‘If God exists, it is certainly within His power to prevent such things. Why wouldn’t He?’ Surely the Prince of Darkness was not co-Creator of our world, but the Prince of Peace. Yet the death and suffering we observe due to a myriad of seemingly evil micro-critters bids us seek an answer to the question. This article will explore the trifecta of organisms most well-known for their destruction and annoyance of the human race; namely, mosquitos, viruses, and bacteria.
(From Canterbury Evangelism Network and Thinking Matters)
Who is Richard Dawkins?
Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and science populariser. He is the former University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science. He has written many books including The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable and The God Delusion. He is a passionate rationalist who vigorously promotes science-based education, values and understanding. He is a staunch defender of atheism and a controversial critic of religious belief. He is well regarded by media and many academics as a top scientific thinker and a compelling public speaker.
Why is Richard Dawkins coming to New Zealand?
Dawkins is promoting his new book Science in the Soul in Auckland on May 10, 2018, and Christchurch on May 11, 2018. The book is a collection of 42 of his essays spanning three decades that proclaim the power and glory of science, the wonder of discovery, and the necessity of scientific thinking in diverse areas of society. He defends Darwinian evolution and natural selection, and the role of scientist as prophet. He responds to questions about whether science is itself a religion, the probability of alien life and the beauty and cruelty of life on Earth.
Why should the church be interested?
Dawkins has been identified as one of the New Atheists, a group that speaks critically against religion in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon. He is well known for his criticism of creationism and intelligent design and non-rational approaches to social policy. In The God Delusion, he argues that there is almost certainly no God and that religion is a delusion. He equates religious indoctrination of children with child abuse and offers the following description of God:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
How is this “Good News”?
Dawkins has brought the discussion of religious belief back into the public arena and we can be grateful for that. No longer simply a “private faith”, Christians are being asked to think carefully about what they believe and why they believe it in light of his strong attacks on Christianity. St. Peter encourages Christians to “in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV). The faith and witness of followers of Jesus Christ will grow and the Church will be strengthened when we seek answers and present them with humility and respect.
How should I think about the conflict of science vs. faith?
Is it always science or faith? Is it possible to be both? We enjoy many benefits that science has brought to our lives; modern medicine, electricity, automobiles and smartphones. We can find areas where we agree with Dawkins if we’re willing to listen carefully. We can learn to discern claims of verifiable facts from claims about the implications of those facts. Scientists, like all people, are just as susceptible to affirm or ignore evidence based on our view of the world. Remember that there are faithful, obedient Christians who believe in a young earth, an old earth and theistic evolution. Be gracious.
How can I engage my non-Christian friends and colleagues?
Pray to God with thankfulness. Dawkins’ visit is a gift that can open up conversations about Jesus. Listen carefully and genuinely seek to understand what others believe and why. Affirm areas of agreement with the Christian worldview. Resist a combative response, even if you feel defensive. If you don’t have solid answers to their questions, say so with humility. Offer to journey together to discover what is really true and whether it matters to our lives. Consider Paul at the Areopagus in Acts 17. He quoted pagan philosophers and poets to build bridges that moved people towards Jesus. He ignored those who sneered at his faith and instead went with those who were genuinely interested in learning more. Get out there and do likewise. In addition, explore some of the articles on this website, you might find something that speaks to the subjects that either you or those you know struggle with.
How can I pray?
We urge you to pray for Richard Dawkins. This is an important opportunity. Instead of being prideful, defensive or argumentative, we can choose to bless him as one created in the image of God and to pray for his salvation and a destiny that he has yet to embrace. We would love to welcome him into God’s Kingdom here in New Zealand. We choose to pray for revelation of the living God. We choose to pray for dreams and visions of Christ to flow into his life. It has been prophesied that this city is a place where people will come and meet God and then take the good news back to the nations. It is in this spirit that we believe good things for Richard and want him to have the blessing of knowing Christ.
What a privilege to pray for a man God loves and wants to rescue and restore. God used Saul to become one of Christianity’s greatest evangelists. He can use Richard Dawkins the same way.
If you would like to share this information with your church, download the Richard Dawkins Brief in PDF, print copies to A4 and then cut them into A5 sized handouts.
This is a guest post by Lachlan Gordon, one of our newest writers at TM.
The Psalmist reports the fool saying there is no God. The Atheist, meanwhile, declares the Christian the fool. Who, then, is the fool?
Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was, according to Voltaire, the ‘father’ of the scientific method – the method of modern science. In observing the order in the universe Bacon wrote, ‘I had rather believe all the fables…then that this universal frame is without a mind.’ He also wrote that ‘God never wrought miracle[s] to convince atheism, because his ordinary works convince it.’ For Bacon that God existed was a self-evident fact. To this Isaac Newton (1642-1726), the founder of classical physics, adds that, ‘this most beautiful system of the sun, planet and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.’ He also stated that, if nothing else, the thumb alone would convince him of God’s existence.
Both Bacon and Newton believed in a rational god: because God was rational so to was his creation. And because a rational creation is coherent it can be studied. Scientists like Bacon and Newton did what they did precisely because of their belief in God, not in spite of it. In the case of Michael Faraday (1791-1897) is was because of his particular theology that lead to his discovery of electromagnetic induction – a discovery that lead to the development of the electric motor. Faraday was a devout Christian, and a member of a small (Presbyterian) sect known as the Sandemanians, who believed that because God created the world then everything must be interconnected. Faraday had been given an apparatus consisting of a magnet and a wire. When the wire was dangled over the magnet and had an electric current applied to it, the wire rotated around the magnet as if carried by an invisible wind. Faraday applied his theology to this phenomena and imagined an invisible force (the interconnection of electricity and magnetism) swirling around the magnet, and discovered the magnetic field. Richard Dawkins, the notorious atheist, has stated that he is against religion because ‘it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.’ Dawkins’ premise is rebutted by the scientists mentioned above, all of whom believed in God, and yet made very important scientific discoveries.
It may be that Christians are indeed foolish, but if that is the case then there have been some very intelligent fools.
Further Reading : Francis Bacon, http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/ scholarsandscientists/francis-bacon.html . Isaac Newton, http://www.christianitytoday.com/
history/issues/issue-30/faith-behind-famous-isaac-newton.html . Michael Faraday, http://
Pop quiz – Which work of ancient literature contains the following: “Come, let us reason together”?
The answer is, of course, the Bible. The Sunday school teachers or taught may have got that one right, but I highly doubt anyone else did. Reason and religion are oil and water to today’s enlightened mind.
Are religion and science really enemies?
Thanks to a bunch of influential pseudo-philosophers and historians, a vast number of people now think that religious claims lack any authority and are completely at odds with the claims of ‘objective’ science.
In order to do science, one must assume that reality is orderly, intelligible and understandable. Do the dominant narratives of today – materialistic naturalism and humanism – provide these foundations or are they borrowing capital from more capable worldviews?
Only certain subject matter is accessible via the scientific method. For example, science can tell us about the various processes at work in the baking of a cake – the combination of chemical ingredients and their reactions, the force required to mix them together, the heat of the oven and what it does to the cake – but it can’t tell us the why of reality, the deep questions that we all seek answers to. Science can explain the cake rising, but not the reason for which the cake is baked – to celebrate the birthday of a loved one and to see joy spread across their face.
My hope for the future
Pop up quiz 2 – Which religious text contains the commandment to “love God with all your mind”? Contrary to public opinion, you don’t leave your mind at the door when embracing Christianity. Quite the opposite.
These small thoughts can by no means provide a detailed analysis of the relationship between religion and science but hopefully they can start a conversation – one where both sides bring reason and tolerance to a vital topic.
Thinking Matters and Reasons for Faith are privileged to welcome Dr Jeff Zweerink from Reasons to Believe for this special event:
Are We Alone in the Universe? God and Planet Earth
Over the past two decades, astronomers have found thousands of planets orbiting stars beside the Sun. These “exoplanets” bring us closer to answering the questions nearly everybody wants to know: Does life exist beyond Earth? How would we find any hypothetical life and what would the consequences be if we found it elsewhere in the Universe? In providing answers to these questions, Jeff opens up questions of faith and science and what it would mean to mankind.
Astrophysicist and Research Scholar – Jeff Zweerink – is the Executive Director of Online Learning at Reasons to Believe where he encourages people of all backgrounds to consider their faith and how it connects with the evidence of science.
He writes and speaks on the compatibility of faith and science and on evidence for intentional design from multi-verse theory, dark energy and dark matter, and exoplanets. His speaking engagements take him to universities and conferences around the world. He holds a part-time position at UCLA and is working on GAPS, a balloon experiment seeking to detect and understand dark matter. Jeff is co-author on more than 30 papers published in peer-reviewed journals, such as Astrophysical Journal, and Astroparticle Physics, and Astrobiology, as well as numerous conference proceedings. Click here for a full bio.
WHAT: Lecture with Q&A
WHEN: Tuesday March 29th
TIME: 7:30pm – 9:00pm
WHERE: Kauri Room, Windsor Park Baptist Church, 550 East Coast Rd, Mairangi Bay, Auckland
COST: Free – but Koha (donation) welcome
We hope to see you there!
N. T. Wright recently spoke at St Andrews University on the trustworthiness of the New Testament. The message was a part of the James Gregory lectures, a series of public talks by eminent national and international speakers on a wide range of contemporary issues in science and religion.
Michael Horton recently sat down and answered five of the most common apologetics questions people get when they share their faith with their friends and family. Horton is a professor of systematic theology and apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, co-host of White Horse Inn and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine.
“Few topics are as open to misunderstanding as the relationship between faith and reason. The ongoing clash of creationism with evolution obscures the fact that Christianity has actually had a far more positive role to play in the history of science than commonly believed. Indeed, many of the alleged examples of religion holding back scientific progress turn out to be bogus. For instance, the Church has never taught that the Earth is flat and, in the Middle Ages, no one thought so anyway. Popes haven’t tried to ban zero, human dissection or lightening rods, let alone excommunicate Halley’s Comet. No one, I am pleased to say, was ever burnt at the stake for scientific ideas. Yet, all these stories are still regularly trotted out as examples of clerical intransigence in the face of scientific progress.
Admittedly, Galileo was put on trial for claiming it is a fact that the Earth goes around the sun, rather than just a hypothesis as the Catholic Church demanded. Still, historians have found that even his trial was as much a case of papal egotism as scientific conservatism. It hardly deserves to overshadow all the support that the Church has given to scientific investigation over the centuries.
That support took several forms. One was simply financial. Until the French Revolution, the Catholic Church was the leading sponsor of scientific research. Starting in the Middle Ages, it paid for priests, monks and friars to study at the universities. The church even insisted that science and mathematics should be a compulsory part of the syllabus. And after some debate, it accepted that Greek and Arabic natural philosophy were essential tools for defending the faith. By the seventeenth century, the Jesuit order had become the leading scientific organisation in Europe, publishing thousands of papers and spreading new discoveries around the world. The cathedrals themselves were designed to double up as astronomical observatories to allow ever more accurate determination of the calendar. And of course, modern genetics was founded by a future abbot growing peas in the monastic garden.
But religious support for science took deeper forms as well. It was only during the nineteenth century that science began to have any practical applications. Technology had ploughed its own furrow up until the 1830s when the German chemical industry started to employ their first PhDs. Before then, the only reason to study science was curiosity or religious piety. Christians believed that God created the universe and ordained the laws of nature. To study the natural world was to admire the work of God. This could be a religious duty and inspire science when there were few other reasons to bother with it. It was faith that led Copernicus to reject the ugly Ptolemaic universe; that drove Johannes Kepler to discover the constitution of the solar system; and that convinced James Clerk Maxwell he could reduce electromagnetism to a set of equations so elegant they take the breathe away.
Given that the Church has not been an enemy to science, it is less surprising to find that the era which was most dominated by Christian faith, the Middle Ages, was a time of innovation and progress. Inventions like the mechanical clock, glasses, printing and accountancy all burst onto the scene in the late medieval period. In the field of physics, scholars have now found medieval theories about accelerated motion, the rotation of the earth and inertia embedded in the works of Copernicus and Galileo. Even the so-called “dark ages” from 500AD to 1000AD were actually a time of advance after the trough that followed the fall of Rome. Agricultural productivity soared with the use of heavy ploughs, horse collars, crop rotation and watermills, leading to a rapid increase in population.”
Read the whole article.
For more about Christianity’s contribution to science, Hannam’s book The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution is available now.
HT: Wintery Knight
Last month, Professor Alister McGrath delivered a lecture at Gresham College on the way science has been used to defend the intellectual credibility of Christianity. He highlights particularly how New Atheism’s unsophisticated appeal to science is being matched by a more sophisticated appeal within Christian circles.
Hey Sam; thanks for the opportunity to interact with your views. If I understand The Moral Landscape correctly, your central thesis is that moral truth exists and can be scientifically understood. This seems to cash out in two critical claims:
I. Moral goodness, broadly speaking, just is whatever supports or increases the well-being of conscious minds;
II. Science, in principle if not always in practice, can discover facts around, make predictions about, and ultimately guide the process of promoting this collective well-being.
I know you’ve already faced a lot of criticism about (I) in particular, so I hope I won’t be beating a dead horse. I’m going to assume (I) for the sake of argument and agree with you: a person who denies that morality is about promoting well-being simply isn’t making sense. I hope to persuade you that your own moral beliefs actually reveal the opposite: it is the person who thinks that morality is about promoting well-being who isn’t making sense.
Radio New Zealand host Kim Hill recently discussed New Atheism, faith, falsification, and much more with professor of mathematics and philosopher of science John Lennox. It’s an excellent interview.
If you haven’t already checked out Lennox’s new website, make sure you do.
Thinking Matters is a ministry encouraging New Zealand Christians to explore WHAT they believe and WHY they believe it, so they can engage culture and present the Christian faith both gracefully and persuasively.
We do this through training in apologetics, worldview, culture, and evangelism.
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