Stress-testing the
mind of Christ

Where a recovering ex-atheist rams the Bible into other worldviews to see what breaks (note: Scripture cannot be broken)


series
On Science, part 2: observable, empirical, measurable

Continued from part 1 « Scientific knowledge-acquisition is empirical. That is, its method takes the form of observing physical events so as to draw conclusions about them. Now, it seems to us intuitively obvious that we have knowledge of physical events; and we certainly talk about them as if they actually occur as we suppose. […]

Continued from part 1 «

Scientific knowledge-acquisition is empirical. That is, its method takes the form of observing physical events so as to draw conclusions about them. Now, it seems to us intuitively obvious that we have knowledge of physical events; and we certainly talk about them as if they actually occur as we suppose. Thus, it seems natural to consider science’s empirical method of knowledge-acquisition reliable and justified.

But if this is the case, then it should be easy to rationally, logically confirm this assumption. Yet how might we go about doing this? For what reason do we believe firstly that there is a physical world at all, and secondly that it in any way actually resembles what we perceive? That is, how do we bridge the gulf between the physical world, and our minds?

Let me expand on these points. I have said that secular science assumes an empirical epistemology (which must then presuppose an empirical metaphysic). To refresh your memory, a metaphysic is simply a theory of reality; a set of propositions which explain the nature of the universe. An epistemology, in turn, is a theory built upon the metaphysic, which explains the nature of knowledge; a set of propositions which explain how we know, and how we know that we know. So the orthodox scientific approach is to assume that knowledge can be obtained through empirical means: through sense experience.

Now, so many valid objections can be raised to this system of thought that entire volumes could be devoted to them—and indeed, many already have been, by better thinkers than myself. A comprehensive discussion of the philosophy of science for the lay Christian would be a worthy project, but for now I can only give an overview of a couple of its more obvious and easily understood problems.

Firstly, it ought to be evident after some rudimentary consideration that the proposition knowledge can be acquired through sense experience cannot actually be proved using sense experience without begging the question. This might not be an issue if room is allowed for knowledge to be acquired in other ways; but the problem is that secular science does not. The only method which it will entertain by which knowledge can be acquired is by empirical means: any other method is regarded as unscientific and therefore invalid. So, from the very outset, science invalidates itself by working from a self-refuting belief about how knowledge is acquired.

Obviously, not all scientists have the exact same beliefs about the nature of the universe. Many, for example, claim belief in God in one form or another, which by definition would entail a belief in the immaterial, and in the subordinate, contingent nature of the physical universe. But what is important is not the precise metaphysic to which any scientist may hold, but the epistemology upon which scientific endeavor itself is built. What I mean is, a scientist may hold to any theory of reality he pleases, but unless he assumes that, in scientific inquiry, knowledge can only be gained through empirical means, his work will be considered unscientific by his peers. Witness, as an obvious example, the complete ridicule which Christian science receives in the world of scientific orthodoxy, where it is denied any credibility at all because it is founded upon “unscientific” assumptions. Thus, science precludes and rejects non-empirical means of knowledge-acquisition (such as revelation), and therefore we can critique its epistemology as purely empirical.

Secondly, then, not only is the empirical theory of knowledge self-refuting, but any conclusion derived from it is entirely fallacious in the same way. Clearly, there is no empirical method by which we can prove that there is a physical world at all; or to verify that it is actually the way we perceive it to be. After all, there may be no physical reality: it might be entirely illusory, existing only within our immaterial minds (or, more pertinently, within the immaterial mind of the person considering the problem). The only thing that a non-Christian can really claim to know is that he exists; but even in this case he can only justify this knowledge to himself, and not to others—because just as he cannot know that an external world exists, he similarly cannot know that other people, being parts of that external world, exist either.

Unless he can validly infer from the premise, I perceive an external world, to the conclusion, there is an external world, he is stuck in a hopeless position in which any belief he has about reality is actually nothing more than speculation. He cannot deduce the existence of the external world from his perception; and if it does exist he nonetheless can still not deduce that his perception of it is accurate. However, worse than this—just as he can’t deduce the existence of an external reality, neither can he deduce its non-existence. So, whatever he believes, he is simply speculating. His subjective experience can never yield objective knowledge.

To put it simply, empiricism cannot be used to prove empiricism, because this would be to beg the question. One cannot assume that empiricism is true, so as to prove that empiricism is true, since it is not self-affirming. In order to justify a belief in a physical, empirical reality, a sound metaphysic and epistemology is required, upon which an understanding of reality can be based. But what metaphysic and epistemology does science claim? Orthodox science doesn’t even claim a metaphysic at all, since scientists may believe all sorts of things about reality. (In fact, in recent times many scientists have started to say that metaphysics is an invalid concept altogether, and that questions about the nature of reality cannot be answered because they don’t actually mean anything.) Yet science nonetheless relies upon an empirical epistemology by assuming that we can know things about the universe through observation. Since epistemology, by definition, presupposes some kind of metaphysic, it must be acknowledged that science’s empirical theory of knowledge militates against any non-empirical theory of reality, regardless of the beliefs of individual scientists (which should give such scientists pause for thought!) Certainly, it outright rejects the only sound metaphysic available: that of the Bible. As I said before, many scientists have done everything in their power to ridicule and suppress Christian science, to oppose the teaching of Christian philosophy in schools, and to affirm that any science not based on pure agnosticism is “pseudo-science”—that is, not really science at all.

Thus, in your apologetic encounters with those who are pro-science, you will almost certainly find that they consider the presupposition of Christian truth to be completely inappropriate in scientific endeavor. Indeed, they will claim that one of science’s great strengths is that it does not rely on any particular worldview—and they will be appalled at the idea of presupposing the truth of Scripture and correcting scientific inquiry according to it. They will argue that this is to twist science beyond any usefulness by completely reversing the order of knowledge-acquisition. And of course they think this, because they are under the mistaken impression that science, in and of itself, is a valid method of learning the truth about reality. In fact, in line with the empirical epistemology of science, they will probably think that it is the only method. They therefore naturally suppose that it ought to be used as the benchmark for determining any other claim to truth; say, the accuracy of Genesis. But this simply betrays their total ignorance of what knowledge is, and what is needed to acquire it. They assume the validity of empiricism without justification—in fact, without even realizing that justification is required.

To presuppose the truth of Christianity is not to twist science, but to put it in its correct place. Since Scripture is the only foundation for rational thought, and thus the only way to justify the basic assumptions of scientific inquiry at all, it is totally self-defeating and false to claim that agnosticism in science is a strength. On the contrary, agnosticism renders science utterly impotent, and makes it incapable of guaranteeing any accuracy in its conclusions. It is totally impossible to use science to judge Christianity; quite the opposite is in fact true.

Further, though, any claim of agnosticism (also called “objectivity”) in science is simply absurd. The scientist merely betrays his ignorance and unconscious prejudice when he claims that science does not rely on any philosophical or religious beliefs; or, if it does, that they are nonetheless not important. Scientists like to claim that science doesn’t presuppose either the truth or falsehood of Christianity (or any other religion or philosophy). In other words, they claim that science is not dependent upon, or influenced by, subjective beliefs; rather, it is entirely objective. But again, the scientist merely demonstrates that he not only has no idea what objectivity actually is; but indeed that he is so completely prejudiced that he thinks objectivity is defined by the particular set of subjective beliefs which science presupposes.

But by not assuming that the Bible is true, science necessarily adopts a position of practical atheism: scientific agnosticism itself is a positive position of belief which assumes a default state in which God does not exist; and further supposes that if he does exist it makes no difference anyway. But this is clearly idiotic, for if God exists it makes every difference, because Scripture is his objectively true revelation which not only defines a different context for scientific inquiry than the scientist assumes, but also contradicts scientific beliefs on major, irreconcilable points. So unless atheism is objectively true (which is impossible), science is in no way objective, whatever the scientist thinks. It relies completely upon subjectively-held beliefs.

From the get-go, then, science assumes without rational justification that there is a physical world about which we have accurate perceptions. It assumes without justification that other people exist, that there is a similarity between their perceptions of the same physical phenomena, and that they can communicate reliably. It assumes without justification that metaphysics is not important and that God does not exist. So, from the get-go, whatever science claims about knowledge is false, since in the most fundamental way it relies upon unsubstantiated assumptions about the nature of reality, instead of justified, true beliefs. Whether these assumptions, and the assumptions based on them, are true or not is irrelevant to the problem, since there is no way to know if they are true. Science cannot justify any of them without a metaphysic and epistemology on which to base them—but it explicitly rejects even a pretense at a useful metaphysic and epistemology by claiming to be agnostic to these things, as if they don’t matter.

Thus we can see that empiricism is completely unable to make even a pretense at being a foundation for knowledge-acquisition. But one might say (and a scientist probably will) that this is all mere mind-games; for obviously we perceive a reality, and obviously it correlates in some way to what we perceive. I will grant that this is a mind-game—but only in the sense that I challenge the empiricist to show that there is anything except the mind! Contrary to his beliefs, logic is the only thing of which he can be certain, and logic is not physical. If it is, let him tell me its mass or its energy. Let him tell me the characteristics of the logitron, the logic carrier particle!

No, the only thing he can prove, even to himself, is the existence of his own immaterial mind—and so the only thing of which he can actually be certain is the immaterial, and not the physical at all. The physical world he perceives may simply be an immaterial illusion. Perhaps he is the only mind in existence, and after an eternity of loneliness he has fabricated the illusion of the physical world to save himself from total dementia! His certainty of the existence of the material universe—in opposition to the logic which shows such certainty to be impossible without Scripture—is utterly irrational, and simply testifies to his stupidity.

But we may generously grant the scientist some leeway, so as to further examine his method; we may permit him to take his knowledge of his own perceptions, and posit whatever consistencies and relationships he thinks he discovers within them. He cannot, of course, justify his belief that when he tells us about his conclusions we will hear and understand, for he cannot know that we exist as anything more than perceptions of his own mind—but we, being Christians with a valid metaphysic and epistemology, can grant him whatever fantasy he desires, since we do know that we hear him and understand him. So, we may grant him that the world exists as he supposes, and therefore ask him to present to us his method for learning about the way in which it works.

Continued in part 3 »

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