Friday 13 March 2020

What is science? Part 5


Because of the success of science and because modern science and medicine has taken the place of religion, it has tended to acquire the absolutism that used to be present in the Church. In the Middle Ages the Church told everyone that it knew the truth about life the universe and everything. There was no room for doubt.

But this is how science and medicine behave now. If someone disagrees with a popular scientific theory, he is liable to be described as a denier. It may be that he is cast out from polite society. He might be not allowed anymore to publish his scientific papers or to appear on television programmes. In short, he is a heretic.

The success of science has gone to its head and this success has deceived many people into thinking that the scientific world view is the only one worth listening to and that if science denies something or fails to explain it then that thing cannot possibly exist.

But let me do an experiment. I get up. I sit down. Each time I want to do this I can. My observation is that I freely choose to do everything. I understand that objects around me are caused to behave as they do. If one snooker ball hits another, it moves. But I don’t feel like this at all when I move. I feel that each time I choose to do something I am an uncaused cause. My will chooses, nothing else causes my will.

Let us do another experiment. Science traces back each cause ultimately to something it calls the Big Bang. But what caused the Big Bang? Did it have a cause? If it did what caused this cause? Explanations come to an end somewhere. So, it looks as if we have another uncaused cause.

But what is an uncaused cause? It is something that happens outside the realm of causation. It is something that happens outside the laws of physics, that control how snooker balls behave. But the laws of physics describe how matter behaves. So, what is something that happens outside the laws that describe matter? It looks awfully like something that is not matter. But what do we traditionally call things that are immaterial? We call them Spirit.

So, we have two uncaused causes. We have the uncaused cause that I experience when I act and we have another that caused the universe to begin? The first I would normally call my Spirit or perhaps my soul, the other I would call the Spirit that caused the Universe to begin. The normal word for this is God.

But how do we describe things that are not governed by the laws of physics. One word that is frequently used for these things is miracles. Now this would mean that the Universe began with a miracle, but also that each of my actions, is also a miracle. Indeed, from our own basic experience everyday we observe miracles continuously.
But given that we observe ourselves as outside the laws of physics and as therefore immaterial, it is reasonable to assume that we are made in the image of the uncaused cause of the universe rather than the image of a snooker ball. So, we are made in the image of God. But how would we describe the uncaused cause of the universe. Well it is outside time. The beginning of the universe was the beginning of time. Another word for something that is outside time is that it is eternal. But if each of us is made in the image of something that is eternal, we too must be eternal.

Science denies all of these things. For science there is no spirit, no eternal, no freedom of the will, no soul, and above all no miracles. But science does not fit in with the basic experience I have every day when I choose to do this or that. Science denies miracles and so it rejects the teachings of the New Testament. Science has caused millions of people to reject them too. From the nineteenth century onwards, science thought it could replace the church and could safely deny everything. But science requires us to deny the most basic observations of all. But without observation there can be no scientific experiments. Science tells me that I am really essentially the same sort of stuff as the snooker ball. Everything I do is determined I am merely a collection of atoms. But this contradicts my basic experience. Why should I believe what contradicts what I feel and what I know to be true more than I know any scientific theory? This is the contradiction at the heart of the scientific method.