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Christian Faith and Modern Science by Howard Taylor. Howard Taylor - Brief CV: Chaplain to Heriot-Watt University and teaches there: Moral and Social Philosophy. Philosophy of Science and Religion. Previously: Parish Minister in West of Scotland - 17 years.

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Christian Faith and

Modern Science


Howard Taylor.

Howard Taylor - Brief CV:

Chaplain to Heriot-Watt University and teaches there:

    • Moral and Social Philosophy.
    • Philosophy of Science and Religion.
  • Previously:
    • Parish Minister in West of Scotland - 17 years.
    • Visiting lecturer at ICC and before that GBC and BTI.
      • Two modules:
        • Christian Faith and Contemporary Thought (BE305)
        • Christianity and Modern Science. (This module - BE304)
    • Author of several small books/booklets.
    • 16 years in Malawi, Africa.
      • Minister, Theology lecturer, African Language teacher.
      • Maths and Physics lecturer: University of Malawi.
    • Degrees from: Nottingham, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
  • Married with three grown up sons and two grandsons and one granddaughter.
  • Web:
what is it all about
What is it all about?

For millennia philosophers and theologians have attempted to address such questions as:

  • Is the universe eternal or did it begin?
  • Why does nature have a rational structure?
  • Is there any purpose to human existence?
  • What is life?
  • Can the experiences of consciousness and self-awareness be reduced to the properties of the brain or do they imply the existence of a soul?

It is in the latter part of the 20th century that some scientists have tried to get to grips with these most fundamental of fundamental questions.


You may have thought about these topics before or they may never have occurred to you.

      • Here is something for you to do:
  • Using the Bible and/or the Christian Faith and/or other religious views as your authority try to write a few lines on each of these topics. If you are ignorant of any or some or even all the areas then write that fact down and don't worry!
  • Now repeat the exercise but this time write what you believe modern scientists or philosophers might say. Again if you have no idea don't worry - the purpose of this module is to teach you these things.

Models for considering the relationship between science and religion:

      • .Conflict.
      • .Independence.
      • .Dialogue.
      • .Integration.
        • (I prefer to say mutual illumination).
  • The above are the models taken from Ian Barbour’s writings..

Books that are particularly relevant to these models are:

    • Ian Barbour: When Science Meets Religion, pages 7-38
    • Alister McGrath: Science and Religion, chapter 2 entitled: Religion Ally or Enemy of Science?
worldviews and science under each of these headings there are many sub sections not mentioned here
Worldviews and Science.Under each of these headings there are many sub sections not mentioned here.
  • The material universe is an illusion. Only the spirit or mind is real. (Some versions of Eastern Religions and Idealism.)
  • The material universe is all that there is – the whole story. (Materialism.)
  • Theism. Both the material and the spiritual are real and interact. (However the spiritual gives rise to the material world. Deism says that apart from Creation there is no interaction.)

With which worldview does science fit most comfortably?

We now consider some words of Bertrand Russell in his Introduction to his History of Western Philosophy.

All definite knowledge belongs to science; all dogma as to what surpasses definite knowledge belongs to theology. But between theology and science there is a No Man's Land, .. this No Man's Land is philosophy. Almost all the questions of most interest to speculative minds are such as science cannot answer, and the confident answers of theologians no longer seem convincing.…(The questions are:) Is the world divided into mind and matter, and, if so what is mind and what is matter?Is mind subject to matter, or is it possessed of independent powers?Has the universe any unity or purpose? Is it evolving towards some goal?Are there really laws of nature, or do we believe in them only because of our innate love of order?Is man what he seems to the astronomer, a tiny lump of impure carbon and water impotently crawling on a small unimportant planet? Or is he what he appears to Hamlet? (next slide) Is he perhaps both at once?Is there a way of living that is noble and another that is base, or are all ways of living merely futile?If there is a way of living that is noble. In what does it consist, and how shall we achieve it?Must the good be eternal in order to deserve to be valued, or is it worth seeking even if the universe is inexorably moving towards death? …To such questions no answer can be found in the laboratory. …. The studying of these questions, if not the answering of them, is the business of philosophy.



What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, How infinite in faculties, in form and moving how Express and admirable, in action how like an angel, In apprehension how like a god: the beauty of the World, the paragon of animals; and yet to me, what Is this quintessence of dust?

bertrand russell philosophy s unanswerable questions
Bertrand Russell: Philosophy's Unanswerable Questions.
  • According to Bertrand Russell, not only are these questions (that are unanswerable by science), the most interesting they are the most important.(See also History of Western Philosophy page 789)
  • Without belief in ‘theology’ (ie God who speaks a Word), Russell says they have no answer.
  • As an sceptic he had to hold the paradoxical view that:
    • The most interesting and important questions for humans have no answers.
    • All that philosophy can do is to discuss them.

Not only is the existence of God necessary to make sense of reality but so also is the Cross of Christ in whom He makes Himself known.

I am reminded of these words from 1 Corinthians 1:

20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (NIV)


The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as of all serious endeavour in art and in science.... He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. The sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is.

Albert Einstein (Speech to the German League of Human Rights (Berlin 1932).


Argument in favour of materialism.

Science has successfully answered many questions about the world.

One day it will be able to answer all questions.

Question: Are the mysteries getting less or more?


Leibniz’s argument against materialism.

  • Thoughts cannot be material.
    • Thoughts affect the physical world.
    • Therefore the physical world needs more than physical science to understand it’s behaviour.
  • Why are thoughts not material?
    • Leibniz’s mill or mountain.
    • Physical processes just exist – they are not true or false.
    • Thoughts are true or false.
    • Therefore thoughts are not just material. (See Bertrand Russell quote in next slide.)
  • But thoughts do affect the physical world. Therefore the behaviour of the physical world cannot be fully understood by physical science.

If we imagine a world of mere matter, there would be no room for falsehood in such a world, and although it would contain what may be called ‘facts’, it would not contain any truths, in the sense in which truths are things of the same kind as falsehoods. In fact, truth and falsehood are properties of beliefs and statements: hence a world of mere matter, since it would contain no beliefs or statements, would also contain no truth or falsehood.

(Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy, page 70.)

the mystery of existence
The mystery of existence.
  • Why do matter and energy exist? - where did they come from? And what are they?
  • Scientific theories about the origin of the universe have to assume the initial existence of some kind of energy/law of nature.(Eg: Wave function of the Universe, Colliding membranes, Strings, eleven dimensions and Loop quantum gravity.)
    • leading to matter/space-time/laws of physics in the big bang.
  • But scientific theories cannot explain how the initial energy/laws of nature came to exist or why they exist or did exist.
the mystery of existence1
The mystery of existence.
  • If God exists why does He exist? Was He created?
  • Whether or not God exists we are face to face with the mystery:Why does anything exist at all?
    • Stephen Hawking:`Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?’
    • JJC Smart (atheist philosopher): Why should anything exist at all? - it is for me a matter of the deepest awe.
    • See Handout re Quentin Smith (atheist philosopher)’s comments.
the mystery of existence cont
The Mystery of existence - cont.
  • Some believe the questions:
    • 'What is life?'
    • 'What is consciousness?’ and related to it:
      • ‘What is my self that only I experience and know?
  • also give rise to fundamental mysteries.
fundamental mysteries cont
Fundamental Mysteries - cont.
  • If science could, one day, fully examine my brain, would the scientist know what I am thinking about?
  • If not, then my mind must be more than my physical brain.
  • My mind (including my thoughts and ideas) affects my behaviour - therefore it is real.
  • So we have something that it real but is not subject to scientific investigation.
the mystery of existence cont1
The Mystery of Existence - cont..

Most believe that ‘goodness’, ‘morality’, ‘beauty’ and our sense of ‘ought’ are not just the result of our subjective feelings but are objective realities.

  • Goodness, morality, beauty:
    • do have a real effect on the physical world - they effect our behaviour - what we do with our bodies and what we make.
      • (they therefore are real.)
    • but they are not open to scientific investigation - (science examines the physical universe - it can’t tell you what is good or beautiful, or morally right/wrong).
  • Many conclude that there must be more to reality than the mere physical existence that science examines.
the mystery of existence cont2
The Mystery of Existence - Cont.
  • Some or all of these questions and convictions have given rise to the religious quest.
  • As science penetrates deeper into the very nature of things many scientists are beginning to wrestle with these questions.
  • Science is giving rise to questions it believes are beyond its scope.
  • Thus there is scope for dialogue.
world views 1 atheistic materialism
World Views 1. Atheistic Materialism:
  • There is nothing spiritual - no god, spirit or soul.
      • Impersonal matter/energy/physical laws (in one form or another) are the basis of all that exist - the whole story.
        • They are eternal
        • They have developed into the universe
          • including all its life and human life and personal human minds.
world views 1 atheistic materialism cont
World Views 1. Atheistic Materialism cont:

In principle the human person, including his/her appreciation of beauty, right and wrong, could, in the future, be understood entirely by physics.

  • A complete understanding of the human person could, in future, come from a study of impersonal physical laws/matter/energy which make up his physical body/brain and environment.
    • See quotation from Francis Crick on next slide:

World Views: Atheistic Materialism continued.

Francis Crick: “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more that the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”(The Astonishing Hypothesis page 3)

world views 2 deism
World Views 2. Deism:

God is entirely transcendent - out there, not in here.

  • God created the universe with its physical laws and now leaves it to run its course.
    • Darwin believed that the Creator impressed laws on matter.
  • There is no continuing relation between God and the physical universe.
  • God is not relevant to our physical lives.
world views 3 pantheism
World Views 3. Pantheism:
  • `God’ is immanent - in here, not out there.
    • There is no Creator God distinct from the universe.
    • `God’ is the spiritual dimension of the physical universe.
    • God is impersonal.
      • We tune into God rather than pray to Him in a personal way.
      • We may pray to spirits but not to God.
    • All things are sacred in their own right.
    • The physical/spiritual universe is eternal.
world views 4 panentheism
World Views 4. Panentheism
  • The physical universe is part of God as a body is part of a person.
    • However He also is greater than the physical universe.
    • God is more likely to be personal in panentheism.
world views 4 theism
World Views: 4. Theism

God is both transcendent and immanent

  • He is distinct from the physical world but He iswith and `in’ all things.
  • He alone is eternal.
  • He created matter/energy/laws of physics.
  • He holds all things in being.
  • He is personal Mind.
  • Some believe that we may know Him personally.
world views 5 christian theism
World Views 5. Christian Theism.:

As well as the theism already outlined:

  • God is love and is not distant from sin and suffering.
  • He stoops to the human level, and bears sin, judgement, pain and death for us. (Christ’s Cross)
  • He lifts us up back to where we belong, giving us new life and forgiving us our sin. (Christ’s resurrection.)
  • Although this is seen in Jesus, it is a process that occurs throughout history - the subject of the Bible.
  • Judgement, new Creation and eternal life are real.
  • Thus, Our true destiny is fulfilled and our uncertain lives on earth find their purpose.

Secularism and the ordinary man’s scientific worldview.

  • Why do the planets orbit the sun?
    • Not God but the law of gravity.
    • False assumption: gravity is an eternal independent law.
  • God of the gaps - a mistake the Church made.
  • A mechanistic universe.
    • In the 17th C the universe compared to the clock in Strasbourg.
      • If the universe is just a mechanism - so humans are just complex mechanisms too.
      • Humans too are controlled by the laws of physics and have no responsibility for their thoughts or actions.
      • The powerful can ‘engineer’ other humans to suit them.
    • False assumption: humans are only physical – except the powerful.
  • Space and time have always existed.
    • This too was/is a false assumption.
    • Light, space-time, matter, energy are related - not by external laws but by what they are in themselves. (Relativity).

Public world of facts and Private World of Values.

  • Scientific facts become facts for everyone - public facts about which there could be no debate.
  • Everything that is not investigated by science (beauty, goodness etc) would eventually become private matters for individual opinion or preference.
    • So each person should make up his own mind about those things which lie outside bounds of science e.g.:
      • The Purpose of the universe and human life,
      • Religion, morality and ideals.
  • The stage was set for the eventual collapse of religion, morality and idealism.
  • (The situation was made worse for the Church by its disputes with Galileo and others. For example it wanted to cling to its belief that the stars circled the earth - a belief based only on a superficial reading of the Bible.)

A paradox: If there is no real purpose to the universe and our lives why bother to have any ideals including the scientific ideal to explore the universe?

    • Many great scientists investigated the universe because they believed it has a purpose given by its Creator - God.
  • Now work your way through Unit 1 especially noting:
    • The set of questions that arise from the scientific quest.
    • Einstein’s words quoted on page 3.
    • The great scientists who were devout believers.
    • The nature of scientism.
    • Is the real battle between science and religion - or is merely disguised as if it were?

Further reading on enlightenment science and its effect on religion:

  • Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks, chapter 4 entitled The Dialogue with Science
  • Alister E.McGrath, Science and Religion,chapter 1 entitled: Historical Landmarks.

Non-Christian Religious World Views.

  • For Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism see the handouts:
    • Hinduism and Buddhism.
    • Taoism.
  • For Christian World View see handout:
    • The Biblical World View.

Read Unit 2 which is an overview of some important points that will be discussed in the module. Some, we have met briefly already.

  • In Unit 2 we think about:
    • The difference is between science and scientism
    • Why many people were fascinated by the book `A Brief History of Time’
    • The amazing information, order and beauty in all of nature.
    • What is meant by `Science at the Boundaries'.
    • Why relationships are essential for understanding God, the natural world and ourselves.
    • Why we should beware of `the god of the gaps'.
    • Why the Universe must have purpose.
    • The religious beliefs that were the necessary spur to the scientific enterprise.
      • (See next slide for more on this point)

The religious beliefs that were the necessary spur to the scientific enterprise.

  • God is rational and therefore the natural world He created is orderlyand open to rational investigation.
  • Its rational order is open to understanding by the human mind. (Man and woman created in God’s image.)
  • Nature's order is a contingent order.
    • (That is to say its rational structure did not have to be as it is but was ‘chosen’ to be as it is. Experimentation is therefore necessary to delve deeper into the laws of nature.)
  • Was there one creative act or several?
    • Atheists say ‘none’. ID says ‘several’. Anti-ID says one or nature is ‘one seamless whole’

Religious beliefs that were the necessary spur to the scientific enterprise.

Being created by God the natural world is good and therefore worth investigating.

    • This contrasts with the belief that the natural world is inherently evil or unreal.
  • Although there is now evil and suffering, God’s love for the world means there is hope for it.
  • We too should love nature and want to understand it more.
  • For further explanation see the last pages of Unit 2.
the beginning and the big bang in the beginning god created the heavens and the earth genesis 1 1
Father of the Big Bang Theory

Georges-Henri Lemaître(Catholic priest and scientist) was born July 17, 1894 in Charleroi, Belgium. Lemaître is credited with proposing the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, although he called it his 'hypothesis of the primeval atom'. He based his theory, published between 1927 and 1933, on the work of Einstein, among others.

Einstein did not, at first, like the theory because it was too much like the teaching of the Bible.

However in 1935 Einstein, after having travelled on a long train journey with Lemaitre, applauded a lecture on the subject, given by Lemaitre himself, and said, "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened".

Against much opposition from the scientific community, Lemaître’s theory finally triumphed from the sheer weight of evidence. (In the second half of the 20th Century.)

He estimated the age of the universe to be between 10 and 20 billion years, which agrees with modern opinions.

The Beginning and the Big Bang.In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
the beginning and the big bang in the beginning god created the heavens and the earth genesis 1 11
Lemaître’s view was, at first, rejected but it raised the question as to whether the universe (in one form or another) is finite (the Jewish/Christian view) or infinite (atheist and pantheist view).

Steady State or Beginning?

Evidence for beginning.

Stars still burning.

Not fallen in on one another.

Anti-Gravity?? No!, or perhaps yes!

Hubble discovered that the universe is expanding as if from an explosion.

Big Bang of ‘light’ fifteen billion years ago.

Seemingly from nothing!

Background radiation - as if from the Big Bang’s echo - confirmed the theory.

The Beginning and the Big Bang.In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

Robert Wilson, one of those who discovered the background radiation was asked by journalist Fred Heeren ifthe Big Bang indicated a Creator.

Wilson said, "Certainly there was something that set it all off.  Certainly, if you are religious, I can't think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match with Genesis."

the beginning and the big bang in the beginning god created the heavens and the earth genesis 1 12
From this Big Bang hydrogen and helium eventually formed.

The hydrogen clouds contracted and heated up and stars were created.

The inside of stars created the heavier elements from which planets are made.

Did this confirm the Biblical teaching that God created the cosmos out of nothing?

However there is still opposition to the Big Bang theory because it depends on ‘inflation’, ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’.

See: which was an open letter to the ‘New Scientist’ from many scientists who do not accept the Big Bang theory.

The Beginning and the Big Bang.In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about the conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself up over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements and the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same; the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.

God and the Astronomers, Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow.


Will the Universe contract again to a Big Crunch?

  • Did the Big Bang come from a Big Crunch?
  • An oscillating universe? Probably No!
    • See handout: Cosmos 13 Billion Years Ago.
    • But even if the universe is oscillating between crunch and bang, the series could not be infinite.
    • We still have the problem of the genesis of everything.
  • Could Quantum fluctuations in a vacuum have caused the Big Bang?
    • (Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle does not allow for a vacuum where there is absolutely nothing).
    • Why is there such a principle?
  • Colliding membranes and eleven dimensions creating the ‘Big Bang’? - see footnote at end of Unit 3.
  • The end of the universe - heat or cold death?

The Biblical Teaching is that there has been, is, and will be a New Creation.

  • Not a creation out of nothing again but a creation out of the ‘death’ of the old.
    • When evil and decay have done their worst to this world, God intervenes in New Creation.
  • In Christian theology the link between Old and New is the Death/Resurrection of Christ in whom, God and the world are held together and humanity is forgiven and nature healed.
    • Too good to be true?
    • Perhaps, but we are faced with the reality of our universe.
    • Where did it come from?
    • Why should anything exist at all is surely amazing - but here we are - too good to be true?
cosmological argument
Cosmological Argument.
  • A simple form of the argument:
    • The Universe cannot just have popped into existence from nowhere.
    • Therefore there must be a God who created it.
  • Another simple form:
    • Which is the most likely cause of a finite universe?
      • Nothing acting on nothing -> finite universe.
      • Infinite God acting on nothing -> finite universe.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-- his eternal power and divine nature-- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.Romans 1:20.

cosmological argument cont
Cosmological Argument - cont.
  • Another form of same argument:
    • There is a universe.
    • It could not cause itself.
    • It could not come from nothing.
    • It could not be an effect of an infinite series of causes.
    • Therefore it must be caused by something that is uncaused and everlasting.
    • Therefore God exists.
  • Yet another form:
    • The universe is contingent and therefore ultimately depends on something uncaused.
cosmological argument cont1
Cosmological Argument - cont.
  • Does this argument depend on the universe having a beginning?
    • Thomas Aquinas (13th Century - born in Naples)
      • believed that this argument would be valid even for an infinite universe.
      • God the explanation for the existence of all things:


Time line

 --------------------------------------------------------- 

    • However Thomas believed the case would be even more convincing if the universe had a beginning.
cosmological argument cont2
Cosmological Argument - cont.
  • The Kalam Cosmological Argument:
    • The Universe must have had a beginning and therefore must have had a cause.
    • God ------time line ------------------------
    • (Kalam was a word used for a kind of Islamic philosophy and means `speech’ in Arabic)

Some have argued that the universe must have had a beginning otherwise we are left with the belief that there would be an infinite time before anything would happen and therefore nothing would happen!

cosmological argument cont3
Cosmological Argument - cont.
  • Against these points some say:
    • The Universe is just brute fact and ultimatelyunintelligible.
    • There is no explanation for its existence - it just is.
    • It is not worth asking why it exists - it just does.
  • However science looks for reasons.
    • Do the above three points imply that at the last hurdle science must give up looking for reasons?
    • At the end of the quest has science itself flipped?
  • Other arguments against the Cosmological argument are considered later.

For a more detailed discussion of the big bang theory and its religious implications see:

    • Unit 3.
    • Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time,chapters 2 and 8
    • Paul Davies, The Mind of God, chapter 2.

The Universe is finely tuned!

  • If the properties of the universe had been a tiny bit different:
    • the stars would not have formed
    • or if they had they would have not lasted long.
    • there would have been no sun, no planets and no earth.
    • the universe would either have been black holes or gas.
    • there would have been complete darkness.

What are the variations in the initial conditions of the universe that would have made it dark and lifeless?

Matter-Density ratio. (1 in 1060)

  • Rate of expansion from the big bang. (1 in 1060)
  • Strength of gravity.
  • Initial conditions together 1/10 to power 10 to power 30!
  • Origin of materials that go to make up earth:
    • Elements such as carbon were made in the centre of stars.
    • However the process is a very very delicate one.
    • The Whole Universe seems very finely tuned!

Anthropic Principle and Fine Tuning.

  • The Universe seems fixed for man.
    • Its density, the rate of expansion, age and therefore size of universe has to be as it is for humans to exist.
  • Weak Anthropic Principle - the universe had to be as it is for us to see it!
  • Strong Anthropic Principle - the universe needs an observer for its existence.
  • Participatory Universe - human observers participate in the universe’s evolution.

The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big-Bang are enormous. I think there are clearly religious implications.

It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as an act of a God who intended to create beings like us.

(Stephen Hawking.)


Anthropic Principle and Fine Tuning.

  • Two possible explanations for the fine tuning:
  • 1. Many worlds - there may be trillions of universes and this happens to be the one where things are just right.
      • This is not a scientific statement since other universes, in principle, would be beyond our scientific investigation.
      • Also it is not a response to the Cosmological Argument.
  • 2. It was Designed for a purpose by God.

For more on Fine Tuning read:

  • The first three and a half pages of Unit 4
  • John Templeton (Ed), Evidence of Purpose, Chap 7
  • Handout: Just Six Numbers (which is a summary of the Astronomer Royal, Prof Sir Martin Rees’s book of same the title). In it he says:
  • “I have highlighted these six because each plays a crucial and distinctive role in our universe, and together they determine how the universe evolves and what its internal potentialities are... These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be ‘untuned,’ there would be no stars and no life. Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign Creator?I take the view that it is neither. An infinity of other universes may well exist where the numbers are different. Most would be stillborn or sterile.”(Page 4)

The recent theories about ‘Dark Energy’ have strengthened this point.

In their paper "Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant" two atheist scientists from Stanford University stated that the existence of this dark energy term "Would have required a miracle...

An external agent, external to space and time, intervened in cosmic history for reasons of its own."

teleological or design argument
Teleological or Design Argument.
  • Unlike the Cosmological Argument this is not based on the mere existence of the universe but the properties of the universe.
  • The universe not only exists but seems very well designed.
  • It seems at least as if it must have a purpose. (the meaning of teleology).
  • Does not this mean it had/has a purposeful Designer?
teleological design argument cont
Teleological/Design Argument (Cont)
  • Paley's Watch.
    • William Paley said:
      • If we find a watch with all its parts fitted together we will not assume that it was brought into being by the blind forces of nature but by an intelligent designer.
      • Much in nature seems extremely complex with its parts fitting together well, therefore it was made by an intelligent designer - God.

Bertrand Russell (famous 20th C British agnostic/atheist mathematician/philosopher greatly respected the argument from design especially as expounded by Leibniz. (He regarded Leibniz, in whom he specialised, as "one of the supreme intellects of all time")

BR writes: "This argument contends that, on a survey of the known world, we find things which cannot plausibly be explained as the product of blind natural forces, but are much more reasonably to be regarded as evidences of a beneficent purpose.”

He regards this familiar argument as having“no formal logical defect".

He rightly points out that it does not prove the infinite or good God of normal religious belief but nevertheless says, that“if valid,”(and BR does not give any argument against it) “it demonstrates that God is vastly wiser and more powerful than we are".

(See his chapter on Leibniz in his History of Western Philosophy).

arguments against the cosmological and design arguments
Arguments against the Cosmological and Design arguments.
  • What caused God?
  • There must be something without a cause. Why not say the universe is this thing?
  • Just because individual things in the universe need an explanation that does not mean that the universe as a whole needs explanation.
david hume 1711 1776 against the cosmological and design arguments
David Hume (1711-1776) against the Cosmological and Design Arguments.

God's supposed causing of the universe to exist cannot find an analogy of causes in nature because we have no experience of things beyond nature and the alleged creation would be so unique an event that there is nothing to compare it with.

  • This means we cannot speak of causation or design from the things of our experience and apply them to the origin of the universe.

However some believe that in his famous: `Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion’, Hume was really arguing with himself.

  • Cleanthes is for the Design argument; Philo is against it.
  • Whose side was Hume really on? Was he unsure?
more arguments against cosmological and design arguments immanuel kant 18th c
More arguments against Cosmological and Design arguments. Immanuel Kant (18th C)
  • Would we not perceive the universe to be ordered even if it wasn't?
  • Immanuel Kant believed that human minds impose their own order on the universe.
    • We cannot get beyond our minds and know that nature really is ordered or that effects really must have causes.
      • (Few scientists take Kant’s view of their work.)
    • He therefore rejected the Design and Cosmological arguments for the existence of God.
    • However he believed in God but for another reason.

For further discussion of the Cosmological and Teleological arguments see:

Edward Miller's Questions That Matter, pages 219 - 258.


Blaise Pascal (d.o.b. 1623) and the Meaning of Life.

I owe the material in these slides to Thomas V. Morris and Peter Kreeft.


His accomplishments:

  • He
  • invented the precursor of the calculator,
  • founded Probability Theory,
  • designed the first system of public transportation in Europe.

Pascal accepted the metaphysical proofs for God.

    • For example the argument from the objective reality of numbers.
    • However he cautioned as follows:
  • The metaphysical proofs for the existence of God are so remote from human reasoning and so involved that they make little impact, and, even if they did help some people, it would only be for the moment during which they watched the demonstration, because an hour later they would be afraid they had made a mistake. (190) and in (449) he says:
  • Even if someone were convinced that the propositions between numbers are immaterial, eternal truths, depending on a First Truth in which they subsist, called God, I should not consider that he had made much progress towards his salvation.

Blaise Pascal (French Philosopher and Mathematician 17th C.)

  • He wrote about the human condition. He said we are both glorious and wretched.
  • We are capable of advanced mathematics, reasoning and science and great goodness. We are made in the image of God.
  • We are capable of evil and we are all moving towards death.
      • We are all seeking but not finding happiness and truth.
  • This is a sign that we have lost something.

Pascal’s Illustration. Two labourers.

1. The first used to be a prince. He has lost his royalty and so feels unhappy.

2. The second was never a prince and so he has not lost anything. He is not unhappy.


Humans are like the first. We have a collective memory of something that we have lost. That is why we are seeking, but not finding, happiness and truth.


Pascal’s Ideas – continued.

God made us for glory but we lost it because of sin.

We need to be restored to God as His children (princes).

So God, who loves us all, suffered the pain of our sin for us and then lifted us up back to Him.

This is the meaning of the cross of Jesus.

The cross shows us how much God loves us – our glory.

It also shows us how bad we are now - our wretchedness.

Only the cross links our glory with our wretchedness and makes sense of our human lives.


However men hate religion because they are afraid it may be true. (Said Pascal)

  • (They prefer to live lives independent of God.)
  • They use the following to try to avoid God:
  • Indifference. They pretend they do not care.
  • Diversion. They are too busy with other things.
  • We go on to consider:
    • The Meaning of Life.
    • The Human Enigma.


A realisation that religion is one cause of dispute is a widespread excuse for indifference among many people.

Pascal describes such people as persons “who do not love the truth”. An object of love is not a matter of indifference. When you have it you embrace it. When you lack it, you pursue it.

People who are indifferent about ultimate questions neither embrace nor pursue truth.

indifference continued
Indifference (Continued)

There are only two classes of people who can be called reasonable: those who serve God with all their heart because they know him and those who seek him with all their heart because they do not know Him.(427)

There are only three sorts of people: those who have found God and serve Him;those who are busy seeking Him and have not found Him;those who live without either seeking or finding Him. The first are reasonable and happy, the last are foolish and unhappy, those in the middle are unhappy and reasonable. (160)

indifference continued1
Indifference (continued).

There are people who avoid religious and philosophical thinking out of fear. Often it is just fear of the unknown. Others fear what they suspect to be true and wouldn’t want to face head-on. (TVM)


(In my early years) I began to write out of vanity, self-interest and pride. I did the same thing in my writing that I did in my life. In order to acquire the fame and money I was writing for, it was necessary to conceal what was good and to flaunt what was bad. And that is what I did. Time after time I would scheme in my writings to conceal under the mask of indifference and even pleasantry those yearnings for something good which gave meaning to my life. And I succeeded in this and was praised. (Leo Tolstoy, Confession.)


That man is the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his love and beliefs, are but the outcomes of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling can preserve individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins – all these things if not quite beyond dispute are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation be safely built.(B. Russell, Why I am not a Christian.)


Pascal applies the context principle. Our behaviour is a function of its context. People attend to every context they find themselves in except the ultimate context.

    • Since in this life there are often more rewards for vices than for virtues, few would prefer what is right to what is useful if they neither feared God nor hoped for an after-life. (Descartes, Meditations.)
pascal wanted to shock us out of our indifference
Pascal wanted to shock us out of our indifference.

Imagine a number of men in chains, all under the sentence of death, some of whom are each day butchered in the sight of others; those remaining see their own condition is that of their fellows, and looking at each other with grief and despair await their turn. This is an image of the human condition. (434)

after indifference comes diversion
After Indifference comes Diversion.

Being unable to cure death, wretchedness and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things.(133)

woody allen wanted to make a story about
Woody Allen wanted to make a story about:

people in Manhattan who are constantly creating these real unnecessary neurotic problems for themselves ‘cause it keeps them from dealing with more unsolvable, terrifying problems about the universe.


Pascal is not against all diversion. It is the constant use of diversion to stop us from ever thinking about ultimate issues that he warns against.

That is why men are so fond of hustle and bustle; that is why prison is such a fearful punishment; that is why pleasures of solitude are so incomprehensible. That, in fact, is the main joy of being a king, because people are continually trying to divert him and provide him with every kind of pleasure. A king is surrounded by people whose only thought is to divert him and stop him thinking about himself, because, king though he is, he becomes unhappy as soon as he thinks about himself. (136)

We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us seeing it. (166)


Why do we pay medical doctors so much? Because we want to keep death from our door. We want them to keep death and the troubling questions it raises as far away as they can. We want this badly and we are willing to pay.

But have you noticed that we pay the best entertainers even more, in fact much more – the cinema and television stars, the sports heroes? Maybe it is because we know, deep down, that the doctors will ultimately fail, and the entertainers keep us from thinking about that. This might also explain why we pay philosophers so little: they make us think about it. (TVM)


There are two striking human passions, the passion for uniqueness and the passion for union. Each of us wants to be recognised as a unique member of the human race. We want to stand apart from the crowd in some way. We want our own unique dignity and value. But at the same time we have a passion for union, for belonging, even for merging our identities into a greater unity in which we have a place, a role, a value. (TVM)

the meaning of life
The Meaning of Life.

Tolstoy: Five years ago, something very strange began to happen to me. At first I began to have moments of bewilderment, when my life would come to a halt , as if I did not know how to live or what to do; I would lose my presence of mind and fall into a state of depression. But this passed, and I began to fall into a state of depression. But this passed, and I continued to live as before. Then the moments of bewilderment recurred more frequently and they always took the same form. Whenever my life would come to a halt the question would arise Why? And What next?


Tolstoy: I did not even want to discover truth anymore because I had guessed what it was. The questions seemed to be such foolish, simple, childish questions. But as soon as I laid my hands on them and tried to resolve them, I was immediately convinced, first of all, that they were not childish and foolish questions but the most vital and profound questions in life, and, secondly, that no matter how much I pondered them there was no way I could resolve them. Or in the middle of thinking about the fame that my works were bringing me I would say to myself, "Very well, you will be more famous than, Pushkin and Shakespeare - so what? And I could find absolutely no reply. My life came to a stop. The truth was that life is meaningless . . . The only thing that amazed me was how I had failed to realize this in the very beginning. All this had been common knowledge for so long. If not today, then tomorrow sickness and death will come (indeed, they were already approaching) to everyone, to me, and nothing will remain except the stench and the worms. Why, then, do anything? How can anyone fail to see this and live? That's what is amazing! It is possible to live only as long as life intoxicates us; once we are sober we cannot help seeing that it is all a delusion, a stupid delusion! Nor is there anything funny or witty about it; it is only cruel and stupid.


If we never died would that solve the problem of meaning?

    • A few thousand years in front of a TV set would answer that!
    • An infinitely long life is not necessarily endowed with meaning.
    • However the reality of death does focus the mind on the ultimate questions.
  • Something has meaning if and only if it is endowed with some purpose by a purposeful agent.
    • Meaning is never intrinsic, it is always derivative.
what about a do it yourself approach to meaning
What about a ‘Do it yourself’ approach to meaning?

Then there would be no objective meaning to life.

Make up your own meaning (subjective meaning) for your own life.

Find out what you can do best and do it to the full.

John is good at curing diseases and it brings him pleasure.

Bill is good at torturing people and he enjoys it.

Fred is good at collecting match boxes and he is happy focussing his whole life on this hobby.

They devotetheir whole lives to these pursuits.

If there is no objective meaning then there is no way to distinguish, from one another, the value of these different ‘meanings’.


Only One who is Eternal and has an eternal purpose for our lives can give our lives real meaning.

Thus there is nothing more important than the search for God, and nothing more foolish than the neglect of God through indifference or diversion.


What are Space and Time, or more accurately what is Space-Time?

  • Are Space and Time merely the infinite containers of matter, energy and events?
    • The Nature of Space - a mystery.
  • Can we imagine something in space but infinitelyfar away?
  • Now try to imagine there is only one thing ‘in’ the universe.
    • Would it make any sense to say it is moving in space? No!
    • So space is not a ‘thing’ in itself which could have a place of absolute rest.
    • Does matter/energy create its own space?

Light and Space.

  • Light travels to us from stars.
  • Most of space is a vacuum.
  • Light emerging from two slits makes interference patterns on a screen - implying it is a wave motion.
    • Wave in what medium? Isn’t most of space a vacuum?
    • Ether - some unknown medium that pervades all of space?
  • Michelson and Morely’s famous experiment showed that:
    • there is no such thing the ether pervading space.
    • the speed of light is a fundamental constant.
  • Is light a thing travelling in space at all?
  • Perhaps light leading to matter/energy creates space?

A Mystery about Time.

If time were infinite it would take an infinite time before anything happened so nothing would happen! (Stephen Hawking!)

If the world were uncreated, then time would be infinite, but infinite time cannot be traversed. Hence, the present moment could not have come about, but the present moment does exist. Hence the world had a beginning. (Saadia Gaon: Medieval Jewish philosopher)

If time is not infinite but had a beginning, was there a time before time?!


Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity.

  • It relates the speed of light, space and time together:
    • Since the speed of light is same for all observers - however fast they are travelling - time must be different for observers travelling at high speeds relative to one another.
  • Twin paradox.

Light, Energy and Mass.

  • We could never catch up with a beam of light.
  • More and more energy needed to accelerate to higher and higher proportions of the speed of light.
    • Energy to accelerate from 90% to 91% speed of light would be same energy as from stationary to same speed.
    • Therefore enormous amount of energy for small increase in velocity.
    • An object would be ‘heavier’ and ‘heavier’ as it approached the speed of light.
    • The energy to accelerate it is changing into mass.
    • At the speed of light the mass would be infinite - impossible.
    • Nothing can travel as fast as light.

Mass and energy are interchangeable.

    • This is the foundation of the theory behind atomic and nuclear power.
    • Energy, mass & the speed of light are bound together in the equation:
    • E = mc2.(c is the speed of light)
    • Fundamental mysteries: space/time (velocity); mass/energy are not separate things but related in this simple equation.
    • The only constant in this equation is ‘c’ (the speed of light in a vacuum.)

Speed of Light a universal absolute?

  • Not space and time that are absolute but the speed of light.
    • (However some scientists now say that immediately after the ‘Big Bang’ light had a much higher velocity which then quickly decreased to the value we know today.)
  • Light, matter, energy, space, time, are not separate things joined by external laws but their relationship comes from what they are in themselves.

In Christian theology:

    • God did not create the physical universe putting it in an eternally existing space-time.
    • Rather space and time also are His creation.
    • All of space and time are embraced by light of God which is the source of created light.
    • Our relationships with God, one another and nature should come from what we are in ourselves as personal beings, not from external law - even God-given law.
    • God and space-time are bound together in Christ so that, who He is and what He did, embraces and heals all our lives, all creation, all of space and time - all of history from beginning to end.

Whereas Special relativity shows us that time and velocity are bound together, General relativity shows us that time and gravity belong together.

  • If we got near to a source of enormous gravity our measurement of time would be less than the time measured by a distant observer watching us.
  • A very few scientists- using this - say that the six days of the book of Genesis 1 and the fifteen billion years of the universe’s existence can be reconciled.
    • They say time is measured differently depending one whether one is looking back to the Big Bang or looking forward from the Big Bang surrounded by the enormous gravity of the whole universe concentrated in the size of an atom.
  • This theory is not well accepted!
    • However religious controversies about the universe’s age often falsely assume that time is an eternal absolute.

In every day life we are familiar with the three dimensions of space and one of time. (Four altogether).

  • It is as if we are moving with and in time and can see the three space dimensions around us.
  • Calculations, especially in String theory (to be referred to later) about the origin of universe imply that there were 11 dimensions, 7 of which are now ‘rolled up’.
  • We cannot imagine dimensions beyond the four we know.
However in Christian theology we are used to the concept of the greater dimensions in which God dwells.
    • We don’t think of Him, (or heaven and hell) as located at some place in our universe of space-time.
    • The doctrine of the Trinity - God is One and Three - cannot be grasped in the context of the space-time of this world.
      • But in the context of greater dimensions?
  • Hugh Ross’s: Beyond the Cosmos, explores these ideas and so does: Eric Middleton’s: The New Flatlanders.
c s lewis the trinity in higher dimensions
C. S. Lewis - The Trinity in higher dimensions.
  • Two dimensional world - flat surface:
    • No ups nor downs.
      • Two or more squares are two separate things.
      • When they are joined - no longer squares.
  • Three dimensional world (with ups and downs):
    • Six squares make one cube.
    • Joined in ways cannot be imagined in ‘flat’ space.
  • For us the 3 dimensional world is more real.
  • How can God be One and yet three?
    • There are ‘higher’ dimensions than we can presently imagine.

In these dimensions, things we cannot imagine in our space-time can nevertheless be real.


Some reading to do:

Study Unit 4’s sections:

  • The nature of space and time.
  • Stephen Hawking's attempt to understand how the universe came to be as it is.

Further reading:

  • Stephen Hawking: A Brief History of Time, chapter 2
  • John Marks Templeton, Evidence of Purpose, chapter 2

The ‘Laws of Nature’.

  • (Darwin believed that the Creator impressed laws on matter.)
  • Can Science ever answer the question as to why nature has the properties (laws of nature) that it has?
    • Reductionism.
      • Methodological.
      • Ontological.
    • What is the reason things behave as they do?
    • What is everything made of?
      • Finite or infinite quest?
    • ‘Ghostly’ world - come back to that.

Wherever we look in nature we cannot find the origin of nature’s creation or its rational structure.

Job 28.

12 “But where shall wisdom be found?

And where is the place of understanding?

13 Man does not know its worth,

and it is not found in the land of the living.

14 The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’

and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’

28 And he said to man,

‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,

and to turn away from evil is understanding.’”


A hierarchy of mysteries:

The nature of:

  • Conscious life (human) that can:
    • reason (think abstractly and universally),
    • ponder its own life, death, and possible life after death.
    • be aware of good and evil,
    • know that it is responsible (partly) for its own behaviour.
  • Conscious life - such as the higher animals have.
  • Life - anything that is alive - such as plants.
  • Matter - material or physical existence.

Wave Particle duality.

  • Since the time of the Greek philosophers, (before Christ) there have been two theories as to the fundamental nature of matter/energy:
  • 1. Atomist:
    • Matter is made up of tiny particles.
    • In differing combinations they make up the physical world as we experience it.
    • When school science teaches us about atoms & electrons etc., we get an ‘atomist’ picture of reality.
  • 2. Plenum:
    • The whole of space-time is filled with a ‘field’ (or is a field) which manifests itself as matter.
    • When school science teaches us about fields of force we get the ‘plenum’ picture of reality.

A Mystery: What is everything made of?

  • If matter is made of particles
    • - what are the particles made of?
  • If matter is a wave or force
    • - a wave or force in what medium?

Black body radiation

      • - fundamental constituents of nature are particles or distinct packets of energy (quanta).
  • Two slit experiment
      • - fundamental constituents of nature are waves.
      • - are these waves that carry information as if the universe were a great ‘thought’?
        • Some think that is so.
      • - if one photon at a time is released - a wave pattern is made.
        • - but not always! - see next slide.

If the ‘electron’ (say) is observed.

    • - If each ‘electron’ (say) is ‘watched’ as it goes through the slit,
      • the result is not a wave pattern.
      • instead a bright spot is made on the screen as if the beam of electrons were a stream of particles.
  • Does the consciousness of the observer have a unique part to play in the behaviour of the universe?
      • These highly speculative questions are still being debated among quantum physicists.
      • There is no consensus.
There was once a man who said `God

Must think it exceedingly odd

If he finds that this tree

Continues to be

When there's no one about in the Quad.'

- Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (1888-1957), Limerick on Idealism.

The Answer:

Dear Sir, Your astonishment's odd:

I am always about in the Quad.

And that's why the tree

Will continue to be,

Since observed by

Yours faithfully, God.

- Anon.


The Uncertainty principle.

  • If we know where an electron (say) is we cannot know how fast it is moving.
  • If we decide to try to find out its velocity we will not know where exactly it is.
  • This is unlike any other ‘thing’ in the ordinary sense of the word ‘thing’.
  • See handout: Quantum Mechanics as a Science-Religion Bridge by Jewish Physicist Prof Stanley Klein.

The physical world an Open System?

  • The behaviour of each fundamental wave-particle is unpredictable in principle.
  • This seems to mean that the universe is not a closed ‘clockwork’ deterministic system of cause and effect.
  • Within limits nature is open and free?
  • If the universe is an open system it is open to What?
  • John Polkinghorne and other Christian quantum physicists have used this as a way of seeing how God can interact with the natural world - see slide much later in course.


    • Two electrons emerging from the same source will remain related even if separated by great distances and there is no way that they can communicate with each other.
    • If the ‘spin’ on one is changed the other will immediately respond.
  • At fundamental levels, reality is relational (or entangled).
    • A relation that transcends the bounds of space and time.
  • However separate entities (electrons) still exist.
  • Relationships between the ‘building blocks’ of matter/energy are not based on external laws but rather on what they are in themselves.
  • A discussion (with negative conclusions) re the relation between Eastern Religion and Quantum Theory is given in an article by Peter Bussey. It is available on request.
Strings and an alternative.

Are these wave-particles really fundamental?

  • Current thinking is that all wave-particles are the result of vibrating strings, which are unimaginably small - billions of times smaller than a proton.
  • It is thought that they are one-dimensional loops of energy that vibrate and spin.
  • It is not that wave-particles are made of the strings.
    • Rather just as one string of a violin can make many different notes in music, so different vibrations of these strings make the differing wave-particles that we used to regard as fundamental to material existence.

An alternative theory (to strings) is ‘Loop quantum gravity’ which says all particles are an entanglement of space-time.


Nothing whatever in theoretical physics enables us to say anything about the intrinsic character of events. … All that physics gives us is certain equations, giving abstract properties of their changes. But as to what it is that changes, and what it changes from and to – as to this, physics is silent.

Bertrand Russell: My Philosophical Development, page 13.


Information and Word?

When we consider matter/energy as a wave or field we find that it is a wave understandable by Mathematics.

Galileo: “Mathematics is the language with which God wrote the universe.”

You receive a letter. Is its message explained by the chemistry of the ink and paper or the mind who wrote it?

In one of his non-religious books on Quantum theory, John Polkinghorne says it is intelligibility from which all physical existence emerges.

So information, (in the form of mathematics?) lies in and behind all physical reality.

information and word cont
Information and Word? (Cont.)
  • The theoretical physicist Paul Davies in ‘The New Scientist’ recently wrote:"Normally we think of the world as composed of simple, clod-like, material particles, and information as a derived phenomenon attached to special, organised states of matter. But maybe it is the other way around: perhaps the Universe is really a frolic of primal information, and material objects a complex secondary manifestation.” (New Scientist, January 30, 1999, Pg. 3),
      • (Rather than the other way round: information emerging from mindless particles and energy.)
  • If Paul Davies is right then it resonates with the Bible’s teaching that ‘Word’ is the foundation of all things.

Messages, languages, and coded information ONLY come from minds. (Minds are conscious.) - minds that have agreed on an alphabet and a meaning of words and sentences and that express both desire and intent.

  • If we analyze language with advanced mathematics and engineering communication theory, we can say:
    • Messages, languages and coded information never come from anything else besides a mind. No-one has ever produced a single example of a message that did not come from a mind.
  • Languages etc can be carried by matter or energy (eg sounds, ink, electronic and radio signals) but they are none of these things. Indeed they are not matter or energy at all. They are not ‘physical’.
  • The physical universe can create fascinating patterns - snowflakes, crystals, stalactites, tornados, turbulence and cloud formations etc. But non-living and non-conscious things cannot create language. They cannot create codes.

Information and Word? (Cont.)

As some recent theorists have pointed out, the entire physical universe can be viewed as composed of vibratory wavelengths of information. The problem is that nature is broadcasting on all bands, short-wave, AM and FM, and we have small receivers tuned into only one frequency. (Thomas V. Morris: Making Sense of it All’ , page 75, 76)


Bertrand Russell (atheist/agnostic) believed the most powerful argument for God’s existence comes from Mathematics.

  • Pythagoras: Numbers: 1. have properties; 2. don’t exist in our space-time.
  • Penrose:
    • Numbers exist in a transcendent world. (So does beauty and goodness. All three are One.)
    • Human consciousness accesses this transcendent world and can therefore make discoveries about numbers.
  • But Is Mathematics discovery or is it merely invention?
  • Russell and ‘The Principles of Mathematics.’
    • Godel.
  • (Electrons etc are not picturable as ‘things’ in space-time. Some say it is consciousness that gives them the property of particles in space-time.)

Consider this from Bertrand Russell’s ‘Study of Mathematics’: Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty - a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, … is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.

And consider this from Paul Dirac (Nobel Prize: Quantum Theory):

.. fundamental physical laws are described in terms of a mathematical theory of great beauty and power … One could perhaps describe the situation by saying that God is a mathematician of a very high order and He used very advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.

Eugene Wigner, (Nobel Prize for Maths) and Dirac’s brother-in-law, wrote of the unreasonable effectiveness of Mathematics in understanding nature. He said: “It is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve.” A possible example is on the next slide:


One possible recent discovery that illustrates Wigner’s ‘mystery’:

  • The wave pattern of an electron ‘particle’ when its path is ‘chaotic’, follows the seemingly irregular pattern of the list of prime numbers in number theory.
      • Prime numbers (such as 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, … etc) are the elementary ‘building blocks’ of mathematics. Each of them is a number that cannot be divided by any other whole number except the number 1.
  • Their distribution pattern seems haphazard but it corresponds to a pattern in the physical world.
    • See ‘The Times’ (London) 14th July 1997, article: Pattern in the Chaos by Marcus du Sautoy, Royal Society Research Fellow at the Department of Pure Mathematics, Cambridge, and a Fellow of All Souls.

Now read Unit 5

    • note the further reading from
      • Paul Davies
      • John Polkinghorne.
      • Note too what C. S. Lewis and F. F. Bruce had to say.

Now to life and evolution. However hold in your head what we have said about information, word and mind.

  • At a higher level, life too, has at its heart ‘information’. The Mystery of the Origin of Life.
    • (Biological evolution can only get going once life has begun to exist).
    • A common theory:
    • In the early earth there was a ‘cosmic soup’ of gases and liquids.
    • Electricity from lightening produced, in the cosmic soup, amino acids - the building blocks of life.
    • This can be replicated in the laboratory today.

Modern Theories

    • How did life originate?
    • (The Mystery of the Origin of Life.)
    • (Biological evolution can only get going once life has begun to exist).
    • A common theory:
    • In the early earth there was a ‘cosmic soup’ of gases and liquids.
    • Electricity from lightening produced, in the cosmic soup, amino acids - the building blocks of life.
    • This can be replicated in the laboratory today.

How did life originate? (Cont)

  • However it is one thing to know how stones (say) were formed but another to know how an intricate stone palace was built from the stones.
  • Energy and an intelligent mind are needed to work on the stone.
  • Simple proteins involve many amino acids in correct sequence.
  • How are proteins actually made?
    • In the cells of life.
    • In each cell of life there is a chemical factory (cytoplasm) for making the proteins, a computer program (the DNA) and a translation system (the RNA)

Cytoplasm for making proteins. It receives its instructions from the DNA via the RNA translation system.


Nucleus of cell made up of DNA


Professor Francis Crick, who received the Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA (the famous double helix), writes: “The origin of life appears to bealmost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to be satisfied to get it going” (italics added).

Professor Harold Klein, chairman of the U. S. National Academy of Sciences committee that reviewed origin-of-life research, writes: “The simplest bacterium is so damn complicated that it is almost impossible to imagine how it happened” (italics added).


American Spectator magazine (May 2005) says:

IMAGINE A NANOTECHNOLOGY MACHINE far beyond the state of the art: microminiaturized rotary motor and propeller system that drives a tiny vessel through liquid. The engine and drive mechanism are composed of 40 parts, including a rotor, stator, driveshaft, bushings, universal joint, and flexible propeller. The engine is powered by a flow of ions, can rotate at up to 100,000 rpm (ten times faster than a NASCAR racing engine), and can reverse direction in a quarter of a rotation. The system comes with an automatic feedback control mechanism. The engine itself is about 1/100,000th of an inch wide - far smaller than can be seen by the human eye.And then goes on …


Most of us would be pleasantly surprised to learn that some genius had designed such an engineering triumph. What might come as a greater surprise is that there is a dominant faction in the scientific community that is prepared to defend, at all costs, the assertion that this marvellous device could not possibly have been designed, must have been produced blindly by unintelligent material forces, and only gives the appearance of being designed.


How did life originate? (Cont)

  • The chemical factory receives its instructions from the very complicated DNA code.
  • The DNA is a code written in a four letter ‘alphabet’. (Each letter is a different nucleotide.)
  • The DNA code even for a simple bacteria may be a thousands of ‘letters’ long.
  • These letters have to be in a particular order to provide the information necessary for the manufacture of the proteins.
  • The DNA sends its instructions to the cytoplasm via the RNA which ‘translates’ the instructions so that the cytoplasm can ‘understand’.
  • The DNA, cytoplasm and the RNA are themselves made by the very cells of which they are a part!

Some say that life’s beginnings may have been much simpler than this.

However we still have the problem of the origin, not just of complexity, but of information.


How did life originate? (Cont)

  • The Atheist Richard Dawkins writes:
  • What lies at the heart of every living thing is not a fire, warm breath, nor a 'spark of life'. It is information, words, instructions . . . Think of a billion discrete digital characters . . . If you want to understand life, think about information technology.

How did life originate? (Cont)

  • In his award winning book ‘Consilience’ Edward Wilson the eminent non religious science writer who has recently won many prestigious prizes tells us that cells use“very modern technology involving digital logic, analogue-digital conversion and signal integration.”He tells us that this complexity exceeds that of“super-computers and space vehicles.”

How did life originate? (Cont)

  • Encyclopaedia Britannica:
  • The origin of the code.
  • A critical and unsolved problem in the origin of life is the origin of the genetic code. The molecular apparatus supporting the operation of the code the activating enzymes, adapter RNAs, messenger RNAs, and so on are themselves each produced according to instructions contained within the code. At the time of the origin of the code such an elaborate molecular apparatus was of course absent.

How did life originate? (Cont)

  • Douglas Hofstadter, (a world famous and non religious artificial intelligence expert) writes:
  • "A natural and fundamental question to ask, on learning of these incredibly, intricately interlocking pieces of software and hardware is: 'How did they ever get started in the first place?'..... from simple molecules to entire cells is almost beyond one's power to imagine. There are various theories on the origin of life. They all run aground on this most central of central questions: "How did the Genetic Code, along with the mechanisms for its translation originate?" For the moment we will have to content ourselves with a sense of wonder and awe, rather than with an answer.'

Karl Popper: The Self and Its Brain. Page 28:

The probability or propensity of any atom, taken at random in the universe, to become within a chosen unit of time, part of a living organism, is indistinguishable from zero – even on the assumption that there are many planets on the universe capable of sustaining life.

He reports that Jacques Monad said, “with good reason”, that the chances of life appearing anywhere in the universe were “virtually zero”.


But how did self-replicating organisms arise in the first place? It is fair to say that at the present time (2006) we do not know.

No current hypothesis comes close to explaining how …….. the prebiotic environment that existed on planet earth gave rise to life.

(Francis Collins, head of the human Genome project)


TE verses ID

  • ID is proposing an extra miracle to creation.
    • ID is saying that the creation of life exhibits one aspect of creation.
  • Creation is ‘one seamless whole’ (DA).
    • Creation was in several steps, each not reducible to the former.
  • Physical effects must have physical causes.
    • What about thoughts and their physical effects?
  • God of the gaps. (Nature does this and God does that.)
    • It is the advance of knowledge that has led to ID, not ignorance. The advance of knowledge reveals a code and information, not just complexity.

Michael Polanyi's gave his reaction to the claim that the discovery of the DNA double helix is the final proof that living things are physically and chemically determined.

No said Polanyi it proves the opposite. No arrangement of physical units can be a code and convey information unless the order of its units is not fixed by its physical chemical make-up. His example is a railway station on the Welsh border where an arrangement of pebbles on a bank spelled the message - "Welcome to Wales by British Rail". This information content of pebbles clearly showed that their arrangement was not due to their physical chemical interaction but to a purpose on the part of the stationmaster ... The arrangement of the DNA could have come about chance, just as the pebbles on that station could have rolled down a hillside and arranged themselves in the worlds of the message, but it would be bizarre to maintain that this was so ...


How did life originate? (Cont)

  • My comment:
  • We can add to the mystery of the `miracle' by noting that the DNA, by itself, is useless; it must be translated via the RNA so that its `message' can be put to use by the cytoplasm `factory'.
  • The problem is that the RNA that links the DNA with the factory, itself is manufactured by that very factory which cannot function without the RNA and the DNA! Indeed each component depends on the other for its manufacture.
  • Try to imagine a factory for making computers - the factory itself being run from the beginning by the very computers it alone can manufacture!
  • This is only one of the enigmas of the origin of life even in its simple forms.

An individual life form is more complex than the DNA codes in his cells.

  • I am more complex than even the cell of life from which I grew.
    • Just consider one of a thousands of possible examples
      • the brain.
  • Writing about the brain Richard Dawkins in his preface to `The Blind Watchmaker', tells us:
  • "The brain with which you are understanding my words is an array of some ten million kiloneurones (ten thousand million neurones). Many of these billions of nerve cells have each more than a thousand `electric wires' connecting them to other neurones."
  • Where does this greater complexity come from?

An individual life form is more complex than the DNA codes in its cells. (Cont)

  • The Plot thickens - differentiation!
  • Research Chemist Ernest Lucas tells us:
  • "The single fertilised egg does not have miniature arms and legs. These new structures appear later as the cells multiply and divide.
  • If every cell in my body contains the same DNA code, how, at the beginning of my life, does each new cell know whether it is to be part of a nose, my liver, etc?
    • How does this mystery ofdifferentiationhappen?
    • Who or what tells it?

An individual life is more complex than its DNA codes. (Differentiation Cont)

Paul Davies writes:

If every molecule of DNA possesses the same global plan for the whole organism, how is it that different cells implement different parts of that plan?

Is there, perhaps, a `metaplan' to tell each cell which part of the plan to implement?

If so, where is the metaplan located?

In the DNA?

But this is surely to fall into infinite regress.


An ancient belief in Evolution?

St Basil, the 4th century Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia: ‘Why do the waters give birth also to birds?’ he asked, writing about Genesis. ‘Because there is, so to say, a family link between the creatures that fly and those that swim. In the same way that fish cut the waters, using their fins to carry them forward, so we see the birds float in the air by the help of their wings.’

(Quoted in the Spectator:25th October 2003)



  • Random mutations (changes) in the DNA sometimes produce improvements which make the species more able to live in its environment.
  • So it then survives better and passes on its new characteristics to succeeding generations - and so on.
  • This process is called:Natural SelectionorThe Survival of the Fittest.
  • However it would have to be the result of an aggregation of very small steps:
    • "…Natural selection acts only by taking advantage of slight successive variations; she can never take a great and sudden leap, but must advance by short and sure, though slow steps.”(OOS page 162)

A note about Mutations. (Summary of Denis Alexander’s explanation).

  • ‘Point Mutations’ involve the change of a single ‘base’ (the letter in the ‘genetic alphabet’).
  • Other mutations may happen because of a loss or gain of a whole sequences of DNA. If such a gain happened it would be DNA that had been added inappropriately from some other chromosomes in the same cell.
  • Such events occur quite often during the process of cell division.
    • The copying process is extremely accurate, but the enormous rate at which cell division occurs in some tissues leads to errors in replication.
    • Many of these are rectified by the DNA repair enzymes, which are constantly on the look out for mistakes. However some mutations may still be passed on to daughter cells.

Evolution (Cont)

    • Micro evolution - non controversial.
  • Small changes and adaptations do occur within a species but they do not produce new parts of the plant or new organs for the animal - such asleaves, bark, petals, wings, eyes, livers, lungs, blood streams, brains, nervous systems, etc.
  • Micro evolution alone cannot explain how bacteria changed into elephants, oak trees, spiders and humans etc. So is there macro evolution?
  • Macro evolution (controversial) says that evolution can bring entirely new organs into being and thus explain the whole process from bacteria to tiger, swallow, rose and human.

Barrow, Tipler and Carter have calculated the chances of bacteria changing to a human being given the alleged time allowed.

They calculate the possibility as 1: 10-24,000,000.

(See “The Anthropic Principle and Its implications for Biological Evolution” by Brandon Carter in The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Astronomical Society A370 1983: 347-360; and Tipler and Barrow, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle page 510-573.)


Darwin's Finches on the Galapogas Islands.

  • The finches on different islands vary by the shape of their beaks and what they eat - some eating seeds and others eating insects.
  • Their beaks vary in accordance with their diet.
  • They seem suited to the environment on their respective islands.
    • The Ground Finches eat ticks they remove with their crushing beaks from Tortoises.
    • The Sharp Beaked Ground Finch jumps on the backs ofother birds pecking at their flesh and feeding on their blood.
    • Woodpecker and Mangrove Finch use small twigs and cactus spines as tools to dine on the larva stored in dead tree branches.

Though they have adapted to allow for specialised feeding most finches are generalised eaters.

  • Their different beaks come into their own in times of drought and what is left on their respective islands during the droughts.
    • Then these specialised beaks allow the birds to better compete for food sources with other birds and animals.
  • Certain kinds of beaks and diet are suited to certain islands.
    • Those that had suitable beaks survived and those that didn't died out. (i.e. Natural Selection.)
    • Therefore each island had finches suited to its environment.
  • Not that God created this finch for that island.
    • The fittest to survive did survive and then it passed on its characteristics to its offspring.

Some important questions.

  • 1. How did the initial change in the shape of the beak come about? - before Natural Selection could begin to work?
  • 2. Does this relatively small change give us solid ground for believing that creatures without nerves, brains, blood streams, bark, petals could change into the many life forms we see today? (It is spoken of as if the evidence is clear.)
      • But is it clear?
  • 3. Isn’t the belief that these developments took place solely by random mutation and natural selection based on the assumption that only physical causes exist?
    • But what is the evidence for that assumption?
    • In principle there can be no such evidence.
Evolution (Cont)

In response to a claim in late 2001 by Eugene Scott of the (US) National Center for Science Education that“virtually every reputable scientist in the world”supports (Darwinian) evolution, a list of over 100 reputable scientists was published in an advert in the New York Times - entitled“A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.” Signatories included 5-times Nobel nominee Henry F Schaefer, University of Georgia chemist, and other research scientists who are faculty members at Princeton, Berkeley, Yale, MIT etc. These are not arguing for creation in 4004 BC, but scientists who dare to doubt Darwinism on the basis of the evidence itself.

Evolution (Cont)
  • Darwin did not believe that Natural Selection could provide a full explanation for the origin of species.
  • Many modern evolutionary biologists (such as Steven Jay Gould) agree with Darwin that there must be more to it than that.
  • Militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins insist that natural selection alone will one day provide sufficient explanation.
  • What is the evidence for their prophecy? That is the question.

Evolution continued:

  • Irreducible complexity.
    • (This is one of the points made by the controversial Intelligent Design movement.)
  • Challenge from Darwin:
    • If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ exists which could not possibly be formed by numerous successive slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.
  • Michael Behe’s ‘Darwin’s Black Box’ responds, claiming there are many irreducibly complex organs in nature. He uses the workings of a mouse trap to illustrate his point. If just one of the eight parts of the mouse trap is missing the mouse trap will not trap fewer mice - it will trap none at all. See Handout: Behe Defends ID.
  • Others dispute this claim (see for exampleForrest and Gross's Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, (OUP) - the debate continues.

Two statements from cell biologist Franklin Harold in his 2001 book (OUP) titled The Way of the Cell.

  • 1. “We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity.”
    • (Chance = random mutation; Necessity = Natural Selection.)
  • This statement (1 above) is immediately followed by:
  • 2. “But we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.”
  • (I have adapted this from an article by Bill Dembski: Unintelligent Evolution.)
evolution cont
Evolution (Cont)

Problems for the view that natural selection alone can account for the origin of the species of life:

  • If the mutations were truly random then one would expect harmful changes to be common and improvements to occur very rarely indeed - if ever.
    • A common answer is to say that there were billions of forms of primitive life - so improvements are not all that unlikely.
    • A response says that this does not explain alleged evolutionary changes in bigger species where their numbers were relatively small.
  • If the changes in DNA code are not random - what or Who guides them?
evolution cont1
Evolution (Cont)

Perhaps a clue to the development of life could come from the underlying quantum physics in the cell - the ‘language’ at the subatomic level.

      • Lothar Shäfer's quantum view of evolution.
  • However that only pushes the question about the source of life’s developing information, one stage further back.
  • See also handout: Is Evolution Atheistic?
      • Denis Alexander verses Creationist opponents.
  • See also handout: Intelligent Design or Neo- Darwinism - The Case For Teaching Both.

Evolution (Cont)

    • My Comment:
  • I do find it difficult to believe that purely accidental processes and random changes, even given billions of years of the `survival of the fittest', could change a single cell (without brain, nervous system, liver, eyes, ears, blood, lungs, leaves, feathers, bark, roots, petals, etc. etc.) into all the wonderful forms of animal and vegetable life we see around us.
  • However this process could have occurred if the process of mutation was not random but guided by an overarching purpose that transcends the universe.
  • That could happen only if the universe itself were an open system.
  • A fairly new theory, defined by Edward O. Wilson (one of its main proponents) as the systematic study of the biological basis of all social behaviour.(Sociobiology: the New Synthesis, 1975 page 3.) It states that genetics and evolution are the main factors responsible, not only our existence, but also for our behaviour and sense of right and wrong.
    • In his book Consilience Wilson expounds this.
      • See my critical review (published in the journal: Philosophia Christi). The review is also on my web pages.
  • Sometimes supporters of Sociobiology say we actually exist for the benefit and propagation of our genes.
    • (E.g.: Richard Dawkins’ book: The Selfish Gene and quotations from Dawkins and Wilson - next slide.)

We are machines built by DNA whose purpose is to make more copies of the same DNA … Flowers are for the same thing as everything else in the living kingdoms, for spreading ‘copy me’ programmes about, written in DNA language. This is EXACTLY what we are for. We are machines for propagating DNA, and the propagation of DNA is a self sustaining process. It is every living objects’ sole reason for living. (Richard Dawkins: ‘The Ultraviolet Garden’, Royal Institution Christmas Lecture No. 4, 1991)

The individual organism is only the vehicle (of genes), part of an elaborate device to preserve and spread them with the least possible biochemical perturbation .. The organism is only DNA’s way of making more DNA. (E. O. Wilson, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, Harvard University Press, 1975, p. 3.)

(I owe these quotations to Denis Alexander’s ‘Rebuilding the Matrix’ p. 274)

See handout ‘A New Religion’ by David Stove.


Evolution. Are life and the Universe Open Systems?

  • The Biblical view is that God is overflowing love.
  • His Word and Spirit creates and upholds all things and moves them towards their purpose.
  • Can this help us to understand the existence of life in its countless and marvellous forms?
  • The Judeo-Christian belief is that fundamental to God’s purpose is the redemption of the world from evil through His own self-giving love.

Evolution concluded.

  • Now read Unit 6 whose sections include:
  • What life is.
  • Information technology at the heart of living things.
  • The unsolved mystery of the origin of life.
  • The Human Genome project.
  • Can a recipe for a cake change into a cake?
  • Is evolution without God possible?
  • Could Chaos theory be a clue to the origin and development of life?

Further reading:

  • Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker,Chapters 1, 5, 6
  • Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, Pages 11-48
  • Paul Davies, The Cosmic Blueprint, Chapter 7

Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul.

    • The Brain - extremely complex.
    • Prof. Ambrose (Emeritus Professor of Biology in London University) in his book 'The Nature and Origin of the Biological World' page 152 , describing the complexity of the brain says that it is like500 million telephone exchanges all connected properly. The connections possible are 101,300,000,000,000.(To write this number out in the normal form l,000,000 . . . etc. would take about one hundred thousand years to do.)

Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

    • Richard Dawkins in ‘The Blind Watchmaker’:
    • "The brain with which you are understanding my words is an array of some ten million kiloneurones. Many of these billions of nerve cells have each more than a thousand 'electric wires' connecting them to other neurones.”
    • ------------------------------------------------------------------
  • For more on the amazing structure of the brain see the following:
  • John Eccles’ chapter: ‘The Evolution of Purpose’ in the book Evidence of Purpose edited by John M Templeton.
  • Susan Greenfield’s The Human Brain - A Guided Tour.
  • Paul Davies’s The Cosmic Blueprint, chapter 13.

Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

  • But if my thinking were simply the result of physical processes and laws in my brain could I:
      • think freely?
      • reason?
      • know anything?
    • Now to more on this ‘Mind-Body’ problem.

Is the mind more than the physical brain?

    • Is Artificial Intelligence making progress towards manufacturing a computer like a human mind?
    • Roger Penrose in his ‘Shadows of the Mind’ identifies four views about computers and the mind.
    • 1 One day computers will be genuinely Conscious and therefore capable of happiness, compassion, fear, etc.
    • 2. One day computers will be able to fully imitate consciousness without genuinely being conscious.
    • 3. The human mind will only be understood by a completely new physics - so far undreampt of by scientists.
    • 4. There is something inherently non-physical and therefore ‘spiritual’ about the human mind.
  • Penrose claims to rule out 1 and 2 from Godel’s theorem.
  • He favours 3 (though he obviously can have no evidence)
    • He doesn’t like 4 because of its religious overtones.

Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

  • The human experience of inspiration and intuition.
    • Gospel and Pluralist Society page 31b
    • The Emporer's New Mind p. 543 - 545

Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

  • Could a brain scientist of the future know ‘you’ or ‘me’ by examining our brains?
      • Our thoughts?
      • What you and I see when we look at something red (say).
        • Are we seeing what is the same colour as the same colour?
      • What you experience when you taste dates (say).
    • Could he know my experience of ‘me’ as ‘I’?
    • Could he know what it feels like to be a cat, snail etc?

Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

    • These essentially subjective experiences are called ‘qualia’ and almost all brain scientists believe they can never be accessed by science.
    • Yet they are real because they affect the real physical world.
      • (Some materialists deny that qualia are real describing them as mere epiphenomena, accidental to the working of the brain and not being relevant to the study of the mind.)
    • This view seems nonsense to most people.

Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

A Word from the Bible:

1 Corinthians 2:11-16

11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no-one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 16 "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. (NIV)


Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

Fundamental to the Christian Faith is that, not only does God know us from theoutside looking in,but also - through Christ who became one with us - He knows us from theinside looking out.

He is thus the Redeemer of the whole person -body and soul.


Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

    • The Self - the abiding mystery.
    • Would a copy of you be you?
    • If so a future scientist could make an exact copy and then shoot you - no problem to you because you would still exist - or would you?
    • Suppose a different sperm from your father fertilised the egg in your mother.
    • What if your father had married a different woman?
      • Would you exist?
    • Could ‘you’ have been born into a different ethnic group?
      • Would it have been ‘you’?
  • Was there only a one in a trillion trillion chance that ‘you’ should exist?

These next ten slides I owe to Prof Howard Ducharme, Philosophy, University of Akron.The Official View, Common Sense, Ordinary Language, Moral Realism, World Religions (85-99% of the world’s population)

Dualism is the view “of the common man.”David Lewis

Ordinary language “enshrines the plain man’s metaphysics which is dualism of body and soul.” JJC Smart.

“I suppose most people in our civilization accept some kind of dualism. They think they have both a mind and a body, or a soul and a body.” John Searle

“The belief that bodies are invested with souls is not just a product of religious doctrine but embedded in people’s psychology and likely to emerge whenever they have not digested the findings of biology.” Steven Pinker, Blank Slate, p. 226

We believe ourselves to be a unique mind, the author and cause of free choices. But we are not what we believe ourselves to be, and our identity is not what matters, and we ought not have such great personal concern about our [daily or ultimate] survival. It may be “psychologically impossible to to believe the Reductionist view.” (p. 280) Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons

science first paradigm sfp example personal identity i nerve cells
Science First Paradigm (SFP) Example: Personal Identity (I) = Nerve Cells

“‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”

sfp example in sociobiology consciousness ethics and religion genes brain circuitry
SFP Example in Sociobiology:Consciousness, ethics and religion = genes, brain circuitry

Consciousness, ethics, and religion “can all eventually be explained as brain circuitry and deep, genetic history.”

(p. 261)

sfp examples in contemporary academic theology
SFP Examples in Contemporary Academic Theology
  • “A man not only has a body, he is his body.”

William May, HCR (1973), p. 3.

" is a false trail to look within the human body for an immortal 'soul,' mind, or residual self which somehow survives the destruction of the flesh."

George Carey, I Believe in Man , pp. 171-172)

I = matter-energy-space-time relationships (Peacocke, Thatcher)

I = a resonance field of relationships (Moltmann)

Soul = “truly material,” a point of subjectivity and transcendence, a “soft” identity (Keith Ward)

sfp examples in contemporary academic theology 2
SFP Examples in Contemporary Academic Theology (2)

The “person is he or she that physically stands before you [and] is not...body and soul.” Nancey Murphy et al, Whatever , p. 228

Dualism is “a canker at the heart of the Christian heritage”. Joseph Fletcher, Humanhood, p.24

“If we have abandoned dualism when we are thinking of finite beings, does it make sense to retain it on the cosmic level in thinking of God and the world? It has no more plausibility there.” John Macquarrie, Forward to God’s World, God’s Body by Jantzen, pp. ix-x.

There is no longer any basis for belief in the immortality of the soul.

W. Pannenberg, What is Man?, pp.47-48

person first knowledge argument i went to pre school
‘Person First Knowledge’ Argument: “I went to pre-school”

1. Assume the Science First Paradigm (SFP) dogma is true: “I am this physical, functioning body, this psycho-somatic unity. What you see is what I am.”

2. Make a true assertion about yourself: “I went to pre-school.”

3. If 1 is true, then 2 is false. If 2 is true, then 1 is false, e.g., 42 lb. body1955 190 lb. body2004

4. I know 2 is true, thus I know 1 is false. So, the SFP axiom is false… I am a person, an embodied moral agent.

two science first paradigm sfp objections to person first knowledge pfk
Two Science First Paradigm (SFP) Objections to Person First Knowledge. (PFK)

“First, brain cells are atypical in that they can last a full lifetime. Second…each person’s unique genetic program… persists intact in each generation of cells..[these facts] provide a physical basis for explaining personal identity over time.”

Owen Flanagan, The Science of the Mind, p. 17.

reply 1 recent discoveries in neuroscience
Reply 1: Recent Discoveries in Neuroscience
  • Neurogenesis of brain cells in the neo-cortex is now proven to occur throughout life - proliferation, survival, migration, differentiation, and establishment of functional connections.
  • Proven in rodents, birds, tree shrews, cats, new and old world monkeys, and humans
  • Skin cells replaced every 2 weeks
  • Gut cells – every 2 weeks
  • Entire body cells – every 6 years
  • There are bone marrow, cardiac, and brain stem cells
reply 2 recent human genome discoveries
Reply 2: Recent Human Genome Discoveries
  • An individual’s DNA sequence is now known to be dynamic, not static, throughout life
  • >10% of the human genome may be transposons
  • ~100 new mutations occur during one’s lifetime
  • >130 active repair genes
  • Immune system’s daily turnover, and environmental effects
  • Identical twins, human clones
reductio ad absurdum problems if i my genes then i many or i 99 9 you
Reductio Ad Absurdum Problems:If I = My Genes, then I = Many; or I = 99.9% You.
  • The 35,000 genes Fallacies: I  35,000!
  • Fallacy of the Corpse
  • I = You Fallacy

If I = my genome, and you = your genome, then I = you (99.9% pure you)!

  • Utter Self-Ignorance Fallacy

If I = my genetic code, then I have absolutely no knowledge of myself until I get decoded, then I will finally know myself!??

possible further evidence about the non material foundation of consciousness
Possible further evidence about the non material foundation of consciousness.
  • A significant number of people who recovered from the gates of death - heart, breathing and brain activity having stopped (all electrical activity finished) - claim to have looked down on their ‘dead’ body and its surrounds, and then travelled to another world before returning to their earthly body.
  • Such a ‘Near Death Experience’ (NDE) could be shown to be valid if the person experiencing it were able to learn something about the state of the hospital room (say) that he/she could not have known from the position of the body.
    • This has been claimed many times especially in medical research done in the Cardiac departments of some Dutch hospitals.
    • A very impressive report of scientific findings was given at the 2003 Edinburgh Science Festival.
participants and speakers at the out of body near death experience nde lecture
Participants and speakers at the ‘Out of Body’ - ‘Near Death Experience’ (NDE) lecture:
  • David Lorimer, Scientific and Medical Network;
  • Dr Olaf Blanke, Dept. of Neurosurgery, University Hospitals of Geneva and Lausanne;
  • Dr Pim van Lommel, Consultant Cardiologist, Rijnstate Hospital, Arnhem, Netherlands;
  • Dr Peter Fenwick, Institute of Psychiatry, University of London;
  • Professor Bob Morris, Koestler Chair of Parapsychology, University of Edinburgh.
  • For more on the scientific research see: ‘The Lancet’December 15th 2001.
Pre-talk publicity said (This publicity was more conservative than the actual presentation.):“Surveys show that ‘out-of-body’ experiences (OBEs) are not uncommon: between 10% and 15% of populations across the world have experienced an OBE. [These experiences may or may not be associated with a near-death experience (NDE).] Approaches to the OBE centre round the question: does the self or consciousness actually leave the body? Some recent scientific research in Switzerland indicates that the feeling of leaving the body can be stimulated experimentally. The researchers propose that the OBE is simply a distortion of the bodily image arising from stimulation of the reticular activating system (RAS). So are spontaneous OBEs also illusions due to temporal lobe activity? Possibly not. Experiments by Professor Charles Tart in the 1970s showed some success in out-of-body experiences correctly reporting five digit random numbers. And confirmed reports from near-death experiencers suggest that they can accurately recount events that occurred while they were unconscious and clinically dead. Some OBEs are even reported by patients whose hearts have stopped. And since it takes just over 10 seconds before all electrical activity in the brain ceases after the heart has stopped, these reports point to the possibility that our consciousness may not be entirely dependent on the brain. If this proves to be the case, then much of neuroscience, psychology and philosophy will need to be radically rethought.”
Interesting results of research reported at the April 2003 Edinburgh Science Festival.

NDEs are reported by 18% of resuscitated patients (a very much higher proportion for children) often involving:

  • Seeing the old body from above and watching the medics at work.
  • One example given was of seeing way beyond the hospital to distant places where the mind focussed.
    • Many of such things seen produced verifiable knowledge.
  • A review of earlier life including childhood.
  • Travelling down a tunnel to a beautiful light where deceased family members and religious figures are there to welcome.
  • An awesome experience of peace, unconditional love, beauty and freedom.
  • Finally seeing a ‘border’ beyond which there will be no return.
  • Not all experience all of these phases. Many return to their body after the first one or two stages.
Attempts have been made to explain these experiences from the consequences of the body closing down and starving the brain of oxygen. It is alleged that this lack of oxygen would produce illusions including an illusion of light.
  • However those addressing the Science Festival said this could not provide an explanation because:
    • The experiences happened when the brain had become completely inactive (no electrical activity at all).
    • The reported sensory experiences (visible, audible and tangible) were clear and coherent and could not come from a failing brain.
    • What was seen of the hospital room (and beyond) was verified as true.
    • People born blind who had never seen anything report seeing clearly as the experience progresses!
In answer to questions afterwards we were told:

Previous culture or religious practice are not relevant to the experience/non-experience of NDE.

    • There was no statistical difference between reports from religious former West Germany or from non-religious former East Germany.
  • Types of illness/accident, or drugs used in treatment, are not relevant to the experience/non-experience of NDE.
  • NDEs usually (but not always) lead to:
    • belief in the after life;transformed attitudes to other people;a belief in purpose for life on earth;a loss of fear of death.
  • The religious content experienced does not always correspond with the person’s previous religious beliefs.
Two days after attending the presentation I received this message from a friend in Malawi (who did not know about the lecture I had attended). It is about a former Muslim. I quote it verbatim:

“He is a man who used to be a Moslem but is now a Christian. His testimony was unusual to say the least. He had a ‘near-death’ experience (some describe it as a ‘post-death’ experience!) and during that time, although he was a follower of Allah he heard God saying to him that ‘Jehovah is the true God and Jesus Christ is His Son’. He recovered to life, found himself clear of the disease that he had had, and became a Christian. He says that his Christian faith has brought him liberation and a joy unimaginable beforehand.”

after the meeting the two of the presenters told me
After the meeting the two of the presenters told me:

Typically the person feels that his/her new life is

(a) embodiedAND ALSO (b) clothed.

    • The clothes are not those worn in the hospital bed, but clothes associated with life when he/she was in the prime of life.
  • My comments:
    • The NT teaching on the nature of resurrection is that the resurrected self is not a disembodied soul but an embodied self - in a transformed ‘spiritual body’.
    • Jesus left the grave clothes behind but did not appear naked to Mary Magdalene.
    • The day after the presentation was Easter Day but, not surprisingly, the presenters did not mention this.
Near death experiences almost always convince those who experience them that God exists.
  • There are some known exceptions e.g.:
  • A.J.Ayer, during his middle years was one of the most famous 20th century atheist philosophers.
    • But late in life, he had a `near death’ experience.
    • In his article `What I saw when I was dead’, he wrote:

"The only memory that I have of an experience, closely encompassing my death, is very vivid. I was confronted by a red light, exceedingly bright, and also very painful even when I turned away from it. I was aware that this light was responsible for the government of the universe .."

What kind of response and evaluation of his experience did A. J. Ayer make?

"My recent experiences have slightly weakened my conviction that my genuine death, which is due fairly soon, will be the end of me, though I continue to hope that it will be. They have not weakened my conviction that there is no god."


Can Christians hold to a purely materialistic view of human beings?

Christian ‘Resurrectionists’ (perhaps John Polkinghorne is one of these?) hold that we are purely material but that God will re-create a copy of each of us (DNA codes and much more of our ‘pattern’) at the last day.

But would that be ‘me’ or ‘you’ or merely a clone?

Would a copy of ‘you’ be you?

What is the self?

Denial of the reality of self.

Susan Blackmore - NDEs and Buddhism.

Can Christians hold to a purely materialistic view of human beings?


Non Materialist Understandings of consciousness, the mind and the self.

  • 1. Dualism - the mind etc includes a non material reality (soul or self) that interacts with the material mechanistic brain. Somewhere they are joined.
      • Salvation consists of setting the soul free from the ‘flesh’ with its basic corruption.
      • Descartes had a theory (flawed) explaining how the ‘spiritual’ interacts with the physical brain.
      • Similarly Roger Penrose today.
      • Not all dualism is Cartesian dualism.
2. Emergence - consciousness and the mind emerges from the complexity of the brain but cannot be reduced to the physical properties of the brain.
    • John Haldane says this would have to be radical emergence - unexplainable by physical processes.
      • God calls forth the soul - it emerges from the body.
      • His Word from His mind calls to us.
    • Salvation is resurrection of body.
      • Immortality of the soul - unbiblical and out-dated?
        • Has the reaction against ‘immortality of the soul’ gone too far?

CSL: Adam created from pre-existing homo sapiens.

  • Relating this to God’s call to Abram and to each of us.

3. Soul/Mind creates and acts upon the physical body.

    • (Remember the mystery: What is matter?)
  • It is now claimed (Wall Street Journal, 21st June 2002) that ‘thoughts’ can turn some genes ‘on and off’.
  • What about the mystery of differentiation?
  • Paul Davies writes: If every molecule of DNA possesses the same global plan for the whole organism, how is it that different cells implement different parts of that plan? Is there, perhaps, a `metaplan' to tell each cell which part of the plan to implement? If so, where is the metaplan located? In the DNA? But this is surely to fall into infinite regress.
  • Michael Polanyi and ‘genetic fields’. Also Rupert Sheldrake.
  • For more on Mind-Body and Materialism read: Peter Bussey’sBeyond Materialism in Science and Christian Belief October 2004.

4. Duality: - mind and body belong together from the beginning.

  • The mind/soul is not just a mature aspect of the physical.
  • The physical body itself is not merely a mechanistic system.
  • The person is a unity of body and soul.
    • Salvation is resurrection of body and soul.
    • Both body and soul are redeemed, so that the flesh is set free from its bondage to corruption.
    • NDE’s are newly embodied and clothed.

But what is the soul? Consider this:

  • I King 17:21-22: And Elijah stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, I pray, let this child's soul(nephesh) come back to him.” Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived. (NKJV)
  • Nepheshhas no exact equivalent in English.
  • The real ‘inner’ person as distinguished from appearance - outside looking in?
  • From the inside looking out - consciousness? Does consciousness need a body?
  • Consider also this:
  • Matt 10:28: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (NIV)

To the thief on the cross, Jesus says:

  • Today, I tell you, you will be with me in paradise.
    • Newly embodied or disembodied soul in heaven?
  • It is a mystery revealed in the following verses:
  • 2 Cor 12: 2-4 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know-- God knows. And I know that this man- whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.(NIV)
  • However ‘out of the body’ might mean ‘out of this corruptible body’.

So also consider:2 Cor 5:1-4, 8.

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. …. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (NIV)


Resurrection of Christ and our resurrection.

    • Christ’s Old body renewed or newly embodied?
      • Continuity - empty tomb; eats; nail marks.
        • In the New Creation - this world is redeemed.
      • Discontinuity - not confined by our space-time.
        • In the New Creation - ‘what no eye has seen …’
    • Tomb is empty.
      • Yet our tombs are not empty - or at least not now
  • In the New Heaven and New Earth (still partly continuous with this world) - will the old graves and bones still be there?

2 Corinthians 4.

6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.

14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardlywe are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (NIV)


Animal and human consciousness - the differences?

      • Higher animals are conscious but not self-conscious?
        • They don’t ponder their own existence?
      • Language and signals and the image of God.
      • Human personhood dependent on interpersonal relationships - ultimately the relationship with the Person of God.
  • Dark side of human self-awareness.
      • Contemplating pain and death.
      • Self-worship - the foundation of the Fall.

Now read Unit 7 which expands on all these points relating to the Mind and Brain.

For more reading on the Mind-Body Problem in traditional philosophy see

Edward Miller's Questions That Matter, pages 77- 138

prayer a way of knowing god
Prayer - a way of knowing God.
  • Once we are aware that there is more to reality than a collection of atoms and physical laws that govern its relations; and further, once we have recognised that there is probably Personal Being above all and yet closely related to all things, then the most obvious thing to do is to try to communicate.
  • See quotation from Lord Hailsham near the beginning of Unit 8.
  • It describes the kind of prayer that he thinks would come most naturally to someone seeking to communicate with that which may be beyond the physical world.
prayer and personal knowledge
Prayer and personal knowledge
  • Once we have prayed that or a similar prayer we are opening our lives to a knowledge that essentially different from that which can be reached by natural science.
  • Yet this way of knowing is in a sense still science - ie if we define scientific method as using ways of knowing that are appropriate to the object that is before us.
  • This is important for we don't want an impersonal theology where we try to make logical deductions from nature about what God is like, and then make images of Him using our own reasoning skills. That would be a modern form of idolatry.
prayer and personal knowledge1
Prayer and personal knowledge
  • The only appropriate way of knowing persons or The Person is by `methods' appropriate to personal knowledge namely speaking, listening and trusting - ie by faith.
  • It will lead to a personal knowledge of a Personal Being to whom the whole natural world owes its own being.
  • Although a different way of knowing from the ways of the natural sciences, it is still a real way of knowing that which really exists - what cannot be discovered by natural science.
  • As in the knowledge of all persons our knowledge of God will depend on Him revealing His mind to us.
  • Humans reveal their mind to us in words as we spend time in their presence. So it is reasonable to speak of God's self-revelation in terms of a Word heard in His presence.
prayer and personal knowledge2
Prayer and personal knowledge
  • Our words to one another reveal our own consciousness and we can speak of our own true self.
  • Similarly with the Person of God.
      • "For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no-one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ."
        • 1Cor 2:11,16
To know God we need His own way of revealing Himself to us.
    • So we do not find God by looking at nature, or seek to find Him as part of the data of natural science.
    • Nature prompts us to look away from itself to God who is its Creator.
  • We must allow the way we think to change if we wish to advance in knowledge.
    • The greatest advances of science each involved a change in the way of thinking in which a deeper logic (not just new data) was discovered.
    • See Unit 8 pages 2 and 3 bullet points for examples of this.
It is only as scientists are open to question their own fundamental presuppositions that science is able to proceed to a deeper knowledge of reality.
    • As they discover a more profound logic than they had previously imagined, coming from the very reality they are seeking to know, true understanding of reality progresses.
  • This is the reason the theologian Karl Barth so strongly rejected natural theology.
    • He believed we could only know God in the way He reveals Himself to us in the Person of Christ as the Scriptures testify about Him.
natural theology knowledge of god from nature
Natural Theology - knowledge of God from nature.
  • Can the wonders of nature alone give us, at least, a partial knowledge of God independent of Christ?
  • Let us think of the way we know other human persons.
    • What a person does and who he is in himself cannot be separated.
    • They are bound up together in an indivisible whole.

Nature may point to a great God with certain attributes.

    • But it cannot give us any personal knowledge of God - what God is in Himself.
  • Thus any true natural theology must always be integrated with our knowledge of God as He reveals himself personally in the Bible story focussed in Christ.
  • Thus doing natural theology should not be seen as a prelude separate from engaging in revealed theology.
The universe is more than the mere stage on which the drama of revelation, redemption and personal faith takes place.
  • The natural world is very much part of the act.

John Polkinghorne reminds us that in the outdated Newtonian physics space and time were considered the stage on which the drama of physical processes took place, so that the geometry of space "was capable of being pursued in isolation from the mechanics of matter."

  • However he continues: “In General Relativity this is not the case. Space and matter, geometry and physics, impinge upon each other.”
    • See Unit 8’s section: Science and Theology in Dialogue for more on this including references.
why should anyone struggle against an openness to god
Why Should anyone struggle against an openness to God?
  • Could one among other reasons be that such openness is bound to be deeply personal?
    • See the section with the above title in Unit 8 for a discussion and examples that might point to this as being one part of the answer.
    • The section gives an illustration taken from a telescope.
      • Michael Polanyi used a similar example.
creation open to god
Creation Open To God
  • Unit 9 is not appropriate for a Power Point presentation. However it is important.
  • In Unit 9 the following topics are considered:
    • Creation out of Nothing
    • Nature is an open system
    • The Days of Creation.
    • Prayer Changes Things?
    • The Image of God.
    • Creation and the Whole Bible Story.
In Unit 1 we noted that the Bible teaches that God's Eternal Word is not only the origin of Creation, and not only that by which all things are held in being, but also the origin of the redemptionof the world.
  • According to John's gospel that Word who is the Source of the order of creation is fully made known in the coming of Christ among us and therefore is also the source of our salvation.

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

  • It is reasonable to believe then that there should be some connection between what learn of creation with what we believe about the renewal of the world in Christ.
The very God who created this world seeks to know His people and be known by them
  • This can only be so if the mind and will of God actually act in the physical world.
  • It was argued in Unit 7 that the human mind cannot in principle be reduced to physics and mathematics.
  • Yet it too undoubtedly acts on our physical bodies and physical world.
  • We do not yet understand how that happens but it does.
  • If the human mind and will act on physical reality why not God's mind and will as well?
  • Although we cannot say how this happens it can only be possible if there is a real openness in the very nature of physical existence.
god history answered prayer miracle
God: history/answered prayer & miracle..

John Polkinghorne says:

Our view may be summarised as being expressed in a complementary metaphysic where human participation in a noetic world arises from mind being the complementary pole to matter in flexible open organisation. .... it also makes coherent the possibility that God is in a relationship with his creation which goes beyond his simply being the upholder of its order. It allows for the exercise of his providential care within the unpredictable unfolding of world history.(emphases added)

  • Polkinghorne J.,1989, Science and Providence, page 85
John Polkinghorne sees ‘Divine Action’ and miracle not as God suspending laws of nature nor God adding/subtracting new mass and/or physical energy, but as God implanting information (Word) into physical systems. This ‘input’ is possible because of the open structures revealed in quantum physics (micro level) and chaotic dynamics (macro level).
  • Keeping in mind what is said above, go on to read Unit 10.
  • It cannot be summarised easily with Power Point. However it is important.

Unit 10 deals with the following subjects:

      • God comes into our world - Israel and Jesus.
      • The witness of Jewish History
      • Incarnation of God in Space-Time
      • Divine and Human in One Person.
      • Our Union With Christ.
      • Christ the Cosmic Saviour.
      • The Christian Hope.

Also see my article: The Nature and Origin of the Bible

read handout the gospel according to science by physicist paul davies and ponder the points below
Read handout: ‘The Gospel according to science’ by physicist Paul Davies and ponder the points below:

He believes we must use science to find moral values.

  • Does he indicate what he means by goodness?
  • As well as good he believes humans commit much evil.

There is an underlying assumption that the survival and future happiness of our species is the final goal of goodness and morality.

    • If, as he says, we do evil things, why should our survival be a `good’?
    • Even if it is the case that our survival and happiness are good things, does that belief follow from science?
    • If not science then what?
    • Our desires?
      • Do our desires determine what is ‘good’?
      • What about competing desires?
the gospel according to science by physicist paul davies continued
‘The Gospel according to science’ by physicist Paul Davies - continued.
  • He wonders how science can be used to give us moral values.
    • Does he give any indication of how this might be possible?
    • If not, why do you think he fails (and is bound to fail) to find a solution to his problem?
      • Can we get an `ought’ from an ‘is’?

Read handout: ‘Michael Ruse and reductionary illusions.’ by John Byle.

  • Michael Ruse’s theory is that there is no real ‘good’; it is just a helpful illusion that helps preserves our species by making us behave more co-operatively.
    • He believes that morality comes from our genes that trick us into thinking that co-operation is objectively ‘good.’
    • He believes, then, that understanding morality can be reduced to understanding our genes.
    • He has a reductionist view of morality.

Note the ways in which John Byle shows that this theory refutes itself and therefore cannot be true.

the problem of evil
The Problem of Evil
  • Two kinds of evil:
    • 1. Moral Evil.
      • Why do people behave badly?
      • Is God to blame for creating us with the capacity for evil?
      • Why does He not stop us doing evil?
    • 2. Natural evil.
      • Why are there natural disasters - such as earthquakes etc which surely cannot be blamed on us?
the problem of evil1
The Problem of Evil
  • Intellectual problems for all world views.
    • For the theist:
      • If God is good and powerful why is there evil and suffering?
    • For the pantheist:
      • If the natural world (which contains evil) is part of God, does that mean that God Himself is partly evil?
      • If the natural world is eternal, does not that mean that evil is eternal and there is no salvation?
      • Does it make sense to say we should try to escape the cycle of re-incarnation when we have already had an infinite time?

In response pantheism often denies the existence of evil:

    • saying that the way things are is the way `things are meant to be´,
    • and giving us advice on how to cope with suffering in ourselves and others.
the problem of evil2
The Problem of Evil
  • Intellectual problems for all world views (cont).
    • For the atheist:
      • If the atheist challenges the theist saying ´Why does evil exist?, is he not acknowledging the existence of good?
      • How does he distinguish good from evil?
      • If he does distinguish good from evil does not that imply the existence of an objective goodness?
        • an objective goodness which is independent of our private opinions and biology?
christian responses to the problem of suffering and evil
Christian responses to the problem of Suffering and Evil.
  • Pain is a necessary by-product of nature.
  • All things, including evil finally contribute to the goodness of the whole.
    • Eg: Our love and courage are strengthened..

God is not indifferent to suffering:

In all our affliction He too is afflicted.

The Cross brings into focus God’s suffering with and for us.

The resurrection of Christ is God’s final answer to evil, suffering and death.

Evil is temporary.

Eternity, where justice, love and truth prevail, is a reality

christian responses to the problem of suffering and evil cont
Christian responses to the problem of Suffering and Evil -cont.
  • God purpose was to create and redeem human beings so that they would do good for the sake of goodness rather than just for a reward.

So in this world, pain and happiness exist side by side.

    • 1 God shares all our suffering and ultimately triumphs over it.
    • 2 Pain exists but is defeated in the end.
    • 3 Good people as well as bad suffer but the good are eternally rewarded in another world that they cannot yet see.
    • 4. Ultimately goodness, love and mercy reach fulfilment in the context of evil and pain.
    • A famous book on this subject is:
      • CS Lewis's `The Problem of Pain´.
Unit 11 carries the discussion of evil and suffering further, considering:
      • Evolution and the Fall
      • Where and when is the Golden age from which we have fallen?
      • The meaning of the Fall.
    • Alternative non-Atheist World Views.
      • Deism
      • Pantheism
      • Panentheism
      • Biblical World View.