Friday, January 31, 2014

Naturalism and its Claim that People of Faith are Biased

People of faith are often accused of “bias.” We are told:

  • You have a religious agenda. Your mind is already made up. You are not open to the facts and therefore cannot do science in a responsible way.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Director of the Hayden Planetarium, represents the latest example of this thinking:

  • Go think whatever you want. Go ahead. Think that there is one god, two gods, ten gods, or no gods. That is what it means to live in a free country. The problem arises, is if you have a religious philosophy, that is not based in objective realities, that you then want to put in the science classroom. Then I’m going to stand there and say “No, I’m not going to allow you into the science classroom.” I’m not telling you what to think, I’m just telling you the science classroom—you’re not doing science, this is not science, keep it out. That’s when I stand up. 

There are numerous problems with the statement. Having a “religious philosophy” shouldn’t be grounds to exclude anyone from the “science classroom.” For one thing, “religious philosophies” are not the same. One’s philosophy of life might be a help and not a hindrance to doing science. For example, the biblical philosophy enables scientific discovery in a number of ways. It posits that:

1.     God wants to be understood.

2.     Loving God through understanding Him is a necessity.

3.     It is legitimate to understand God through His creation.

4.     His creation is worthy of examination. It is “good,” and not something to merely transcend.

5.     Those created in His image have been given the mandate to tend to His creation. This requires that we understand it.

6.     He rules by the laws He has put in place.

It is therefore not surprising that devout Christians had led the way in re-discovering science. In contrast, some philosophies posit that our thinking is all chemically determined and that we lack the freedom of thought to truly pursue scientific questions. Others posit that this world is illusory. Therefore, it would not be worth our effect to pursue these questions. Even others suggest that our purpose here is to transcend this meaningless, purposeless world – a sure science-stopper.

Tyson also has his own “religious philosophy.” It’s called “naturalism.” It requires that all explanations – all research – are natural, unintelligent, and unpurposeful. For the most part, this works. However, it is also needlessly limited. It’s as if you hired a detective to solve a crime, but he informs you at the start, “I only consider men over six feet tall.” This needlessly narrows the field. The perpetrator might be less than six feet, and so he would be entirely overlooked.

This is one problem with Tyson’s “religious philosophy.” It might arbitrarily narrow the field of causal candidates. Consequently, it assumes that matter, energy, time, life, consciousness, freewill, the fine-tuning of the universe, and the laws of science all have a natural causal explanation. This assumption is not only religious, it is also ludicrous. After all, how can the “natural” laws cause the “natural” laws! Nevertheless, the naturalist is hopeful that science will eventually come up with an explanation. However, such a religious faith blinds itself to the fact that it is a logically impossibility that science will ever have a scientific explanation for science. (Scientifically, the cause must precede the effect. Hence, the scientific explanation/cause for science must precede science itself – a scientific impossibility!)

None of us can do science with a blank slate – total neutrality. We all approach this discipline with our biased languages, paradigms, and philosophies. When Tyson attempts to discredit and reject those with a “religious philosophy,” he pretends that he is neutral and unbiased. If he refuses to recognize his own “religious philosophy,” he is perhaps more biased than the rest of us.

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