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The fallacy of using science to assess matters of faith
I believe there is no limit to science's ability to explain every detail of the natural world, from the infinite expanses of the universe down to the smallest subatomic particle. Crossing the line from natural to supernatural, however is where science fails. Many scientists are prone to the fallacy of using the methods of their vocation to attempt to explain, understand, discern, prove and/or disprove matters of faith. The supernatural (acts of God), by definition, is something that operates outside of natural boundaries and patterns. It should be no surprise then, that any scientific inquiry or examination of the supernatural will not yield definitive results.
God is not a celestial vending machine where inputting x will always result in y. A scientific study of prayer, for example, can be expected to be inconclusive. God is a person ,and as such is not inclined to respond in predictable patterns when put to such a frivolous test. In fact, I'd expect Him to purposefully skew the results in such a way to prevent a clear 'scientific' sign of His existence to already hardened skeptics.
Per scripture and personal experience, God usually chooses to obfuscate Himself from hard-hearted unbelievers looking for signs, instead choosing to clearly reveal Himself to those who are willing to humble themselves and have faith. This is something that most people of faith already know. And this faith is a simple choice available to anyone. It's really not a hard concept to understand. He's not willing to put on a circus sideshow of miracles for scoffers and skeptics who would likely not believe them to be miracles anyway, due to their a priori rejection of anything supernatural. They wouldn't believe something miraculous happening in front of their face, due to their presupposition that there has to be some natural explanation for what happened, no matter how spectacular or naturally inexplicable the phenomenon.
God could write His name in the striations of a supercell, cause thunder to speak in an audible voice saying that Jesus is the Savior, stop the sun from setting, make the storm stop rotating and then levitate the scientist off of the ground - and the skeptic's response would still be to look for a natural cause of what just happened. Even after careful study, the perpetual skeptic would never let themselves believe it was actually a miracle, no matter how compelling the experience. By the skeptical scientist's criteria, God would have to repeat the miracle again and again with thousands of cameras and instruments recording the event. And then they'd need to process the data and publish a peer-reviewed paper. Why would God do any miracle for someone like that if the response is always going to be one of perpetual skepticism, no matter how fantastic the act?
I have personally witnessed God performing acts that I could not rationally explain away as coincidence after applying reasonable critical thinking to the events. But my testimony, and that of others like me, isn't ever going to be enough for the perpetual skeptic to not dismiss the account as explicable by some natural cause, no matter how incredible. This is purely a result of attempting to constrain the supernatural into natural boundaries of science - boundaries that most prominent scientists are unwilling to think outside of.
It is for this reason that the abundance of contemporary scientists who reject God has not been a fact of any consequence to me when assessing the basis of my own faith in Christ.
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|"I have personally witnessed God performing acts".
How do you know?|
- Posted by bruce
|Bruce, I'm referring to events such as very specific answers to prayer in which the only alternate explanation would be a highly improbable coincidence. There is, of course, no way to show with 100% certainty that it was *not* coincidence (since coincidences happen all of the time). However, when you witness enough of these from multiple individuals, you begin to see a pattern in which it's reasonable to believe it was an act of God.|
- Posted by Dan R. from New Baden, IL
|I'd ask what you mean by coincidences that aren't coincidences but unless you have something really surprising I've probably heard about enough similar things from other believers. Folks like you are all too ready to "settle" on that which affirms your supernatural beliefs.
People once believed that thunder was about them. People today believe in they're thinking of someone just before the phone rings it's an example of some form of ESP. Magical thinking dies hard.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. But only for some.|
- Posted by bruce
|" The supernatural (acts of God), by definition, is something that operates outside of natural boundaries and patterns."
More absurdity. We wouldn't know of any miracles if that were the case. But since we don't know of any miracles besides very old testimonies from very credulous folk, I agree with your basic premise. They must be beyond our ability to perceive them and so for all practical purposes they've never been even if they have. You don't know any more than anyone else. So what difference does it make? Why live as if they have? And how is it different than if you have just made it up or credulously believe?
I can respect that you have chosen your particular fantasy and are sticking to it.|
- Posted by bruce
|Just want to point out that in the second to last paragraph it can go both ways. Where a man of science may see said event/miracle and try to explain it with science, while a man devoted to religion will go into the event with his own biases, and write it off as a miracle. Not trying to pick apart your argument or anything, but it does seem easier to just call it a miracle to me.|
- Posted by Nick from St. Louis