January 14, 2006
Dr. Tenke need not be afraid that I would take anything in his statement as a personal attack. I do, however, take it as evidence of egregious misunderstanding of my letter.
In the first place, I'm not talking about "truth," whatever he means by the quotation marks, I'm talking about truth – namely, conformance to objective reality ("If one says of what is that it is, one speaks truth" – Socrates, I think), something about which I would certainly hope scientists care a great deal.
Second, I'm not intimidated or threatened in the slightest, by a "machine" or anything else; I am, however, more than a little irritated at the tendency of scientists to cloak their allegiance to prejudice in high-minded language.
Let’s assume for a moment, just for the sake of argument, that God did in fact create the universe in six 24-hour days. I don’t believe for a minute that God did so, but he certainly could have had he chosen to, as I would hope Dr. Tenke would agree. Were this the case, then the only accurate conclusion one could draw about the origin of the universe is that God created it in six 24-hour days. Yet science, as currently defined, would be unable to reach that conclusion, having ruled it completely out of court, and would thus be forced to develop an alternative explanation for the origin of the universe – one which would be wrong, but which Dr. Tenke would have us believe was of equal value because it was "scientific." And what would make that conclusion "scientific" and the other – which in this case would be the correct one – "unscientific"? The fact that the incorrect conclusion conformed to scientific prejudice – prejudice which scientists like Harvard's Dr. Richard Lewontin have freely admitted is grounded in their religious commitment to the non-existence of God.
You see, to define science by an assumption – that as a practical matter, there is no God – is to elevate the assumption to the status of dogma; but the assumption is just that, an assumption, not the product of scientific reasoning or experimentation. If the evidence challenges the assumption, shouldn’t the assumption be questioned? Anyone who would answer "no" is guilty of prejudging the issue – which is to say, of common garden-variety prejudice. When the search for truth collides with the prejudice of the scientific community, many scientists are saying, it is the search for truth, not their prejudice, which should be thrown out. I had always understood that what was supposed to happen in that instance was a paradigm shift; but then, maybe I’m guilty of taking Thomas Kühn too seriously.
As such, here's the nub of my disagreement with Dr. Tenke. He asserts, "Science isn't the method of doctrine, but of doubt" – and he does so in a letter written in support of doctrine (methodological atheism) against those who doubt that doctrine. He declares, "When the data are inconsistent with a model or theory, the difference must be reconciled," but refuses to consider the possibility that the data might be inconsistent with the "model or theory" known as neo-Darwinian evolution. He proclaims, "Science IS method," but closes his mind to the possibility that this method might disprove the proposition that the universe is undesigned and uncaused. As such, while he says, "Science IS method," what he actually affirms is that science is dogma: the dogma that the universe has no designer and can be understood purely in naturalistic, materialistic, atheistic terms as the product of blind chance and unguided physical processes.
Personally, I don't give a hang one way or the other whether the neo-Darwinian evolutionary construct is true or false – it doesn't affect my theology at all, so I don't have a dog in that hunt; I'll go wherever the evidence leads. I do, however, have a major problem with those who try to use the ascendance of that paradigm to promote their own religious agenda – atheism – in their conflict with Christianity; and I have an equally considerable disagreement with those Christians who, for whatever reason, aid and abet them by claiming that the scientific method "has to be that way" – which is to say, has to rest on the assumption, which must enjoy the status of unquestioned dogma, that the universe can be completely explained without reference to a designer. The bottom line here is the question which Dr. Tenke never actually answered: "if [the] assumption that everything can be explained completely naturalistically is not true – i.e., if God did in fact do things directly, and if creation in fact does have a purpose – can science reach correct conclusions?... If the evidence indicates that the assumption is wrong, shouldn't the assumption be changed?" I continue to maintain that any science which depends on a factually incorrect assumption will be unable to reach correct conclusions in any area in which that assumption actually matters (such as, for instance, in the area of origins); and I look forward to Dr. Tenke actually engaging with this question, which seems to me to be the central one in this debate.For Christ and his church,
(The Rev.) Rob Harrison
Pastor, Trinity Church in the Pines
Grand Lake, Colorado
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