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1 Philosophy of Science and Religion. Tutor: Howard Taylor

Philosophy of Science and Religion.

Jan 14, 2016



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Philosophy of Science and Religion. Tutor: Howard Taylor. Introduction to Module. What the module is all about. Whether science and religion are necessarily opposed. Various World Views. What topics this module will discuss. How the module will be assessed. What is it all about?. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation
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Page 1: Philosophy of Science and Religion.


Philosophy of Science and Religion.

Tutor: Howard Taylor

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Introduction to Module

What the module is all about. Whether science and religion are

necessarily opposed. Various World Views. What topics this module will discuss. How the module will be assessed.

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What is it all about?What is it all about?For millennia philosophers and theologians

have attempted to address such questions as:

a Is the universe eternal or did it begin? b Where did the laws of nature come from?c Is there any purpose to human existence?c What is life?d Can the experiences of consciousness and self-

awareness be reduced to the properties of the brain or do they imply the existence of a soul?

It is in the latter part of the 20th century that some scientists have tried to get to grips with these most fundamental of fundamental questions.

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You may have thought about these topics before or they may never have

occurred to you.Here is something for you to do:

Using the Bible and/or the Christian Faith and/or other religious views as your authority try to write a few lines on each of these topics. If you are ignorant of any or some or even all the areas then write that fact down and don't worry!

Now repeat the exercise but this time write what you believe modern scientists or philosophers might say. Again if you have no idea don't worry - the purpose of this module is to teach you these things.

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Worldviews and Science.Under each of these headings there are many sub sections not

mentioned here.

• The material universe is an illusion. Only the spirit or mind is real. (Some versions of Eastern Religions and Idealism.)

• The material universe is all that there is – the whole story. (Materialism.)

• Theism. Both the material and the spiritual are real and interact. (However the spiritual gives rise to the material world. Deism says that apart from Creation there is no interaction.)

With which worldview does science fit most comfortably?

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Models for considering the relationship between science and religion:


-(I prefer to say mutual illumination).The above are the models taken from Ian

Barbour’s writings..

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Books that are particularly relevant to these models are:

•Ian Barbour: When Science Meets Religion, pages 7-38

•Alister McGrath: Science and Religion, chapter 2 entitled: Religion Ally or Enemy of Science?

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• The main religious belief considered in this module will be Christianity.

• However there will be handouts and discussions giving sympathetic treatment of other religions. The atheist arguments also will be fairly considered.

• The tutor does his best to be fair to all views.• However in the interests of honesty he will

explain what he believes.• Although the tutor has his own religious

convictions, the assessment of essays and tutorials will not be affected by a student's own different convictions. Knowledge of the subject and good argument are all important for assessment and not agreement or disagreement with the tutor.

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The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as of all serious endeavour

in art and in science.... He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. The sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a

something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as feeble

reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of

the lofty structure of all that there is.

Albert Einstein (Speech to the German League of Human Rights (Berlin 1932).

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Argument in favour of materialism.

Science has successfully answered many questions about the world.

One day it will be able to answer all questions.

Question: Are the mysteries getting less or more?

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Leibniz’s argument against materialism.

Thoughts cannot be material.

Thoughts affect the physical world.

Therefore the physical world needs more than physical science to understand it’s behaviour.

Why are thoughts not material?

Leibniz’s mill or mountain.

Physical processes just exist – they are not true or false.

Thoughts are true or false.

Therefore thoughts are not just material. (See Bertrand Russell quote in next slide.)

But thoughts do affect the physical world. Therefore the behaviour of the physical world cannot be fully understood by physical science.

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If we imagine a world of mere matter, there would be no room for falsehood in such a world, and although it would contain what may be called ‘facts’, it would not contain any truths, in the sense in which truths are things of the same kind as falsehoods. In fact, truth and falsehood are properties of beliefs and statements: hence a world of mere matter, since it would contain no beliefs or statements, would also contain no truth or falsehood.

(Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy, page 70.)

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The mystery of existence.• Why do matter and energy exist? - where did

they come from?

• Scientific theories about the origin of the universe have to assume the initial existence of some kind of energy/law of nature. (Eg: Wave function of the Universe, Colliding membranes, Strings, eleven dimensions and loop quantum gravity.)

– leading to matter/space-time/laws of physics in the big bang.

• But scientific theories cannot explain how the initial energy/laws of nature came to exist or why they exist or did exist.

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The mystery of existence.

• If God exists why does He exist? Was He created?

• Whether or not God exists we are face to face with the mystery:Why does anything exist at all?– Stephen Hawking:`Why does the universe go to all

the bother of existing?’

– JJC Smart (atheist philosopher): Why should anything exist at all? - it is for me a matter of the deepest awe.

– See Handout re Quentin Smith (atheist philosopher)’s comments.

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The Mystery of existence - cont.

Some believe the questions: 'What is life?''What is consciousness?’ and related to

it:‘What is my self that only I experience and know?

also give rise to fundamental mysteries.

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Fundamental Mysteries - cont.

If science could, one day, fully examine my brain, would the scientist know what I am thinking about?

If not, then my mind must be more than my physical brain.

My mind (including my thoughts and ideas) affects my behaviour - therefore it is real.

So we have something that it real but is not subject to scientific investigation.

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The Mystery of Existence - cont..Most believe that ‘goodness’, ‘morality’, ‘beauty’ and

our sense of ‘ought’ are not just the result of our subjective feelings but are objective realities.

Goodness, morality, beauty: do have a real effect on the physical world - they effect

our behaviour - what we do with our bodies and what we make. (they therefore are real.)

but they are not open to scientific investigation - (science examines the physical universe - it can’t tell you what is good or beautiful, or morally right/wrong).

Many conclude that there must be more to reality than the mere physical existence that science examines.

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The Mystery of Existence - Cont.

Some or all of these questions and convictions have given rise to the religious quest.

As science penetrates deeper into the very nature of things many scientists are beginning to wrestle with these questions.

Science is giving rise to questions it believes are beyond its scope.

Thus there is scope for dialogue.

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World Views Atheistic Materialism :

In principle the human person, including his/her appreciation of beauty, right and wrong, could, in the future, be understood entirely by physics.

• A complete understanding of the human person could, in future, come from a study of impersonal physical laws/matter/energy which make up his physical body/brain and environment.–See quotation from Francis Crick on next


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World Views: Atheistic Materialism continued.

Francis Crick: “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more that the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” (The Astonishing Hypothesis page 3)

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World Views: Theism

God is both transcendent and immanent– He is distinct from the physical world but

He is with and `in’ all things.

– He alone is eternal.

– He created matter/energy/laws of physics.

– He holds all things in being.

– He is personal Mind.

– Some believe that we may know Him personally.

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World Views Christian Theism. :As well as the theism already outlined:

– God is love and is not distant from sin and suffering.

– He stoops to the human level, and bears sin, judgement, pain and death for us. (Christ’s Cross)

– He lifts us up back to where we belong, giving us new life and forgiving us our sin. (Christ’s resurrection.)

– Although this is seen in Jesus, it is a process that occurs throughout history - the subject of the Bible.

– Judgement, new Creation and eternal life are real.

– Thus, Our true destiny is fulfilled and our uncertain lives on earth find their purpose.

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Secularism and the ordinary man’s scientific worldview.Why do the planets orbit the sun?

Not God but the law of gravity.False assumption: gravity is an eternal independent law.

God of the gaps - a mistake the Church made.A mechanistic universe.

In the 17th C the universe was compared to the great clock in Strasbourg.

If the universe is just a mechanism - so humans are just complex mechanisms too. Humans too are controlled by the laws of physics and have no responsibility for their thoughts or actions.The powerful can ‘engineer’ other humans to suit them.

False assumption: humans are only physical.Space and time have always exited.

This too was/is a false assumption.Light, space-time, matter, energy are related - not by external laws but by what they are in themselves. (Relativity).

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Public world of facts and Private World of Values.• Scientific facts become facts for everyone - public facts

about which there could be no debate.• Everything that is not investigated by science (beauty,

goodness etc) would eventually become private matters for individual opinion or preference.

• So each person should make up his own mind about those things which lie outside bounds of science e.g.:

•The Purpose of the universe and human life, •Religion, morality and ideals.

• The stage was set for the eventual collapse of religion, morality and idealism.

(The situation was made worse for the Church by its disputes with Galileo and others. For example it wanted to cling to its belief that the stars circled the earth - a belief based on the ancient Greeks such as Aristotle not the Bible.)

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A paradox: If there is no real purpose to the universe and our lives why bother to have any ideals including the scientific ideal to explore the universe?

• Many great scientists investigated the universe because they believed it has a purpose given by its Creator - God.

Now work your way through Unit 1 especially noting:• Einstein’s words quoted near the end.• The two sets of questions that arise from the

scientific quest.• The great scientists who were devout believers.• The nature of scientism.• Is the real battle between science and religion -

or is merely disguised as if it were?

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Further reading on enlightenment science and its effect on religion:

•Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks, chapter 4 entitled The Dialogue with Science

•Alister E.McGrath, Science and Religion, chapter 1 entitled: Historical Landmarks.

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Religious World Views.

For the Judeo-Christian world view see the handout:

‘The Biblical World View’.

For Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Islam see the handouts:

•Hinduism and Buddhism.

•Hinduism and Buddhism texts•Taoism.•Islam.

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Read Unit 2 which is an overview of some important points that will be discussed in the module. Some, we

have met briefly already.In Unit 2 we think about:

The difference is between science and scientism Why many people were fascinated by the book `A

Brief History of Time’ The amazing information, order and beauty in all of

nature. What is meant by `Science at the Boundaries'. Why relationships are essential for understanding

God, the natural world and ourselves. Why we should beware of `the god of the gaps'. Why the Universe must have purpose. The religious beliefs that were the necessary spur

to the scientific enterprise.(See next slide for more on this point)

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The religious beliefs that were the necessary spur to the scientific enterprise.

• God is rational and therefore the natural world He created is orderly and open to rational investigation

• Its rational order is open to understanding by the human mind. (Man and woman created in God’s image.)

• Nature's order is a contingent order. (That is to say its rational structure did not have to be as it is but was ‘chosen’ to be as it is. Experimentation is therefore necessary to delve deeper into the laws of nature.)

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Religious beliefs that were the necessary spur to the scientific enterprise (cont).

Being created by God the natural world is good and therefore worth investigating.

•This contrasts with the belief that the natural world is inherently evil or unreal.

• Although there is now evil and suffering, God’s love for the world means there is hope for it.

• We too should love nature and want to understand it more.

• For further explanation see the last pages of Unit 2.

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The Beginning and the Big Bang.In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

Father of the Big Bang Theory• Georges-Henri Lemaître (Catholic priest and scientist) was

born July 17, 1894 in Charleroi, Belgium. Lemaître is credited with proposing the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, although he called it his 'hypothesis of the primeval atom'. He based his theory, published between 1927 and 1933, on the work of Einstein, among others.

• Einstein did not, at first, like the theory because it was too much like the teaching of the Bible.

• However in 1935 Einstein, after having travelled on a long train journey with Lemaitre, applauded a lecture on the subject, given by Lemaitre himself, and said, "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened".

• Against much opposition from the scientific community, Lemaître’s theory finally triumphed from the sheer weight of evidence. (In the second half of the 20th Century.)

• He estimated the age of the universe to be between 10 and 20 billion years, which agrees with modern opinions.

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The Beginning and the Big Bang.In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

Lemaître’s view was, at first, rejected but it raised the question as to whether the universe (in one form or another) is finite (the Jewish/Christian view) or infinite (atheist and pantheist view).

• Steady State or Beginning? • Evidence for beginning.

– Stars still burning.– Not fallen in on one another.– Anti-Gravity?? No!, or perhaps yes!

• Hubble discovered that the universe is expanding as if from an explosion.

• Big Bang of ‘light’ fifteen billion years ago. • Seemingly from nothing!

• Background radiation - as if from the Big Bang’s echo - confirmed the theory.

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Robert Wilson, one of those who discovered the background radiation was asked by journalist Fred Heeren ifthe Big Bang indicated a Creator.

Wilson said, "Certainly there was something that set it all off.  Certainly, if you are religious, I can't think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match with Genesis."

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The Beginning and the Big Bang.In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

• From this Big Bang hydrogen and helium eventually formed.

• The hydrogen clouds contracted and heated up and stars were created.

• The inside of stars created the heavier elements from which planets are made.

• Did this confirm the Biblical teaching that God created the cosmos out of nothing?

However there is still opposition to the Big Bang theory because it depends on ‘inflation’, ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’.

See: which was an open letter to the ‘New Scientist’ from many scientists who do not accept the Big Bang theory.

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At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about the conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself up over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements and the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same; the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.

God and the Astronomers, Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow.

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Will the Universe contract again to a Big Crunch?•Did the Big Bang come from a Big Crunch?•An oscillating universe? Probably No!

•See handout: Cosmos 13 Billion Years Ago.•But even if the universe is oscillating between crunch and bang, the series could not be infinite.•We still have the problem of the genesis of everything.

•Could Quantum fluctuations in a vacuum have caused the Big Bang?

•What are and why are there quantum fluctuations?•Colliding membranes and eleven dimensions creating the ‘Big Bang’? - see footnote at end of Unit 3.•The Wave Function of the Universe?

•If that exists why does it exist? Where did it come from?•The end of the universe - heat or cold death?

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The Biblical Teaching is that there has been, is, and will be a New Creation.

Not a creation out of nothing again but a creation out of the ‘death’ of the old.

When evil and decay have done their worst to this world, God intervenes in New Creation.

In Christian theology the link between Old and New is the Death/Resurrection of Christ in whom, God and the world are held together and humanity is forgiven and nature healed.

Too good to be true?

Perhaps, but we are faced with the reality of our universe.

Where did it come from?

Why should anything exist at all is surely amazing - but here we are - too good to be true?

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Cosmological Argument.A simple form of the argument:

The Universe cannot just have popped into existence from nowhere.

Therefore there must be a God who created it.Another simple form:

– Which is the most likely cause of a finite universe?

• Nothing acting on nothing -> finite universe. • Infinite God acting on nothing -> finite universe.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-- his eternal power and divine nature-- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20.

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Cosmological Argument - cont.

– Another form of same argument:• There is a universe.

• It could not cause itself.

• It could not come from nothing.

• It could not be an effect of an infinite series of causes.

• Therefore it must be caused by something that is uncaused and everlasting.

• Therefore God exists.

– Yet another form:• The universe is contingent and therefore

ultimately depends on something uncaused.

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Cosmological Argument - cont.

• Does this argument depend on the universe having a beginning?– Thomas Aquinas (13th Century - born in

Naples)• believed that this argument would be valid even

for an infinite universe.• God the explanation for the existence of all things:

GodTime line


– However Thomas believed the case would be even more convincing if the universe had a beginning.

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Cosmological Argument - cont.

• The Kalam Cosmological Argument:– The Universe must have had a beginning and

therefore must have had a cause.– God ------time line ------------------------– (Kalam was a word used for a kind of Islamic

philosophy and means `speech’ in Arabic)

Some have argued that the universe must have had a beginning otherwise we are left with the belief that there would be an infinite time before anything would happen and therefore nothing would happen!

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Cosmological Argument - cont.

• Against these points some say:– The Universe is just brute fact and ultimately

unintelligible. – There is no explanation for its existence - it just is.– It is not worth asking why it exists - it just does.

• However science looks for reasons. – Do the above three points imply that at the last

hurdle science must give up looking for reasons?– At the end of the quest has science itself flipped?

• Other arguments against the Cosmological argument are considered later.

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For a more detailed discussion of the big bang theory and its religious implications see:

• Unit 3.

• Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, chapters 2 and 8

• Paul Davies, The Mind of God, chapter 2.

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The Universe is finely tuned!If the properties of the universe had been a tiny

bit different:

� the stars would not have formed

� or if they had they would have not lasted long.

� there would have been no sun, no planets and no earth.

� the universe would either have been black holes or gas.

� there would have been complete darkness.

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What are the variations in the initial conditions of the universe that would

have made it dark and lifeless?Matter-Density ratio. (1 in 1060)Rate of expansion from the big bang. (1 in 1060)Strength of gravity.Initial conditions together 1/10 to power 10 to power 30!Origin of materials that go to make up earth:

Elements such as carbon were made in the centre of stars. However the process is a very very delicate one.The Whole Universe seems very finely tuned!

See ‘The Privileged Planet’ and ‘Back to Creation’.

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Anthropic Principle and Fine Tuning.

• The Universe seems fixed for man.• Its density, the rate of expansion, age and therefore size of universe has to be as it is for humans to exist.

• Weak Anthropic Principle - the universe had to be as it is for us to see it!

• Strong Anthropic Principle - the universe needs an observer for its existence.

• Participatory Universe - human observers participate in the universe’s evolution.

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Anthropic Principle and Fine Tuning.

Two possible explanations for the fine tuning:

1. Many worlds - there may be trillions of universes and this happens to be the one where things are just right.

This is not a scientific statement since other universes, in principle, would be beyond our scientific investigation. Also it is not a response to the Cosmological Argument.

2. It was Designed for a purpose by God.

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For more on Fine Tuning read:

•The first three and a half pages of Unit 4

•John Templeton (Ed), Evidence of Purpose, Chap 7

•Handout: Just Six Numbers (which is a summary of the Astronomer Royal, Prof Sir Martin Rees’s book of same the title). In it he says:

“I have highlighted these six because each plays a crucial and distinctive role in our universe, and together they determine how the universe evolves and what its internal potentialities are... These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be ‘untuned,’ there would be no stars and no life. Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign Creator? I take the view that it is neither. An infinity of other universes may well exist where the numbers are different. Most would be stillborn or sterile. ” (Page 4)

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The recent theories about ‘Dark Energy’ have strengthened this point.

In their paper "Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant" two atheist scientists from Stanford University stated that the existence of this dark energy term "Would have required a miracle... An external agent, external to space and time, intervened in cosmic history for reasons of its own."

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The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big-Bang are enormous. I think there are clearly religious implications.

It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as an act of a God who intended to create beings like us.

(Stephen Hawking.)

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Teleological or Design Argument.• Unlike the Cosmological Argument this is

not based on the mere existence of the universe but the properties of the universe.

• The universe not only exists but seems very well designed.

• It seems at least as if it must have a purpose. (the meaning of teleology).

• Does not this mean it had/has a purposeful Designer?

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Teleological/Design Argument (Cont)

• Paley's Watch.– Willaim Paley said:

• If we find a watch with all its parts fitted together we will not assume that it was brought into being by the blind forces of nature but by an intelligent designer.

• The eye is extremely complex therefore it was made by an intelligent designer - God.

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Darwin’s theory of evolution weakened Paley’s argument with respect to the development of living things:

It claimed to explain how natural processes alone gradually transform the simple to the complex by random mutation through the sieve of `natural selection’ or `survival of fittest’.

However many now doubt whether living things can be reduced to a combination of simple things. They say that all living things are irreducibly complex. They side with Paley. The argument continues - eg Dawkins and Behe.

• ------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Even if the theory of evolution is true it is not relevant to

A. The origin of the universe; B. the development of the universe enabling it to produce stars and planets; C. the origin of life.

It is only relevant to the development of life, once A B and C are already in place.

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Bertrand Russell (famous 20th C British agnostic/atheist mathematician/philosopher greatly respected the argument from design especially as expounded by Leibniz. (He regarded Leibniz, in whom he specialised, as "one of the supreme intellects of all time") BR writes: "This argument contends that, on a survey of the known world, we find things which cannot plausibly be explained as the product of blind natural forces, but are much more reasonably to be regarded as evidences of a beneficent purpose.” He regards this familiar argument as having “no formal logical defect". He rightly points out that it does not prove the infinite or good God of normal religious belief but nevertheless says, that “if valid,” (and BR does not give any argument against it) “it demonstrates that God is vastly wiser and more powerful than we are".(See his chapter on Leibniz in his History of Western Philosophy).

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Arguments against the Cosmological and Design


What caused God? There must be something without a

cause. Why not say the universe is this thing?

Just because individual things in the universe need an explanation that does not mean that the universe as a whole needs explanation.

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Richard Dawkins: The cause of the universe must be more complex than the universe itself. So, God must be more complex. How do we explain His complexity? Therefore we cannot postulated God as the cause of the universe.

Keith Ward: But there are many things in life that we attribute to a personal cause not a complex cause.

“.. scientific explanation, in terms of general laws and initial states, is not the only sort of explanation. There is also “personal explanation”, in terms of purposes and values. This is the sort of explanation used by historians, novelists, anthropologists, critics of the arts and ethicists. It is a perfectly familiar form of explanation. The question “Could there be a personal explanation for the universe?” is one on which there is rational discussion, and on which different views are held.” (The Tablet: Jan 2006)

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David Hume (1711-1776) against the Cosmological and Design


God's supposed causing of the universe to exist cannot find an analogy of causes in nature because we have no experience of things beyond nature and the alleged creation would be so unique an event that there is nothing to compare it with.

– This means we cannot speak of causation or design from the things of our experience and apply them to the origin of the universe.

However some believe that in his famous: `Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion’, Hume was really arguing with himself.

– Cleanthes is for the Design argument; Philo is against it.– Whose side was Hume really on? Was he unsure?

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More arguments against Cosmological and Design arguments. Immanuel

Kant (18th C)

Would we not perceive the universe to be ordered even if it wasn't?

Immanuel Kant believed that human minds impose their own order on the universe. We cannot get beyond our minds and know that

nature really is ordered or that effects really must have causes. (Few scientists take Kant’s view of their work.)

He therefore rejected the Design and Cosmological arguments for the existence of God.

However he believed in God but for another reason.

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For further discussion of the Cosmological and Teleological arguments see:

Edward Miller's Questions That Matter, pages 219 - 258.

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What are Space and Time, or more accurately what is Space-Time?

Are Space and Time merely the infinite containers of matter, energy and events?

The Nature of Space - a mystery.•Can we imagine something in space but infinitely far away?

•Now try to imagine there is only one thing ‘in’ the universe.

• Would it make any sense to say it is moving in space? No!

• So space is not a ‘thing’ in itself which could have a place of absolute rest.

• Does matter/energy create its own space?

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Light and Space.• Light travels to us from stars. • Most of space is a vacuum.• Light emerging from two slits makes interference patterns on a screen - implying it is a wave motion.

• Wave in what medium? Isn’t most of space a vacuum?

• Ether - some unknown medium that pervades all of space?

• Michelson and Morely’s famous experiment showed that:

• there is no such thing the ether pervading space.• the speed of light is a fundamental constant.

Is light a thing travelling in space at all?• Perhaps light leading to matter/energy creates space?

Light and Space.• Light travels to us from stars. • Most of space is a vacuum.• Light emerging from two slits makes interference patterns on a screen - implying it is a wave motion.

• Wave in what medium? Isn’t most of space a vacuum?

• Ether - some unknown medium that pervades all of space?

• Michelson and Morely’s famous experiment showed that:

• there is no such thing the ether pervading space.• the speed of light is a fundamental constant.

Is light a thing travelling in space at all?• Perhaps light leading to matter/energy creates space?

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A Mystery about Time.If time were infinite it would take an infinite time before anything happened so nothing would happen! (Stephen Hawking!)

If the world were uncreated, then time would be infinite, but infinite time cannot be traversed. Hence, the present moment could not have come about, but the present moment does exist. Hence the world had a beginning. (Saadia Gaon: Medieval Jewish philosopher)

If time is not infinite but had a beginning, was there a time before time?!

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Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity. •It relates the speed of light, space and time together:

•Since the speed of light is same for all observers - however fast they are travelling - time must be different for observers travelling at high speeds relative to one another.

•Twin paradox.

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Light, Energy and Mass.• We could never catch up with a beam of light. • More and more energy needed to accelerate to

higher and higher proportions of the speed of light.

• Energy to accelerate from 90% to 91% speed of light would be same energy as from stationary to same speed.

• Therefore enormous amount of energy for small increase in velocity.

• An object would be ‘heavier’ and ‘heavier’ as it approached the speed of light.

• The energy to accelerate it is changing into mass.• At the speed of light the mass would be infinite -

impossible. • Nothing can travel as fast as light.

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Mass and energy are interchangeable.

• This is the foundation of the theory behind atomic and nuclear power.

• Energy, mass & the speed of light are bound together in the equation:

• E = mc2. (c is the speed of light)

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Speed of Light a universal absolute?

• Not space and time that are absolute but the speed of light. • (However some scientists now say that

immediately after the ‘Big Bang’ light had a much higher velocity which then quickly decreased to the value we know today.)

• Light, matter, energy, space, time, are not separate things joined by external laws but their relationship comes from what they are in themselves.

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In Christian theology:

• God did not create the physical universe putting it in an eternally existing space-time.

• Rather space and time also are His creation. • All of space and time are embraced by light of

God which is the source of created light.• Our relationships with God, one another and

nature should come from what we are in ourselves as personal beings, not from external law - even God-given law.

• God and space-time are bound together in Christ so that, who He is and what He did, embraces and heals all our lives, all creation, all of space and time - all of history from beginning to end.

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Whereas Special relativity shows us that time and velocity are bound together, General relativity shows us that time and gravity belong together.If we got near to a source of enormous gravity our measurement of time would differ from the time measured by a distant observer watching us.A very few scientists- using this - say that the six days of the book of Genesis 1 and the fifteen billion years of the universe’s existence can be reconciled.

•They say time is measured differently depending one whether one is looking back to the Big Bang or looking forward from the Big Bang surrounded by the enormous gravity of the whole universe concentrated in the size of an atom.

This theory is not well accepted!However religious controversies about the universe’s age often falsely assume that time is an eternal absolute.

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• In every day life we are familiar with the three dimensions of space and one of time. (Four altogether).

• It is as if we are moving with and in time and can see the three space dimensions around us.

• Calculations, especially in String theory (to be referred to later) about the origin of universe imply that there were 11 dimensions, 7 of which are now ‘rolled up’.

• We cannot imagine dimensions beyond the four we know.

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• However in Christian theology we are used to the concept of the greater dimensions in which God dwells.– We don’t think of Him, (or heaven and hell)

as located at some place in our universe of space-time.

– The doctrine of the Trinity - God is One and Three - cannot be grasped in the context of the space-time of this world. • But in the context of greater dimensions?

• Hugh Ross’s: Beyond the Cosmos, explores these ideas and so does: Eric Middleton’s: The New Flatlanders.

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C. S. Lewis - The Trinity in higher dimensions.

– Two dimensional world - flat surface:• No ups nor downs.

– Two or more squares are two separate things.– When they are joined - no longer squares.

– Three dimensional world (with ups and downs):• Six squares make one cube.• Joined in ways cannot be imagined in ‘flat’ space.

– For us the 3 dimensional world is more real.– How can God be One and yet three?

• There are ‘higher’ dimensions than we can presently imagine.

In these dimensions, things we cannot imagine in our space-time can nevertheless be real.

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Some reading to do:Study Unit 4’s sections:

The nature of space and time. Stephen Hawking's attempt to

understand how the universe came to be as it is.

Further reading: Stephen Hawking: A Brief History of Time,

chapter 2 John Marks Templeton, Evidence of

Purpose, chapter 2

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A hierarchy of mysteries:

The nature of:

• Conscious life - such as the higher animals have.

• Life - anything that is alive - such as plants.

• Matter - material or physical existence.

•Conscious life (human) that can:

•reason (think abstractly and universally),

•ponder its own life, death, and possible life after death.

•be aware of good and evil,

•know that it is responsible (partly) for its own behaviour.

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The ‘Laws of Nature’.(Remember Darwin believed that the Creator

impressed laws on matter.)

Can Science ever answer the question as to why nature has the properties (laws of nature) that it


• Methodological.• Ontological.

•What is the reason things behave as they do?•What is everything made of?

• Finite or infinite quest?•‘Ghostly’ world - come back to that.

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Wave Particle duality.Since the time of the Greek philosophers, (before Christ) there have been two theories as to the fundamental nature of matter/energy:1. Atomist:

•Matter is made up of tiny particles. •In differing combinations they make up the physical world as we experience it.•When school science teaches us about atoms & electrons etc., we get an ‘atomist’ picture of reality.

2. Plenum: •The whole of space-time is filled with a ‘field’ (or is a field) which manifests itself as matter.•When school science teaches us about fields of force we get the ‘plenum’ picture of reality.

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A Mystery: What is everything made of?

If matter is made of particles - what are the particles made of?

If matter is a wave or force- a wave or force in what medium?

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Black body radiation - fundamental constituents of nature are

particles or distinct packets of energy

(quanta). Two slit experiment

- fundamental constituents of nature are waves.

- are these waves that carry information as if the universe were a great ‘thought’?

•Some think that is so.- if one photon at a time is released - a wave

pattern is made.- but not always! - see next slide.

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If the ‘electron’ (say) is observed.- If each ‘electron’ (say) is ‘watched’ as it goes through the slit,

•the result is not a wave pattern. •instead a bright spot is made on the screen as if the beam of electrons were a stream of particles.

Does the consciousness of the observer have a unique part to play in the behaviour of the universe?

•These highly speculative questions are still being debated among quantum physicists.•There is no consensus.

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There was once a man who said `God

Must think it exceedingly odd

If he finds that this tree

Continues to be

When there's no one about in the Quad.'

- Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (1888-1957), Limerick on Idealism.

The Answer:Dear Sir, Your

astonishment's odd:

I am always about in the Quad.

And that's why the tree

Will continue to be,

Since observed by

Yours faithfully, God.

- Anon.

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The Uncertainty principle.

• If we know where an electron (say) is we cannot know how fast it is moving.

• If we decide to try to find out its velocity we will not know where exactly it is.

• This is unlike any other ‘thing’ in the ordinary sense of the word ‘thing’.

• See handout: Quantum Mechanics as a Science-Religion Bridge by Jewish Physicist Prof Stanley Klein.

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The physical world an Open System?

•The behaviour of each fundamental wave-particle is unpredictable in principle.•This seems to mean that the universe is not a closed ‘clockwork’ deterministic system of cause and effect.•Within limits nature is open and free?•If the universe is an open system it is open to What?John Polkinghorne and other Christian quantum physicists have used this as a way of seeing how God can interact with the natural world - see slide much later in course.

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Two electrons emerging from the same source will remain related even if separated by great distances and there is no way that they can communicate with each other.

If the ‘spin’ on one is changed the other will immediately respond.

At fundamental levels, reality is relational.A relation that transcends the bounds of space and time.

Relationships between the ‘building blocks’ of matter/energy are not based on external laws but rather on what they are in themselves.

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Strings and an alternative.Are these wave-particles really fundamental?

– Current thinking is that all wave-particles are the result of vibrating strings, which are unimaginably small - billions of times smaller than a proton.

– It is thought that they are one-dimensional loops of energy that vibrate and spin.

– It is not that wave-particles are made of the strings.• Rather just as one string of a violin can make many

different notes in music, so different vibrations of these strings make the differing wave-particles that we used to regard as fundamental to material existence.

An alternative theory (to strings) is ‘Loop quantum gravity’ which says all particles are an entanglement of space-time.

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Nothing whatever in theoretical physics enables us to say anything about the intrinsic character of events. … All that physics gives us is certain equations, giving abstract properties of their changes. But as to what it is that changes, and what it changes from and to – as to this, physics is silent.Bertrand Russell: My Philosophical Development, page 13.

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Information and Word?

When we consider matter/energy as a wave or field we find that it is a wave understandable by Mathematics.Galileo: “Mathematics is the language with which God wrote the universe.”

You receive a letter. Is its message explained by the chemistry of the ink and paper or the mind who wrote it?

In one of his non-religious books on Quantum theory, John Polkinghorne says it is intelligibility from which all physical existence emerges.

So information, (in the form of mathematics?) lies in and behind all physical reality.

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Information and Word? (Cont)

• The theoretical physicist Paul Davies in ‘The New Scientist’

recently wrote: "Normally we think of the world as composed of simple, clod-like, material particles, and information as a derived phenomenon attached to special, organised states of matter. But maybe it is the other way around: perhaps the Universe is really a frolic of primal information, and material objects a complex secondary manifestation.” (New Scientist, January 30, 1999, Pg. 3),

• (Rather than the other way round: information emerging from mindless particles and energy.)

• If Paul Davies is right then it resonates with the Bible’s teaching that ‘Word’ is the foundation of all things.

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Messages, languages, and coded information ONLY come from minds. (Minds are conscious.) - minds that have agreed on an alphabet and a meaning of words and sentences and that express both desire and intent.If we analyze language with advanced mathematics and engineering communication theory, we can say:

Messages, languages and coded information never come from anything else besides a mind. No-one has ever produced a single example of a message that did not come from a mind.

Languages etc can be carried by matter or energy (eg sounds, ink, electronic and radio signals) but they are none of these things. Indeed they are not matter or energy at all. They are not ‘physical’.The physical universe can create fascinating patterns - snowflakes, crystals, stalactites, tornados, turbulence and cloud formations etc. But non-living and non-conscious things cannot create language. They cannot create codes.

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Information and Word? (Cont.)

As some recent theorists have pointed out, the entire physical universe can be viewed as composed of vibratory wavelengths of information. The problem is that nature is broadcasting on all bands, short-wave, AM and FM, and we have small receivers tuned into only one frequency. (Thomas V. Morris: Making Sense of it All’ , page 75, 76)

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Bertrand Russell believed the most powerful argument for God’s existence comes from the nature of Mathematics.


Numbers: 1. have properties; 2. don’t exist in our space-time.


Numbers exist in a transcendent world.

Human consciousness accesses this transcendent world and can therefore make discoveries about numbers.

But Is Mathematics discovery or is it merely invention?

Russell and ‘The Principals of Mathematics.’


(Electrons etc are not picturable as ‘things’ in space-time. Some say it is consciousness that gives them the property of particles in space-time.)

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Consider this from Bertrand Russell’s ‘Study of Mathematics’: Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty - a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, … is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.And consider this from Paul Dirac (Nobel Prize: Quantum Theory):.. fundamental physical laws are described in terms of a mathematical theory of great beauty and power … One could perhaps describe the situation by saying that God is a mathematician of a very high order and He used very advanced mathematics in constructing the universe. Eugene Wigner, (Nobel Prize for Maths) and Dirac’s brother-in-law, wrote of the unreasonable effectiveness of Mathematics in understanding nature. He said: “It is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve.” A possible example is on the next slide:

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One possible recent discovery that illustrates Wigner’s ‘mystery’:

The wave pattern of an electron ‘particle’ when its path is ‘chaotic’, follows the seemingly irregular pattern of the list of prime numbers in number theory.

Prime numbers (such as 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, … etc) are the elementary ‘building blocks’ of mathematics. Each of them is a number that cannot be divided by any other whole number except the number 1.

Their distribution pattern seems haphazard but it corresponds to a pattern in the physical world.

See ‘The Times’ (London) 14th July 1997, article: Pattern in the Chaos by Marcus du Sautoy, Royal Society Research Fellow at the Department of Pure Mathematics, Cambridge, and a Fellow of All Souls.

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Now read Unit 5 •note the further reading from

•Paul Davies•John Polkinghorne.•Note too what C. S. Lewis and F. F. Bruce had to say.

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Now to life and evolution. However hold in your head what we have said about information, word and mind.

At a higher level, life too, has at its heart ‘information’.

The Mystery of the Origin of Life. (Biological evolution can only get going once

life has begun to exist).

A common theory:In the early earth there was a ‘cosmic soup’ of gases and liquids. Electricity from lightening produced, in the cosmic soup, amino acids - the building blocks of life. This can be replicated in the laboratory today.

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How did life originate? (Cont)

• However it is one thing to know how stones (say) were formed but another to know how an intricate stone palace was built from the stones.

• Energy and an intelligent mind are needed to work on the stone.

• Simple proteins involve many amino acids in correct sequence.

How are proteins actually made?In the cells of life.In each cell of life there is a chemical factory (cytoplasm) for making the proteins, a computer program (the DNA) and a translation system (the RNA)

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Nucleus of cellmade up of


Cytoplasm for making proteins. Itreceives its instructions from the DNA

via the RNA translation system.RNA

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Professor Francis Crick, who received the Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA (the famous double helix), writes: “The origin of life appears to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to be satisfied to get it going” (italics added).Professor Harold Klein, chairman of the U. S. National Academy of Sciences committee that reviewed origin-of-life research, writes: “The simplest bacterium is so damn complicated that it is almost impossible to imagine how it happened” (italics added).

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American Spectator magazine (May 2005) says:

IMAGINE A NANOTECHNOLOGY MACHINE far beyond the state of the art: microminiaturized rotary motor and propeller system that drives a tiny vessel through liquid. The engine and drive mechanism are composed of 40 parts, including a rotor, stator, driveshaft, bushings, universal joint, and flexible propeller. The engine is powered by a flow of ions, can rotate at up to 100,000 rpm (ten times faster than a NASCAR racing engine), and can reverse direction in a quarter of a rotation. The system comes with an automatic feedback control mechanism. The engine itself is about 1/100,000th of an inch wide - far smaller than can be seen by the human eye.And then goes on …

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Most of us would be pleasantly surprised to learn that some genius had designed such an engineering triumph. What might come as a greater surprise is that there is a dominant faction in the scientific community that is prepared to defend, at all costs, the assertion that this marvellous device could not possibly have been designed, must have been produced blindly by unintelligent material forces, and only gives the appearance of being designed.

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How did life originate? (Cont)

• The chemical factory receives its instructions from the very complicated DNA code.

• The DNA is a code written in a four letter ‘alphabet’. (Each letter is a different nucleotide.)

• The DNA code even for a simple bacteria may be a thousands of ‘letters’ long.

• These letters have to be in a particular order to provide the information necessary for the manufacture of the proteins.

• The DNA sends its instructions to the cytoplasm via the RNA which ‘translates’ the instructions so that the cytoplasm can ‘understand’.

• The DNA, cytoplasm and the RNA are themselves made by the very cells of which they are a part!

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Some say that life’s beginnings may have been much simpler than this.

However we still have the problem of the origin, not just of complexity, but of


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How did life originate? (Cont)

The Atheist Richard Dawkins writes:

What lies at the heart of every living thing is not a fire, warm breath, nor a 'spark of life'. It is information, words, instructions . . . Think of a billion discrete digital characters . . . If you want to understand life, think about information technology.

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How did life originate? (Cont)

In his award winning book ‘Consilience’ Edward Wilson the eminent non religious science writer who has recently won many prestigious prizes tells us that cells use “very modern technology involving digital logic, analogue-digital conversion and signal integration.” He tells us that this complexity exceeds that of “super-computers and space vehicles.”

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How did life originate? (Cont)

Encyclopaedia Britannica: The origin of the code.A critical and unsolved problem in the origin of life is the origin of the genetic code. The molecular apparatus supporting the operation of the code the activating enzymes, adapter RNAs, messenger RNAs, and so on are themselves each produced according to instructions contained within the code. At the time of the origin of the code such an elaborate molecular apparatus was of course absent.

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Michael Polanyi's gave his reaction to the claim that the discovery of the DNA double helix is the final proof that living things are physically and chemically determined. No said Polanyi it proves the opposite. No arrangement of physical units can be a code and convey information unless the order of its units is not fixed by its physical chemical make-up. His example is a railway station on the Welsh border where an arrangement of pebbles on a bank spelled the message - "Welcome to Wales by British Rail". This information content of pebbles clearly showed that their arrangement was not due to their physical chemical interaction but to a purpose on the part of the stationmaster ... The arrangement of the DNA could have come about chance, just as the pebbles on that station could have rolled down a hillside and arranged themselves in the worlds of the message, but it would be bizarre to maintain that this was so ...

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How did life originate? (Cont)Douglas Hofstadter, (a world famous and non religious artificial intelligence expert) writes: "A natural and fundamental question to ask, on learning of these incredibly, intricately interlocking pieces of software and hardware is: 'How did they ever get started in the first place?'..... from simple molecules to entire cells is almost beyond one's power to imagine. There are various theories on the origin of life. They all run aground on this most central of central questions: "How did the Genetic Code, along with the mechanisms for its translation originate?" For the moment we will have to content ourselves with a sense of wonder and awe, rather than with an answer.'

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How did life originate? (Cont)My comment:We can add to the mystery of the `miracle' by noting that the DNA, by itself, is useless; it must be translated via the RNA so that its `message' can be put to use by the cytoplasm `factory'. The problem is that the RNA that links the DNA with the factory, itself is manufactured by that very factory which cannot function without the RNA and the DNA! Indeed each component depends on the other for its manufacture. Try to imagine a factory for making computers - the factory itself being run from the beginning by the very computers it alone can manufacture! This is only one of the enigmas of the origin of life even in its simple forms.

See DVD: Unlocking the Mystery of Life.

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Karl Popper: The Self and Its Brain. Page 28:

The probability or propensity of any atom, taken at random in the universe, to become within a chosen unit of time, part of a living organism, is indistinguishable from zero – even on the assumption that there are many planets on the universe capable of sustaining life.

He reports that Jacques Monad said, “with good reason”, that the chances of life appearing anywhere in the universe were “virtually zero”.

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But how did self-replicating organisms arise in the first place? It is fair to say that at the present time (2006) we do not know.

No current hypothesis comes close to explaining how …….. the prebiotic environment that existed on planet earth gave rise to life.

(Francis Collins, head of the human Genome project)

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An individual life form is more complex than the DNA codes in his cells.

I am more complex than even the cell of life from which I grew.

Just consider one of a thousands of possible examples

• the brain.Writing about the brain Richard Dawkins in his preface to `The Blind Watchmaker', tells us:

"The brain with which you are understanding my words is an array of some ten million kiloneurones (ten thousand million neurones). Many of these billions of nerve cells have each more than a thousand `electric wires' connecting them to other neurones." Where does this greater complexity come from?

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An individual life form is more complex than the DNA codes in its cells. (Cont)

The Plot thickens - differentiation!Research Chemist Ernest Lucas tells us:

"The single fertilised egg does not have miniature arms and legs. These new structures appear later as the cells multiply and divide.

• If every cell in my body contains the same DNA code, how, at the beginning of my life, does each new cell know whether it is to be part of a nose, my liver, etc?

•How does this mystery of differentiation happen?

•Who or what tells it?

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An individual life is more complex than its DNA codes. (Differentiation Cont)Paul Davies writes:If every molecule of DNA possesses the same global plan for the whole organism, how is it that different cells implement different parts of that plan? Is there, perhaps, a `metaplan' to tell each cell which part of the plan to implement? If so, where is the metaplan located? In the DNA? But this is surely to fall into infinite regress.

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An ancient belief in Evolution?

St Basil, the 4th century Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia: ‘Why do the waters give birth also to birds?’ he asked, writing about Genesis. ‘Because there is, so to say, a family link between the creatures that fly and those that swim. In the same way that fish cut the waters, using their fins to carry them forward, so we see the birds float in the air by the help of their wings.’(Quoted in the Spectator:25th October 2003)

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EVOLUTION.Random mutations (changes) in the DNA sometimes produce improvements which make the species more

able to live in its environment. • So it then survives better and passes on its new

characteristics to succeeding generations - and so on.• This process is called: Natural Selection or The

Survival of the Fittest.• However it would have to be the result of an

aggregation of very small steps: • "…Natural selection acts only by taking

advantage of slight successive variations; she can never take a great and sudden leap, but must advance by short and sure, though slow steps.” (OOS page 162)

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A note about Mutations. (Summary of Denis Alexander’s explanation).

‘Point Mutations’ involve the change of a single ‘base’ (the letter in the ‘genetic alphabet’).

Other mutations may happen because of a loss or gain of a whole sequences of DNA. If such a gain happened it would be DNA that had been added inappropriately from some other chromosomes in the same cell.

Such events occur quite often during the process of cell division.

The copying process is extremely accurate, but the enormous rate at which cell division occurs in some tissues leads to errors in replication.

Many of these are rectified by the DNA repair enzymes, which are constantly on the look out for mistakes. However some mutations may still be passed on to daughter cells.

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Evolution (Cont)Micro evolution - non controversial.

• Small changes and adaptations do occur within a species but they do not produce new parts of the plant or new organs for the animal - such as leaves, bark, petals, wings, eyes, livers, lungs, blood streams, brains, nervous systems, etc.

• Micro evolution alone cannot explain how bacteria changed into elephants, oak trees, spiders and humans etc. So is there macro evolution?

• Macro evolution (controversial) says that evolution can bring entirely new organs into being and thus explain the whole process from bacteria to tiger, swallow, rose and human.

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Darwin's Finches on the Galapogas Islands.

The finches on different islands vary by the shape of their beaks and what they eat - some eating seeds and others eating insects.

• Their beaks vary in accordance with their diet.• They seem suited to the environment on their

respective islands.• The Ground Finches eat ticks they remove with

their crushing beaks from Tortoises.• The Sharp Beaked Ground Finch jumps on the

backs of other birds pecking at their flesh and feeding on their blood.

• Woodpecker and Mangrove Finch use small twigs and cactus spines as tools to dine on the larva stored in dead tree branches.

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Though they have adapted to allow for specialised feeding most finches are generalised eaters. Their different beaks come into their own in times of drought and what is left on their respective islands during the droughts.

Then these specialised beaks allow the birds to better compete for food sources with other birds and animals.

Certain kinds of beaks and diet are suited to certain islands.Those that had suitable beaks survived and those that didn't died out. (i.e. Natural Selection.)Therefore each island had finches suited to its environment.

Not that God created this finch for that island. The fittest to survive did survive and then it passed on its characteristics to its offspring.

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Some important questions.1. How did the initial change in the shape of the beak come

about? - before Natural Selection could begin to work?

2. Does this relatively small change give us solid ground for believing that creatures without nerves, brains, blood streams, bark, petals could change into the many life forms we see today? (It is spoken of as if the evidence is clear.)

But is it clear?

3. Isn’t the belief that these developments took place solely by random mutation and natural selection based on the assumption that only physical causes exist? But what is the evidence for that assumption? In principle there can be no such evidence.

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Evolution (Cont)In response to a claim in late 2001 by Eugene Scott of the (US) National Center for Science Education that “virtually every reputable scientist in the world” supports (Darwinian) evolution, a list of over 100 reputable scientists was published in an advert in the New York Times - entitled “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.” Signatories included 5-times Nobel nominee Henry F Schaefer, University of Georgia chemist, and other research scientists who are faculty members at Princeton, Berkeley, Yale, MIT etc. These are not arguing for creation in 4004 BC, but scientists who dare to doubt Darwinism on the basis of the evidence itself.

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Barrow, Tipler and Carter have calculated the chances of bacteria changing to a human being given the alleged time allowed.

They calculate the possibility as 1: 10-24,000,000.

(See “The Anthropic Principle and Its implications for Biological Evolution” by Brandon Carter in The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Astronomical Society A370 1983: 347-360; and Tipler and Barrow, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle page 510-573.)

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Evolution (Cont)• Darwin did not believe that Natural Selection

could provide a full explanation for the origin of species.

• Many modern evolutionary biologists (such as Steven Jay Gould) agree with Darwin that there must be more to it than that.

• Militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins insist that natural selection alone will one day provide sufficient explanation.

• What is the evidence for their prophecy? That is the question.

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Evolution continued:Irreducible complexity.

(This is one of the points made by the controversial Intelligent Design movement.)

Challenge from Darwin:If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ exists which could not possibly be formed by numerous successive slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.

Michael Behe’s ‘Darwin’s Black Box’ responds, claiming there are many irreducibly complex organs in nature. He uses the workings of a mouse trap to illustrate his point. If just one of the eight parts of the mouse trap is missing the mouse trap will not trap fewer mice - it will trap none at all. See Handout: Behe Defends ID.Others dispute this claim (see for example Forrest and Gross's Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, (OUP) - the debate continues.

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Two statements from cell biologist Franklin Harold in his 2001 book (OUP) titled The Way of the Cell.

1. “We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity.”

(Chance = random mutation; Necessity = Natural Selection.)

This statement (1 above) is immediately followed by:

2. “But we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.”

(I have adapted this from an article by Bill Dembski: Unintelligent Evolution.)

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Evolution (Cont)

Problems for the view that natural selection alone can account for the origin of the species of life:– If the mutations were truly random then one would

expect harmful changes to be common and improvements to occur very rarely indeed - if ever.• A common answer is to say that there were billions

of forms of primitive life - so improvements are not all that unlikely.

• A response says that this does not explain alleged evolutionary changes in bigger species where their numbers were relatively small.

– If the changes in DNA code are not random - what or Who guides them?

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Evolution (Cont)My Comment:

I do find it difficult to believe that purely accidental processes and random changes, even given billions of years of the `survival of the fittest', could change a single cell (without brain, nervous system, liver, eyes, ears, blood, lungs, leaves, feathers, bark, roots, petals, etc. etc.) into all the wonderful forms of animal and vegetable life we see around us. However this process could have occurred if the process of mutation was not random but guided by an overarching purpose that transcends the universe.That could happen only if the universe itself were an open system.

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Evolution (Cont)

• Perhaps a clue to the development of life could come from the underlying quantum physics in the cell – the ‘language’ at the subatomic level.

• See handout: Lothar Shäfer's quantum view of evolution.

• However that only pushes the question about the source of life’s developing information, one stage further back.

• See Handout: Intelligent Design or Neo- Darwinism - The Case For Teaching Both.

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Sociobiology.• A fairly new theory, defined by Edward O. Wilson (one of its

main proponents) as the systematic study of the biological basis of all social behaviour. (Sociobiology: the New Synthesis,

1975 page 3.) It states that genetics and evolution are the main factors responsible, not only our existence, but also for our behaviour and sense of right and wrong.

– In his book Consilience Wilson expounds this.• See my critical review (published in the journal: Philosophia

Christi). The review is also on my web pages.

• Sometimes supporters of Sociobiology say we actually exist for the benefit and propagation of our genes. – (E.g.: Richard Dawkins’ book: The Selfish Gene and quotations

from Dawkins and Wilson - next slide.)

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We are machines built by DNA whose purpose is to make more copies of the same DNA … Flowers are for the same thing as everything else in the living kingdoms, for spreading ‘copy me’ programmes about, written in DNA language. This is EXACTLY what we are for. We are machines for propagating DNA, and the propagation of DNA is a self sustaining process. It is every living objects’ sole reason for living. (Richard Dawkins: ‘The Ultraviolet Garden’, Royal Institution Christmas Lecture No. 4, 1991)

The individual organism is only the vehicle (of genes), part of an elaborate device to preserve and spread them with the least possible biochemical perturbation .. The organism is only DNA’s way of making more DNA. (E. O. Wilson, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, Harvard University Press, 1975, p. 3.)

(I owe these quotations to Denis Alexander’s ‘Rebuilding the Matrix’ p. 274)

See handout ‘A New Religion’ by David Stove.

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Evolution. Are life and the Universe Open Systems?

The Biblical view is that God is overflowing love.

• His Word and Spirit creates and upholds all things and moves them towards their purpose.

• Can this help us to understand the existence of life in its countless and marvellous forms?

• The Judeo-Christian belief is that fundamental to God’s purpose is the redemption of the world from evil through His own self-giving love.

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Evolution concluded.Now read Unit 6 whose sections include:

What life is.Information technology at the heart of living things.The unsolved mystery of the origin of life.The Human Genome Project.Can a recipe for a cake change into a cake?Is evolution without God possible?Could Chaos theory be a clue to the origin and development

of life?

Further reading:Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, Chapters 1, 5, 6Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, Pages 11-48Paul Davies, The Cosmic Blueprint, Chapter 7

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Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul.

The Brain - extremely complex.

Prof. Ambrose (Emeritus Professor of Biology in London University) in his book 'The Nature and Origin of the Biological World' page 152 , describing the complexity of the brain says that it is like 500 million telephone exchanges all connected properly. The connections possible are 101,300,000,000,000. (To write this number out in the normal form l,000,000 . . . etc. would take about one hundred thousand years to do.)

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Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

Richard Dawkins in ‘The Blind Watchmaker’: "The brain with which you are understanding my

words is an array of some ten million kiloneurones. Many of these billions of nerve cells have each more than a thousand 'electric wires' connecting them to other neurones.”


For more on the amazing structure of the brain see the following:

• John Eccles’ chapter: ‘The Evolution of Purpose’ in the book Evidence of Purpose edited by John M Templeton.

• Susan Greenfield’s The Human Brain - A Guided Tour.

• Paul Davies’s The Cosmic Blueprint, chapter 13.

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Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

But if my thinking were simply the result of physical processes and laws in my brain could I:

• think freely?

• reason?

• know anything?

Now to more on this ‘Mind-Body’ problem.

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Is the mind more than the physical brain?Is Artificial Intelligence making progress towards

manufacturing a computer like a human mind?Roger Penrose in his ‘Shadows of the Mind’

identifies four views about computers and the mind.

1 One day computers will be genuinely Conscious and therefore capable of happiness, compassion, fear, etc.

2. One day computers will be able to fully imitate consciousness without genuinely being conscious.

3. The human mind will only be understood by a completely new physics - so far undreampt of by scientists.

4. There is something inherently non-physical and therefore ‘spiritual’ about the human mind.

Penrose claims to rule out 1 and 2 from Godel’s theorem. He favours 3 (though he obviously can have no evidence)

He doesn’t like 4 because of its religious overtones.

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Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

The human experience of inspiration and intuition.

Gospel and Pluralist Society page 31bby Leslie Newbigin

The Emporer's New Mind p. 543 - 545by Roger Penrose.

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A hierarchy of mysteries:

The nature of:

• Conscious life - such as the higher animals have.

• Life - anything that is alive - such as plants.

• Matter - material or physical existence.

•Conscious life (human) that can:

•reason (think abstractly and universally),

•ponder its own life, death, and possible life after death.

•be aware of good and evil,

•know that it is responsible (partly) for its own behaviour.

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Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

Could a brain scientist of the future know ‘you’ or ‘me’ by examining our brains?

• Our thoughts?• What you and I see when we look at something red

(say).• Are we seeing what is the same colour as the

same colour? • What you experience when you taste dates (say).

•Could he know my experience of ‘me’ as ‘I’?•Could he know what it feels like to be a cat, snail etc?

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Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

These essentially subjective experiences are called ‘qualia’ and almost all brain scientists believe they can never be accessed by science. Yet they are real because they affect the real physical world.

(Some materialists deny that qualia are real describing them as mere epiphenomena, accidental to the working of the brain and not being relevant to the study of the mind.)

This view seems nonsense to most people.

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Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

A Word from the Bible:

1 Corinthians 2:11-1611 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no-one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 16 "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. (NIV)

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Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

Fundamental to the Christian Faith is that, not only does God know us from the outside looking in, but also - through Christ who became one with us - He knows us from the inside looking out.

He is thus the Redeemer of the whole person - body and soul.

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Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

The Self - the abiding mystery.• Would a copy of you be you?• If so a future scientist could make an exact copy

and then shoot you - no problem to you because you would still exist - or would you?

• Suppose a different sperm from your father fertilised the egg in your mother.

• What if your father had married a different woman?•Would you exist?

• Could ‘you’ have been born into a different ethnic group?

•Would it have been ‘you’?Was there only a one in a trillion trillion chance that ‘you’ should exist?

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Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

Non Materialist Understandings of consciousness, the mind and the self.

Dualism - the mind etc includes a non material reality that interacts with the material brain.

Descartes How does the ‘soul’ interact with the physical brain?

Not all dualism is Cartesian dualism.Emergence - consciousness and the mind emerges from the complexity of the brain.

But this would be radical emergence.God calls forth the soul so that it emerges from the body.His Word from His mind calls to us.

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These next ten slides I owe to Prof Howard Ducharme, Philosophy, University of Akron.

The Official View, Common Sense, Ordinary Language, Moral Realism, World Religions (85-99% of the world’s population)

Dualism is the view “of the common man.” David LewisOrdinary language “enshrines the plain man’s metaphysics which is dualism of body and soul.” JJC Smart.“I suppose most people in our civilization accept some kind of dualism. They think they have both a mind and a body, or a soul and a body.” John Searle“The belief that bodies are invested with souls is not just a product of religious doctrine but embedded in people’s psychology and likely to emerge whenever they have not digested the findings of biology.” Steven Pinker, Blank Slate, p. 226We believe ourselves to be a unique mind, the author and cause of free choices. But we are not what we believe ourselves to be, and our identity is not what matters, and we ought not have such great personal concern about our [daily or ultimate] survival. It may be “psychologically impossible to to believe the Reductionist view.” (p. 280) Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons

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Science First Paradigm (SFP) Example: Personal Identity (I) = Nerve Cells

“‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”

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SFP Example in Sociobiology:Consciousness, ethics and religion = genes,

brain circuitry

Consciousness, ethics, and religion “can all eventually be explained as brain circuitry and deep, genetic history.” (p. 261)

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SFP Examples in Contemporary Academic Theology

• “A man not only has a body, he is his body.”William May, HCR (1973), p. 3.

" is a false trail to look within the human body for an immortal 'soul,' mind, or residual self which somehow survives the destruction of the flesh."

George Carey, I Believe in Man , pp. 171-172)

I = matter-energy-space-time relationships (Peacocke, Thatcher)

I = a resonance field of relationships (Moltmann)Soul = “truly material,” a point of subjectivity

and transcendence, a “soft” identity (Keith Ward)

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SFP Examples in Contemporary Academic Theology (2)The “person is he or she that physically stands before

you [and] is not...body and soul.” Nancey Murphy et al, Whatever , p. 228

Dualism is “a canker at the heart of the Christian heritage”. Joseph Fletcher, Humanhood, p.24

“If we have abandoned dualism when we are thinking of finite beings, does it make sense to retain it on the cosmic level in thinking of God and the world? It has no more plausibility there.” John Macquarrie, Forward to God’s World, God’s Body by Jantzen, pp. ix-x.

There is no longer any basis for belief in the immortality of the soul.

W. Pannenberg, What is Man?, pp.47-48

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‘Person First Knowledge’ Argument: “I went to pre-school”

1. Assume the Science First Paradigm (SFP) dogma is true: “I am this physical, functioning body, this psycho-somatic unity. What you see is what I am.”

2. Make a true assertion about yourself: “I went to pre-school.”

3. If 1 is true, then 2 is false. If 2 is true, then 1 is false, e.g., 42 lb. body1955 190 lb. body2004

4. I know 2 is true, thus I know 1 is false. So, the SFP axiom is false… I am a person, an embodied moral agent.

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Two Science First Paradigm (SFP) Objections to Person First Knowledge. (PFK)

“First, brain cells are atypical in that they can last a full lifetime. Second…each person’s unique genetic program… persists intact in each generation of cells..[these facts] provide a physical basis for explaining personal identity over time.”Owen Flanagan, The Science of the Mind, p. 17.

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Reply 1: Recent Discoveries in Neuroscience

• Neurogenesis of brain cells in the neo-cortex is now proven to occur throughout life - proliferation, survival, migration, differentiation, and establishment of functional connections.

• Proven in rodents, birds, tree shrews, cats, new and old world monkeys, and humans

• Skin cells replaced every 2 weeks• Gut cells – every 2 weeks• Entire body cells – every 6 years• There are bone marrow, cardiac, and brain stem


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Reply 2: Recent Human Genome Discoveries

• An individual’s DNA sequence is now known to be dynamic, not static, throughout life

• >10% of the human genome may be transposons

• ~100 new mutations occur during one’s lifetime

• >130 active repair genes• Immune system’s daily

turnover, and environmental effects

• Identical twins, human clones

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Reductio Ad Absurdum Problems:If I = My Genes, then I = Many; or I = 99.9% You.

• The 35,000 genes Fallacies: I 35,000!• Fallacy of the Corpse• I = You Fallacy

If I = my genome, and you = your genome, then I = you (99.9% pure you)!

• Utter Self-Ignorance FallacyIf I = my genetic code, then I have absolutely no knowledge of myself until I get decoded, then I will finally know myself!??

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Does the Soul/Mind create and act on the body/brain?

(Remember the mystery: What is matter?)

It is now claimed (Wall Street Journal, 21st June 2002) that ‘thoughts’ can turn some genes ‘on and off’.

What about the mystery of differentiation?Paul Davies writes:If every molecule of DNA possesses the same global plan for the whole organism, how is it that different cells implement different parts of that plan? Is there, perhaps, a `metaplan' to tell each cell which part of the plan to implement? If so, where is the metaplan located? In the DNA? But this is surely to fall into infinite regress.Michael Polanyi and ‘genetic fields’. Also Rupert Sheldrake.Could my soul exist apart from any physical body?Read: Peter Bussey’s Beyond Materialism in Science and Christian Belief October 2004.

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Brain - Mind - Consciousness - Soul (Cont)

Possible further evidence about the non material foundation of consciousness (NDEs).

• A significant number of people who recovered from the gates of death - heart, breathing and brain activity having stopped - claim to have looked down on their ‘dead’ body and then travelled to another world before returning to their earthly body.

• Such a ‘Near Death Experience’ (NDE) could be shown to be valid if the person experiencing it were able to learn something about the state of the hospital room (say) that he/she could not have known from the position of the body.

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Brain-Mind-Consciousness - Soul & NDEs (Cont)

This has been claimed many times especially in medical research done in the Cardiac departments of some Dutch hospitals.

• A very impressive report of scientific findings was given at the 2003 Edinburgh Science Festival.

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Participants and speakers at the ‘Out of Body’ - ‘Near Death Experience’ (NDE) lecture:

• David Lorimer, Scientific and Medical Network;

• Dr Olaf Blanke, Dept. of Neurosurgery, University Hospitals of Geneva and Lausanne;

• Dr Pim van Lommel, Consultant Cardiologist, Rijnstate Hospital, Arnhem, Netherlands;

• Dr Peter Fenwick, Institute of Psychiatry, University of London;

• Professor Bob Morris, Koestler Chair of Parapsychology,

University of Edinburgh.• For more on the scientific research see: ‘The

Lancet’ December 15th 2001.

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Pre-talk publicity said: “Surveys show that ‘out-of-body’ experiences (OBEs) are not uncommon: between 10% and 15% of populations across the world have experienced an OBE. [These experiences may or may not be associated with a near-death experience (NDE).] Approaches to the OBE centre round the question: does the self or consciousness actually leave the body? Some recent scientific research in Switzerland indicates that the feeling of leaving the body can be stimulated experimentally. The researchers propose that the OBE is simply a distortion of the bodily image arising from stimulation of the reticular activating system (RAS). So are spontaneous OBEs also illusions due to temporal lobe activity? Possibly not. Experiments by Professor Charles Tart in the 1970s showed some success in out-of-body experiences correctly reporting five digit random numbers. And confirmed reports from near-death experiencers suggest that they can accurately recount events that occurred while they were unconscious and clinically dead. Some OBEs are even reported by patients whose hearts have stopped. And since it takes just over 10 seconds before all electrical activity in the brain ceases after the heart has stopped, these reports point to the possibility that our consciousness may not be entirely dependent on the brain. If this proves to be the case, then much of neuroscience, psychology and philosophy will need to be radically rethought.”

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The presenters claimed:

NDEs are reported by 18% of resuscitated patients often

involving: • Seeing the old body from above.• Watching medical procedures• Seeing beyond the hospital even to distant places where

the mind focussed.– Such knowledge gained was later verified.

• A review of earlier life including childhood.• Travelling down a tunnel to a beautiful light where

deceased family members and religious figures are there to welcome.

• An awesome experience of peace, unconditional love, beauty and freedom.

• Not all experience all of these phases. Many return to their body after the first one or two stages.

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• Attempts have been made to explain these experiences from the consequences of the body closing down and starving the brain of oxygen. It is alleged that this lack of oxygen would produce illusions including an illusion of light.– Susan Blackmore is well known for this approach.

• However the presenters said this could not provide an explanation because:– The experiences happened when the brain had

become completely inactive.

– The reported sensory experiences (visible, audible and tangible) were clear and coherent and could not come from a failing brain.

– People born blind who had never seen anything report seeing clearly as the experience progresses.

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In answer to questions afterwards we were told:

Previous culture or religious practice are not relevant to the experience/non-experience of NDE.

– The religious content experienced does not always correspond with the person’s previous religious beliefs.

– There was no statistical difference between reports from religious former West Germany or from non-religious former East Germany.

•Type of illness/accident, or drugs used in treatment, are not relevant to the experience/non-experience of NDE.

•NDEs usually (but not always) lead to: belief in the after life; transformed attitudes to

other people; a belief in purpose for life on earth; a loss of fear of death.

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In answer to my question (asked after the meeting) I was told:

Typically the person feels that his/her new life is embodied & clothed.

• The clothes are not those worn in the hospital bed, but clothes associated with his/her life when he/she was in the prime of life.

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• Near death experiences almost always convince those who experience them that God exists.

• There are some known exceptions e.g.:

• A.J.Ayer, during his middle years was a famous 20th century atheist philosopher. – But late in life, he had a `near death’ experience. – In his article `What I saw when I was dead’, he


"The only memory that I have of an experience, closely encompassing my death, is very vivid. I was confronted by a red light, exceedingly bright, and also very painful even when I turned away from it. I was aware that this light was responsible for the government of the universe .."

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What kind of response and evaluation of his experience did A. J. Ayer make?

"My recent experiences have slightly weakened my conviction that my genuine death, which is due fairly soon, will be the end of me, though I continue to hope that it will be. They have not weakened my conviction that there is no god."

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Animal and human consciousness - the differences?

• Higher animals are conscious but not self-conscious?

•Abstract and Universal Thought.•They don’t ponder their own existence?

• Language and signals.• Human personhood dependent on

interpersonal relationships - ultimately the relationship with the Person of God.

Dark side of human self-awareness.

• Contemplating pain and death.• Self-worship - the foundation of the Fall.

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Now read Unit 7 which expands on all these points relating to the Mind and Brain.

For more reading on the Mind-Body Problem in traditional philosophy see Edward Miller's Questions That Matter, pages 77- 138

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An Introduction to some issues in Human Bioethics.

Relevant to this discussion is the nature of the ‘soul’ or ‘self’.

I discuss the self or soul’s nature and mystery in other modules - also in Power Point format.

Briefly, those who favour giving science freedom to advance in genetic technology emphasise the potential huge medical benefits, and those opposed emphasise the sanctity of life at its earliest stage and fear the ‘slippery slope’ into eugenics (attempts to produce the perfect ‘race’ and the dangers of discrimination against the ‘imperfect’.) practised by the Nazis.

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Embryonic Stem Cell Research.

Abortion is not used to obtain these embryos.

Only ‘no-use’ In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) embryos are used for research. (They would otherwise be discarded.)

Many ova are removed from the womb and fertilised. Only one or two are returned to the womb.

The remainder are either discarded or available for experiments.

However in October 2005 ways were found to change the embryo so it would not be viable and therefore could not grow into a human and so be another self. It would then be harvested for stem cells. Or secondly the one harvested could still be re-implanted - even though one stem cell had been removed and stored for future use.

See article: Technical fixes may not solve Embryo Stem Cell ethical problems. By Donald Bruce.

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What is IVF?

Use of artificial techniques to join an ovum with sperm outside (in vitro) woman's body to help infertile couples to have a children of their own. The basic technique of IVF involves removing ova from a woman's ovaries, fertilising them in the laboratory, and then inserting them into her uterus.

The first ‘test-tube baby’, Mary Louise Brown, was born in England in 1978.

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Human Reproduction and differentiation.

Male sperm and female ovum combine to form new embryo.

The nucleus of this new embryo is a new DNA code which is derived from both mother and father.

For the first 14 days this embryo divides and multiplies but is not a miniature human being. It is more like a ‘recipe’. Each cell has the same DNA code.

Each cell has the potential to form any part of the body.

At 14 days, the cells ‘differentiate’.

Different parts of the code in each cell are switched off and so each cell now ‘knows’ what part of the body it is to form.

What differentiates a skin cell (say) from a heart cell (say) is the parts of the code that are switched off.

At this stage of ‘differentiation’ (a great mystery) we have the beginnings of a human being in miniature.

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Reproductive Cloning - not used for humans yet.

A cell is removed from the skin (say) of a mature person and its DNA is put in the nucleus of a new cell (the cell’s own DNA nucleus having been removed.)

An electric current or chemical is used to fuse the new nucleus with the egg which is ‘tricked’ into accepting it.

This mature differentiated skin DNA then undifferentiates (how this happens is a mystery). New egg is put in the womb.

So now we have an egg with a DNA derived not from a loving relation between male and female but from one person’s skin (say). This is the ethical problem of reproductive cloning.

Baby will be a clone or twin of the life that gave cells of skin.

This process was used to produce ‘Dolly’ the sheep - which died early of old age related illnesses.

Reproductive cloning of humans is dangerous and illegal.

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Therapeutic Cloning.

(Legal in UK but each case needs special permission)

Same procedure as above - but the new cell is only allowed to divide and grow up to 14 days - ie still in a pre-differentiated state.

In the 14 days stem cells are ‘harvested’ and cultured. Being undifferentiated, they can be used indefinitely as (1) a source of tissue for any part of the donor’s body or (2) for researching causes of, and cures for, diseases.

The stem cells have the same DNA code as the donor and therefore there is no danger of rejection of the implanted tissue.

These stem cells are not embryos - detached from the embryo’s outer layer, they have no potential to grow into babies.

For 14 days the embryo, before being killed, is a source of stem cells.

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Ethical issues with therapeutic cloning involve:

(1) enormous health benefits to be gained.

(2) the status of this undifferentiated embryo - soon to be discarded.

Is it human?; deserving of some respect but not as a ‘human’?; deserving no respect?

Those who deny that it is human say that the pre-differentiated embryo can still be induced to form twins - so it is not one ‘self’.

Opponents say there is no need to use an artificially produced embryos to get stem cells. They are present in the blood and bone marrow of an adult.

Response: ‘yes’ but the embryonic stem cells are more flexible and easier to work with. Potential results from embryonic stem cells are greater than stem cells taken from mature bone marrow.

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Embryo and Genetic Screening.

Should parents know in advance of any potential or certain genetic disease in their unborn baby?

A childhood disease, or for example, late onset Huntingdon's or Alzheimer's.

Would you like to know about your future?

If you were told you had a genetic disease should you have children?

If you already have children should you tell them?

Should your insurance company have the right to know?

What about information on government data bases and identity cards?

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Embryo Screening and Abortion.

At present abortion for a diagnosed serious disease is allowed up to birth.

What counts as serious?

Slippery slope.

Cleft pallet.

What about people with genetic defects we know? Should they have been killed in the womb?


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PGD: Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.

Diagnosis of genetic diseases in the embryo before it is implanted back into the womb.

PND: Pre Natal Diagnosis.

Diagnosis of potential genetic diseases before birth through extracting fluid from the mother’s womb.

This may lead to advice re possible abortion.

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PGD is a technique that has been used in the UK for a number of years. Since the introduction of PGD thousands of children world wide have been born free from life-threatening conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or haemophilia, which otherwise would have severely threatened the quality of life. (Suzi Leather, Chair, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority - HFEA. November 2005)

My comment. Actually the embryos showing signs of disease have not been cured but killed. Then a new one (another physical being) has been born free from that disease.

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Saviour Siblings.

(28th April 2005 - Law Lord’s back couple’s plea to create designer baby to cure son.)

Parents have a sick or dying child. A tissue match from a compatible child might cure him/her.

Several eggs taken from mother’s womb (some may have been left over from previous IVF) and a match is sought and found.

The match must be compatible but not contain the defective gene of the sick child. The other eggs are discarded.

Will the new child feel it was chosen just for its ‘spare parts’? Will it be happy or unhappy that it was born to save another, rather than born only for the normal reasons? Is the new child there as a commodity?

Surely its own attitude of self-giving or resentment will determine the answer as to how it develops as a human being.

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Designer babies - a Post-Human Future?

If embryos can be selected for qualities that could help a sibling, what about other qualities such as:

Gender, intelligence, height, athletic ability?

What about future science removing some of our feelings, e.g.:

phobias, guilt feelings, feelings of horror at genetic engineering, revulsion that we are no longer human?

The powerful could engineer happy and content slaves who do not regret the loss of an earlier humanity.

Possibilities like these are taken very seriously by some academics especially Dr. Nick Bostrom of Oxford University who favours a post human future as long as the science is guided morally. (I asked him: Who guides the morality?) Other big names in this ‘transhumanism’ are Lee Silver, Joseph Fletcher, Linus Pauling, and James Rachels). See also: Couples may get chance to design the 'ideal' IVF baby.

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A Christian Perspective.

Should humans play God?

All medical techniques involve interference with the course of a decaying physical nature. Maybe (being in the image of God) we are meant to be creative?

However God, in creating creatures in His image for love and fellowship did not clone Himself!

Christian theology cannot give all the answers to the difficult ethical questions. However we can say certain things about our humanity.

Image of God.


Reproduction should be from a loving committed relationship between a man and woman.

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A Christian Perspective continued.

Our humanity is not an accident.

It is God’s purpose that we be human not post-human.

The image of God is best seen in Christ who is ‘the Image of the Invisible God’.(Colossians 1:15)

Christ’s identity with us goes back to his conception in the womb of Mary.

John the Baptist was ‘filled with the Spirit, even from his mother's womb.’ (Luke 1:15).

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A Christian Perspective Continued.A few verses from Psalm 139.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance.

It is the exposition of these great facts of theology that should enable doctors and geneticists to have the perspective they need to make the ethical judgements they face.

Christian theology cannot determine all that is right and wrong in biotechnology but it can give the basis needed to make difficult decisions.

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What about Genetic engineering and human identity?

See handouts:

• A Godless world finds identity in biology. (Times 20th January 2004).

• We should fear the disturbing future where man becomes superman. (Times 12th October 2004)

We briefly refer to the book:

‘Our Posthuman Future’ by Francis Fukuyama.

The book’s subject is the biotechnology revolution - its promises and dangers.

With developing techniques for genetic engineering and perhaps designer babies, we face the questions:

•What is it to be human?

•How do we differentiate between right and wrong?

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Fukuyama considers the following approaches to the answers:

a. religion (we learn from God our true nature),

b. natural law (what we discern from nature),

c. positivism (customs and rules of society - made by us).

He dismisses positivism, skirts round religion and so chooses natural law.

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Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Our Posthuman Future’ continued.

From nature Fukuyama believes we can discern a ‘factor X’ that uniquely is the essence of humanity:

It consists of a combination of: language, emotions, and the ability for abstract reasoning.

He concludes that any biotechnology must not interfere with these characteristics of our species. If they do they will have produced a ‘non-human’ being.

Even if he is right that these qualities do constitute true humanity, he does not say why they should be valued. Why should humanity be valued?

As philosophers since Hume realised one cannot get an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ or ‘are’.

The statement: ‘This is what people ought to be’ does not follow from the statement: ‘this is what people are’.

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Watch DVD on Biotechnology.

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Prayer - a way of knowing God?

Once we are aware that there is probably more to reality than a collection of atoms and physical laws that govern their interactions; and further, once we have recognised that there is probably Personal Being above all and yet closely related to all things, then the most obvious thing to do is to try to communicate.

See quotation from Lord Hailsham near the beginning of Unit 8.

It describes the kind of prayer that he thinks would come most naturally to someone seeking to communicate with that which may be beyond the physical world.

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Prayer and personal knowledge• Once we have prayed that prayer or a similar prayer

we are opening our lives to a knowledge that is essentially different from that which can be reached by natural science.

• And yet this way of knowing is in a sense still science. That is the case if we define scientific method as using ways of knowing that are appropriate to the object that is before us.

• This is important for we don't want an impersonal theology where we try to make logical deductions from nature about what God is like, and then make images of Him using our own reasoning skills. That would be a modern form of idolatry.

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Prayer and personal knowledge

• The only appropriate way of knowing persons or The Person is by `methods' appropriate to personal knowledge namely speaking, listening and trusting.

• That is to say it is by faith. It will lead to a personal knowledge of a Personal Being to whom the whole natural world owes its own being.

• Although a different way of knowing from the ways of the natural sciences, it is still a real way of knowing that which really exists - what cannot be discovered by natural science.

• As in the knowledge of all persons our knowledge of God will depend on Him revealing His mind to us.

• Humans reveal their minds to us in words when we are in their presence. So some speak of God's self-revelation in terms of a Word heard in His presence.

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To know God we need His own way of revealing Himself to us. – So we do not find God by looking at nature, or seek to

find Him as part of the data of natural science. – Nature prompts us to look away from itself to God who

is its Creator.

• We must allow the way we think to change if we wish to advance in knowledge. – The greatest advances of science each involved a

change in the way of thinking in which a deeper logic (not just new data) was discovered.

– See Unit 8 pages 2 and 3 bullet points for examples of this.

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It is only as scientists are open to question their own fundamental presuppositions that science is able to proceed to a deeper knowledge of reality.– As they discover a more profound logic than they

had previously imagined, coming from the very reality they are seeking to know, true understanding of reality progresses.

• This is the reason the theologian Karl Barth so strongly rejected natural theology. – He believed we could only know God in the way

He reveals Himself to us in Person.

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Natural Theology - knowledge of God from nature.

• Can nature alone give us a partial knowledge of God independent of a Personal presence?

• Let us think of the way we know other human persons.– What a person does and who he is in himself cannot be

separated.– They are bound up together in an indivisible whole.

• Nature may point to a great God with certain attributes.– But it cannot give us any personal knowledge of God - what

God is in Himself.

• Thus any true natural theology must always be integrated with our knowledge of God as He reveals himself personally in the Bible story.

• Thus doing natural theology should not be seen as a prelude separate from engaging in revealed theology.

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• The universe is more than the mere stage on which the drama of revelation, redemption and personal faith takes place.

• The natural world is very much part of the act.

• John Polkinghorne reminds us that in the outdated Newtonian physics space and time were considered the stage on which the drama of physical processes took place, so that the geometry of space "was capable of being pursued in isolation from the mechanics of matter."

• However he continues: “In General Relativity this is not the case. Space and matter, geometry and physics, impinge upon each other.”

– See Unit 8’s section: Science and Theology in Dialogue for more on this including references.

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Why Should anyone struggle against an openness to God?

• Could one among other reasons be that such openness is bound to be deeply personal?– See the section with the above title in Unit

8 for a discussion and examples that might point to this as being one part of the answer.

– The section gives an illustration taken from a telescope.• Michael Polanyi used a similar example.

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Creation Open To God• Unit 9 is not appropriate for a Power Point

presentation. However it is important.

• In Unit 9 the following topics are considered:

– Creation out of Nothing

– Nature is an open system

– The Days of Creation.

– Prayer Changes Things?

– The Image of God.

– Creation and the Whole Bible Story.

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–In Unit 1 we noted that the Bible teaches that God's Eternal Word is not only the origin of Creation, and not only that by which all things are held in being, but also the origin of the redemption of the world.

–It is reasonable to believe then that there should be some connection between what learn of creation with what we believe about the Divine renewal of the world.

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• The very God who created this world seeks to know His people and be known by them

• This can only be so if the mind and will of God actually act in the physical world.

• It was argued in Unit 7 that the human mind cannot in principle be reduced to physics and mathematics.

• Yet it too undoubtedly acts on our physical bodies and physical world.

• We do not understand how that happens but it does. • If the human mind and will act on physical reality why

not God's mind and will as well? • Although we cannot say how this happens it can only

be possible if there is a real openness in the very nature of physical existence.

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God: history/answered prayer & miracle.John Polkinghorne says:• Our view may be summarised as being expressed

in a complementary metaphysic where human participation in a noetic world arises from mind being the complementary pole to matter in flexible open organisation. .... it also makes coherent the possibility that God is in a relationship with his creation which goes beyond his simply being the upholder of its order. It allows for the exercise of his providential care within the unpredictable unfolding of world history. (emphases added)– Polkinghorne J.,1989, Science and Providence, page 85

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•John Polkinghorne sees ‘Divine Action’ and miracle not as God suspending laws of nature nor God adding/subtracting new mass and/or physical energy, but as God implanting information (Word) into physical systems. This ‘input’ is possible because of the open structures revealed in quantum physics (micro level) and chaotic dynamics (macro level).

•Keeping in mind what is said above, go on to read Unit 10.

•It cannot be summarised easily with Power Point. However it is important.

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• Keeping in mind what was said in the previous slide, go on to read Unit 10.– It cannot be summarised easily with Power Point. – It deals with the following subjects that relate to

Christian and partly to Jewish belief: God engages personally with all peoples - Israel and

Jesus. The witness of Jewish History Incarnation of God in Space-Time Divine and Human in One Person. Our Union With Christ. Christ the Cosmic Saviour. The Christian Hope.

Also see my article: The Nature and Origin of the Bible at:

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Unit 11 discusses the problem of evil and suffering, considering:

Evolution and the Fall Where and when is the Golden age from

which we have fallen? The meaning of the Fall.

Alternative non-Atheist World Views. Deism Pantheism Panentheism Biblical World View.