The God Delusion - an Appraisal  - Appendix 7


Appendix 7 - Science or Philosophy


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Appendix 7 : Science or Philosophy




Ladies and gentlemen,


I invite you, before we consider scientific facts and philosophical assumptions, to consider your world view, and I need to suggest to you that quite possibly your view of science or philosophic assumptions will be determined by your world view.


When it comes down to basics, you believe either that there is a God, or that there isn't, and for most of us that is our starting place, not our conclusion. Most of us don't view the evidence and conclude there is no God – or that there is one.


Also before we proceed any further, I would invite you to check your integrity – which is what I will define as your willingness to be totally honest, to be willing to face, assess and weight truths, face evidence and weigh it honestly without your presuppositions getting in the way – and I realise that will be difficult.


In my opening sentence I spoke of ‘scientific facts' and ‘philosophical assumptions'. By scientific facts, I mean those things over which there can be no doubts, for example:

  • creatures fall into a number of definable and distinct categories that we call ‘species'
  • looking backward into the study of fossils there are not fossils seamlessly joining up species, i.e. in the fossil record species are distinct
  • in the present there have been observed relatively minor changes within species, naturally occurring or in breeding but no changes to create new species


                   These are scientific facts, i.e. established and agreed knowledge.


By ‘philosophic assumptions' I mean ideas that are discussed and assumed by some. They are ‘philosophical' because they are only ideas, not facts. They are assumptions because they are what some have postulated. They tend to be things that either cannot be proven or have not yet been able to be proven, yet they are often assumed by many to be true.


The problem with these philosophical assumptions is that people so often assume they are true and because of our presuppositions they are sometimes taught as facts.


Possibly one of the biggest assumptions like this came from Darwin who said that in pigeon breeding it was possible to breed new styles of pigeon from the common rock pigeon, and assumed that if that was possible, then it was possible to extrapolate such changes back into the distant past to form a theory of evolution.


We need to emphasise again that that was an assumption – because no one has ever witnessed evolution between species – see in Appendix 4 for quotes about evolution. Now if that makes you uncomfortable we have to ask why.


Now one reason you may put up is that you may be thinking that I must be ignoring the immense weight of scientific knowledge that such people such a Richard Dawkins knows, that proves this isn't right. Well, no, even he acknowledges the gaps in fossil history. Everything he writes in trying to counter this is theory based on assumptions.


His starting assumption is very clear and everything else follows from it: there is NO God and therefore, what is MUST have come about on its own DESPITE the evidence to the contrary. Everything he sees he sees through this starting grid. Now I have to suggest that that is a very unscientific approach – to start from a fixed belief that you refuse to move from, despite whatever the evidence suggests!


Put another way, he (and maybe you) has started from the premise that ‘material' is all that is, and therefore there is no room for ‘non-material' existence, that we call ‘spirit'. If you believe that, is it because it is your starting place or is it that you have arrived at that as a conclusion after carefully examining all the available evidence with an open scientific mind, and not made big assumptions but only logical conclusions.


The philosophical stance than holds only to a material world is called naturalism. Listen to Nancy Pearcey in her book, Total Truth:


“Most ordinary people hold an idealised image of science as impartial, unbiased, empirical investigation that attends strictly to evidence. That's the official definition found in a standard science textbook, bristling with objective-sounding words like observation and testing . The problem is that, in practice, science has been co-opted into the camp of the philosophical naturalists, so that it typically functions as little more than applied naturalism.


“How do we know that? Because the only theories regarded as acceptable are naturalistic ones. Consider these words by the well-known science popularizer Richard Dawkins: “ Even if there were no actual evidence in favour of the Darwinian theory….. we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.” Why? Because it is naturalistic.


“Here's the same argument, flipped over. A Kansas State University professor published a letter in the prestigious journal Nature , stating: “ Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.” Pause for a moment and let that sink in: Even if there is no evidence in favour of Darwinism, and if all the evidence favours Intelligent Design, still we are not allowed to consider it in science. Clearly the issue is not fundamentally a matter of evidence at all, but of prior philosophical commitment .


Similarly Charles Colson in his book, How Now Shall We Live? writes:

"one of the most explicit statements of the philosophical motivation behind Darwinism comes, surprisingly enough, from Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin. In an article arguing for the superiority of science over religion... Lewontin freely admits that science has its own problems. It has created many of the social problems (like ecological disasters), and many scientific theories are no more than "unsubstantiated just-so stories." Nevertheless, "in the struggle between science and the supernatural," we "take the side of science." Why? "Because we have a prior commitment to materialism."

"Note carefully those last words. Lewontin is admitting that the hostility to religion that is fashionable in the scientific establishment is not driven by facts but by materialistic philosophy.

"So an honest debate between Darwinism and Christianity is not fact versus faith, but philosophy versus philosophy, worldview versus worldview.


If you want a fun exercise, go through a copy of The God Delusion with a highlighter pen and highlight everything that is assumption, speculation or suggestion that

    • either cannot be scientifically proved or
    • has not been proved yet.


                      You will find a lot of highlights. Have fun!





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