply do not appear among the products of any experiments. If we thought we were going to see a lot of spontaneous ordering, something must have been wrong with our theory.”
What the experiments do yield is primarily a sludge of gummy brown tar. Or as Kenyon expresses it more elegantly: “The dominant trend in simulation experiments is the formation of non-biological materials. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

The design argument rests on an analogy between the order found in nature and the order exhibited by objects of human manufacture. The best-known formulation is by William Paley in 1802. Piling detail upon detail, Paley described the intricate adaptations found in living things. Ascribing these marvels to physical causes, he argued, would be like finding a watch on the heath and ascribing it to natural forces such as wind and erosion. The kind of order we see in watches indicates clearly that they are the products of human intelligence; and since we see an analogous order in living things, Paley argued, they are products of divine intelligence. If we are to believe the recent Gallup Poll, a great many Americans still agree with Paley.
The crux of Paley’s argument was the analogy between living things and watches. But today molecular biology has given us a much more striking analogy – between the base sequence in DNA and a written message. Updating Paley, we could say that ascribing DNA to physical-chemical causes would be like finding a book or computer disk on the heath and ascribing its contents to the effects of wind and erosion. If books and computer programs require an intelligent origin, so too does the message in the DNA molecule. Though no one has actually witnessed the creation of life, creationists argue, still we recognize the distinctive complexity that in our experience results only from intelligent activity. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

In our experience, a written message is always the product of an intelligent agent; hence we can construct a positive argument that informational structures such as DNA are likewise the result of an intelligent agent. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

The most common objection to any notion of design is that it falls outside the range of science – that any theory involving reference to an intelligent agent is unscientific. But this objection assumes a particular definition of science. It assumes that there exists what some philosophers of science call a “magic fence” that enables us to divide real science on one side – astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, geology – from pseudoscience like acupuncture, astrology, parapsychology, and the writings of Velikovsky. In this scheme, any concept of a designer, an intelligent cause, falls on the side of pseudoscience.
But philosophers of science have been notoriously incapable of specifying acceptable criteria for delimiting these two realms – for mapping the dividing line where the magic fence should be erected. Observability, testability, repeatability, falsifiability, and a host of other criteria have been offered, but none has been universally accepted. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

In fact, many philosophers of science now recognize that proposed principles of demarcation are themselves philosophically charged – that they reflect the metaphysical presuppositions of the person proposing them. Larry Laudan writes that the principles offered for defining science really function as weapons in philosophical battles. “No one can look at the history of debates between scientists and ‘pseudo-scientists’ without realizing that demarcation criteria are typically used as machines de guerre in a polemical battle between rival camps,” Lauden writes. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

It is well known, for instance, that Aristotle was concerned to embarrass the practitioners of Hippocratic medicine; and it is notorious that the logical postivists wanted to repudiate metaphysics and that Popper was out to get Marx and Freud. In every case, they used a demarcation criterion of their own devising as the discrediting device. Larry Laudan

Philosopher of biology David Hull writes that he is “highly skeptical” of proposed methodologies for delimiting true science. “They tend to be self-serving,” Hull writes, “designed to put one’s opponents at a disadvantage while shoring up one’s own position.

If Laudan and Hull are right, what can we say about definitions of science that exclude any theory referring to intelligent cause of life? Do they simply reflect many scientists’ philosophical opposition to the idea? It appears so. For when evaluated from a purely logical point of view, the case for design is identical to the case one might build for any other explanation of the past. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

Historical science is guided by the principle of uniformity – that the present is a key to the past. We postulate causes for past events by seeking an analogy among present events. Similar events warrant the assumption of similar causes. For example, when we observe the effects of water erosion in the present, we conclude that the same process explains the cutting of a river bed in the past. The surface of Mars has long, narrow trenches or rills, yet the planet has no water. Reasoning by analogy to phenomena observed on earth, scientists have concluded that at some time in the past there must have been running water on the surface of Mars. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

The principle of uniformity is open to either natural or intelligent causes. As philosopher David Hume wrote in 1748, “from causes which appear similar we expect similar effects.” And later: “The same rule holds whether the cause assigned be brute unconscious matter or a rational intelligent being.” In other words, the principle of uniformity is neutral in regard to the king of cause invoked. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

Applied to the origin of life, the principle of uniformity requires us to find an analogy in the present to the creation of information-rich structures such as DNA molecules. As we have seen, there are no known examples of information-rich structures created by natural processes. However, experience gives us a wealth of examples created by intelligent agents – books, poems, musical scores, computer programs. Even houses and automobiles present information. Hence, the principle of uniformity suggests that the origin of life may likewise be attributed to an intelligent agent. Rejecting that conclusion as beyond the bounds of science gives rise to the suspicion that the deck is already stacked in favor of mechanistic materialism – that one’s definition of science is nothing more than a machines de guerre in defense of a materialist worldview. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

If our definition of science is informed by actual scientific practice, certainly it will not be so narrow. Throughout the history of science, from Copernicus to quantum mechanics, science has been deeply implicated in metaphysical and religious questions. For example, Newton argued explicitly for the validity of drawing religious implications from science (then called Natural Philosophy). In the General Scholium, Newton wrote” And thus much concerning God, to discourse of whom from the appearance of things, does certainly belong to Natural Philosophy. ~Nancy Pearcy in “The Soul of Science”

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