Science and the Sacred

Science and the Sacred


Sense, Reason and Intellect

When I consider your heavens,
       the work of your fingers,
       the moon and the stars,
       which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,
       the son of man that you care for him?

Psalms 8:3-4

As modern science reminds us just how big this universe is, the same question arises: “What is man?” And as we turn our telescopes to the skies and learn more about them, even more questions seem to arise.

We now understand how stars and galaxies are born and how they die. The heavens are not fixed, as we once believed, but they are expanding, growing, and changing. Stars are still being created even today. What do these new observations say about the Bible or about a Creator?

Certainly, our scientific inquiries raise some deep, trying questions, without easy answers. However, the words of Galileo, whose passion for the heavens led to revolutions for both science and religion, can offer us some closing insight:

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

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Mere_Christian

posted November 5, 2009 at 11:05 am


What we observe is 0 x 0 still = Atheism.



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Albert the Abstainer

posted November 5, 2009 at 1:09 pm


Those who bind themselves to fear and hope are prisoners to themselves. Those who have a non-contingent faith are never held within such narrow confines, but encounter wonder and awe as their constant companions.
That God cannot be packaged in any frame is the beginning. Knowing that makes all the prisons of the imagination fade like mist in morning light. It frees the spirit to inspire me, the intellect to discover, and the emotions to play me as a fugue.
Why then do people bind themselves:
One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them.
— J. R. R. Tolkien
Religion in its negative aspect does this, and its negative aspect manifests where there is insufficient faith to be willing to set aside belief to experience what unfolds.
We are contingent, God, if God exists, is not. Being contingent, should not our contingent beliefs concerning God be contingent? Should not experience which is primary take precedence over beliefs which are rational derivatives. Would this not explain how there are many religions, and one existence?



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Glen Davidson

posted November 5, 2009 at 1:42 pm


As some have explained to me, thinking and reasoning are completely allowed, so long as you come to the conclusions they have reached.
It’s the perfect freedom offered by ID.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Daniel Mann

posted November 5, 2009 at 1:49 pm


Albert,
There are things to which we bind ourselves that give us freedom. I bind myself to a set of glasses, and these give me the freedom to see and navigate. I have also bound myself to Christ, and He has granted me vision and has set me free (John 8:31-32).
You wrote, “Should not experience which is primary take precedence over beliefs which are rational derivatives. Would this not explain how there are many religions, and one existence?”
However important experience might be, it is dependent upon our cognitions and attitudes – the way we interpret our feelings. Without the cognitive factor, experience is no more than a set of passing stimulations.
My experiences have come and gone. It’s the UNDERSTANDING of my experiences that has proved transformational.



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Beaglelady

posted November 5, 2009 at 4:51 pm


Note: J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic. The Christ figures in The Lord of the Rings freed the people from the tyranny of the evil ring. As a matter of fact, the ring was destroyed on March 25, which is the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. While he disliked allegory, Tolkien’s books are filled with bits of Christian imagery.
(btw, I loved the LOTR books and films)



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Mere_Christian

posted November 5, 2009 at 8:18 pm


What came first, the cell or DNA?



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Dan

posted November 5, 2009 at 9:35 pm


Mere Christian,
To answer your question, most scientists would say the cell came before DNA. The cell membrane can spontaniously form due to properties of phospholipids. And most experiemnts have shown that RNA was the precurser of DNA. So the cell came before DNA.
Scientific American had a really interesting article on all the new studies and experiemnts giving clues about how life bagan. The article was in their “origins” themed magazine a few months ago. You might want to check it out.
All the evidence is starting to come together on how the first life came about. Hopefully in a few decades we will know exactly, but just because we can’t explain everything NOW doesn’t mean we have to explain it with a miracle. Behe illustrated this perfectly by invoking miracles as explantion for some biological systems, just a few years later we have fairly extensive evolutionary explanations for all his supposedly “irreducibly complex” systems.
Life’s origin is a facinating subject in science, really the most interesting parts of science are the parts we don’t understand well, at least thats what interests me most.
Thanks for asking a question, instead of just trying to manipulate our words to try to falsely “prove” we are heretics. It’s a nice change, please keep it up.
Reading that Scientific American article should clear things up for you. Hope this helps.



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Albert the Abstainer

posted November 5, 2009 at 10:08 pm


Daniel Mann said:
You wrote, “Should not experience which is primary take precedence over beliefs which are rational derivatives. Would this not explain how there are many religions, and one existence?”
However important experience might be, it is dependent upon our cognitions and attitudes – the way we interpret our feelings. Without the cognitive factor, experience is no more than a set of passing stimulations.
My experiences have come and gone. It’s the UNDERSTANDING of my experiences that has proved transformational.
Actually without empiricism, belief is unchecked. I can believe that Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals, but without substantiation it is no more and no less valid than Genesis. In both cases we have mythic stories which have or had meaning to a great many people. In neither case is there a shred of evidence to support them as anything other than mythic religious allegory.
Now if instead we look at the common types of altered states which can be found across cultural and religious boundaries, we have something which can be empirically tested. Human neurophysiology is not local to a religion (Q.E.D.), and so it is not surprising to see religious forms arising from that common ground within all human societies. What is interesting is the wide range of forms, including allegory, symbols and art which emerge, and the similarity of structure within the broad myths, (see the writings of Joseph Campbell, and Claude Levi-Straus.)
The primacy of human experience based upon a common physiology is not credibly deniable. Interpretation is derivative. Even, and especially in the realm of science, the physical is real, while models and paradigms are contingent. (Empiricism provides the only effective tool to cull away invalid interpretations of observations.) If in doubt, a mere 500 micrograms of LSD will show just how sensitive the brain is to an infinitesimal physical change, and it will show the subject that his or her “reality” is plastic.
As William Blake said:
If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
The problem is, the hopes and fears of the ego bind a man to lesser gods. To experience the infinite, the finite and illusory “understanding” of the infinite must be set aside.



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Daniel Mann

posted November 6, 2009 at 9:57 am


Albert,
If you are saying that all of these aspects of cognition are necessary, I can wholeheartedly agree.
BioLogos,
Once again, I am experiencing problems posting my comments at “One body.”



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Knockgoats

posted November 9, 2009 at 3:40 pm


To answer your question, most scientists would say the cell came before DNA. The cell membrane can spontaniously form due to properties of phospholipids. – Dan
To add a bit to that: Eubacteria and Archaea (the simplest types of cells that exist now) have considerably different cells membranes and cell walls, but the same genetic code, suggesting that DNA and the processes that translate it via RNA into proteins preceded these types of cell at least. On the other hand, as you say, simple phospholipid membranes can form spontaneously in water. There’s an article in a recent New Scientist describing work indicating that life may have begun in complex geological structures formed as hot alkaline fluids full of various chemicals bubbled out of the early sea-floor into an acid ocean, producing networks of small compartments lined with iron sulphide, which is a catalyst for a wide range of reactions. Within these complex non-living structures, both phospholipid proto-cells and RNA might have formed, and interacted. Translation of RNA into DNA and the origin of ribosomes (which self-assemble from RNA molecules) and the genetic code would then have preceded the origin of Archaea and Eubacteria, organisms able to survive indefinitely and reproduce in open water. Jack Szostak, a leading investigator of phospholipid membrane formation just awarded a Nobel prize for other work, has recently begun to investigate this idea, which was first suggested by researchers called Russell and Martin. Whether this particular idea is borne out or not, I think it very likely life first arose not in Darwin’s rather unstructured “warm little pond”, but in close association with already complex, multi-level structures able to concentrate and catalyse reactions between chemicals produced by non-living processes – so the first life “borrowed” much of its complexity from its environment.



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Dan

posted November 10, 2009 at 3:18 am


Knockgoats,
Thanks for the post, I really enjoyed it. I’ll have to read that article in New Scientist. I’ve heard about the thermal vent hypothesis of how life came to be, but I haven’t read much about it.



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Knockgoats

posted November 10, 2009 at 5:47 am


Dan,
I was writing from memory, so couldn’t give full details. It’s called “The Cradle of Life”, author Nick Lane, New Scientist 17 October 2009, pages 38-42. There’s a lot I hadn’t remembered, particularly about how cells generate energy by pumping protons through a membrane, building up an electrochemical gradient.



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