Monday, February 9, 2009

The Laws of Science

I've had some interesting conversations with atheists over the past few years.  One thing that invariably comes up is that science is reliable because it identifies physical laws.  While I agree that observed, and repeated physical principles are reliable (e.g., gravity), I don't agree that they are absolute (in the sense that there will never be variance from those principles).  

Instead of arguing the case myself, however, I will let Dinesh D'Souza explain it.  He does a much better job of putting into words a suspicion that has been rattling around in my brain for the past while.

And, Uncle Lindsay, you may think he's a hack, but he's certainly not an intellectual slouch.

4 comments:

suneal said...

I tend to believe the universe is more like a living organism held in a state of flux by the living God, in both its staticity and in its apparently random fluxion. For example, I think the magnetic fields of the earth have changed over the earth's history, whether one believes it to be be millions of years old or a few thousand. The speed of light as of now seems on the other hand to have remained constant and so forth.

Once, whether it be a revelation or a delusion, depending on one's belief system, I literally saw the world as in a constant state of recreation, being upheld by God on a second to second basis. It blew my mind, for my normal perception of the world and universe is quite the opposite, the earth as a
static, slowly changing environment held to some invisible laws that atheists treat with God-like certitude, and which all of us accept as being invariables.

Hear is a quote given from a tv show, "For those who believe no proof is necessary; for those who don't believe no proof is possible." Stuart Chase (I think)

The context was not atheism versus faith in God, but I think there is a lot to be said for it even here. Two different worlds indeed.

Christopher said...

Wow, thank you for that comment, Suneal. I appreciate the openness of your view.

For myself, my views have been changing quite radically this past while. I'm unthreatened by the possibility of an old earth, or evolution, and I certainly don't mind a lack of absolute certitude regarding physical laws in the universe. Previously, I think I would have to say that I balked at macro-evolution, and accepted that physical laws were fixed and unchanging. Spiraling away from the secure circle of those assumptions actually feels liberating, and piques my sense of wonder all over again.

Take care, bud. I miss you.

toshido said...

Sunneal "For example, I think the magnetic fields of the earth have changed over the earth's history"

If my old long term memory serves right I have read that the Earth's magnetic field actually wander a bit, or maybe a lot. but then again the Earh's magnetic field is simply an observation of where the Earth's magnetic poles currently are. The location of those poles is not a physical law, but the existance is.

As for the larger picture of scientific laws, well they are just really theories based on the best information available at the time.
At one time scientists believed everything was made up of four elements, five in some cultures I think. That was scientific law.
Then with better observations it was discovered that everything was made up of individual cells and those where the building blocks, the smallest pieces of matter. That was scientific law.
Of course until someone did some closer oservations and noticed that cells are built out of molecules, then the periodic table of elements was created and empirical proof of the smallest elements of matter where available. That was scientific law.
Of course then the building blocks of the elements were discovered and I think that is the new scientific law.

So pretty simple to see that current science is only as good as the current observations.

What confuses me though, is why do you boys feel that science has to contradict religion? listening to you guys bicker it would seem like you think all scientists are atheists trying to disprove religion.
Why can't a scientist be a theist trying to observe and better understand the workings of god. Trying to better understand him through physical observations rathe then philisophical reasoning and supposition?

Christopher said...

"What confuses me though, is why do you boys feel that science has to contradict religion?"

I don't.

"listening to you guys bicker it would seem like you think all scientists are atheists trying to disprove religion."

Nope. But in those cases where atheist scientists are trying to disprove religion (think: Dawkins, Stenger, Harris, et al.) they employ the notion that scientific laws are inviolable. Clearly, as you have demonstrated, and D'Souza has demonstrated, they are not.

That was the point of the article.

"Why can't a scientist be a theist trying to observe and better understand the workings of god. Trying to better understand him through physical observations rathe then philisophical reasoning and supposition?"

A scientist can. And many do. For example, Kenneth Miller, and Francis Collins.