Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Paradigm Shifts and Mumblings

What's That Young Kid Saying?

One of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century, Cornelius Van Til once observed that when human beings (of whatever stripe) begin to think about the world and study it they have already made up their minds what they will find.  Neutrality is impossible.  The fisherman's net mesh has already pre-determined what kinds of fish will be caught before it is cast into the sea.

In the eighteenth through to the early twentieth centuries, the ruling theological paradigm was Deism. Sure god existed, but he/she/it was detached and removed from the material realm, far from the realm of creatures, stars, and planets, or, in other words, from the realm of time, space, energy, and matter.  Most scientists, academics, and researchers presumed Deism--consciously or unconsciously--before they began their work.  In other words, they presupposed from the outset that they would find no evidence whatsoever of God's handiwork or presence in the realms of time, space, energy and matter, and, lo and behold, their research "proved" what they had presupposed.

But as the twentieth century progressed the Deistic presuppositions became more and more problematic.  It has become science's "dirty little secret" or its skeleton in the closet.  As Douglas Kelly has written:

Although it has not yet entered into the popular consciousness, much of empirical or experimental science (or perhaps, "operational science") for most of the twentieth century has been functionally abandoning the various dualisms of eighteenth century secularist philosophy.  The deistic philosophical assumptions which have kept the concept of God out of the natural realm since the eighteenth century have now themselves been deeply challenged by advances in physics.  Thus the philosophical frame which which has excluded divine creation and nourished materialist evolution for several generations, is now collapsing.  [Douglas Kelly, Creation and Change: Genesis 1:1--2:4 in the Light of Changing Scientific Paradigms (Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 1997),  p.18.]
A fundamental shift in the way we understand the universe seems to be taking place in the laboratories and amongst the colliders.  It's just that it is impolite to say out loud and in public that the old emperor of Empire Deism is standing before us naked.  Far better to keep one's head down and continue experimenting and constructing equations.  Better not to ask the bigger questions implied by what is being discovered.

Professor Thomas F. Torrance, however, dares to ask the embarrassing question:
Why is there a universe and not nothing?  What is the reason for this state of affairs, the existence of a universe that is accessible to rational inquiry?  Yet the universe does not carry in itself any explanation for this state of affairs, and even the rationality embedded within it is not self-explanatory.  This is certainly understandable, for contingent being cannot explain itself, otherwise it would not be contingent.  Nevertheless, it does have something to "say" to us, simply by being what it is, contingent and intelligible in its contingency . . . it points beyond itself with a mute cry for sufficient reason . . . the fact that the universe is intrinsically rational means that it is capable of, or open to, rational explanation--from beyond itself.  [Ibid.]
The old materialist carmudgeons--when faced with such perplexing questions--mumble (sotto voce) "chance", "randomnicity", "stochasticity".  That's the answer.  But if so, then how come the universe is subject to rational inquiry?  Or, putting it another way, how can we be having this conversation?

Chance or God?  Either we must presuppose brute, blind, random chance to explain the universe and all that is in it, or we must presuppose a Creator who made all things out of nothing.  There are no other options left to us--given the enormous advances in operational science in the last hundred years.  But to be engaging in the discussion and debate means we have all eschewed randomness from the get-go.

It's a great time to  be alive to see all this unfold.  There is a certain delicious, divine irony in seeing scientists insist that, when it comes to God, there is nothing to be seen here and that we must move along, whilst they are heaping up evidence--hard experimental and observational evidence encompassed about with mathematical formulations--which testify to the opposite.

It's around about now that the voice of a young boy calling out the obvious will be heard.  

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