Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Correlation is not always Causation

Somewhere on the North Norfolk Coast near Hunstanton, England

A friend of mine made the title statement as a comment regarding a set of personal coincidences in my life. I spotted this unusual alignment a few days' later in what seems to be natural rock. Is apparent physical law necessarily valid in a multiverse? Or only in ours? Nothing much directly to do with discussions about God, admittedly.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Essence of Christianity in Regard to Creation

I have been writing another blog concentrating on the Bible. It is

I accidentally posted on this blog an article about James, the brother of Jesus, from that blog. This one is primarily about science. I have removed it. However, I want to state Christian belief regarding the Big Picture of why we are here. Whether (Catholic Priest) Lemaitre's Big Bang is essentially correct or not, the mind and power behind creation are Christ's. Whatever ideas and convictions on behaviour man has, the heart behind mankind and creation is that of Jesus Christ. It all stands somewhat at odds with the naturalist/reductionsist/evolutionsist framework of mainstream science, but maybe less than is currently claimed by some popular atheist thinkers and writers.  Mainstream Christianity has Christ as both God and man, and as both creator and redeemer. 'Project Humanity' is therefore seen as the highest realization of the purposes of Almighty God. In the Genesis 1 account God describes the creation as 'very good' only after man is made. It was merely 'good' before that.

Morally, Christ was perfect. In the sense of priesthood, he was, as God, offered for our sins by God. In His pre-incarnate state, He was the prime agent of all creation, seen and unseen.

One of the most succinct statements about Jesus Christ is found near the beginning of Paul's letter to the Colossian Christians from the New Testament section of the Bible.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 
(Colossians 1:13-20 ESV)

Note the phrase 'In him all things hold together'. This is Physics' sought after Grand Unified Theory according to the Bible. We are not given equations!

Elsewhere Paul summarizes the death and resurrection of the Christ (in Greek), or Messiah (in Hebrew).

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, .....he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, .....Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me (Paul). (taken from 1 Corinthians 15v4-8)

In theology there is a concept known as the 'hypostatic union'. 'Hypostasis' is a Greek word and it carries the meaning of an actual, concrete, physical existence. The hypostatic union is the living, concrete, foundational reality of God and man combined in the actual physical person of Jesus Christ. We cannot be saved unless we realize that the Christ who died for us has such a nature.

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. 
(1Jn 4:2)

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 
(1Jn 4:15)

Jesus Christ therefore was most certainly known in the usual ways of brotherhood and parenthood to his family, first as a boy and then as a man. His brother James only later came to see him as also being God.

But because Jesus was in one sense so utterly normal as a human being, James did not see the realities of his deity. But we do know that his humanity was quite normal and unexceptional. Jesus had all the characteristics and bodily functions of a regular mortal human being.

Scientific Objections

A major common objection regarding origins is the view of time. Mainstream cosmology implies billions of years have passed since 'the beginning'. The Bible has a few thousand years. But Genesis 1 uses the Hebrew word 'yom' for day. 'Yom' can, as with English, refer to a period of time other than 24 hours. Example 'The day of the steam locomotive is over'. Anyway, our day is based on solar system dynamics, and the solar system was not in place until day 4. And the Bible itself uses 'yom' in the 'day-epoch' sense as early as Genesis 2v4.

Another is the fossil record as interpreted by Darwinism. Here, previous cataclysmic judgments by God are a possibility, as evidenced by the fact that Genesis 1v2 may be rendered accurately in Hebrew as 'the earth became void and without form'. It is increasingly seen that the fossil record does not reflect a progressive, gradual evolution. It is true that radiometric dating seems to present an obstacle to a young total creation.

I do not know the detailed answers, but I believe in Christ as Creator and Redeemer; the only Way to the only true God.

I am not against science, I like it. I am against the misguided, and often ultimately illogical, attempts to remove Christ from our picture of creation.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Are we too locked in to certain lines of enquiry? Fashion hits Science?

Science and reason protagonists rightly see the scientific method as a good tool to deal with prejudice and to minimize subjectivity when looking for underlying mechanisms in the world around us.

But can we claim an absolute ability to extricate ourselves from our own biases? We need to, if we are to personally rely completely on rationality.

Here I will explore these thought a little, and suggest we look at one reason why we cannot remove our biases completely. Essentially the reason is fashion. Or what Germans call 'zeitgeist'. Fashion can make us focus and exclude other possibilities.

I like Roger Penrose's wonderful 'The Road to Reality'. He dances seemingly effortlessly around the broad and varied terrain of higher mathematics. The adventure of higher maths is set out as an open invitation for the reader. Interestingly for me, Penrose also muses thoughtfully on the interactions of mathematics with physics and with the human experience of consciousness.

Well into the book, Penrose notes that, in his opinion, some areas of currently orthodox astrophysics are rooted in questionable assumptions. He addresses, for example, inflationary theory (p753). This is the now widely held assumption that the early universe underwent a period of rapid inflation. He looks at this theory with some gentle questioning skepticism.

Later in the same book, Penrose discusses likely further progress in astrophysics and cosmology. He makes the point that certain theories become fashionable and channel research effort, whether theoretical or experimental.

It is obvious that ideas in astrophysics are complex and multi-faceted. They are often based on multiple assumptions. Truly representative experimental validations are normally not feasible. It is not unreasonable to question existing conclusions when these were made under demanding constraints. Even if the conclusions have become widespread orthodoxy.

Further than this, Penrose notes that once an idea has taken hold, it tends to self-re-enforce. An idea or 'meme' is defined and established. A blinkeredness can then very easily take over. An exclusive orthodoxy develops. Other approaches and theories are denigrated. Penrose looks at how this tendency outworked in recent history with string theory. A survey was made of then-contemporary papers concerning the perplexing area of quantum gravity. At the time the survey was taken, for this subject, there was a very strong bias toward research papers based on string theory, compared to papers based on other approaches. It is then easy to see how the popularity of the theory strengthens, at the expense of research into others. Is this warranted and what are the results for effective investigation of the original subject, here quantum gravity? Human factors are probably at play here! (this means that,for the reductionist, the conscious attributes cosmology and evolution supposedly gave us in actual fact start to subvert our ability to enquire accurately!).

How much of the fashionability of, say, string theory, is warranted? Does its present popularity represent the accuracy of the theory? That is an open question in general. Theories can become popular because they are already fairly popular. There may be a culture and an inertia in academic circles, and a fear of being found dissenting, but wrong. There may be a further fear of triggering the real fear of unorthodoxy in others, especially if the others have power over you, maybe regarding funding decisions or powers of appointment to academic positions. It is true that this tendency to fit in might correct itself after a period of time, as the chosen theory succeeds or fails. However as the issue being researched gets more complex, the required correction might get less realizable. There may also be the fear that the entire big picture of, in this example, astrophysics/cosmology as it stands ,might come tumbling down. Can we allow that to happen? If not, why not? What if we think it is best to hide our doubts, maybe even from ourselves? Similar concerns might apply to the geology/anthropology/evolutionary biology picture. Or indeed religious/political/philosophical beliefs.  In all cases, at least some of the details may be highly questionable. When there are so many variables to fit together, do we really have the big picture correct? Our worldviews need to be subject to this sort of scrutiny if we are claiming to be champions of reason..

Such problems mean the scientific method is most reliably applied to arenas where all facts can be carefully defined and/or controlled, and multiple experiments performed. This is the arena routine engineering uses. It is about proof of the pudding. Would you really want to be the test pilot of an aircraft built using principles with a similar level of abstraction and lack of rigour to those associated with cosmology or evolutionary biology? Or do you just want to believe it all for reasons you are hiding from yourself?