This is the 3rd Blog in this series which began with Science and the Church: Are the Facts In? In the previous blog, Christianity and Science, we looked at some of the comments of Dr. Gayle Woloschak in her article “The Compatability of the Principles of Biological Evolution with Orthodoxy” in the ST. VLADIMIR’S THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY, Vol 55, No. 2, 2011. With this blog we begin our look at some of the claims of James Le Fanu in his book, Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves. Part of Le Fanu’s criticism of science is that it is so focused on materialism that it misses the greater mysteries which are visible in the science itself.
“We have lost that sense of living in an enchanted world. We might now, thanks to science, comprehend the universe of which we are a part, only to discover that its properties, as evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins puts it, ‘are precisely those we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good – nothing but blind, pitiless indifference’. We have lost, too, sight of the most significant factor of all – the exceptionality of the human mind.” (Kindle Highlight Loc. 4195-98)
Some scientists who reject the idea of a Creator are hostile to Le Fanu’s thoughts as they are to theists who embrace many of the claims of science. I, however, do not think that believers should feel so threatened by atheistic science. According to modern physics, a little less than 5% of the universe is made up of matter, about 25% is dark matter, and about 70% is dark energy. So when we are looking at biology, we are to begin with looking only at that 5% of the universe which constitutes matter that we can study through the biological sciences. And then we realize that the total percent of the matter in the universe which is properly the realm of biology and evolution is a much smaller portion of the total matter in the universe. On the grand scale of things any theory of evolution is talking about a disproportionately tiny part of the known universe. So for all the bluster evolutionary theorists like to muster against theists, they are talking about a small fraction of the universe anyway. Theists are holding to ideas that take the entire universe into consideration not just that that miniscule portion of our planet that is the limit of evolutionary science. Evolution at best describes a small fraction of the entire matter of the universe. Of course it is the matter that is important to us, because it is our story and our history which is being discussed. But for those who embrace scientific theism, there is a whole lot more to the universe than is being described or accounted for by evolution. As Harvard science professor Lisa Randall says in her article on dark energy and matter, “If the history of science has taught us anything, it should be the shortsightedness of believing that what we see is all there is.” (DISCOVER, November 2011, p 59)
Nevertheless, the fight between faith and reason, science and religion is mostly led on the religious side by fundamentalists and biblical literalists as is obvious in such articles as the 17 October 2011 NY Times The Evangelical Rejection of Reason by Christian authors and college professors Karl W. Giberson and Randall J. Stephens. They belong to an evangelical tradition but distance themselves from those fundamentalists who reject science and reason.
“Americans have always trusted in God, and even today atheism is little more than a quiet voice on the margins. Faith, working calmly in the lives of Americans from George Washington to Barack Obama, has motivated some of America’s finest moments. But when the faith of so many Americans becomes an occasion to embrace discredited, ridiculous and even dangerous ideas, we must not be afraid to speak out, even if it means criticizing fellow Christians.”
So while the anti-scientific and anti-reason rhetoric belongs mostly to fundamentalists and literalists, the rest of Christianity cannot just look askance and avoid the discussion. We have a responsibility to make the effort to bridge the gap between those who claim to embrace Christianity but who fear and oppose the claims of science. It is the same science which made computing possible which measures the age of the universe. While some people’s faith rests on the claim that Genesis is literally true, Genesis itself was not written to be a modern scientific study. Namely, it doesn’t present claims that can be verified by tests of falsification. It is a document that rests on faith, and doesn’t itself require that it be read literally.
James Le Fanu takes on the atheistic claims of some scientists and basically charges that some scientists have lost sight of their objectivity and the limits of science. These scientists make atheistic assumptions about the universe and then try to conform the facts and reality to their assumptions, which is the opposite of the intellectual rigor which the falsification process in science demands. Rather scientists should follow the facts to whatever truths can be derived from them.
“But that Fall of Man, toppled at last from his pedestal to confront the meaninglessness of his existence, has resulted, as we have seen, first in the most grievous social policies and, second, in his being deprived of his freedom, to become no more than a plaything of his genes. The source of all this mischief lies in the necessity to portray man not as he is, but as he has to be in order to incorporate him into an evolutionary theory that requires him to be different ‘only in degree but not in kind’ from his primate cousins.” (Kindle Highlight Loc. 2947-50)
So Le Fanu claims to set out what man is, not what evolutionary theory needs him to be, and thus he reads the scientific evidence in a way different from the atheist.