Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Science"

From Creation in Six Days (pp. 114-116)
Collins asks, "Does the creation speak truly?" We can reply to this very general question with a very general answer: Of course it does, but is the creation designed to speak by itself? The answer to that second question is clearly no. The creation does not "speak" at all, really. Rocks, trees, birds, and stars do not communicate linguistically. The information that is contained in the creation must be put into words by human beings, and since human beings cannot exist without language, human beings are always interpreting the creation linguistically.1

Human beings are living words and live in a linguistic environment because they are images of God, who is Word and who lives in an environment of eternal communication. Since God created the universe, His linguistic interpretation of it is absolutely correct; we think His thoughts after Him.

...

All of this is not to do away with the reality of "natural revelation," but it is to say that the matter of natural or general revelation involves subtleties that need to be considered. We cannot simply say, "The creation speaks truly," because in fact it is man who speaks, and man is a willing slave of the father of lies. Man seldom speaks truly.




1 As one reader of this manuscript pointed out, all creation images God in a sense, and God is Word, so therefore creation is in a sense God's speech. Speech, however, requires breath, which in this case is the Spirit, who entered the creation at the moment of creation. It is through the Spirit that the creation speaks. The Spirit entered humanity when man was created (Gen 2:7), and so it is through mankind that creation speaks. The speech of creation consists of human language, not of something else...


What is "Science"? (pp. 120-121)
This is, or should be far more obvious when it comes to things of which we have no direct experience. We have only begun to scratch the surface of an investigation of the first inch of the foyer of the universe, for instance. Yet, with supreme confidence modern scientists project theories about how the universe works, as if they already had all the facts needed to form a final theory. On the surface of it, this is ridiculous. I personally remember when the first quasars were discovered. What else remains to be discovered?

Indeed, we only finished mapping the surface of the globe a century or so ago. What is really under the ice of Antarctica? And what things lie in the depths of the sea? We have little knowledge of these things.

The amount of erroneous and prejudiced misinterpretation of data is vast. A couple of thousand years ago a few refugees lived in caves in France for a short time, and this fact has been turned into the myth that human beings lived in caves for millennia! Why should any thinking person accept such a notion? Because of carbon-14 dating? But C-14 dating is extremely subjective and frequently misleading.

We may ask: In a hundred years, will anyone still believe that you cannot go faster than light? In a hundred years, will anyone still believe that the red-shift in the spectra of the stars is caused by their rapid movement away from us in an "expanding universe"? Why on earth should anyone, especially thinking Christians, commit themselves to the temporary notions of "scientific" theories, knowing that a century ago nobody believed such things, and knowing that we have only just begun to explore the outer universe?

A scientific construct is just that: a construct. It may be quite helpful. It may be the best we can do at present. It may a be a step along the way to a better understanding, or it may be a blind alley. But when it is obvious that scientists are dealing with only a very few facts, and there is a great deal more to be learned, there is no earthly reason to accept any such construct as the final word.


Science and Dominion (pp. 122-126)
What science cannot deal with is time, because God alone is Lord of time. God is eternally active and infinite, and as a result, the future always brings new things into play as God does new things, revealing new aspects and implications of His being and plan, bringing forth new things that were hidden and embedded in the creation at the beginning. Thus, it is simply not possible to imagine the future accurately. When men imagine the future, they imagine something very much like their own present, only more so in some particular way: more money, more steam, more sexual license, more computers, etc. - thus, it is amusing to read the science fiction written a century ago, or fifty years ago. For this reason, the biblical pictures of the future are always presented in symbols that point to future realities that cannot presently be described. Ezekiel, for instance, is shown a picture of the Restoration Era sanctuary in the form of a huge Temple and City (Ezek. 40-48), but these were not actually built; rather, they pointed to the Spiritual realities of the period after the Babylonian Exile.

If the future cannot really be envisioned, then it cannot be controlled, which means the believer lives a life of faith and obedience, not of planning and dominion. Human dominion is exercised toward the lower world, the world of sciencel history, however, must be accepted as authored by God and lived by faith.

Because men cannot control the future, they deny it. Human beings exist, after the Fall, in a war with time. They want to escape time, to escape the unsettling changes of the future. The works of Mircea Eliade explore this phenomenon in some depth. All pagan religions seek to "externalize time" and thereby escape God's ordination of the future. They all look back to a golden age, which they can understand, because if they were to look to the future they would have to bow before their Creator.

A "spatial" mode of thinking is very much present in Western Civilization, especially since the so-called Enlightenment. After all, science works: It brings good things, such as light bulbs and velcro. Science can be understood. Science is under human dominion. Science is free of the "messiness" that is involved with the understanding of history. Thus, the exploration of space and place and dominion over creation have become the models for all human inquiry, as the various works of such thinkers as Herman Dooyeweerd and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy have pointed out.

This mode of thinking has greatly affected theology and Christian religion. One effect has been to assist the widespread belief that we are living at the end of history and that Christ must come soon, a belief that has distorted the thinking of Christians for several generations. The fact that this belief is shown false decade after decade has not lessened its credibility, because men like to believe that no significant changes are to occur in the future; in fact, Christians will be "raptured" so as not to have to go through any such changes. Biblical prophecy is repeatedly reinterpreted in terms of contemporary events, phenomena, and devices. Another legacy of this mode of thinking is the notion we have already examined, that nothing new remains to be discovered that will significantly alter current scientific constructs.

Still another effect of this mode of thinking is the notion that the way things are now is the way things have always been. Virtually all historical fiction, for instance, project modern Western-type people back into historical times. The characters in such fiction think and act like modern people. Few are the authors who are able, or even willing, to try and think like people in other cultures.

Yet, if the future is unpredictable and certain to be different from the present. There is absolutely no "scientific" basis for the notion that the way things are now is how they have always been, and that is true whether we are considering the character of human society, the psychology of human beings, the behavior of animals, or the way the universe runs. Clearly things were different during the first two thousand years of human history in one respect at least: People lived much longer lives. It may well be that the universe functioned somewhat differently under the angelic administration of the Old Creation before the change of the world in A.D. 70, when that creation was fully superseded by the humanly administered New Creation. It may well be that the "natural revelation" that impelled men to sacrifice animals under the Old Creation will impel men not to do so under the New.

The only way we can know anything about the past is through historical study, in the broad sense: the study of present-day relics of the past. For instance we may know that right now there is a certain amount of carbon-14 that lodges iteelf in plants and then deteriorates, but we cannot know if the identical same conditions were in place in 1000 B.C. We may know that right now the solar system has a certain configuration, but are we certain that it had exactly the same configuration four thousand years ago? Do we know that the earth turned on its axis at precisely the same rate four thousand years ago as today?

Now, it may be a good working hypothesis to assume such continuities, though we cannot be certain of them. Indeed, we should assume a general kind of continuity based on God's faithfulness to His covenant. If, however, we have good evidence from the ancient world that things were different, we need to take that into consideration. For instance, it seems that comets were quite a bit more plentiful in ancient skies than today; the ancients had them categorized into as many as thirty different kinds. It is conceivable that comets did indeed appear as warnings of catastrophes in the ancient, angelically-governed skies, which is what all the ancients believed. Are we certain they were wrong?

Or again, the Bible (in Job) speaks of dinosaurs. Indeed, dragons and great lizards are found in stories all over the world. If all these people just coincidentally made these things up, it is curious that what they made up corresponds, at least generally, with bones not unearthed until the nineteenth century. But we moderns assume that (a) ancient people were primitive and stupid, and so they did not know what they were talking about when they spoke of great dragons; and (b) that our dating methods are sound. The bones "say" that they are millions of years old, so we ignore the testimony of the Bible and of other ancient literature.

The point of all this is that the past is not subject to the kinds of controls and observation that science requires. Interpreting the past involves guesswork to a far greater degree than observational science, and thus there is far more room for presuppositions and assumptions to play a role.

Which brings us back to Genesis 1. Is there any real evidence that the earth is older than the Bible seems to say it is? Is there any real evidence against the traditional view of Genesis 1? No. All there is against the idea of a recent creation is a series of scientific constructs, all based on the examination of present states of affairs. When science tries to speak of past or future things, it moves rapidly into constructs that are very much open to challenge.

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