Religion and Science

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  • Created on: 05-01-13 18:10

1st Important Issue

 Belief in God and modern science:

- Is God the best explanation for the origins of the universe?

- Debates in science and religion focus on the explanationof why there is a universe.

- The 'God hypothesis' is one theory and says that the existence of the universe can be explained by reference to God. This provides an absolute answer to why the universe is here. 

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2nd Important Issue

 The 'how' and 'why' oversimplification:

- Science explains how, religion explains why

PROBLEM! Its an oversimplification of the problem as science can now explain both.

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3rd Important Issue

 The modern scientific worldview:

- Science is based on empirical evidence providing us with factual information/knowledge, which some people argue can be used to drisprove the existence of God. Others argue against this - it does not disprove the existence of God.

- Idea developed in 19th century, popularised in the late 20th century by Richard Dawkins ~ 'faith is the great cop out'.

- Alister McGrath - 'One of the greatest disservices Dawkins has done to the natural sciences is to portray them as relentlessly and inexorably atheistic. They are nothing of the sort'.

- Western societies may view science as factually accurate and religion as something that is outdated and mistaken as true.e.g story of christopher columbus voyaging to prove that the earth is not flat.

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4th Important Issue

Science and religion: friends, enimies or simply different?
- Intelligent design: Evidence to suggest the universe is created by God.
1: Universe is irreducibly complex - complexity of objects/organisms cannot be explained by the process of blind elimination.
2: Specified complexity - complexity of organisms/ universe is so great that the only possible explanation of it is that it has been 'specified' by god.
3: Goldylocks theory - Physical laws of the universe are just right for life to exist.
Theory is rejected as some claims cannot be tested or are unfalsifiable. Supporters of evolution claim complexity of living organisms can be explained by evolutionary theory without need for a creator)))
- Warfare
Religion and Science's relationship is hostile. Belief that sceince opposses religion:
1 = Evolution. Nature appears to function on own. Is not directed, displays no purpose. 
2 = Richard Dawkins amongst others claim that evolutionary biology has uncovered the secrets of the evolution of life and that religious answers are simply wrong in light of significant evidence.
Stephen J Gould - Describes relationship between science and religion. Non overlapping magesteria - they can co-exist together because they each concern different areas/fields of human expereince.

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Big Bang Theory

Red Shift - Edwin Hubble (1929) found light from stars became redder the further they travelled away from Earth. Concluded the universe is expanding outwards. Calculated using the speed and date it was travelling when the universe first began.

Big Bang was created when explosion of enourmous energy and heat caused all matter to form.  Happened around 14 billion years ago.
Theological explanations:

According to this theory, the universe is somewhere between 12 and 15 billion yearrs old. 

All the matter and energy that is within the universe origniates from the initial expansion of space from a single point of space-time. 

The universe cotinues to expand by inflation today - astronomers detect this expansion through studying 'redshift in the night sky'.

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Can the origins of the universe be explained

NO: We can never know the absolute explanation of the origins of the universe. 
YES: There is an absolute explanation for the origin of the universe. Two forms of view:

1st = Idea that the universe is self-explanatory.
If we study the universe we may come to understand all the processes which have caused the universe to exist as it is today. The universe is necessary; it is not caused to exist, it just does. Bertrand russel held this view, when he stated that the universe was a brute fact, hence there is no need for an explanation of its existence. Peter Atkins also holds this view, believing that humans will eventually find an all-encompassing explanation of the universe, through science.

2nd = Belief that the universe itself requires an absolute explanation.
Theists see big bang as not being a simple explanation - for it to work it presumes the existence of various physical laws and laws of quantum mechanics such that the universe had to develop in the way in which it did develop.

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God as an explanation for the universe's existence

Theists argue that god is a simple, absolute explanation to why the universe exists.
Rests upon two assumptions that a 'god' who causes the universe to exist is:
a) consistent with scientific evidence, and
b) the most reasonable explanation of why the universe exists.

Aquinas believed he had proved the existence of an unmoved mover or uncaused cause which is responsible for the universe. Proved that 'god' is indeed the christian god.

So, suggesting God is the best hypothesis to account for the existence of the universe is acceptable if:

a) the hypothesis provides an absolute explanation of the existence of the universe.

b) it is consistent with scientific evidence.

c) it is the most reasonable belief there is.

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Does the universe exist by chance?

- If the universe exists as the result of the random development of the big bang, this could exclude God as the best account of the existence of the universe.

- Atheists argue the universe is merely a matter of random reactions. It is 'just chance' that the universe is here at all. 

- Keith Edwards argues it is more reasonable to suppose that the universe does not exist by chance. He argues that blind chance is not a satisfactory explanation for the universe. 
Suggests it would have been almost infinitely unlikely that the universe would ever come to exist if it was a matter of blind chance.

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Atheist approach

- Richard Dawkins and Peter Atkins argue there is no/little evidence to support the idea that the existence of God can explain the origins of the universe.

- As our knowledge of the universe expands, we learn more about the workings and the development of the universe.

- Peter Atkins criticises the idea that God explains satisfactorily the origins of the universe. He suggests it is not necessary to postulate the existence of God to explain the existence of everything. 

- Richard Dawkins argues that longing for and belief in God can be explained through evolutionary theories and related ideas like memes, or through human psychology.

- Atheists reject that God is an explanation for the eistence of the universe as they see it as a way to fill in gaps in human knowledge.

- Peter Atkins argues people believe in God as an absolute explanation of the origin of the universe as a way to hide their ignorance.

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Theist view

- Big bang theories as explanations for  the origin of the universe are incomplete and depend on the existence of a large numbr of scientific laws. 

- Swinburne put forward a 'teleological argument' but does not mean it in a way like Paleys (which can be widely criticised through science), He defines teleological arguments as those which account for the occurence of general patterns of order in the universe.
He points out two types of order in the world:

 Spatial Order - e.g books arranged in alphabeitcal order in a library

 Temporal Order - regularity of succession i.e evemts follow one after another according to  laws od nature.

Rev. Arthur Peacocke argues in favour of evolution saying "God makes things to make themselves"

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Story of Creation

As found in Genesis 1

Day 1 - Let there be light

Day 2 - Sky and Waters

Day 3 - Vegetation

Day 4 - Sun, moon and stars

Day 5 - Birds and fish

Day 6 - Humans

Day 7 - God rested.

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Difference between fundamentalist and liberal chri


- Read the bible literally e.g. world created in 6 days


- Put the Bible in a modern context and interpret it. 

Christianity is not a homogenous religion (one belief).

R.M Hare - 'blik' is a way of looking at something. Different interpretations of the same thing.

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Scopes monkey trial (1920)

The impact of fundamentalist Christianity (New Christian Right) in some parts of the USA (mainly the Bible belt) has generated a debate about how the origions of the universe/human life should be taught in schools.

Some textbooks in America that teach evolution have to have a disclaimer on the back saying that it is only a theory.

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Problem with Evolution

Made people doubt the status/authority of the Bible in a time full of Christian beliefs.

- Some did not see evolution as challenging to the christian faith, others responded to the theory of evolution with the development of 'fundamentalist' christian belief.

- Evolution is rejected by some as it challenges the notion of God as creator, since evolution accounted for the origin of different animals without reference to God. 

- Evolution also states that humans evolved from animals, thus denying that humans are the unique and superior creation of God as stated in Genesis 1-2. 

- Fundamentalists see science as a tool which can be used to demonstrate the truth of scripture. When science, e.g. theory of evolution, conflicts with religious beliefs in the bible, the scientific theory is rejected as it does not correspond with the truth claims expressed in scripture.

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Charles Darwin wrote a book 'On the origin of Species' as a result of observations of board a boat called HMS Beagle, and a further 20 years of study. 

He knew his findings would be controversial and said " I am almost convinced that species are not immutable (unchanged since creation"

Changes in species occured through natural selection, where only those well adapted to their environment survived to pass on genes. Conflicts with Genesis that says we were created for a purpose.

Darwin didnt say creation was completely random. It describes a cause but lacks a controlling intelligence/sense of purpose.

Professor Michael Behe attacked Darwinism saying life at a molecular level is so complex it could not have come about by small changes (Irreducible complexity).
Everything has to function at the same time; it would not work if parts only evolved gradually - explanation for an intelligent designer (God).

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Creationist beliefs

1) Scripture is the inerrant word of God and is literally true.

2) Theory of evolution is attacked as being only a 'theory' 

3) The age of rocks has been challenged. 

4) Creationists adopt an emprical appproach.

5) Creationists use the bible to work out the chronology of the earth. 
 A famous example is that of James Ussher, who in the 18th century used the dates and information in the bible to work out that creation took place on 23 october 400BCE. Others suggest that the days in genesis 1 represent periods of thousands of years. 

6) Modern creationists since 1980s have argued strongly in favour of intelligent design. 
Supporters of intelligent design point to the irreducible complexity of biological systems, such as the body's blood-clotting mechanism.
Proffesor Fred Hoyle argues that the chances of a single cell emerging by random chance was as likely as a tornado sweeping through a junk yard and assembling a boeing 747. 

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