Speaking With Authority About Origins

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In an ingenious slam poetry performance, Taylor Mali addresses the trend in intellectualism for the past several decades of doing the easy work of tearing down ideas without doing the hard work of building cohesive new ones.  The last line of his humorous performance suddenly takes a turn for the serious as he pronounces:

“Contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days just to question authority, you gotta speak with it, too.”

Atheism claims that there is no reason to believe in God anymore because we do not need Him to explain the existence of the world around us.  In science, we are told, we do not assume that something exists unless its existence is necessitated by the evidence.  The burden of proof is placed on the believer.

It really is so much easier to tear down an idea than to build one up.  To place the burden of proof on your opponent.  To point out all of the things that we can’t know.  This is really the essence of the argument against God.

In light of this principle I would like to address the use of the studies of physics and macroevolution by the atheistic movement.

In my limited understanding and exposure to the world of contemporary physics, I find it to be a substantial, respectable field.  Much of it is speculative, but much of it is also well documented and speaks with authority in describing the world around us.

I’ve got my own problems with the theory of evolution.  I don’t think it holds water.  But I will say in its favor that the theory of evolution speaks with authority about something.  It isn’t about shifting the burden of proof onto someone else.  It isn’t about pointing out all of the things that we can’t know or can’t prove.  

I don’t believe in the theory of macroevolution, but I can respect the fact that it seeks to explain, rather than to tear down.  What I can’t respect is the arrogance with which atheism takes these theories and others and uses them to tear down the idea of God.  Let me explain why.

Concerning macroevolution:

To claim that because we have a plausible theory (which I would claim is actually very weak) about how life could have evolved from a single cell into man, has little to do with the incredible questions of the universe’s existence or order.  It even leaves the question of the origin of life unanswered.

Concerning contemporary physics:

I said earlier that science claims not to need God to explain the existence and order in the cosmos.  But science has not explained why the universe exists or why it is the way it is.

The general vague idea is that the laws and constants that govern our universe are eternal and that they called the universe into existence.  For starters, this does’t explain where the laws themselves came from.  Secondly, it doesn’t explain why they happen to be so beautifully and incredibly fine-tuned.  And thirdly, this is a very primitive and unsubstantiated view of natural laws.

As philosopher and author Jim Holt points out, “physical laws are actually generalized descriptions of patterns and regularities in the world.  They don’t exist outside the world… they can’t call a world into existence out of nothingness.”  He points out that even Stephen Hawking asks what breathes fire into the equations and gives them a universe to describe.

Why does something exist instead of nothing?  Physics, which merely explains the behavior of our universe, has no answer.

Why is there so much fine tuning in the universe?  The best atheistic answer is that there are an infinite number of universes and that we happen to live in an amazingly orderly one.  So let’s see, the chances of that are about… 1 in infinity.

Where did the first life come from?  Investigate the atheistic theories for yourself.  Panspermia simply dodges the question, and all other proposals are embarrassing and contrived.

Where does consciousness come from?  The best atheistic answer is that it is a fundamental constant of reality.  Which borders on and honestly encroaches on the existence of the supernatural in its implications.

In conclusion:

Macroevolution makes pronouncements and theories about the way things are.  Physics describes our universe with elegance and precision.  But atheism wrongly uses these studies to tear down ideas which it has no ability to replace.  It questions authority without the ability to speak with it.

If you want authoritative, substantial answers, consider a Biblical worldview.

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Where Does Consciousness Come From?

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I recently saw an extremely interesting TED Talk by the brilliant Philosopher David Chalmers entitled “How Do You Explain Consciousness?”

During the talk, Chalmers, who calls himself “a scientific materialist at heart,” struggles with the question of why we as humans have a subjective experience of the world around us.  Why are we not robots, mindlessly receiving inputs from our environments and responding with predetermined outputs?

We know that certain areas of the brain correlate with certain experiences, but we do not know why they correlate with these subjective experiences, or what causes them.

Chalmers states plainly the consensus of the philosophical and scientific communities to date: “right now, nobody knows the answers to those questions.”

This is where the talk gets particularly interesting.  Chalmers states that “we may initially need one or two ideas that seem crazy before we can come to grips with consciousness scientifically.”  I would completely agree.

As Chalmers points out, his fellow philosopher Daniel Dennett believes that “the inner subjective movie” that we are viewing in our minds is actually all an illusion.  Spend very long at the intersection of science and philosophy and you will find that at every turn great minds are working vigorously to reduce objective meaning and purpose, morality, and even consciousness itself to rubble.

Chalmers’ idea is much more beautiful and elegant.  He believes that consciousness is a fundamental property of reality, like time, space, or fundamental constants.  I think his rationale is good: “If you can’t explain consciousness in terms of the existing fundamentals, then as a matter of logic you need to expand the list.  The natural thing to do is postulate consciousness itself as something fundamental.”  He goes on to suggest that information processing correlates with consciousness, so the more information an entity processes, the more conscious it is.

He expands and explains his theory and states that it is the leading theory in the scientific world today.

Did you catch that?!  The leading theory in the scientific world today concerning consciousness is that it is a property as fundamental as time or space.  Suddenly the “materialist” at heart is blurring the lines between the natural and the supernatural.

Of course, science has been migrating inevitably that way for decades.  The evidence for the supernatural is just too strong.  Science turned out to show that the universe had a beginning, rather than itself being eternal.  And since Einstein had already shown that time and space are part of the same continuum, we know that whatever caused the universe, it was timeless, spaceless, and immaterial.

Stephen Hawking responds with a line that recently showed up in the movie “God’s Not Dead:”

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.”

Okay, so scientists admit that the universe is not eternal, but maintain that the laws that govern it are, and that they necessitate its existence. Those laws turn out to be extremely, beautifully organized and fine-tuned in a way that cannot rationally be chalked up to random chance.

And now, to top it all off, we are coming to the conclusion that consciousness is a fundamental property either of these timeless laws, or directly caused by them.

Science has slowly migrated from “the matter in the universe is eternal” to acknowledging the timeless, spaceless, immaterial existence of a large amount of very specific information, including consciousness or directly resulting in it.

The lines between the natural and the supernatural are blurring.  In fact, they are becoming obsolete.  Science is discovering God piece by piece all over again.