Commentators about faith and science
This is intended to include relevant commentary on the interface between science and faith from persons whose personal philosophy is not immediately known. This is in addition to commentary from those scientists who openly declare faith and those who openly oppose faith. It also includes those who are sympathetic to faith but who are not scientists.
"Only in rational creatures is there found a likeness of God which counts as an image .. As far as a likeness of the divine nature is concerned, rational creatures seem somehow to attain a representation of [that] type in virtue of imitating God not only in this, that he is and lives, but especially in this, that he understands."
"The functional design of organisms and their features would therefore seem to argue for the existence of a designer. It was Darwin's greatest accomplishment to show that the directive organization of living beings can be explained as the result of a natural process, natural selection, without any need to resort to a Creator or other external agent. "
"A universe simple enough to be understood is too simple to produce a mind capable of understanding it."
"If it could ever be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."
"There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all .. . It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature's numbers to make the Universe ... The impression of design is overwhelming."
"There are no chemical bonds between the bases. Thus, there are no chemical rules to determine the order in which the bases will be attached to the background."
"Scientific enquiry rests upon the notion that all manifestations in the universe are explainable in natural terms, without supernatural intervention. Strictly speaking, this notion is not an a priori philosophical stand or profession of belief. It is a postulate, a working hypothesis that we should be prepared to abandon if faced with facts that defy every attempt at rational explanation. Many scientists, however, do not bother to make this distinction, tacitly extrapolating from hypothesis to affirmation. They are perfectly happy with the explanations provided by science. Like Laplace, they have no need for the 'God hypothesis' and equate the scientific attitude with agnosticism, if not with outright atheism. "
"Evolution was accepted in the nineteenth century not because it explained everything perfectly but because it accounted for the facts better than any other theory... The idea that the cosmos is a unique whole with life and mankind as its end and purpose makes sense and illuminates all our current scientific knowledge. It makes sense of the intricate synthesis of carbon in the stars, of the constants of physics, of the properties of water, of the cosmic abundance of the elements... No other world view comes close. No other explanation makes as much sense of all the facts."
"If we nudge one of these constants just a few percent in one direction, stars burn out withing a million years of their formation, and there is no time for evolution. If we nudge it a few percent in the other direction, then no elements heavier than helium form. No carbon, no life. Not even any chemistry. No complexity at all. "
"The more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming."
"Our theory of evolution has become... one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus 'outside of empirical science' but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways to test it. Ideas...have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training."
"The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible"
"There have been an awful lot of stories, some more imaginative than others, about what the nature of that history [of life] really is. The most famous example ... is the exhibition on horse evolution prepared perhaps fifty years ago. That has been presented as the literal truth in text-book after text-book. Now I think that this is lamentable, particularly when people who propose those kinds of stories may themselves be aware of the speculative nature of some of that stuff. "
"Every science picks out an aspect of things in the world and shows how it goes. Everhthing that lies outside such a field lies outside the scope of that science. And since God is not a part of the world, still less an aspect of it, nothing that is said about God, however turuly, can be a statement belonging to any science."
"Even the greatest forces and abilities don't seem to carry any clear instructions on how to use them."
biologist's investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved."
"The moment a man questions the meaning and value of life, he is sick, since objectively neither has any existence."
"For early humans ...[their] problems were the very specific ones of doing the right things enough of the time. Thus human physical and cognitive abilities evolved together to promote appropriate actions, not to promote the discovery of anything like general truths about the world. In fact, these two goals are often in conflict. For example, given that one has to act quickly and thus on the basis of only partial information, it is usually better for long-run survival to overestimate the presence of predators and take evasive action even when it is not really necessary."
"The failure of purely physical theories to describe or explain information reflects Shannon's concept of entropy and his measure of 'news'. Information is defined by its independence from physical determination: If it is determined, it is predictable and thus by definition not information. Yet Darwinian science seemed to be reducing all nature to material causes."
"Anybody who wants to make meaningful statements about the origin of life would be forced to explain how the information originated. All evolutionary views are fundamentally unable to answer this crucial question."
Mathematician and author of two incompleteness theorems.
"Directed by all-powerful selection, chance becomes a sort of providence, which, under the cover of atheism, is not named but which is secretly worshiped... "
"It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us." From "A Brief History of Time".
"Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing in the manner described in Chapter 6. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going." from The Grand Design p180
"A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature."
"A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience as can be imagined."
"As for the argument from design, see how Darwinian ideas have revolutionized it. Conceived as we now conceive them, as so many fortunate escapes from almost limitless processes of destruction, the benevolent adaptations which we find in Nature suggest a deity very different from the one who figured in the earlier versions of the argument."
"Since there is no known scientific procedure to generate life in the laboratory, let alone by some unknown prebiotic mechanism, one could assume the probability of life from undirected natural causes is zero. What often is assumed is that since life obviously exists and the only allowable mechanism is undirected and natural, it must have occurred that way, despite the improbability. This is an obvious tautology since the propositions "life exists" and "life can only be the result of undirected natural sources" uses the second proposition to prove itself (the first proposition is obviously true)."
"At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ingnorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."
"The stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter . . we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter." The Mysterious Universe
"A Chinese paleontologist lectures around the world saying that recent fossil finds in his country are inconsistent with the Darwinian theory of evolution. His reason: The major animal groups appear abruptly in the rocks over a relatively short time, rather than evolving gradually from a common ancestor as Darwin's theory predicts. When this conclusion upsets American scientists, he wryly comments: 'In China we can criticize Darwin but not the government. In America you can criticize the government but not Darwin.'
"I have .. found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith."
"The second predominant view among cognitive scientists is that consciousness arises when enough computational elements are networked together. In this view, a mind is a machine, and a complex set of buckets of water pouring water into one another would become conscious, I just cannot believe this."
"Faith without some doubts is like a human body without and antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic."
"If science is based on experience, then science tells us that the message encoded in DNA must have originated from an intelligent cause. What kind of intelligent agent was it? On its own, science cannot answer this question; it must leave it to religion and philosophy. But that should not prevent science from acknowledging evidences for an intelligent cause origin wherever they may exist. "
"What is common to naturalistic philosophy is its commitment to science. Indeed, naturalism might be defined in its more general sense as the philosophical generalizations of the methods and conclusions of the sciences. "
"it is as impossible to conceive that ever pure incogitative Matter should produce a thinking intelligent Being, as that nothing should of itself produce Matter."
"A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death - the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders, we are not going to be judged."
"God puts to death everything that stands up to him, beginning with reason, intelligence and the critical mind."
"The problem of the origin of life is the problem of the origin of the RNA World, and that everything that followed is in the domain of natural selection."
"In no way can the concept of 'information', the concept of conveying a message, be articulated in terms of the concepts of physics and chemistry, even though the latter can be shown to explain how the molecular machinery (DNA, RNA, and protein) operates to carry information ..."
"Could we not sensibly conclude, for example, that God created life, or human life, or something else specially? (I do not say we should conclude that: I only suggest that we could, and should if that is what the evidence most strongly suggests.)"
"The statistical probability that organic structures and the most precisely harmonized reactions that typify living organisms would be generated by accident, is zero. "
"A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature."
"It is impossible to separate Christianity from history and nature. The hope of some to relegate religion to the world of pure religious experience, and science to the world of physical phenomena may suit some religious systems, but not Christianity. The historical element alone in the Bible is too dominant to permit this treatment, as is the repeated reference to creation. Christianity appears in a universe created by God, and in historical situations under the providence of God. Creation and history are indispensable to a loyal evangelical theology. Although to some this appears as a weakness in Christianity in reality it is part of the strength of Christianity, for it shows that Christianity is deeply woven in the UNIVERSAL SCHEME OF THINGS."
"The scientific attitude has usually been characterised as a commitment to following the evidence wherever it leads. That does not look like promising ammunition for someone pushing an official policy of refusing to allow science to follow evidence to...design no matter what the evidence turns out to be.."
"The sceptic asks me, Why do you believe the existence of the external object which you perceive? This belief, sir, is none of my manufacture; it came from the mint of Nature; it bears her image and superscription; and if it is not right, the fault is not mine; I ever took it upon trust, and without suspicion. Reason, says the sceptic, is the only judge of truth, and you ought to throw off every opinion and every belief that is not grounded on reason. Why, sir, should I believe the faculty of reason more than that of perception? They both came out of the same shop, and were made by the same artist; and if he puts one piece of false ware into my hands, what should hinder him from putting another.?"
"Science has made us increasingly competent in knowledge and power, but it has also left us decreasingly confident about right and wrong. The evolutionary past has not been easy to connect with the ethical future. There is no obvious route from biology to ethics - despite the fact that here we are.. The genesis of ethics is problematic."
"Wherever you go in the world, whatever animal, plant, bug, or blob you look at, if it is alive, it will use the same dictionary and know the same code. All life is one. The genetic code, bar a few tiny local aberrations, mostly for unexplained reasons in the ciliate protozoa, is the same in every creature. We all use exactly the same language. "
"Why should a bunch of atoms have thinking ability? Why should I, even as I write now, be able to reflect on what I am doing and why should you, even as you read now, be able to ponder my points, agreeing or disagreeing, with pleasure or pain, deciding to refute me or deciding that I am just not worth the effort? No one, certainly not the Darwinian as such, seems to have any answer to thisÉ The point is that there is no scientific answer."
"I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence - why there is something rather than nothing."
"In the world it calls itself Tolerance; but in hell it is called Despair. It is the accomplice of the other sins and their worst punishment. It is the sin which believes nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and only remains alive because there is nothing it would die for."
"... the scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives us a lot of factual information, ... but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity."
"'intelligent design' arguments do not in any way support any assertion of the existence of some supernatural deity... it is entirely consistent with what we currently know about our universe for some external but natural intelligence to have 'designed' our universe to be what it is. Such intelligence would be mighty indeed, but it would still be just another powerful alien, or a group of such aliens, and not in any way a god or gods."
"What significance does an emerging interface between biology and information science hold for thinking about evolution? It opens up the possibility of addressing scientifically rather than ideologically the central issue so hotly contested by fundamentalists on both sides of the Creationist-Darwinist debate. Is there any guiding intelligance at work in the origin of species displaying exquisite adaptations that range from lambda prophage repression and the Krebs cycle through the mitotic apparatus and the eye to the immune system, mimicry and social organization?"
We can no longer base our ethics on the idea that human beings are a special form of creation made in the image of God, singled out from all other animals, and along possessing an immortal soul. Our better understanding of our own nature has bridged the gulf that was once thought to lie between ourselves and other species, so why should we believe that the mere fact that a being is a member of the species Homo Sapiens endows its life with some unique, almost infinite value?"
"Darwinian evolution - whatever its other virtues- does not provide a fruitful heuristic in experimental biology. This becoomes especially clear when we compare it with a heuristic framework such as the atomic model, which opens up structural chemistry and leads to advances in the synthesis of a multitude of new molecules of practical benefit. None of this demonstrates that Darwinism is false. It does, however, mean that the claim that it is the cornerstone of modern experimental biology will be met with quiet skepticism from a growing number of scientists in fields where theories actually do serve as cornerstones for tangible breakthroughs."
"I am convinced, moreover, that Darwinism, in whatever form, is not in fact a scientific theory, but a pseudo-metaphysical hypothesis decked out in scientific garb. In reality the theory derives its support not from empirical data or logical deductions of a scientific kind but from the circumstance that it happens to be the only doctrine of biological origins that can be conceived with the constricted world view to which a majority of scientists no doubt subscribe."
"You can describe the evolutionary process, if you so decide, in purely naturalistic terms. But the text that then appears when you see a person, when you see a beautiful act or a beautiful picture can only be read if you use a completely different code."
"Yet, under ordinary conditions, no complex organic molecule can ever form spontaneously, but will rather disintegrate, in agreement with the second law. Indeed, the more complex it is, the more unstable it will be, and the more assured, sooner or later, its disintegration. Photosynthesis and all life processes, and even life itself, cannot yet be understood in terms of thermodynamics or any other exact science, despite the use of confused or deliberately confusing language."
"Note that I am not postulating a 'God of the gaps', a god merely to explain the things that science has not yet explained. I am postulating a God to explain why science explains; I do not deny that science explains, but I postulate God to explain why science explains. The very success of science in showing us how deeply ordered the natural world is provides strong grounds for believing that there is an even deeper cause for that order."
The argument for abiogenesis "simply says it happened. As such, it is nothing more than blind belief. Science must provide rational theoretical mechanism, empirical support, prediction fulfillment, or some combination of these three. If none of these three are available, science should reconsider that molecular evolution of genetic cybernetics is a proven fact and press forward with new research approaches which are not obvious at this time. "
Advocates a view of "functional integrity" of nature such that it "has no functional deficiencies, no gaps in its economy of the sort that would require God to act immediately".
"Life express both function and sign systems, which indicates that it is not a subsystem of the universe, since chance and necessity cannot explain sign systems, meaning, purpose, and goals."
"To the majority of those who have reflected deeply and written about the origin and nature of the universe, it has seemed that it points beyond itself to a source which is non-physical and of great intelligence and power. Almost all of the great classical philosophers - certainly Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibnez, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel,Locke, Berkeley - saw the origin of the universe as lying in a transcendent reality. They had different specific ideas of this reality, and different ways of approaching it; but that the universe is not self-explanatory, and that it requires some explanation beyond itself, was something they accepted as fairly obvious. "
"It is not those of us who seek to understand the world from a number of different perspectives, including the scientific one, who prefer ignorance to knowledge. It is those who, blinded by their faith that science can yield 'full' explanations, prefer to remain ignorant of whatever knowledge other ways of knowing the world have to offer."
"The textbook I was using prominently featured drawings of vertebrate embryos - fish, chickens, humans, etc. - where similarities were presented as evidence for descent from a common ancestor. Indeed, the drawings did appear very similar. but I'd been studying embryos for some time, looking at them under a microscope. And I knew that the drawings were just plain wrong. I re-checked all my other textbooks. They all had similar drawings, and they were all obviously wrong."
Famous for misinformation about Galileo in his "History of the Warfare of Science and Theology"Sir Alfred North Whitehead
Famous for his attack on David Hume's denial of cause and effect.Chandra Wickramasinghe
"Life could not be an accident, not just on the Earth alone, but anywhere, anywhere at all in the Universe."
"The enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious, and there is no rational explanation for it ... it is an article of faith. "
Discussing the coded information in the cell: "may be compared to a book or to a video or audiotape, with an extra factor coded into it enabling the genetic information, under certain environmental conditions, to read itself and then to execute the information it reads. It resembles, that is, a hypothetical architect's plan of a house, which plan not only contains the information on how to build the house, but which can, when thrown into the garden, build entirely of its own initiative the house all on its own without the need for contractors or any other outside building agents...
"Evolutionary biologists have failed to realize that they work with two more or less incommensurable domains: that of information and that of matter... These two domains will never be brought together in any kind of the sense usually implied by the term 'reductionism.' ... Information doesn't have mass or charge or length in millimeters. Likewise, matter doesn't have bytes... This dearth of shared descriptors makes matter and information two separate domains of existence, which have to be discussed separately, in their own terms. "
"The genetic information system operates without regard for the significance or meaning of the message, because it must be capable of handling all genetic messages of all organisms, extinct and living, as well as those not yet evolved...The genetic information system is the software of life and, like the symbols in a computer, it is purely symbolic and independent of its environment."
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