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Posts Tagged ‘Science’

Theistic Evolution 1

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on January 6, 2008

I am a Theistic Evolutionist, a Evolutionary Creationist. This means that I make one assumption which is squarely planted in Faith as a matter that cannot be scientifically proved – G-d exists. Other than that I accept the Evolutionary Account of the Origins of the Universe and everything in it. I am not a scientist. I am theologian with an interest in science, and especially in reconciling Science with Faith, hopefully without making the mistakes I think many people of Faith have made, in such a manner that it becomes clear that there really is no conflict between Faith and Science.
I choose to do it “from Scripture to Science” i.e adapting Scripture to Science, rather than the other way around, which seems to be the manner of f.i Intelligent Designists and Literal Creationists, who invariably try and adapt Science to the Scriptural Account, and in my opinion fail horribly and only manage to perpetuate a conflict that really doesn’t exist.
In order to harmonize the Biblical Creation Account with existing Scientific Evolutionary Facts, we have to understand the Biblical TEXT and how it works. It is fine to just see the Biblical Creation Account as an allergory that gives the basic answers to the questions of Who? and Why? from a religious perspective and stop there. This assumes of course that one wants to have such answers, this is not necessary, one is perfectly fine without those answers. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to stop at a mere allergory. I think that if we look at the actual Text of Bereshit/Genesis Chapters 1 and 2, and are willing to read beyond what Tradition teaches, we will see that there is, within the very text, support for a pure scientific understanding of “How it All Came Into Being.”

“In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis/Bereshit 1:1

Apart from the fact that this verse works like a head line in a newspaper article, simply summarizing the contents of what is to follow, this verse is interesting. In English or most other languages is just says “In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth.” In Hebrew, the Original Language of Torah, there is a textual elememt that implies that the Author was aware that Creation is an on-going process, and not something that is finished. It actually says: “In the Beginning of G-d’s Creating Heavens and Earth.” Which leads to a quite startling discovery, which I will get to after this brief message:

This verse makes 2 statements.
1. It all began somewhere in Reality, timed or timeless. This has been established by Science. The Universe is not without beginning. Bereshit 1:1 concurs with Science on this point. The existence of a Universal Beginning can be Scientifically observed and verified.
2. G-d did it. This is a statement of pure Faith. This cannot be verified by Science, it can only be believed. We might be able to deduce from findings within Science, that the Idea of G-d as Creator would be viable if we put Him out-side Time and Space.

“Actually, the latest understanding of the origin of the universe indicates that prior to the Big Bang, time itself did not exist. Without the existence of space produced by the Big Bang, time had no meaning. And without time, references in space have no meaning. So in a sense, the theological idea that God as Creator exists outside space and time makes perfect sense.” (Dale Husband)

This however would be by deduction only. We cannot establish that He actually did it. For all we know, from a perspective of Science, He might as well be non-existent, at most a non-active Spectator of a Random Event that took place 13.7 billion years ago without His intervention or participation.

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Genesis/Bereshit 1:2

This verse makes another 2 statements:

1. At one time, most likely just prior to the Random Event that took place 13.7 billion years ago, Matter/Mass had no form, it was free-floating out-side Space and Time. This can be verified by scientific observations. Bereshit/Genesis 1:2 concur with Science. Here we get to the startling discovery through the realization that the Biblical Account speaks of Creation as an on-going process. Contrary to what Popular Theology, both Xian and Jewish teaches, this verse makes very clear that G-d did not Create “ex nihilo” (out of nothing) God had access to matter/mass. Something was present from which He created.

“In 1952, George Gamow, one of the founding fathers of Big Bang cosmology, proposed that the period before the Big Bang be called the Augustinian era,[1] after the philosopher Saint Augustine, who believed time was solely a property of the God-created Universe. Even though one could philosophically argue over the meaning of the phrase “to create”, through the theory of general relativity space and time can be related to each other. The phrase “Augustinian Era” stands as a testament to the fact that the known laws of physics break down in a gravitational singularity of a geometric point at the time zero of the Big Bang and that, before then, time as we know it is meaningless.” From Wikipedia

So far our our Biblical Account confirms what Science says.

2. G-d was present prior to a Random Event that took place 13.7 billion years ago. This cannot be verified scientifically, therefore must remain a matter of Faith.

This far I am startled by one single seeming fact: How Faith and Fact seem to be proposed by the Biblical account through its statements of description that can be verified by Science and its statements about a Creator, which can only be “verified” through Faith. It is as if the Biblical Account wants us to accept both in conjunction. I just marvel at those who refuse to realize that if one accepts through Faith that G-d exists, one must also accept that Faith is meaningless without sound Reason/Science. Faith cannot be proved. By the same token Reason cannot be believed. There is a “No-mans-land” between Faith and Reason that we have to cross, and interestingly enough it can only be traversed through a leap of Faith, in both directions, and the border crossing is guarded by Logic.

I’ll stop here for now. Next will be the actual Big Bang…


Posted in Creationism, Torah | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

On the Matter of Belief in G-d

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 21, 2007

My very good friend Dale Husband commented

if you rely only on scientific methods for knowledge, without any input from any religious dogmas, then the idea of a Supreme Creator might occur to you as a hypothesis, but an untested, unfalsified, and therefore unscientific hypothesis is all that it would ever be.”

Which gave me reason to say:

“Correct. Which is why it’s both bad science and bad religion to mix them with each other. But it is equally bad science and bad religion to claim either redundant.

To me this is where Philosophy enters the scene – it is apparently possible to arrive at the hypothesis of a Prime Cause through experience, as well as it is to arrive at the hypothesis of a Non-Prime Cause through experience – but both are dependent on further elaboration of the experiential evidence from a personal stand point to have any meaning. From a philosophical point of view both are equally valid.
It is when we elevate unfalsified hypothesis’ to doctrine that we enter the realm of bad theology and bad science.”

I then had the idea that:

“One of these days I am going to give the justifications behind my personal beliefs, *lol* I seem to be running into the issue a lot these days.”

So I’ll have a go at it…:-)

I agree that there is no scientific evidence either to prove or disprove the existence of G-d, and in fact such evidence is not needed. Why is that? Because when we enter the realm of theology we also enter the realm of Belief, where there is nothing to guide the human mind but circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence is defined as ‘evidence providing only a basis for inference about the fact in dispute’. Basically what it means is that there is no hard, physical – scientific – evidence for the hypothesis of G-d being a reality in the Universe, but that it is possible to understand experiential evidence in such a manner. Circumstantial evidence is a weak form of evidence, but it is nevertheless a valid form of evidence. In matters of Law and Science it needs physical evidence to back it up, but for the purpose of personal meaning it works just fine.

When the Author of Tehillim/Psalm 8 says:

“When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars that You have established, 5. what is man that You should remember him, and the son of man that You should be mindful of him? 6. Yet You have made him slightly less than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and majesty. 7. You give him dominion over the work of Your hands; You have placed everything beneath his feet. 8. Flocks and cattle, all of them, and also the beasts of the field; 9. the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, he traverses the ways of the seas. 10. O L-rd, our Master, how mighty is Your name in all the earth!”

he is looking at the Universe and all the wonders it holds and from this experiential evidence he concludes that SomeOne is ultimately responsible for this abundance of wonders. That is my personal position. To me the existence of all those wonders, from the microscopic one-celled organism to the Planet Itself and the Space beyond it is inference enough to spark a Belief in G-d as the Ultimate Cause of it all.

I find it difficult to accept the idea that the Universe as it appears to me on a daily basis is the result of chemical and physical laws, without any form of Ultimate Source.

Carl Sagan wrote:

How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant’? Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’

I feel that he was mistaken on one point – what the Hebrew Scriptures actually convey in terms of the Magnificence of our Universe and its Creator and what we are told it means are not the same thing. What is the basic dogma of a religion and what is what its Scriptures actually say is rather divergent matters. The seeming limits of experiences in the times when those Scriptures were presented to the world are just that SEEMING. We assume that because there is no detectable preserved Scientific understanding of the Universe among the authors of the Hebrew Bible that such Scientific understanding didn’t exist. The arrogance of such assumptions is staggering, in my opinion.

I would also like to disagree with the assertion he makes about what people of Faith say about G-d. I disagree simply because as one of those People of Faith I do not describe my G-d as little, nor do I disregard what Science says about the Universe and it’s intricate and magnificent mechanisms and laws, on the contrary I accept Science’s assertions of these matters, and in my mind it only increases the Magnificence of what I believe to be the Ultimate Source.

As I have said in other posts:

Many years ago I resolved the seeming conflict between Science and Religion by looking at what questions they answer respectively on the matter. I think perhaps I intuitively knew that the conflict lies not between the two Disciplines, but between the Disciples of both, because the answer to the conundrum of Science vs Religion I found looks as follows:

Torah/The Bible/Religion answers the Questions “Who and Why?“
Science/Evolutionary Theory answers the Questions “How, When and Where?“

in my opinion Science as such doesn’t give MEANING to human existence. It provides us with a basic idea of what we are in terms of biological, chemical and physical set-up, but it doesn’t explain the ontological aspects of human existence. It doesn’t explain why we, as a cultural species seem to be on the constant look-out for something beyond ourselves. It doesn’t answer the existential questions of human reality.

Correctly or incorrectly, Faith does explain and answer these queries to an extent that to most people seems satifactory, or at least enough to keep us looking.

Belief or non-belief in an Ultimate Source is a matter of personal preferences.

Ultimately I believe in G-d because I want to, because I need to and because I have found no reason not to. Belief in G-d as a statement is extremely personal and while the theological workings of such belief can be questioned and should be, ultimately it all boils down to very personal and very fundamental reasons, that cannot be questioned other than by the individual.

Posted in On the Matter of Belief in G-d | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Science vs Religion or Scientists vs Religionists?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 12, 2007

…Dawkins replies “What expertise can theologians bring to deep cosmological questions that scientists cannot?”

“Neo-Darwinism, with its random mutations and lack of any goal, “cannot be reconciled” with the theological teachings of the Torah.

“…this “need” among theologians and scientists to “reconcile” evolution with theology, or in some cases prove that they are the very opposition of each other, raises another question: Why this almost obssessive urge from either side, position in this?”

The quotes in Green and Red above represent an Atheistic and a Theistic approach to the issue of Science and Religion on the Topic of the Origins of Life, the Universe and Everything.

The quote in blue is me looking at the brawl from the out-side.

Many years ago I resolved the seeming conflict between Science and Religion by looking at what questions they answer respectively on the matter. I think perhaps I intuitively knew that the conflict lies not between the two Disciplines, but between the Disciples of both, because the answer to the conundrum of Science vs Religion I found looks as follows:

Torah/The Bible/Religion answers the Questions Who and Why?

Science/Evolutionary Theory answers the Questions How, When and Where?

Put like this there is no conflict, because in this “model” both Science and Religion are doing what they are designed to do. If we let them do that all is well. Because Torah doesn’t say one word about exactly how G-d did it – except alluding to ideas Science has already established (such as man being made from clay, which can very well be the “primordial soup” Science says all life came from) and Science doesn’t say one word about Who did it, though the very study of the mechanism of Evolution can lead individuals to the conclusion that some Prime Cause is behind it all. However neither Science nor Religion/Torah needs the other for verification or validation.

The problems start when we try to mix them, like Intelligent Design is doing or make them, two inanimate disciplines, responsible for what is really the doing of their animate proponents.

How ridiculous does that look? Two puppets on strings being forced to whack away at each other by Puppet Masters, not seen by the Audience, yelling at the top of their lungs:

– “Your puppet is beating my puppet!” Whack, whack!

– “No, your puppet is beating my puppet!” Whack, Whack!

– “Look what your evil g-dless puppet did, it broke the arm of my puppet!” Whack, slap!

– “Grrrr, that does it! Your brainwashed, fundamentalist puppet is going to Die!” Slap, whack!

Intelligent Design/Creationism doesn’t work, not primarily because it’s not scientifically sound, but because it attempts to create a synthesis of two ideas, substances that are not designed to be mixed, using tools that are alien to one of the substances, Science.

ID/Creationism presupposes a Prime Cause – that is after all why it exists, there would be no need for ID if that was not its prime purpose – but since a Prime Cause cannot be proved or disproved ID/Creationism violates the first premise of any scientific statement – verifiable evidence.

Science cannot answer ontological or theological problems, and Religion cannot answer scientific problems – both can lead towards the understanding of the other, and they do so frequently, but they cannot take over each others’ role in human life and be expected to lead anything anywhere. They work best side by.

Other Sites that discuss this issue:

In the Name of Towelie!

Posted in Evolution Theory, On the Matter of Belief in G-d, Science vs Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

“Is Darwin Kosher?”

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 12, 2007

“Is Darwin Kosher?” Discovery Institute Hosts Orthodox Jew who says “No!”

“According to Rosenblum, Neo-Darwinism, with its random mutations and lack of any goal, “cannot be reconciled” with the theological teachings of the Torah.

Would you expect a tree to have a goal? Or a salmon to be aware that it’s life is going to end at the very place it was spawned? Of course not! Just as little as I would expect my printer to be aware of the words it prints when printing the weekly parasha for me – does this lack of awareness disqualify the printer for its job? Does it make my understanding of how the printer works less valid? No. Why? Because the printer does the job it was designed to do.

In a way Science is like my printer – it can only do what it is designed for, and Science is not designed to answer theological questions or even cast light on those matters. The question that this “need” among theologians and scientists to “reconcile” evolution with theology, or in some cases prove that they are the very opposition of each other, raises another question: Why this almost obssessive urge from either side, position in this?

One very big reason is tradition – Science has traditionally been maltreated by the Church, and has therefore naturally adopted a skeptic and cautious attitude towards the Church.

Traditionally the Church has been obsessed with proving the truth of its claims and doctrines, one of them the existence of G-d, and since The Evolution Theory doesn’t require the existence of G-d to be accurate or even mentions G-d, it has been at odds with the Church from get go.

What does this have to do with Judaism? Well, in the view of many Evolution theorists Genesis is Genesis, regardless of who is reading it. But the truth is that Judaism has never bothered with such matters as proving the existence of G-d – that has ALWAYS been an axiom in Judaism – nor is Judaism really interested in the literal veracity of Written Torah, since Oral Torah is the basic Guiding light in Judaism. The Sages have always been reading Torah from a more or less loose point, through allusions, anagrams, allegories and general midrashing. Science, and a logical process has always been part of Jewish education, even back when our ancestors were mere farmers and hunters. So for Judaism the question of Science vs Religion is irrelevant.

Rosenblum was adamant that Orthodox Judaism in its reading of the Bible is not driven by a simple literal approach, but he maintained that Neo-Darwinian evolution stretches the theological truths of the Torah beyond their intended meaning.

Now, this is an interesting statement. Again this claim that “theological truths” have any bearing on Evolution or the other way around. Besides, anyone who has been just half awake for the last 10 years knows that it is actually the theologians that are trying to stretch Evolutionary Theory in a manner that was never intended.

Rosenblum clearly grasped the scientific issues. His article last year in the Jewish Observer challenged Darwin on the grounds of a lack of transitional fossils and the inability of natural selection to produce complex systems.

“Rosenblum grasps the scientific issues” to a degree where he is able to establish something that is not true – how brilliant! Sorry, I just couldn’t let that one be. “…on the grounds of a lack of transitional fossils”. On the matter of transitional fossils – perhaps the good Rosenblum need to read that?

Instead, Rosenblum, who himself is a graduate of Yale Law School and the University of Chicago, gave a lucid explanation of how Neo-Darwinism survives:

First step: Exclude all non-natural causes as a priori inadmissible. Second step: If Darwinian Evolution were true, it would explain observed taxonomic similarities between different living things. Third step: Since no alternative explanation exists to explain those phenomena, Darwinism must be true. … Fourth step: Since Darwinism is true, all explanations based on non-natural causes are vanquished. Note how that which was a priori excluded at the outset is now deemed to have been somehow disproved. (Jonathan Rosenblum, “The Myth of Scientific Objectivity,” Jewish Observer (May, 2006).)

That last quote is a nice and pretty little logical fallacy:

First statement is false in and of itself, since Evolution Theory does not have any claims whatsoever about non-natural causes – it’s purely agnostic in that realm, and on top of that it is irrelevant to the three following statements – it has no connection to the other parts of the chain. And since his fourth statement is dependent on the first for validity, that falls away too.

Now, how about Statements 2 and 3? Well, the problem is that Evolutionary Theory does explain the taxonomic similarities between different living things, and since Rosenblum stated “If so – then so…” he has disqualified his own reasoning and ends up with no need for alternative explanations, since only his second statement needs verification, and that fails. Simple logic.

The appearance of the idea of “non-natural causes” in this discussion is purely theological and is given power only because theologians have mistaken the aim of Science for the personal opinions of the scientists on theological matters. Rosenblum is no different.

Posted in Evolution Theory, On the Matter of Belief in G-d, Scientists vs Religionists | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

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