Contending for the Faith

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Clifford Goldstein


Series Code: CFTF

Program Code: CFTF000002

00:20 Greetings, Cliff Goldstein here
00:22 and I want to welcome you to "Contending for the Faith."
00:26 This is part of a series
00:28 I'm doing on the questions of faith in science.
00:31 And that's because we live in a world
00:33 were these two forces,
00:35 faith and science are really very prevalent.
00:39 In fact even if we don't have faith,
00:42 well actually we all have faith.
00:45 Even if you don't have faith in what is deemed,
00:49 traditional religious faith, you know,
00:53 you still have faith in whatever you believe,
00:56 and that's because of the nature of knowledge
00:59 or should I say belief itself.
01:02 See look, we are beings
01:04 who are greatly limited in our--
01:06 limited in our understanding of whatever
01:09 we believe or know or think that we know.
01:12 There are some very powerful and as far as I know
01:16 impenetrable barriers on our knowledge,
01:20 on our beliefs about anything and everything.
01:23 You know, you could believe something,
01:25 believe in it strongly.
01:27 In fact you could say you are certain of it
01:30 and indeed you could have some very very good reasons,
01:34 some valid reasons for believing it's true.
01:37 And it very well might be.
01:40 But the fact is there's always going to be
01:43 some contingency to your beliefs.
01:46 There is always going to be a bit of a gray area.
01:49 A place where doubt can come in,
01:52 where some questions can come in,
01:55 which means that no matter how sure you are of some thing,
01:59 someone else could point out reasons
02:02 why you might be wrong.
02:06 This is just a basic fact of our knowledge,
02:09 which is why I say that every one,
02:11 even atheist too-- especially atheist
02:15 I think have to have faith.
02:17 And I mean, to make the statement
02:20 that no God exist is as much of a faith statement
02:24 as the statement that God does exists.
02:27 Now the atheist might have what he or she believes
02:31 there are some very good reasons for their faith?
02:34 Okay, I mean there are some pretty smart atheists
02:38 who can give some pretty good arguments for their belief.
02:42 It's the same with those who believe in God,
02:45 they can give some pretty good arguments
02:47 for their beliefs as well.
02:49 But in the end whether you believe in God
02:52 or don't believe in God,
02:54 there is still some degree of belief,
02:58 your belief is still to some degree a faith statement.
03:03 And you know, that's no really big deal,
03:05 because I'm trying to prep say
03:07 pretty much that all we believe.
03:10 Everything we believe,
03:12 we have to take to some degree on faith.
03:15 Hence faith is a big part of our life
03:19 and so is science.
03:22 And in fact there's a lot more faith in the process of science
03:26 than most people realize.
03:28 Hence the title of this series faith in science.
03:33 It just doesn't mean
03:34 someone outside of science having faith in it.
03:39 It also means those in the field of science
03:42 needing to work by faith as well.
03:47 Anyway in this series, I look at science
03:50 and some of the issues in science
03:52 and seek to explore what science does,
03:55 what it cannot do, what it claims to do,
03:58 and what it claims to teach us
04:00 and to reveal to us about the world.
04:02 And I also want to look at how should
04:05 we as religious people respond to those claims,
04:09 some of those claims of what science makes for itself.
04:14 Now, I emphasize the word religious,
04:16 because that's an adjective
04:19 to let us know the kind of faith
04:20 I'm talking about here specifically.
04:23 Because believe me,
04:24 there are lot of different kinds of faith out there.
04:27 You know, contrariety what some would have us belief.
04:30 I can still remember Richard Dawkins book
04:32 "The God Delusion."
04:34 And I can remember him writing that science is based on facts
04:37 and reason and evidence and proof,
04:40 while religion is based he said, just on faith.
04:45 Well, of course, if anyone is confronted with the choice
04:48 presented in terms like that,
04:50 which one are they gonna choose, okay.
04:52 But the fact is that Dawkins characterization
04:56 is really a caricature of what the real issues are?
05:00 And we'll deal with this for more in the future for sure.
05:04 Anyway for now, there is this belief,
05:07 there is this belief now that science
05:10 is kind of this higher form of knowledge,
05:14 someone once described that is the sequel mode of knowledge,
05:18 and that it pretty much trumps
05:20 any other kind of belief you have.
05:23 Okay, in other words if you believe in X,
05:26 doesn't really matter what X is.
05:29 Okay, or how are you came to believe in X.
05:31 You believe in X and you think
05:33 you have good reasons for believing in X.
05:37 And you really might have good reasons for it.
05:40 However, someone comes along with the latest
05:43 and greatest data based on laboratory experiment
05:47 and other things done according to what has been called
05:51 the scientific method and the scientific model
05:55 and that person says to you that X is false,
05:59 and we have proved it false in science,
06:03 then you have no choice, do you?
06:05 Any rational person must renounce
06:08 his or her belief in X.
06:10 After all we have science, scientific evidence showing
06:14 that your belief in X is wrong.
06:18 In many ways, there is a strong current
06:22 for this type of thinking in our society today.
06:25 And you know, it's really to a certain degree
06:28 it's understandable,
06:30 and in some cases it might even be just viable.
06:33 Your belief in X might really been misguided.
06:37 And science comes along to show you that it is.
06:41 That's fine, but I want to look at the question.
06:46 Why should we believe what science tells us
06:49 or do we have good reasons at times to question it?
06:53 Even on things that science often declares as certain.
06:57 I want to listen to-- I want you to listen
06:59 to this quote from someone
07:01 who has been a very well known
07:03 and very influential thinker in the previous century,
07:07 his name is Alfred North Whitehead.
07:09 Listen to this quote "Fifty-seven years ago it was
07:14 when I was a young man in the University of Cambridge.
07:17 I was taught science and mathematics
07:19 by brilliant men and I did well in them,
07:23 since the turn of the century I have lived to see every one
07:26 of the basic assumptions of both set aside.
07:31 And yet, in the face of that,
07:33 the discoverers of the new hypotheses
07:36 in science are declaring.
07:38 'Now at least, we have certitude.'
07:43 " Wow, that to me is very very heavy,
07:47 something to really give you something to think about
07:50 especially as we confront the idea,
07:54 that if we have a belief, but science comes along
07:57 and teach us something contrary to it,
07:59 then we have to by fault just give up that belief.
08:04 And I want to look at one particular thing
08:06 regarding the nature of science,
08:10 and what it says to us
08:11 and whether we should accept it or not.
08:14 Have you ever heard the argument,
08:17 well, science works?
08:20 I mean how can we question what science is doing?
08:24 How can we question that science is doing
08:26 anything other than giving us truth,
08:28 giving us truth about what's out there
08:31 when it works so well.
08:32 If we want to go to the moon.
08:34 Okay, and we got to the moon and the science, and science,
08:37 and scientists got us to the moon
08:39 then how can the science be wrong?
08:43 Fill in the blanks.
08:44 I wanted to build the smart phone,
08:46 okay and so we ask science to build us a smart phone,
08:50 and we got a smart phone.
08:51 How could it be wrong?
08:53 We wanted to build a nuke and we ask science to help us
08:57 to build the nuke and lo and behold
08:59 when they drop the little boy over Hiroshima,
09:01 coincidence of coincidence it just happened
09:04 it could explode just as science told us.
09:08 Thus the question is, how could science be wrong?
09:13 Thus, if we believe X and science tells us
09:18 belief in X is wrong.
09:20 How dare we challenge it?
09:25 When Christian theologian
09:27 and of all people Christian theologians
09:29 you think won't be so gullible.
09:32 But He once said, "Christians who fly
09:34 through the heavens in planes
09:36 and speed along the earth in cars,
09:39 who watch television and use electric razors,
09:42 cannot fairly repudiate the conclusions of science.
09:47 Really now, because science allows us
09:51 to fly planes and use electric razors,
09:54 that because it bears practical fruit.
09:57 Now it's the ultimate arbiter of truth.
10:00 Well, at one level that sounds all right,
10:03 but I want you to look at it,
10:05 we're gonna look at this a little more closely.
10:09 Have you ever seen the movie Apollo-13, about the Apollo-13
10:15 those crippled spacecraft going to the moon,
10:17 I remember the reality of it very well,
10:20 and attempt to get it back to the earth
10:22 with the astronauts in one piece.
10:24 Well there's this great scene,
10:27 when the head of NASA played by Ed Harris.
10:30 He stands in front of a group of people, co-workers
10:34 and he has got to chalkboard up there
10:36 and he has got a crude drawing of the earth and the moon,
10:39 and he has a crude drawing of the Apollo spacecraft.
10:43 And basically what he said that they were going to do,
10:47 is he said that they were going to have the spacecraft circle
10:51 behind the moon
10:52 and let the gravity of the moon catch the spacecraft
10:56 and zing ricochet back to earth.
11:00 And you know what? That's what they did.
11:03 And you know, what's even more amazing.
11:05 Hey, folks, it worked.
11:08 Now they were using at that point,
11:11 they were using pure Newtonian physics.
11:16 The physics that Newton developed
11:18 as a young man in the 1600's.
11:21 You know, if somehow they could have
11:23 transported Newton from the 1600's
11:26 and brought him into that room,
11:27 sat him down with the sheet of paper and a pencil
11:31 and giving Newton a few variables
11:33 and probably 10 minutes
11:35 Sir Isaac could have told them given on the computation
11:38 and told them exactly what they needed to do
11:40 in order to get the spacecraft back.
11:44 Okay, talk about wonders of wonders,
11:47 I mean how can we refuse this after all it worked.
11:53 Therefore, air go it must be true.
11:58 This my, friends,
12:00 is one of the grand fallacies and misconceptions
12:04 that people have about science.
12:08 For starters let's go back and look at the Newton again.
12:11 For starters Isaac Newton didn't have any clue
12:16 what gravity was.
12:17 He says, "I feign no hypothesis."
12:20 He had no idea what gravity was or how why these objects
12:25 would attract each other with the force
12:27 that they do proportional to their distances
12:29 and their mass.
12:30 He had no conclude idea why?
12:32 In fact he even said that the idea
12:34 that two forces being able to attract each other like this,
12:38 he said was so absurd,
12:39 he didn't know why anybody would believe it.
12:41 Now Newton was talking about his own theory,
12:44 so he had no idea what it was?
12:48 Secondly, Newton developed his theory based on two premises,
12:54 both of which had been now shown to be false.
12:57 He based his theory on the concept of absolute time
13:01 and absolute space,
13:03 and they were both shown to be wrong.
13:06 Finally read till this last point.
13:09 Newton's theory was--
13:10 I wouldn't say it has been overturned,
13:13 it has been superseded
13:15 by Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.
13:20 Now what is this mean?
13:21 We know, we often hail Newton's work
13:23 on the law of gravity as a class of--
13:26 account of how science reveals truth to us.
13:29 And yet what?
13:30 Newton had no clue as to what gravity was.
13:34 No clue as to how it worked.
13:36 He built his premises on some false,
13:39 he built his theory on false premises,
13:42 and the theory it worked only in certain circumstances
13:45 and in many ways
13:46 the foundation of the whole theory
13:49 has been superseded by something else.
13:53 This is finding truth,
13:57 all Newton's theory did was make predictions.
14:02 Now if that's all you think that science is for,
14:05 and some people do think that, then this is fine.
14:08 And you know, it was a smashing success
14:11 at least it certain within certain speed limits.
14:15 But this brings up
14:17 a very crucial misconception about science,
14:20 and it has to do with what I talked about earlier.
14:24 Just because the "science works,"
14:29 just because we can use it to make
14:32 accurate predictions about the world,
14:35 just because we can use it to make
14:37 electric razors or smart phones,
14:40 does it mean that our understanding
14:42 of it is complete or even correct.
14:47 That theologian who said because science works
14:49 we just can't dismiss it doesn't understand
14:53 some of the severed limits on science.
14:57 Let me give you another example.
15:00 Let's take the Ptolemy view of the cosmos,
15:06 which were 1300 years dominated Western thought.
15:10 This is the idea that the earth sat
15:13 at the center of the universe
15:15 and all the stars, and all the planets
15:18 and everything circled the earth
15:20 in orbit of the earth in perfect circles.
15:24 This belief goes back long even before than Aristotle plotted,
15:28 and it was-- it was believed
15:31 in the western world for centuries, okay.
15:34 But guess what, folks? It worked, it worked.
15:38 If you wanted to sail your ship from Lisbon to Venice
15:43 it would get you there.
15:44 If you wanted to predict
15:46 what some stars would be doing in six months,
15:49 the Ptolemaic worldview enabled you to do just that,
15:53 even though-- come on
15:54 it was completely radically wrong.
15:57 I mean a theory that positive a stationary earth wrong,
16:02 sitting at the center of the universe wrong,
16:05 with everything orbiting it in perfect spheres--
16:09 prefect circles wrong,
16:11 still enabled people to make accurate predictions,
16:15 and enables you to sail your ship
16:17 from Lisbon to Venice.
16:21 God, that's about as wrong as arguing for a flat earth.
16:26 But you know, and I haven't looked into it,
16:28 but I think it would be kind to fun.
16:31 What kind of accurate predictions
16:33 could somebody make about the earth,
16:34 and what goes on here on the earth
16:37 from a flat earth perspective?
16:40 I'd be willing to bet
16:41 that you could build a system of predictions,
16:43 interpretations based on a flat earth
16:48 that would properly bear
16:49 a certain amount of practical fruit.
16:51 Anyway, the point is out to some degree it would work.
16:56 But can you see my point here,
16:59 just because something works in science,
17:03 just because it makes predictions
17:05 just because-- accurate predictions,
17:07 just because something of a practical value
17:10 can be cashed out of it, doesn't necessarily mean
17:14 the science behind it is correct, it might be.
17:18 And in some cases it probably is,
17:20 but as we've seen it always, always doesn't have to be.
17:25 We are impressed by science and rightly so,
17:29 because science really does give us
17:31 some incredible technology.
17:34 And which you can see how well it works, okay.
17:37 But that's no guarantee that the theory is correct.
17:41 It might be right and we may be have
17:44 great reasons other than its mere accuracy
17:47 to believe it's right, but it might not be.
17:51 Let me give you an example right now in the--
17:54 right in the forefront of science
17:57 and technology today.
18:00 General relativity and quantum theory
18:02 are two of the most powerful scientific concepts
18:07 and they have been verified
18:09 over and over and over in the 20th century,
18:12 especially quantum theory.
18:14 I've heard they said that quantum theory
18:15 can make prediction so accurate,
18:18 it's like comparing a human hair
18:21 to the width of the continental United States,
18:25 that's how accurate it is.
18:28 And not only do we use quantum theory
18:30 in our cell phones,
18:31 we use general relativity in our GPS's.
18:35 In other word these theories
18:36 not only make accurate predictions
18:39 but they bear very fruitful technology.
18:41 My cell phone, my iPhone uses
18:43 quantum theory and general relativity.
18:48 Now let me read you a quote from physicist Brian Greene,
18:54 in his book the Elegant Universe.
18:57 He talks about these theories and he says they are almost
19:00 unimaginable accurate virtually all predictions made
19:04 by these theories have been correct.
19:07 Okay, so they are making amazingly
19:09 accurate predictions, okay.
19:11 Just like Newton's gravity made some pretty good predictions.
19:16 But then listen to what he writes,
19:19 "As they are currently formulated,
19:23 general relativity and quantum theory
19:25 cannot both be right.
19:28 The two theories underlying
19:30 the tremendous progress of physics
19:33 during the last hundred years are mutually incompatible."
19:39 Wow, that's heavy.
19:42 We have two of the most successful scientific theories,
19:47 that have-- and that have given us
19:49 incredible technology and yet what?
19:52 They are in places incompatible.
19:55 If one is true the other can't be,
19:58 they both can't be right.
20:00 But how can one of them be wrong?
20:02 And how could they even be wrong
20:04 if they give us such accurate predictions
20:06 and give us such powerful technology.
20:10 See don't miss the deeper point here.
20:13 Two of the premier theories of science,
20:18 two of what are considered the greatest--
20:20 the 20th century's greatest scientific achievements
20:25 and yet what?
20:27 Something is seriously wrong with our understanding
20:31 of either one of them or both of them.
20:35 I find that fascinating.
20:37 They work, they give us predictions
20:39 and yet we know
20:41 that there is something wrong there.
20:43 You know, if you are interested
20:45 there is a great series of lectures,
20:48 from a place called the teaching company called
20:50 Science Wars by Dr. Steven Goldman.
20:54 And if you're interested in this,
20:55 he does his great series of lectures on this.
20:58 but one of the fascinating things
21:00 just he talked about in 1800's
21:03 there were great technical rewards
21:06 were coming from science,
21:07 they only they were building all sorts of widgets
21:10 and all sorts of devices based on this--
21:12 this science that they had in the 1800's.
21:15 The only problem was by the 1900's
21:18 almost all those scientific theories
21:21 were being overturned.
21:23 In other words, they were said to them
21:26 they're making a great--
21:27 you're making a widget based on a theory,
21:30 but they are being told, oh by the way
21:32 the theory you have used to make that widget
21:34 we now know is wrong.
21:39 Thus the practical gains from science
21:43 prove only that we understand the science
21:45 well enough, well to get practical gains from it.
21:49 These gains don't do's those gains prove nothing
21:52 about the absolute correctness of the science itself.
21:57 A theory can make great predictions
21:59 and even give us proof full technology
22:04 and still not be giving us
22:06 an accurate depiction of reality.
22:10 This leads to something that has been greatly
22:12 and hotly contested among scientists
22:16 from a couple hundred years
22:17 and they're still debating it today.
22:19 And look the idea is very simple.
22:22 In the 1700-1800's
22:23 there was a big debate over the nature of heat.
22:26 What is heat?
22:27 People came up with different ideas,
22:28 and hate some phlogiston theory,
22:30 the caloric theory.
22:32 Well, in 1822 a Frenchmen came along
22:35 and wrote a book called the analytical theory of heat,
22:38 and the bottom line is he said, it doesn't matter what heat is,
22:43 forget about what heat is, all that matters
22:46 is just can we make predictions?
22:49 Can we use it to do what we want to do?
22:52 Don't worry about what it is?
22:54 And see this gets to a big debate
22:57 in the whole question of science of what science is?
23:02 One group is out there that science is there
23:05 to tell us how the world really is.
23:08 It's out there to teach us truth.
23:11 If that's true though, then as we saw
23:14 Newton's famous laws of gravity,
23:18 Newton's famous law that we all learned,
23:20 if that's what science is supposed to do,
23:23 then Newton's theory failed completely.
23:28 On the other hand other say please science does not
23:32 and cannot tell us what's really out there.
23:35 That can't tell us what is truth, that's nonsense.
23:38 All science could do is help us make predictions
23:42 about the world and how it works.
23:44 If it tells you that, you have X
23:47 and if you do such and such of X you get Y.
23:50 We know if you have X
23:51 and you bring Y to you'll get Z,
23:54 that's all it can do.
23:56 It can tell us what, but it can't tell us why?
24:00 At least not in any absolute sense.
24:05 So right of the bat here we see that science even
24:09 something as successful as Newton's law of gravity,
24:13 which allows us to make incredible predictions,
24:17 isn't really quite cut out, isn't really quite every thing
24:22 that we are led to believe it was.
24:25 And it's fascinating that, and so basic a question
24:29 as to what science does at a very foundational level
24:33 there is a great debate among scientists,
24:36 then and philosophers and scientists themselves.
24:38 They don't even agree on what science really does.
24:42 And trust me, this is one only
24:44 one of the many unsolved debates likes this
24:47 that remain in this whole area today.
24:51 Does science really tell us about the world?
24:54 Does it really tell us truth?
24:57 Or does it simply tell us how the world acts?
25:00 What it does under such and such conditions?
25:04 These are two very different things too.
25:07 Now, I want to be careful here.
25:10 I don't want to go too far the other way
25:13 and you get into this radical postmodernism
25:18 and this whole idea that science is this--
25:22 it's really just a power tool of the elite
25:24 to oppress minorities and women and anything
25:29 that are in the in crowd,
25:30 I mean they-- I once read where some body once did
25:34 a feminist critic of mathematics.
25:37 Can you imagine?
25:38 A feminist critic of mathematics please,
25:42 we are not going down that road,
25:43 that's getting too far.
25:45 Somebody even came up with wrote a paper
25:47 talk once called toward a feminist algebra.
25:52 I mean, please I don't want to go that far.
25:54 I don't want to get down to that extreme.
25:58 But what I want to show in this series
26:00 is that we don't have to automatically bow down
26:03 and kowtow and surrender in every belief we have,
26:08 when somebody declares that science teaches it
26:12 or that the science works and so on and so forth, okay.
26:17 You know, but at the same time
26:18 we don't want to go too far the other way.
26:21 It's not just the bunch of happy coincidences
26:24 that the work on the Manhattan progress,
26:27 you know, that they said
26:28 they wanted to build a nuclear bomb
26:30 and sure enough, kaboom, they built the nuclear bomb.
26:33 There is no question science I believe
26:36 is telling us something about the real world.
26:42 But there is an independent reality out there,
26:46 regardless of how subjectively
26:48 we interact with it and seek to understand it.
26:52 And to say that science deals with reality,
26:54 yet to say that science deals with reality.
26:58 Doesn't make it infallible and absolutely correct
27:02 in its understanding of reality.
27:05 If you study the history of science
27:09 and it shows us that all through history time
27:13 and again science has not been correct.
27:17 Even when the science works,
27:20 even when you can get fruitful technology from it,
27:25 to build devices travel, make predictions,
27:29 and it turned out we could do that all these theories
27:33 that are now tossed on the junk pile.
27:37 Thus I think we could safely assume
27:41 that some of what science tells us today is correct.
27:46 And that some of the science
27:47 even that science that works us correct.
27:50 But I think we could safely assume too,
27:53 that some what the science tells us today,
27:56 things that come with the imprimatur of science,
28:00 even things that they say are scientifically proven.,
28:03 even things that science does that works,
28:07 we can have all that and yet it's very possible
28:11 it could be wrong.
28:12 Something we as believers need to ever keep in mind.


Revised 2015-01-08