Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Actually, Science Is Validating Theology

There's a common misapprehension in the world at large that there's an inverse correlation between intelligence and religiosity and that the greater one's level of disbelief the more "enlightened" he or she is.  This disbelief is often correlated to the disbeliever's notion that science has destroyed any hope for theology to be taken seriously and that the days of those who stubbornly refuse to see "reason" are numbered.

I don't think so.

Ironically, it is science itself which is convincing more and more non-believers that there is a lot more afoot in reality than meets the eye.  The truth is that the more that science discovers about the nature of the material world the more implausible it becomes to explain it through purely material means.  Even the (open-minded) atheists are beginning to see this as is perhaps best illustrated through the publication of NYU philosopher Thomas Nagels's book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False.  This is worth a thorough read.

I also highly recommend the work of doctor, columnist, social commentator and historian of science and medicine James Le Fanu.  His most recent book Why Us: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves "investigates the paradox where the major developments in genetics (including the Human Genome Project) and neuroscience of the past two decades have inadvertently revealed the limits of an exclusively scientific account of the form and attributes of the living world and the exceptionality of the human mind."  So here we have a man of science who feels that science is helping us to understand a) the limits of science and b) the conclusion that a non-materialist explanation for life is becoming unavoidable.

Finally, here's an example of a scientist whose scientific exploration specifically lead him from disbelief to an embrace of both science and spirituality.  According to his bio, Douglas Ell "grew up in Connecticut, and graduated early from MIT, where he double majored in math and physics. He then obtained a masters in theoretical mathematics from the University of Maryland. After graduating from law school, magna cum laude, he became a prominent attorney. As a lawyer Ell learned how to sift through competing arguments and the importance of carefully considering different points of view, skills which he has now used to untangle the confused and often emotional relationship between science and religion.  His legal training and work, combined with his academic science background and a lifetime of independent study, has given him a uniquely grounded approach to science, religion, and philosophy. Ell's approach is characterized by a sense of wonder and appreciation, rather than dogma."  You can have a look at what he has to say in his new book Counting To God: a Personal Journey Through Science to Belief.

"Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right."

- Jerry Garcia 


  1. Hello Rabbi Jacobs,

    Correct me if I am wrong but it seems to me that you are saying that as people delve more and more into science, they seem to see clearer that there is a need for a god.
    A quick search on Wikipedia states that "Science (from Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe." Although god is a prediction about the universe, for this to be science, we would need to have a testable experiment. I have never heard of such an experiment, either in theory or in practice, which can either prove, or disprove god. (To say that god is the initial cause of everything is a vast understatement of the Jewish view of God).

    It would seem like your examples here are of thinkers who believe there is a god through their research, but their conclusions have more to do with probabilities (dealing only with knowledge that we have now) rather then a scientific approach. I admit that I have not read these books, so if you feel that there is a verifiable scientific experiment stated in any of these books then I am eager to read them. Do you know of any scientific experiments in which you can disprove god(The question was stated like this because a scientific experiment can only disprove a theory instead of proving it)?

  2. "Correct me if I am wrong but it seems to me that you are saying that as people delve more and more into science, they seem to see clearer that there is a need for a god."

    Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. However, I am not saying that the science itself (which is an exploration of MATERIAL things after all) is causing these reactions in these scientists. Rather, it's the inferences (which are philosophical) that they are making based on the science they practice and learn about which is causing it. In the second two examples, they have come to believe that chance is a flawed hypothesis to explain the complexity of life and as such feel that a Designing Consciousness (God) is the strongest explanation - which it is.

  3. The historical trend among scientists is clearly one of the abandonment of the need for God as an explanation. That is why 93% of the members of the Academy of Sciences are atheist. One can always point to outliers, but clearly the opposite of your assertion is true.

    1. Part of the reason that 93% of those scientists are atheists is because they would be unlikely to have jobs, or tenure or funding if they professed otherwise. The few who are brave enough to speak their minds or even question the current scientific dogma are harassed, shunned or worse (not to scientific behavior that).

      Additionally, scientists are subject to the same biases and group-think that everyone else is. If you're an opened minded person have a look at Rupert Sheldrake's "Science Set Free" or "Genesis and Genes" by Yoram Bogacz- both linked on the blog.

      Besides all that, that fact that 93% of them don't currently think that way does not invalidate my assertion as it falls under the category of logical fallacy called an Appeal to Authority - http://www.logicalfallacies.info/relevance/appeals/appeal-to-authority/

      Finally, though many scientists may be quite accomplished in their niche, most of them are not authorities when it comes to philosophy or theology - which are required to draw conclusions from scientific evidence.