Naturalism of the Gaps

Atheists and agnostics often turn to scientism and naturalism to explain phenomena in the environment to the purposeful exclusion of anything supernatural. Scientism is the belief that we should believe only in what can be proven scientifically, while naturalism is the belief that physical events only have physical causes (Craig, 2011). I call this “Naturalism of the gaps” to mimic the often received charge of “God of the gaps,” which atheists and agnostics claim we fill gaps in our knowledge with God. The intention of this blog is to offer reasons to reject naturalism and scientism. If you would like to listen to a video instead, please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pglqa_M8obU

“But if naturalism is true, there is no God, and hence no God (or anyone else) overseeing our development and orchestrating the course of our evolution. And this leads directly to the question whether it is at all likely that our cognitive faculties, given naturalism and given their evolutionary origin, would have developed in such a way as to be reliable, to furnish us with mostly true beliefs. Darwin himself expressed this doubt: “With me,” he said, “the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” (Platinga, 1994)

Scientism and naturalism cannot explain many aspects of our lives. In a debate with Peter Atkins, William Lane Craig identified five areas in which various truths cannot be proven by science. I have quoted his five points below:

  1. “Logical and mathematical truths cannot be proven by science. Science presupposes logic and math, so that to try to prove them by science would be arguing in a circle.
  2. Metaphysical truths, like there are other minds other than my own or that the external world is real or that the past was not created five minutes ago with an appearance of age are rational beliefs that cannot be scientifically proven.
  3. Ethical beliefs about statements of value are not accessible by the scientific method. You can’t show by science whether the Nazi scientists in the camps did anything evil as opposed to the scientists in western democracies.
  4. Aesthetic judgments…cannot be accessed by the scientific method because the beautiful, like the good, cannot be scientifically proven.
  5. And finally, most remarkably, would be science itself. Science cannot be justified by the scientific method. Science is permeated with unprovable assumptions. For example, in the special theory of relativity, the whole theory hinges on the assumption that the speed of light is constant in a one-way direction between any two points A and B. But that strictly cannot be proven. We simply have to assume that in order to hold to the theory.”

In summary, we cannot simply adhere to scientism and naturalism as they fail to explain many aspects of our lives that we experience. But one of the biggest refutations of such beliefs is found in our cosmology.

Cosmology

For most of human history, many people believed the universe was eternal and unchanging and life was an infinite regress. In other words, life begets life, which begets life, and so on. Many in some Eastern religions still believe the universe is in an eternal cycle of growth and regeneration.

Yet in the 1920s, Edwin Hubble cast doubt on such theories. Hubble observed that galaxies outside of the Milky Way existed and their light appeared to be stretched, which is a sign they were rushing away from the earth. A Catholic Belgian physicist studied Hubble’s observations and interpreted findings as evidence of an expanding universe, which was a possibility within Albert Einstein’s field equations of general relativity. According to what was dubbed the “Big Bang” theory, the universe inflated, expanded and cooled, starting from a very small, very hot singularity that emerged into what we know of the universe today.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument is as follows:

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe (time, space, and matter) began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The Big Bang suggests a start date for time, space and matter of around 14 billion years ago, so whatever existed prior to the Big Bang and caused its sudden inflation must necessarily lack those qualities. The cause of the Big Bang must be an uncaused first mover that is transcendent in time and immaterial, intentional, and powerful. These are the characteristics of a Supreme Being and Creator who started the expansion of the universe from nothing.

Prior to the discovery of the Big Bang, Albert Einstein struggled with the theological implications of a universe in a mode of expansion, so he created a cosmological constant, also known as a fudge factor. Einstein considered himself an agnostic. He didn’t believe in a personal God or an eternal life, noting that this life was enough for him. His cosmological constant served as a repulsive force, which kept the universe from collapsing under its own weight. It also enabled Einstein to favor a static universe over one with a start date. A Boston University physicist and Einstein scholar named Michel Janssen noted that “Einstein needed the constant not because of his philosophical predilections but because of his prejudice that the universe is static” (Overbye, 1998). Einstein stubbornly held to his cosmological constant until 1931, when after a visit with Edwin Hubble at an observatory at Cal Tech, he abandoned it and never mentioned it again, calling it “theoretically unsatisfactory anyway” (Overbye, 1998). Since then, the Big Bang theory has come to be well-accepted by NASA and the vast majority of scientists all over the globe.

Astrophysicist Hugh Ross (2018, p. 28) has indicated that all Big Bang theories share “(1) a transcendent cosmic beginning that occurred a finite time ago; (2) a continuous, universal cosmic expansion; and (3) a cosmic cooling from an extremely hot initial state.”

Interestingly, we have Biblical support for each of these points. In other words, centuries before 1925 when the Big Bang was promoted by Abbe George Lemaitre, Job, Moses, David, Isaiah, John, Zechariah, Paul and other Biblical authors noted the creation and expansion of the universe. Hugh Ross (2018) identified the verses as follows:

A transcendent cosmic beginning that began a finite time ago

Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Isaiah 45:18 “For this is what the LORD says – he who created the heavens, he is God.”

Proverbs 8:22 “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be.”

Titus 1:2 “…in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time…”

John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

John 17:24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

Colossians 1:15-16 “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”

 1 Peter 1:20 “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”

2  Timothy 1:9 “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time…”

A continuous, universal cosmic expansion

Job 9:8 “He alone stretches out the heavens.”

Psalm 104:2 “The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent.

Isaiah 42:5 “This is what God the LORD says – the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out.”

Zechariah 12:1 “The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundations of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person…”

Please note that the word often chosen in the Old Testament to describe the expansion of the heavens is “raqa,” which translates as stretching or spreading out.

A cosmic cooling (and progressive decay) from an extremely hot initial state

Romans 8:20 “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

Revelation 21:1 “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first earth had passed away.”

In summary, the Bible offers solid support for the creation of the universe, distinguishing it from other religious texts. Furthermore, only the Christian Lord is both immanent (within this universe) and transcendent. This point distinguishes Christianity from other religions, such as Hinduism and Islam. According to Hinduism, the gods are created and within this universe (immanent). According to Islam, Allah is transcendent as he doesn’t interact with people in this world. The book of nature and our cosmology support the Christian Lord.

So when atheists and agnostics say that there are 3,000 gods and since we believe in only one God we’re “atheists” to 2,999 others, we should explain their faulty logic. Not only are they elevating 2,999 other gods to the level of the Christian Lord (ignoring that the others have start dates), they’re failing to see they’re breaking the laws of noncontradiction. To be an atheist is to believe no God exists. To be a Christian is to believe God exists. Accordingly, one who says she believes in God cannot also be atheistic.

Psalm 19:1-6 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out to all the earth; their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.

References

Craig, W.L. (2011). Is scientism self-refuting? Accessed at: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-scientism-self-refuting

Overbye, D. (1998). A famous Einstein “fudge” returns to haunt cosmology. The New York Times. May 26.

Platinga, A. (1994). Naturalism defeated. http://www.calvin.edu/academic/philosophy/virtual_library/articles/plantinga_alvin/naturalism_defeated.pdf Letter to William Graham, Down, July 3rd, 1881. In The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin Including an Autobiographical Chapter, ed. Francis Darwin (London: John Murray, Albermarle Street, 1887), Volume 1, pp. 315-316.

Ross, H. (2018). The Creator and the Cosmos. Corvina, CA: Reasons to Believe.

 

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