Philosophy of Science and Religion. Tutor: Howard Taylor
Introduction to Module • What the module is all about. • Whether science and religion are necessarily opposed. • Various World Views. • What topics this module will discuss. • How the module will be assessed.
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? • Where did the laws of nature come from? • 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.
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?
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?
The main religious belief considered in this module will be Christianity. • However there will be handouts and discussions giving sympathetic treatment of other religions. The atheist arguments also will be fairly considered. • The tutor does his best to be fair to all views. • However in the interests of honesty he will explain what he believes. • Although the tutor has his own religious convictions, the assessment of essays and tutorials will not be affected by a student's own different convictions. Knowledge of the subject and good argument are all important for assessment and not agreement ordisagreement with the tutor.
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. • Why do matter and energy exist? - where did they come from? • 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 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. • 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. • 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 - 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 - 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 Atheistic Materialism : 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: 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 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 was compared to the great 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. • Space and time have always exited. • 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 on the ancient Greeks such as Aristotle not 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: • Einstein’s words quoted near the end. • The two sets of questions that arise from the scientific quest. • 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.
Religious World Views. • For the Judeo-Christian world view see the handout: • ‘The Biblical World View’. • For Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Islam see the handouts: • Hinduism and Buddhism. • Hinduism and Buddhism texts • Taoism. • Islam.
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.)
Religious beliefs that were the necessary spur to the scientific enterprise (cont). 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.
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)
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."
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: www.cosmologystatement.org/ 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? • What are and why are there quantum fluctuations? • Colliding membranes and eleven dimensions creating the ‘Big Bang’? - see footnote at end of Unit 3. • The Wave Function of the Universe? • If that exists why does it exist? Where did it come from? • 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. • 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. • 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 - 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: God Time line --------------------------------------------------------- • However Thomas believed the case would be even more convincing if the universe had a beginning.
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 - 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! • See ‘The Privileged Planet’ and ‘Back to Creation’.
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.
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."
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.)