Scientism and scientific naturalism by Tom Daly On the 9th November 2023, Reasonable Faith Adelaide hosted a presentation on ‘Scientism and scientific naturalism’ by Tom Daly.
Scientism and scientific naturalism are two ideas that shape how many people view the world around us and what we consider as knowledge, and yet they are often more assumed than examined. Scientism basically says that if you can’t prove it scientifically, it doesn’t count. Meanwhile, scientific naturalism takes it a step further, claiming that everything that exists is part of the natural world and there’s no room for the supernatural. “You have faith, but I have reason” is the common refrain from the secular world and yet, when we compare scientism and scientific naturalism with the Christian faith, a far richer picture quickly emerges. Tom Daly examines some of the background and implications of these 2 beliefs.
Tom’s slides contain several hyperlinks as follows:
Tom Daly is a member of our committee and is an IT professional who has worked in hi-tech for nearly 40 years.
The wonder of the living cell, by Joshua Meade
The complex structure and workings of each living cell leaves many of us in a state of wonderment.
Coming in all different shapes and sizes, cells perform all the vital processes required for life on Earth, such as Osmosis, photosynthesis, energy production via respiration, homeostasis (maintaining internal stability) – just to name a few. Following on from previous talks, Joshua discusses some of the amazing functions & processes that are occurring within each of the 30+ trillion cells in our body – primarily focusing on the process of Respiration. The origin of the cell is a highly relevant topic in apologetics due to the complex nature of the cell’s inner workings. We all see the same miracle of life, and yet come to vastly different conclusions as to how it came to be.
Joshua Meade is a mechatronic engineer and is a member of the RFA committee. He also has an active interest in biochemistry. Joshua and Amethyst are now back in New Zealand, and they have three lovely young girls.
The strongest argument against the existence of a loving God is supposedly the problem of evil, but probably the second strongest argument is called the hiddenness of God. The argument is basically as follows:
If God wants us to believe in him, why doesn’t he make himself known more clearly and unambiguously? But He doesn’t. So, the most likely explanation is that he doesn’t show himself clearly because he doesn’t exist.
Paul claims that God’s ‘invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse’ (Romans 1:20). Apologists also use arguments for God’s existence based on the observable world and from logic. However, many are not convinced. They object that these general arguments are not convincing enough. and that God could or should have made his existence more obvious.
In this presentation, the following questions will be considered:
Is general revelation sufficient?
Are we without excuse?
Does God deliberately make his existence known only to those who have eyes to see?
Does he reveal himself personally to some and hide himself from others?
If we seek, will we find; If we knock, will God answer?
Is the Divine Hiddenness argument a good argument?
Kevin Rogers is the director of Reasonable Faith Adelaide. He is a former electrical engineering lecturer, researcher, and research supervisor at the University of South Australia. He is now mostly retired but continues with part-time research in acoustic atmospheric tomography. He is also learning New Testament Greek, and is blessed with a wife, 4 children and 8 precocious grandchildren.
On the 1st of December 2022, Jeff Zweerink (from Reasons to Believe) provided a presentation on what astrophysics tells us about God.
He describes his talk as follows:
While in college, I decided to pursue a graduate degree in astrophysics because that area of physics had the most direct overlap with what the Bible describes about the universe. Our understanding of the universe has advanced significantly in the last thirty years. Although many apparent challenges to God’s existence have arisen (like inflation, the multiverse, and research into quantum gravity), the evidence for a beginning of the universe and its design for human life have grown tremendously.
We will discuss these major advances to understand them better. That understanding will help Christians use this potent evidence to share the Gospel while avoiding pitfalls that undermine the public perception of Christianity.
Since my earliest memories, science and the Christian faith have featured prominently in my life, but I struggled when my scientific studies seemed to collide with my early biblical training. My first contact with Reasons to Believe (RTB) came when I heard Hugh Ross speak at Iowa State University. It was the first time I realized it was possible to do professional work incorporating both my love of science and my desire to serve God. I knew RTB’s ministry was something I was called to be a part of.
When Paul arrived in Athens (Acts 17: 16-32), a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him, and they gave Paul the opportunity to speak to the Athenians in the Areopagus. For the previous 450 years, Greek and Roman philosophers had been debating God(s) versus chance in creation, and this debate continued for a further 250 years after Paul’s speech.
The debate began in 400 BC, when Democritus introduced the concepts of atomic atheism, the infinite power of chance, evolution, and determinism. This triggered Socrates to argue for God’s existence based on arguments from design, the power of the mind, and a predictable cosmos. Later, Epicurus invented naturalism as the framework for understanding science. Then the Stoics became the greatest intellectual opponents of atheism for 500 years, inventing systematic arguments for creation until atheism faded from the classical world by 300 AD. Why did atheism fade out?
This 700-year debate only came to light in 2007, so it is all quite a new slant on the classical world. Leonard Long will describe this 700-year debate and its relevance to our times.
Leonard is a retired doctor and has spent much of his retirement studying the historical development of thought and ideologies in Western culture.
We all know that our planet is special. But how unique is it really? Is there any evidence that pertains to our existence being extraordinary?
Join Gordon and Bronwyn as they explore this fascinating topic on what science has actually uncovered about the universe’s beginning and the features of our place in space that contribute to earth’s unique features. This will be a joint presentation from Bronwyn Pearse and Gordon Stanger.
Bronwyn Pearse is a primary school teacher who currently works with a number of people from different religious backgrounds. Having grown up in a Christian family she has always enjoyed asking questions and digging deeper into the truth claims of Christianity. In recent years she has been exploring what makes Christianity unique amongst the world religions and the scientific evidence for a creator found, particularly in cosmology. During Bronwyn’s talk she refers to a couple of key web links. These can be found at https://reasons.org and https://reasons.org/connect-to-a-scho….
Dr Gordon Stanger is a geologist, hydrologist, water resources specialist, and a climate-change impact analyst. He is semi-retired and is a keen advocate of ‘sensible Christianity’. He has spoken on several occasions at our meetings. He is very knowledgeable on scientific issues, and we greatly appreciate his contribution.
Bronwyn and Gordon’s joint presentation can be viewed on YouTube.
In 1971 John Lennon and the Beatles released “Imagine”.
Here are some of the lyrics:
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today …
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
living life in peace,
you You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.
Sounds seductive, doesn’t it? Is this what we should be aiming for? Should we join him? Irreligion is gaining traction within western society, including Australia. It promises happiness and freedom of expression, but does it deliver? Is it good for society or our mental health, and can it provide any ultimate meaning?
From ancient times people have gazed at the sun, moon and stars observing their consistent daily and seasonal motion, and assumed that all of this was ordered by a maker. The Enlightenment dismissed this as fanciful imagination, but as our power of observation of both the atomic and stellar scale has grown, we see increasing signs of order that only needs the slightest variation to prohibit life supporting conditions. Is there any other reason that can explain this observed fine tuning in our physical environment?
Steve White presents an outline of Fine Tuning and the Multiverse. He presents evidence for the fine tuning of our universe from the sub-atomic to the stellar scale and then discusses whether Multiverse theory can explain it. Do we just happen to live in one lucky, life-supporting version, among many other universes?
Stephen White has had a career as a physicist and is now retired.
Many people conclude that there must be a designer at least to account for the complexity of living things. However, Richard Dawkins contends that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, through natural selection, can explain the rise of complexity by gradual degrees from simple beginnings. In “The Blind Watchmaker”, Richard Dawkins states:
Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker. (p.14)
Dawkins goes on to claim that God is superfluous and highly improbable. Are Dawkins’ argument reasonable?
Christians have responded in quite different ways, ranging from substantial rejection of evolutionary theory, through to acceptance of some form of guided evolution. To the lay person, the divergent claims can be very confusing. So, the following questions often arise:
What can I know?
Who should I trust?
Does the world need a designer?
Kevin Rogers provides an overview and discussion of the arguments presented in “The Blind Watchmaker” and addresses the above questions, including “Does the world in which we live point to a Supernatural Designer?”
Most naturalists or atheists believe that the mind is totally the result of the physical operation of the brain. If this is true, then all of our thoughts, emotions and choices are due to the physical movements of atoms and molecules within the brain and are ultimately solely due to the laws of physics. It then it seems to strongly imply that all our thoughts and choices are determined by the motion of particles within the brain and that our perception that we have free will is an illusion. (more…)