God versus Science
This is a blog post that I have been thinking about writing for a very long time. I guess I’ve been procrastinating about it. Well no longer. As far as I am concerned, the way atheists put forward “science” as a refutation of faith in God makes No. Sense. Whatsoever. OK, then, let’s go there.
Firstly, some disclaimers. Everything I will write here is my own viewpoint. I know that many Christians do not agree with my views on science or on the creation of the world. Perhaps some Christians reading this might quickly conclude that I “don’t get it”. “Tosin, you’re missing the point!” Well maybe so. However this is how I understand it. If you want to clarify my understanding please feel free to make a comment below.
Perhaps part of the reason that I have procrastinated about writing this post is because I have struggled to find adequate analogies. Apologies if you think the analogies I have used are weak ones, or they are false analogies.
Here then is the chief analogy:
Let’s pretend that the world is like Facebook. In this case science, or the language in which the world is written, is like PHP, the language in which Facebook is written.
(If your mind works really, really fast then you might already be able to grasp the point I am going to make. If not, then read on…)
Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Zuckerberg, is like an almighty Creator. Simply put, saying that you don’t believe in God because science is real is like saying that you don’t believe in Mark Zuckerberg because PHP is real.
One clear weakness with this analogy is of course that Mark Zuckerberg has not created us human beings as he is a human being, just like we are. We can choose to opt in or out of Facebook, in a way that we can’t choose to opt in or out of the universe. We could, if we were so inclined, create our own versions of Facebook and invite everyone else to join, which we can’t do with the world. However, I believe that the weaknesses in the analogy do not detract from this crucial main point. The fact that science is demonstrably, indisputably real does not change the fact that there could be a Creator anymore than the concrete fact of PHP cancels out the possibility of there being a creator behind Facebook.
One other weakness of my analogy is that although Facebook is written in PHP, Mark Zuckerberg himself did not invent the language of PHP. It was actually written by someone called Rasmus Lerdorf. Another way you could twist the analogy: by saying that PHP is so real, and it does such exciting things, it is simply impossible to believe that there could be someone who invented it! Do you see how the argument just does not follow in the slightest?
In this way God is a greater creator than either Mark Zuckerberg or Rasmus Lerdorf. He wrote the language (science, like PHP) and He also created the world (like Facebook). This is what I believe as a Christian: Christianity does not in any way contradict science as a belief that Facebook was created does not “contradict” PHP. Yes, the Bible is not a scientific textbook, in the same way the terms and conditions of using Facebook are not a PHP manual. The terms and conditions of the Facebook website do not focus on PHP instructions because ultimately they are not the point for us as the end users. Rather these terms and conditions describe how we are to interact with one another on Facebook, and with Facebook itself. However we can of course rest assured that Mark Zuckerberg and the other Facebook coders of course know that they created the site in PHP, Mark and co are not threatened by the thought of PHP any more than God is threatened by the thought of the science that He used to create the world.
So also the Bible, God’s own “Terms and Conditions”, focuses not on science but rather on how we are to interact with one another, the world, and with God Himself. The fact that this is the case does not contradict or undermine science in the slightest – or vice versa.
Arguing that science is real so it is solely responsible for the creation of the world is like arguing that PHP first created itself (for no reason whatsoever) – one day it just wrote its own rules even though it does not have a brain to think to create itself – or no actually, it just “is”. PHP just “is” – and then again by itself, it created Facebook, without any intervention whatsoever by an intelligent creator, by writing first one letter of code, then another, then another, over billions of years. And it just happened to do this on a computer that magically created itself from nothing “over billions of years” which just happened to plug itself into an electricity source that just mysteriously happened to be at precisely the correct point.
There is a lot more to this argument, but I will leave it here for now. I trust I have made my point that God and faith are not in any way enemies of science, much less scared of it. 😉
So please let me know. Is there a wide, gaping hole in my argument? 😉
By the way, when I posted the link to this article on my Facebook wall, a Facebook friend pointed out that in this article I have conflated the concepts of “science”, and the “rules of the world” where science consists of the tools that are used to measure the rules of the world. He is right about this point, in this post I do use the word to refer to these ideas: the idea that the rules of the world are fixed and unchanging, what the rules themselves are, and then the means whereby we determine these rules….
A point he did raise is one many atheists have raised before to me: that science has not uncovered any proof of the existence of God. Well my answer to that is that trying to use science to find proof of the existence of God is like trying to write a PHP program to find proof of the existence of the creator of PHP. He is flesh and blood, not something that can be expressed in binary units or computer code.
Ah Tosin, you say, but the Bible seems to teach that the world is only a few thousand years old! However various aspects of science like carbon dating, measuring half-lives of various radioactive elements etc show us that the world is actually billions and billions of years old! In this way science disproves the Bible! So going by scientific principles, whether or not science can prove the existence of God, we can at least disallow the Bible and all that it teaches!
Sincerely, it has taken me a while to think of a relevant analogy to answer this question, but here it is, and still within the field of Facebook. I’m sure that there must be dozens of similar analogies possible, but as yet I cannot think of one. I know that in this analogy I am not really comparing like with like, but please bear with me, it’s a complex issue!
Let’s think again about Facebook. However, this time let us not imagine that we are people using Facebook, but rather we are the actual status updates that have been entered into Facebook, all sitting merrily on a timeline.
We are quite intelligent status updates etc, so we have been able to explore our world and discover the rules of the world, and discover that the world is made of PHP and discover how PHP works. Now looking on the timeline, we have been able to discover posts that go right back to say one hundred years ago (Let’s assume that we are talking about a very old user of Facebook who has chronicled most of their life events). Now as actual human beings, looking at a Facebook Timeline, we can immediately understand why/how posts can seemingly go back one hundred years, even though Facebook itself was only created in 2004, because of course users can enter things that happened in their life before they joined Facebook, before it was created. However, as status updates we do not know that. We only our world, we only know PHP, we only know that these status updates go back a full one hundred years.
Let us also imagine for a second that Mark Zuckerberg had written some terms and conditions just for us.
“Hi Status Updates”, he might say
“This is Mark Zuckerberg. I created this world in 2004…”
“Wait a second”, we say,
“Our knowledge of PHP tells us that status updates go back a full one hundred years! And yet the terms and conditions refer to 2004! They cannot both be right!
We know that PHP is fixed and unchanging – so these terms and conditions must be wrong! There cannot be a Mark Zuckerberg! In that case, let us sit down and think of a way in which PHP managed to create this whole world, all by itself. Let us agree to think that if the existence of something cannot be proven by PHP then it cannot be real!”
And then the world of status updates divides into those updates who believe in Mark Zuckerberg, and those who don’t believe in Mark Zuckerberg….
The point of this analogy is that as human beings we are like the status updates in the Facebook timeline. We are limited to our own realm, we cannot see anything beyond our own realm, we can only use the tools that are available to us to explore our realm. To be honest, as human beings we do not even have a perfect understanding of science. Actually, our knowledge is still extremely limited, although it is of course much greater than that of the generations who came before us. However, even if we did actually have a perfect understanding of science and of our world, our understanding would still be limited to our own realm. We cannot use that science to reach out and probe beyond our world because only our own world is written in the language of science.
I am confident that the answer to the seeming inconsistencies between the Bible and the revelations of science regarding the age of the world will ultimately be as simple as in this example. The important thing to remember is that we are dealing with a God who can twist and reconfigure our world in a blink of an eye. He can inconsistently use consistent rules. He can dip in and out of PHP as He wishes, or He can choose to dip into another programming language like Java… When we are status updates, we assume that these things have always been fixed because that is what we can see around us. However, we do not know that scientific laws have always been exactly the same. I believe that God gives us people fixed laws of science so that we can consistently make sense of the world around us. However, I have no idea of the ways He may have contorted these rules to get the world created in the first place.
It may not have been that He contorted the rules at all – (although the Bible does talk about the earliest people living almost one thousand years apiece. Perhaps God may have amended the way radioactive half-lives work to speed up the rate of cell decay and eventual death – who knows? Only He does). It may be that there is just one big hole in our knowledge that we are as yet unaware of. Who knows, in a hundred years from now, if the world as we know it still exists, people may laugh to think that anyone ever thought that the world was billions of years old.
Now all of this of course does not “prove” the existence of God. What I am saying in this article is that the scant knowledge that we have cannot be used to disprove the concept of God, when we are so blind. The idea of an intelligent Creator is not only what we observe in my analogy of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, but in every way around us in the world. It is resoundingly the most common sense explanation for the origin of anything sophisticated, let alone anything as highly detailed and intricately fine-tuned as the whole universe. The alternative explanations offered by godless (unreasonable) “reason” are utterly implausible. Simple common sense is sufficient to refute these postulations. And then again, can anyone outside faith, even attempt to provide an explanation for the fact that one species (that is humanity) is clearly dominant over the rest of the animal kingdom, although not (nearly) the biggest animal, and unlike any other animal, acts in terms which can be described morally: kind, unkind, evil, selfish. When we see any artifact of any deep level of functional design and planning that was created, we know that only one species could have created it. (And the reason why it is that species and could only be that species is because only that species was made in the image of the Creator God!) Yes animals do have creativity to a certain extent. However can anyone really ever mistake or confuse animal creativity with human handiwork? We know that a functional house with windows and electric lights did not just get there by itself, but it must have been made by human beings. Not by dogs. Not by cats. Not by killer whales. And yet this whole world, and everything in it, just happened, by itself, without an intelligent Creator – seriously, you believe that?!
I mean, seriously? Seriously? I shake my head.
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