Category Archives: Science and God

#3 Post of 2015 – Why Can’t Science Explain Consciousness?

It is not uncommon these days to hear something like the following: “Science has explained just about everything else in the world, so it is inevitable that science will explain the mind and consciousness.” This kind of comment always makes me roll my eyes because the people who make this comment are making a colossal error, but an error that can be hard to see.

Philosopher Ed Feser gives a brilliant analogy that makes the error more obvious. He calls it the “lump under the rug” fallacy.

Suppose the wood floors of your house are filthy and that the dirt is pretty evenly spread throughout the house.  Suppose also that there is a rug in one of the hallways.  You thoroughly sweep out one of the bedrooms and form a nice little pile of dirt at the doorway.  It occurs to you that you could effectively “get rid” of this pile by sweeping it under the nearby rug in the hallway, so you do so.  The lump under the rug thereby formed is barely noticeable, so you are pleased.

You proceed to sweep the rest of the bedrooms, the bathroom, the kitchen, etc., and in each case you sweep the resulting piles under the same rug.  When you’re done, however, the lump under the rug has become quite large and something of an eyesore.  Someone asks you how you are going to get rid of it.  “Easy!” you answer.  “The same way I got rid of the dirt everywhere else!  After all, the ‘sweep it under the rug’ method has worked everywhere else in the house.  How could this little rug in the hallway be the one place where it wouldn’t work?  What are the odds of that?”

What is wrong with using the “sweep it under the rug” method to get rid of the dirt under the rug?

Naturally, the same method will not work in this case, and it is precisely because it worked everywhere else that it cannot work in this case.  You can get rid of dirt outside the rug by sweeping it under the rug.  You cannot get of the dirt under the rug by sweeping it under the rug.  You will only make a fool of yourself if you try, especially if you confidently insist that the method must work here because it has worked so well elsewhere.

So what does the “sweep it under the rug” method have to do with the issue of whether science will explain the mind and consciousness some day?

Now, the “Science has explained everything else, so how could the human mind be the one exception?” move is, of course, standard scientistic and materialist shtick.  But it is no less fallacious than our imagined “lump under the rug” argument.

Here’s why.  Keep in mind that Descartes, Newton, and the other founders of modern science essentially stipulated that nothing that would not fit their exclusively quantitative or “mathematicized” conception of matter would be allowed to count as part of a “scientific” explanation.  Now to common sense, the world is filled with irreducibly qualitative features — colors, sounds, odors, tastes, heat and cold — and with purposes and meanings.  None of this can be analyzed in quantitative terms.

To be sure, you can re-define color in terms of a surface’s reflection of light of certain wavelengths, sound in terms of compression waves, heat and cold in terms of molecular motion, etc.  But that doesn’t capture what common sense means by color, sound, heat, cold, etc. — the way red looks, the way an explosion sounds, the way heat feels, etc.  So, Descartes and Co. decided to treat these irreducibly qualitative features as projections of the mind.

The redness we see in a “Stop” sign, as common sense understands redness, does not actually exist in the sign itself but only as the quale of our conscious visual experience of the sign; the heat we attribute to the bathwater, as common sense understands heat, does not exist in the water itself but only in the “raw feel” that the high mean molecular kinetic energy of the water causes us to experience; meanings and purposes do not exist in external material objects but only in our minds, and we project these onto the world; and so forth.  Objectively there are only colorless, odorless, soundless, tasteless, meaningless particles in fields of force.

In short, the scientific method “explains everything else” in the world in something like the way the “sweep it under the rug” method gets rid of dirt — by taking the irreducibly qualitative and teleological features of the world, which don’t fit the quantitative methods of science, and sweeping them under the rug of the mind.  And just as the literal “sweep it under the rug” method generates under the rug a bigger and bigger pile of dirt which cannot in principle be gotten rid of using the “sweep it under the rug” method, so too does modern science’s method of treating irreducibly qualitative, semantic, and teleological features as mere projections of the mind generate in the mind a bigger and bigger “pile” of features which cannot be explained using the same method.

And there you have it. The very way science does its work is to exclude the qualitative features of reality as experienced by human consciousness. To lump the phenomena of consciousness in with the phenomena of gravity, cellular division, and star formation, is to try to get rid of the dirt under the rug by sweeping the dirt under the rug! It won’t work, ever.

How Is Science Like Checkers?

Philosopher Ed Feser recently introduced another useful analogy to explain why scientism, the idea that the scientific method is the only way to gain true knowledge of reality, is false. Feser writes:

Think of it this way: you can’t find out why checkers boards exist by looking at the rules of checkers themselves, which concern only what goes on within the game. The rules tell you how each piece moves, how the game is won, and so forth. But why are the pieces governed by these rules, specifically, rather than others? Why do any checkers boards exist at all in the first place? No scrutiny of the rules can answer those questions. It is impossible to answer them, or indeed even to understand the questions, unless you take a vantage point from outside the game and its rules.

How does checkers compare to science?

Similarly, what science uncovers are, in effect, the “rules” that govern the “game” that is the natural world. Its domain of study is what is internal to the natural order of things. It presupposes that there is such an order, just as the rules of checkers presuppose that there are such things as checkers boards and game pieces. For that very reason, though, science has nothing to say about why there is any natural order or laws in the first place, any more than the rules of checkers tell you why there are any checkers boards or checkers rules in the first place.

If science cannot, in principle, answer these questions, how do we answer questions about why there is any natural order or laws in the first place?

To answer those questions, or even to understand them properly, you must take an intellectual vantage point from outside the world and its laws, and thus outside of science. You need to look to philosophical argument, which goes deeper than anything mere physics can uncover.


Does a Multiverse Explain the Fine Tuning of Our Universe? Part 2

We continue with J. Warner Wallace’s analysis of multiverse theories in his new book God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe.

The second reason multiverse theories fail to explain the origin of fine tuning is that rather than explaining the origin of fine tuning, the multiverse theory requires fine tuning to first exist.

If there is a multiverse vacuum capable of such creative activity, it would be reasonable for us to ask how the physics of such an environment could be so fine-tuned to create a life-permitting universe. As Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne observed, any proposed multiverse mechanism “needs to have a certain form rather than innumerable possible other forms, and probably constants too that need fine-tuning in the narrow sense … if that diversity of universes is to result.” Eternal inflation, for example, requires a precise relationship between cosmological constants of gravity and the other forces of quantum physics. In other words, the vacuums proposed in multiverse models are equally fine-tuned.

Third, multiverse theories rely on speculative notions of time.

Theorists who propose a preexisting vacuum must account for the nature of time in this setting. All descriptions of this vacuum describe it as temporal (with bubble universes emerging or quantum events occurring over time). But the Standard Cosmological Model (as we described it in the prior chapter) indicates time, as we know it, began with our universe. Multiverse explanations must provide an account for the temporal nature of the vacuum lying at the core of their theory.

Fourth, multiverse theories result in absurdities.

Like string theory models, multiverse proposals result in a number of interesting (and disturbing) absurdities. If there are an infinite number of universes in the multiverse collection, and there exists a remote chance one of them could have a set of laws like ours (and a history similar to our own), we must accept (given the infinite size of the multiverse) an infinite number of universes resembling ours. In fact, if there’s a small chance any of these similar universes might have precisely the same history as our own (with someone exactly like you reading this book at this very moment), there are an infinite number of universes precisely the same as ours in every possible way.

The absurdity of this proposal has been noted by a number of physicists and philosophers. Multiverse models describe an ensemble of universes both identical and slightly different from our own. As Alan Guth admitted, “There is a universe where Elvis is still alive.” The incredulity of such a proposal seems a high price to pay to accommodate a theory yet unproven by the evidence. As Paul Davies said, “The very notion that there could be not just one, but an infinity of identical copies of you, leading identical lives (and infinitely many others leading similar but not identical lives) is deeply unsettling.”

Worse yet, if the multiverse model is true, we may not even be living in a “real” universe at all. If there is even a small chance our universe is simply a Matrix-like simulation (and this possibility certainly exists), the infinite number of universes assures there are also an infinite number of such “computer simulation” universes. While this probably seems absurd (and it ought to), it is the zany, inevitable consequence of multiverse theories.

While multiverse theories fail to explain fine tuning, one thing they concede is that the fine tuning in our universe must have been caused by something outside of our universe. There is nothing inside our universe that could have done the job, and this is a major concession. As Christian theists, we agree that something or Someone outside the universe is the cause of its fine tuning.

Does a Multiverse Explain the Fine Tuning of Our Universe? Part 1

J. Warner Wallace, in his new book God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, investigates the causes of the fine tuning of our universe. One of the most popular explanations is that there exists multiple universes (the multiverse) and ours is just lucky enough to have the fine tuning that permits life.

Wallace presents the multiverse theory as an explanation for fine tuning as follows:

Multiverse explanations, however, point once again to an external causal agent: a mechanism capable of creating an incredibly large number of universes, each with its own set of physical laws. Most of these universes in the multiverse collection are incapable of permitting life. Our universe, however, through “a series of cosmic accidents,” just happens to support our existence.

Multiverse theories overcome the incredible odds against life (and explain the appearance of fine-tuning) by increasing the chances of such a life-permitting universe. Multiverse theorists have proposed the creation of multiverses through a number of mechanisms, most commonly by way of “eternal inflation,” or “quantum tunneling.” Some physicists suggest the existence of an eternal, primordial vacuum (as we discussed in the last chapter).

According to proponents of eternal inflation models, if an infinitely old vacuum has been experiencing inflation, and the tiny bubble universes we described have emerged, each bubble universe might have its own characteristics and physical laws. Other physicists (such as Alex Vilenkin) propose “quantum tunneling from nothing” to explain the existence of an ensemble of universes without eternal inflation. In these quantum tunneling models, diverse universes pop into existence, because in “quantum mechanics the behavior of physical objects is inherently unpredictable and some quantum processes have no cause at all.”

In both eternal inflation and quantum tunneling models, the universes (some older than others) emerging from the vacuum coexist within the larger multiverse. In each of these proposals (eternal inflation, quantum tunneling, and even string theory models), the existence of a vast array of universes makes one like ours an inevitability.

Given a vast array of universes, one of them was bound to support life, goes the argument. The different forms of the multiverse theory each attempt to describe the mechanism for the creation of all these universes, but the outcome is the same: a massive number of universes.

But do these multiverse theories truly explain the fine tuning of our universe? Wallace thinks not. First, he argues that the multiverse theory lacks evidential confirmation.

Like string theory or M-theory proposals, multiverse models lack observational or experimental evidence. Scientists can’t access other universes in the multiverse because they are separated within the vacuum by too great a distance (and according to these theories, this distance is growing).  As a result, many scientists, especially string theorists, are suspicious about the existence of a multiverse. Some call it a “fantasy”; others call it “intellectually bankrupt” or a “cheap way out.” Lacking evidential support, many physicists see the multiverse theory as deficient when compared to efforts to find unity within the laws of physics.

But eternal inflation models face an even greater barrier. Our expert witness Alexander Vilenkin has already testified (along with Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Audrey Mithani) against the possibility of an eternal, uncaused, expanding vacuum. According to these experts, if inflation (expansion) has been occurring in this vacuum, it must have had a beginning and therefore cannot be eternal.

In part 2, we will look at 3 more reasons multiverse theories fail to adequately explain the origins of fine tuning.

What Are the Limits of Physics?

Contrary to the disciples of scientism, physics has limits. Philosopher Ed Feser gives a quick run-down which is worth passing along. Feser writes,

As I have emphasized many times, what physics gives us is a description of the mathematical structure of physical reality.  It abstracts from any aspect of reality which cannot be captured via its exclusively quantitative methods. (emphasis added)

Let’s stop here because this is important. What Feser is saying is that when the methods of physics are applied to any object, any event, any piece of the world around us, the method only addresses the parts of that object, event, or piece of the world that can be mathematically quantified. Physics ignores any parts of the world that cannot be mathematically quantified.

One reason that this is crucial to keep in mind is that from the fact that something doesn’t show up in the description physics gives us, it doesn’t follow that it isn’t there in the physical world.  This is like concluding from the fact that color doesn’t show up in a black and white pen and ink drawing of a banana that bananas must not really be yellow.

In both cases the absence is an artifact of the method employed, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the reality the method is being used to represent.  The method of representing an object using black ink on white paper will necessarily leave out color even if it is there, and the method of representing physical reality using exclusively mathematical language will necessarily leave out any aspect of physical reality which is not reducible to the quantitative, even if such aspects are there.

But maybe all of reality is just composed of mathematical structure. Feser argues that this cannot be the case, that other aspects of reality must be there.

The quantitative description physics gives us is essentially a description of mathematical structure.  But mathematical structure by itself is a mere abstraction.  It cannot be all there is, because structure presupposes something concrete which has the structure.  Indeed, physics itself tells us that the abstraction cannot be all there is, since it tells us that some abstract mathematical structures do not fit the actual, concrete material world.

For example, Einstein is commonly taken to have shown that our world is not really Euclidean.  This could only be true if there is some concrete reality that instantiates a non-Euclidean abstract structure rather than a Euclidean abstract structure.  So, physics itself implies that there must be more to the world than the abstract structure it captures in its purely mathematical description, but it does not and cannot tell us exactly what this concrete reality is like.

Physics is one tool, a powerful one certainly, in our toolbox for describing reality. But to think that it is the only tool in the toolbox is just silly.

Can Atheists Avoid a Cause of the Universe?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

That is exactly what Sean Carroll attempted to do in his recent debate with William Lane Craig. Here is what Carroll said:

Why should we expect that there are causes or explanations or a reason why in the universe in which we live? It’s because the physical world inside of which we’re embedded has two important features.

There are unbreakable patterns, laws of physics — things don’t just happen, they obey the laws — and there is an arrow of time stretching from the past to the future. The entropy was lower in the past and increases towards the future. Therefore, when you find some event or state of affairs B today, we can very often trace it back in time to one or a couple of possible predecessor events that we therefore call the cause of that, which leads to B according to the laws of physics.

But crucially, both of these features of the universe that allow us to speak the language of causes and effects are completely absent when we talk about the universe as a whole.  We don’t think that our universe is part of a bigger ensemble that obeys laws.  Even if it’s part of the multiverse, the multiverse is not part of a bigger ensemble that obeys laws.  Therefore, nothing gives us the right to demand some kind of external cause.

If Carroll’s argument works, then atheists have discovered a clever way to avoid any form of the cosmological argument for God’s existence. But does his argument really work? According to philosopher Ed Feser (in this blog post), it does not, at least not if Carroll is arguing against classical Christian theology.

Feser takes up Carroll’s argument:

Now in fact it is Carroll who has said absolutely nothing to establish his right to dismiss the demand for a cause as confidently as he does. For he has simply begged all the important questions and completely missed the point of the main traditional classical theistic arguments . . . .

One problem here is that, like so many physicists, Carroll has taken what is really just one species of causation (the sort which involves a causal relation between temporally separated events) and identified it with causation as such. But in fact, the Aristotelian argues, event causation is not only not the only kind of causation but is parasitic on substance causation.

Feser continues:

But put that aside, because the deeper problem is that Carroll supposes that causation is to be explained in terms of laws of nature, whereas the Aristotelian view is that this has things precisely backwards. Since a “law of nature” is just a shorthand description of the ways a thing will operate — that is to say, what sorts of effects it will tend to have — given its nature or substantial form, in fact the notion of “laws of nature” metaphysically presupposes causation.

So what does causation look like if it is not essentially about tracing a series of events backwards in time?

On the Aristotelian-Scholastic analysis, questions about causation are raised wherever we have potentialities that need actualization, or a thing’s being metaphysically composite and thus in need of a principle that accounts for the composition of its parts, or there being a distinction in a thing between its essence or nature on the one and its existence on the other, or a thing’s being contingent.

The universe, however physics and scientific cosmology end up describing it — even if it turned out to be a universe without a temporal beginning, even if it is a four-dimensional block universe, even if Hawking’s closed universe model turned out to be correct, even if we should really think in terms of a multiverse rather than a single universe — will, the Aristotelian argues, necessarily exhibit just these features (potentialities needing actualization, composition, contingency, etc.). And thus it will, as a matter of metaphysical necessity, require a cause outside it.

Thus the universe requires a cause outside it. As Feser explains, only that

which is pure actuality devoid of potentiality, only what is utterly simple or non-composite, only something whose essence or nature just is existence itself, only what is therefore in no way contingent but utterly necessary — only that, the classical theist maintains, could in principle be the ultimate terminus of explanation, whatever the specific scientific details turn out to be.

In the end, Carroll has simply not addressed the arguments from classical Christian theology and philosophy. He has not, therefore, successfully avoided the need for the universe to have a cause.

Why Is the Doctrine of Creation Ex Nihilo So Important?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Creation ex nihilo is the Christian doctrine that God created the universe and everything in it out of nothing. He spoke all that exists, besides himself, into existence. Why does this doctrine matter?

Francis Beckwith, Carl Mosser, and Paul Owen, editors of the The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement, write:

At the heart of every world-view is its understanding of God and the universe. From this understanding flow most of the other key components of a worldview. For nearly two millennia Christians have confessed in all their creeds that God is the “Maker of heaven and earth.” The Nicene Creed specifies that this includes “all things visible and invisible.”

At the heart of the Christian worldview is the idea that God is the creator of all other reality; there is a fundamental distinction between Creator and creation. . . .  The creedal affirmations of Christians are but reaffirmations of the first verse of the Bible, which majestically proclaims: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

The relationship of God to the universe that humans inhabit is a foundational truth claim of every worldview. They continue:

Thomas V. Morris points out that the biblical doctrine of creation is the key to a distinctively theistic perspective on reality. He writes, “This one statement captures the heart of a theistic world-view. We live in a created universe. For centuries, theists have held that the single most important truth about our world is that it is a created world. And it is no exaggeration to add that it is one of the most important truths about God that he is the creator of this world.”

Creation ex nihilo distinguishes theism from other worldviews that dominated the ancient world.

It was, in fact, the doctrine of creation out of nothing (ex nihilo) that most fundamentally distinguished the Judeo-Christian view of God and the world from the various religions of the ancient Near East and philosophical systems of Classical Greece—all of which assumed that the world had been formed out of eternally preexisting chaotic matter.

This doctrine has profound implications for the world we live in.

According to Christian teaching, it is God’s absolute creation and continuing conservation of the universe that accounts for its existence, order, rationality, goodness, and beauty. It is because God created the universe ex nihilo and proclaimed it good that we can be assured that evil is not somehow part of the fabric of the universe but a parasite that will one day be overcome.

And finally, the scientific method, which has given us the technology that has improved our lives so much, owes its genesis to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo.

Furthermore, according to many historians of science, the Christian doctrine of creation played a significant role in the rise and development of modern science by providing many of its basic presuppositions. It has been shown that the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo was one of the reasons the scientific revolution occurred in Christian Western Europe rather than in the ancient world or some other culture. It could even be argued that, apart from the presuppositions supplied by the Christian doctrine of creation, modern science (realistically understood) would be impossible and that divorcing science from the ground of these presuppositions makes it irrational.

What Is the Age of the Earth?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

There is much debate among Christians about whether the universe was created in six literal days about 10,000 years ago, or whether the universe came into existence about 13.5 billion years ago, and the earth about 4.5 billion years ago, through the creative acts of God. Who is right?

We just don’t know. Here are some important facts to remember. Bible-believing, orthodox Christians hold both views. Both sides read the Bible using the same historical-grammatical interpretive method. There are good theological arguments on both sides. The one important difference between the two views is that the old earth view is affirmed by most relevant scientific disciplines, whereas the young earth view is not.

Since this issue is not a matter of primary doctrinal importance, both sides are legitimate Christian viewpoints.  What is important to affirm is that God created the universe out of nothing. Both sides agree on that. They just disagree about how God created and when God created.

#10 Post of 2013 – How Do We Know the Universe Hasn’t Existed Eternally?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

For those of you who look to science to answer every question, cosmologists are pretty unanimous in agreeing that our universe is not eternal, and in fact begun about 14 billion years ago. You may not like this answer, and so go running toward alternative cosmologies to escape the standard big bang model of the universe. Unfortunately, there is no salvation there either.

As summarized nicely on the Wintery Knight blog, “The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin [theorem] shows that every universe that expands must have a space-time boundary in the past. That means that no expanding universe, no matter what the model, can be eternal into the past. Even speculative alternative cosmologies do not escape the need for a beginning.”

So it would appear that science is no help to those who want to desperately cling to an eternal universe. What about philosophy?

The dominant ancient metaphysical traditions have also demonstrated why the physical universe cannot be eternal. Here we quote from Edward Feser in an article he wrote for First Things:

In general, classical philosophical theology argues for the existence of a first cause of the world—a cause that does not merely happen not to have a cause of its own but that (unlike everything else that exists) in principle does not require one. Nothing else can provide an ultimate explanation of the world.

For Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, for example, things in the world can change only if there is something that changes or actualizes everything else without the need (or indeed even the possibility) of its being actualized itself, precisely because it is already “pure actuality.” Change requires an unchangeable changer or unmovable mover.

Feser goes on to consider other great thinkers of the past:

For Neoplatonists, everything made up of parts can be explained only by reference to something that combines the parts. Accordingly, the ultimate explanation of things must be utterly simple and therefore without the need or even the possibility of being assembled into being by something else. Plotinus called this “the One.” For Leibniz, the existence of anything that is in any way contingent can be explained only by its origin in an absolutely necessary being.

But why can’t the first cause, the necessary being, “the One,” be the universe itself instead of God? What is the difference between an eternal Creator and an eternal universe?

The difference, as the reader of Aristotle or Aquinas knows, is that the universe changes while the unmoved mover does not, or, as the Neoplatonist can tell you, that the universe is made up of parts while its source is absolutely one; or, as Leibniz could tell you, that the universe is contingent and God absolutely necessary. There is thus a principled reason for regarding God rather than the universe as the terminus of explanation.

So, positing the universe as an eternally existing thing that is the cause of everything else both collides with modern science and with classical metaphysics. I happen to think the metaphysical arguments are stronger, but maybe you prefer the science. Either way, it don’t look good for an eternal universe.

Does Religion Stifle Science?

Post Author: Joel Furches

Joel Furches is a freelance writer who writes and teaches in the areas of Christian News, Apologetics, and Church History. He has a Bachelors in Psychology from Milligan College in Tennessee, a Masters in Education from Goucher College in Maryland, and is the Ratio Christi director at Towson University in Maryland. Joel writes a Christian News column for The Examiner and is on the writing staff for Bible Translation Magazine where he writes monthly articles and has contributed to several books. Joel lives in Jarrettsville, Maryland with his wife and two children, and teaches Apologetics at his local church, Fellowship Chapel. 

Organized religion has stifled science for more than a thousand years. Most of us are familiar with the story of Galileo who discovered that the Earth was not the center of the universe, nor even our sun, but that we were merely one speck among uncountable billions. The church put a stop to him with the threat of torture and death. The same was true of medicine; the study of human anatomy was forbidden.

“Imagine if the church had embraced discovery instead of persecuting scientists and other innovative thinkers. We would be a thousand years ahead of where we are now! Imagine humanity a thousand years into the future. Cancer would be long gone — in fact, every major disease would have been vanquished centuries ago. Is there any doubt we would long ago have traveled to other planets, eased the burdens on our fragile environment and solved all the problems (hunger, energy) we now so dread?

Tragedy of Religion Stifling Science, Stephen Pastore, 2011

Ask most Christians and they will give you the details of when and how they came to believe in Christ. I have no such story. I was born and raised in a Christian home, and went to Sunday School and church all my life. As far as I know, I’ve been saved all my life. My parents sent me to a Christian School from Kindergarten to graduation. I was about as isolated within my Christian culture as a boy could be.

I don’t regret anything about my childhood. However, it does make it very difficult to get a non-Christian to take me seriously. A dramatic conversion story is a far more persuasive testimony than “I just grew up that way.” Frequently, I am simply accused of being brainwashed into my beliefs, and there’s very little I could say to persuade the accuser that I have given my beliefs serious scrutiny and have familiarized myself with other worldviews. The subtleties of my doctrinal choices as an adult are barely worth bringing up.

When I was very young, I became interested in dinosaurs. I poured over books, learning the difficult names, collecting models, and learning all the facts I could find about them. This naturally led to an interest in fossils and archeology. I opened a “dinosaur museum” in my room, putting together hand-made displays with drawings and facts I had learned, attempting to put all my knowledge to some kind of purpose.

When I was in third grade, my teacher kept a rack full of books in the back of the class. They were 20 or so of the same children’s book. It didn’t have pictures, just words. I had never read a chapter book before, but she had so many copies of the book, that I decided that it must be significant, and I gave it a shot.

I found that I could read without pictures, and enjoyed it. With my newfound reading skill, I decided that I could answer any question I might have about the world by reading the appropriate books.

The first burning question I wanted to research was whether or not alien life existed somewhere in the universe. Consequently, I checked out every library book I could find on space.

While the books didn’t mention anything about aliens, what I did learn absolutely captivated me. I was hooked on astronomy, and read everything I could possibly find on the subject, boring family and friends by rehearsing facts I had learned about the universe.

My brothers and I lived on a beautiful, spacious farmland. Our land was adjacent to mile after mile of other farms and forests, and we explored extensively whenever we had a chance. My little brother was always playing with insects, so I attempted to guide him into the world of science through the study of entomology. Together we read copious books on insects, captured and kept them in jars and fish tanks and other containers. We created terrariums and experimented and observed our prizes, making drawings of their body segments, and taking extensive notes. My brother hated that part, but I reminded him that a good scientist always records their findings.

[Years later, I came across a sheet of notes my brother had taken. They were unreadable. Whatever else we were, scribes we were not.]

The books I read as a child were full of scientists mixing together potions and constructing fabulous inventions. I got my mother to buy me chemistry and electronic sets where I created inks, distilled crystals out of a solution and built solar arrays and home-made alarm clocks and weather devices.

Recognizing my thirst for science, my parents subscribed me to Popular Science, and each month I eagerly followed the news in the worlds of robotics and space exploration.

As I graduated to High School, I improved my reading, now delving into books on parallel universes and Stephen Hawkins’s A Brief History of Time.

After I graduated to college, I had boxes and boxes of science equipment and books I had collected as a child that I ended up selling off and passing on to other kids.

I was, as previously mentioned, a fairly sheltered Christian kid. While I was aware of the evolution debate going on inside and outside the Christian community, it never occurred to me to simply accept the explanation “God did it” as a good enough answer and give up any pursuit of science. Exploring, experimenting, and discovering were in no way incompatible with my worldview.

Looking at a universe that was fascinating, complex, and full of discoveries waiting to be discovers and mysteries waiting to be answered; I never thought for a moment that this destroyed the possibility of an intelligent designer or that an intelligent designer destroyed the thrill of discovery. Nor did I think the possibility of design made science predictable or unnecessary.

This story would end perfectly if I became a career scientist. Sadly, I did not. I did, however, get a degree in psychology, which required me to learn statistical analysis, and to form and then conduct psychological experiments which I then analyzed using statistics software (my experiment was on the effects of ambience on memorization and recall).

I am an adult now, with two very young children. I have already enjoyed taking my son, now two, into long walks in the woods. I point out cool things about nature, and try to share my love of discovery with him. He and I have lain outside together at night looking at the stars, and, like me, he can’t keep his eyes off the sky or the wonder out of his face.

In his article Tragedy of Religion Stifling Science, Stephen Pastore sums up the sentiment expressed by a significant portion of the scientific community: science and religion are incompatible; a religious worldview stifles and destroys scientific progress.

Imagine for a moment that the scientific community held to a particular overarching theory that informed almost all scientific modeling and investigation. Imagine that this theory was taken from the writings of a single theorist from long ago. Imagine that this theory was held in almost sacred regard such that any theory that even remotely challenged this worldview was scoffed out of the public arena.

Then imagine that one scientist developed an alternative model that had better explanatory power and was predictive of contemporary scientific observations. Imagine that this one scientist was forcibly silenced before he was allowed to bring his theory before peer review.

The man in this scenario is Galileo Galilei. The scientific model that opposed his was Aristotelian thought. Aristotle was a Greek Philosopher who formed theories on almost every aspect of life including physics, geology, and psychology. He wrote in the 300’s BC, but his teachings came back into vogue in Europe in the 13th century, and formed the basis for all mainstream science up until the Renaissance.  The church rejected Galileo’s theories based not on doctrine or Biblical teachings, but rather because of their commitment to an already established scientific theory.

Galileo was a devout Christian as well as a dedicated and brilliant scientist, just like Johannes Kepler, Rene’ Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Gregor Mendel, James Prescott Joule, Louis Pasteur, and many more. Galileo’s commitment to his religion in no way interfered with his brilliance or to his discovery. It was, rather, another scientific theory that stifled his own.

In fairness to Pastore’s argument, the Inquisition Church that backed Aristotelian theories had a habit of imprisoning and torturing anyone who disagreed with them; contrary to the teachings of the Jesus they claimed to represent. I agree with Pastore that no monolithic institution should stifle creativity and exploration. No ivory tower group of individuals should refuse to allow theories to see the light of day, or tell individuals to keep ideas to themselves because these ideas contradict the current dogma.

Science and Christianity are not in any way contradictory to one another. Devout women and men from every age have bent over their scientific pursuits with, dare I say, religious fervor. And so did a young boy who didn’t know that he couldn’t like science because he was a Christian.