Philosophy Magazine

RESPONDblogs: Scientists and Their Shades

By Stuart_gray @stuartg__uk

scientists_and_shadesI recently heard Alastair McGrath describe his journey to faith in Jesus Christ. In his teens, he knew that he wanted to become a scientist. He was heading towards the start of his career in a prestigious British University…he was all set. But before his studies began, he spent some time reading about the Scientists who have gone before…the brilliant thinkers of the past few hundred years. And it was here that Alastair made an interesting discovery that started him on a journey that eventually led him onto his brilliant scientific career…and to also become a Christian.

He noticed that as many of his predecessors studied nature, they did so in an interesting way. The scientific disciples dissect our incredibly complex Universe in many varied and fascinating ways. And scientists look at the discoveries that we make in various different ways. Alastair talked about it like viewing the Universe with different glasses on.

Now when you hear many scientists talk, they look at the Universe with the glasses of Atheism. The glasses…or their worldview…presupposes Atheism. To them, they start from the place of saying – there is no God. Now – let’s do some Science! And fascinating and insightful their scientific discoveries turn out to be.

On the other hand, the glasses worn by the fathers of science were very different. Their worldview presupposed God’s existence. They started from the place of saying – we know there’s a God. Now – let’s do some Science! And they changed the world in inspiring ways by starting the scientific disciplines that have touched each one of our lives.

The scientific data remain constant. But the glasses we wear as we study it – make a big difference to us.

I quickly learned this principle when I worked as a Software Engineer. While investigating a bug in our code, it mattered where my head was at when I started. If I was too convinced of the source of the problem when I started the investigations, I could find myself going in circles for days! (I spent a lot of time as a software guy feeling dizzy) Yet if I was open to probing the problem from many different viewpoints during the course of the debug campaign…I was much more likely to come to a coherent conclusion…identify the root cause…and fix the bug.

The scientific data remain constant. But the glasses we wear as we study the data – make a big difference to us. How so? Well our worldview determines how we assemble the big picture…how we interpret the scientific data. And Alastair McGrath discovered that the glasses of a Theist made much more sense of the big picture of our Universe. Each little piece slotting into place…building the evidence for the existence of a Creator, a Designer of our Universe.

This is sometimes called – INDUCTIVE REASONING, or inference to the best explanation. As William Lane Craig describes it, “we are confronted with certain data to be explained. We then assemble a pool of live options consisting of various explanations for the data in question. From the pool of live options we then select that explanation which, if true, best explains the data…The best explanation is taken to be the true explanation of the data.”[1]

What data are we talking about here? Well…here’s a brief sample:

  • The fact of the Universe’s existence. In our experience, everything that began to exist has a first cause. The Universe began to exist…we can see the evidence using Science…therefore it is reasonable to assume the Universe had a first cause who is bigger than the Universe itself…is outside of this Universe…and is a free agent.
  • The appearance of design throughout our Universe, for example in Biology.
  • The fine tuning of our Universe for the existence of biological life that has led atheist scientists to speculate that, “the universe knew we were coming.”
  • The existence of objective moral values and duties which exist and impinge themselves specifically on human beings.
  • The mystery of human consciousness.
  • The historical evidence of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which stands head and shoulders above other classical literature in terms of its objective literary credibility.

Sure – we can put on whatever glasses we want when we study these and many more empirical lines of scientific and historical study. We can carve out one line of evidence all by itself…and make up any reason and story that we want to.

But when we take all of these and many more lines of data and evidence together as a whole…the only glasses that made sense to Alastair, to me, and to many people down through the years…is that our Universe was built by the God who wants to know us…and is doing everything necessary for us to personally engage with him.

[1] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, Third Edition, Crossway Books, p. 54

RESPONDblogs: Scientists and their Shades

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