Monday, January 26, 2009

Haarsma #4

I thought I was done with this book, but apparently not!

I am excited about it because, to my mind, it helps establish a foundation for solid biblical thinking about science . . . and solid scientific thinking about any- and everything worthy of scientific consideration.

Chapter 2, on "Worldviews and Science," delves into some fundamental philosophical issues of which every student of science needs to be aware. I've already mentioned, by means of Donald MacKay's computer game illustration, the issue of God's sovereign providential oversight of the world, His "holding together" all things (as taught in Colossians 1:17, among other Scriptures).

I think I should probably mention some of the deeper philosophical--or, better, worldview--issues God's providence addresses. When I mention them, I imagine most of my readers will think, "Of course. That's obvious!" For example:
[S]cientists sometimes say, "The law of gravity governs the solar system."

But Scripture tells us that this isn't the whole story. Natural laws don't govern; God governs. . . . The regular patterns of day and night, summer and winter, and other fixed laws of nature were established by God's design.

--p. 36

I imagine you may think this is true . . . but (I hate to say it) . . . trivial . . . isn't it? I mean, we don't want to take the things of God lightly, but . . . so what? What's the real point of this "insight"?

I think the practical outworking of this insight, as the Haarsmas demonstrate, is supremely valuable.

They note,
[A] god who becomes unnecessary as soon as humans find a scientific explanation for how the world works is not the God of the Bible!

--p. 36

Did you catch that? Put a different way:
A scientific explanation of a natural event does not replace God, and it doesn't mean that God is absent.

--p. 37

I'll return to this point again in a moment.

First, I want to mention another issue the Haarsmas address in Chapter 2. Specifically, the difference between randomness and chance in a scientific meanings of those words, and randomness and chance in a more philosophical or even theological sense.
When scientists say something is random, they mean that the outcome is unpredictable. . . . {But when someone says,] "Life came about by chance, not by God," . . . the word chance is being used with a very different meaning. . . . Here it is being used in a philosophical sense to mean a lack of cause and a lack of purpose. In statements like this, chance functions almost like a god that is set up in opposition to the God of the Bible.

--pp. 41-42

Now put this distinction between the two possible meanings of the words random or chance together with the former insight I mentioned--that God providentially superintends all that happens--and you come up with the following very practical results:
  • When scientists explain some part of the natural world in terms of natural laws, it does not remove God from the picture.

    --p. 38

  • A scientific explanation of a natural event does not replace God, and it doesn't mean that God is absent.

    --p. 37

  • [As we] acknowledge and proclaim God's design and creative hand in both the things science cannot explain and the things it can, . . . [we bear] truer witness to who God really is and [our testimony] will not become irrelevant as science advances.

    --p. 40

I've spent several hours poring back through both the Haarsmas' and Glover's books trying to find a statement I thought I read. Perhaps I did not read this, and what I am about to say was an insight of my own. If one of them did in fact say the following, please forgive me for failing to attribute it.

Here is what strikes me, as a result of everything I have shared with you so far: Rightly understood, the theory of evolution (not evolutionism!) is simply and solely a scientific theory. And the implications of that insight?

Just as every other scientific theory (most of which don't even register a blip on the screens of any Christians) . . .
  • It is subject to scientific verification, falsification, and revision.
  • It is --and ought to be viewed as--no threat . . . to the Bible, to the sovereign God of the Bible, and/or to Christianity.
  • If we oppose the theory as a whole or in part, we ought to oppose it on scientific grounds.
Finally, to bring this post to a close, let me note the last "very practical result" I believe the Haarsmas offer, the last point we should keep in mind, as a result of the acknowledgement that God sovereignly rules over all things.
  • God governs the natural events that scientists can explain, like the cycle of seasons and plant growth.
  • God governs natural, regular events that scientists are still studying but can't yet explain, like the migration of monarch butterflies.
  • God governs supernatural miracles that science in principle cannot explain, like the resurrection and water turning to wine.
  • God governs random events in which scientists can't predict the outcome, like the roll of dice and the weather.

To God be the glory!

--p. 43

Let us praise God! Let our science praise God.
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