Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Who threw that Tomato?

I have become interested recently in the different perspectives of science and religion about our development as a race and indeed the planet.

As a Christian of course I have an inbuilt bias but I am trying to see this with genuine objectivity.

I am not well enough read to comment authoritatively on such a huge subject but here are some random thoughts from my recent reading, listening and watching:

It seems most of the great scientists in history have also been Christians – including Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Faraday, Boyle, Darwin and so the list goes on

Scientists would have us believe that from the big bang we just developed. Things ‘just happened’ and here we are today. The wonderful anecdote I recently read from Nicky Gumbel highlights this brilliantly.


He tells the tale of the Hyde Park Orator who was attacking belief in God. He argued that the world ‘just happened’. As he spoke a soft tomato was thrown at him. ‘Who threw that?’ he demanded angrily. A Cockney from the back of the audience replied ‘No-one threw it – it threw itself.”

Minister John Bradley said to us on Sunday last week; Is anyone seriously suggesting the hieroglyphics on the walls in the ancient Egyptian caves from thousands of years ago were created by wind and sand?

John Bradley also coined a wonderful phrase “Science can only DISCOVER what God has already ORDAINED" – I love the simplicity of that.

Stephen Hawking, arguably the most brilliant scientist of his generation, has admitted that ‘Science may solve the problem of HOW the universe began but it cannot answer the question; WHY does the universe exist?’

It is probably true that there are more disagreements and apparent contradictions within science itself than between science and the Christian faith.

In summary I tend to agree with the words of Nicky Gumbel;

‘There is not necessarily a conflict between science and scripture. I think it is unwise to be too dogmatic about the issue (certainly if, like me, you are neither a scientist nor a theologian)’

19 comments:

Cassandra Helm said...

What an excellent post. I love debates about the existence of God. So far as I can tell from my exploration of the subject, religion is one of the great human customs. I believe it stems from our curious minds and our desire to have to answers to everything, even those thigs without answers - which we do not hesitate to invent answers for. People ignore tribal faiths when discussing religion and indeed overlook the fact that our current major religions are only a few thousand years old, a mere blink of the eye in cosmic terms even in terms of our own existence on earth.

I love science and I love that it admits it is incomplete. I also love the that it says things like this fish became extinct 60 million years ago instead of the fossil we have of this fish dates back 60 million years and then finding itself red faced when said fish turns up in indonesia. Most of all I love human nature, though we are arrogant, self centered and quite often viscous, we are also very funny.

Cassandra Helm said...

though we are arrogant, self centered and quite often viscous, we are also very funny.

The 'viscous' part of that sentence should read 'vicious'. My mother said I was the only one of her children bumped by the school into remedial spelling!

Mike Gardner said...

I think it's all about our inability to truly understand the nature of God. Is the debate really about creationism vs evolution? No, not really. It's about the nature of God and how the universe was created, why it was created, and by whom exactly. I don't have a problem being a devout Christian who also believes that we got here through evolution. I may be in the minority, but I can't see where the paradox in those beliefs lies.

(Cassandra, sometimes we can be viscous, too!)

Rocky said...

What a Topic! I really like Cassandras description of the Human nature "though we are arrogant, self centered and quite often vicous, we are also very funny." In my studies of people I have found all these to be true. Most of these bits of human nature seem to be driven from our beliefs. Our beliefs are very powerful. So powerful that many people are willing to die for them. Those convictions have fueled the debate you speak of for many, many years. I believe that someone had to throw the tomato so to speak. Not to detract from the debate at hand, I don't think that the ultimate answer or our ultimate responsibility lies in our belief in creationism or evolution. I think it lies in how we live our life and the principles that we stand for. I think that is an ongoing process that evolves. It is the lessons we learn, the obstacles we overcome, the changes we make in our lives, based on our faith and belief, in what is right and wrong. It is the choices we make (Or not) that tells the story of our lives.

I am a staunch creationist. I believe that a my house had a designer, so the far more complex DNA code of the human being must have. The only problem is, I wasn't there to see it, so I have to go on my faith or my belief.

Cassandra Helm said...

You raise an interesting point Rocky, but I do not entirely agree. The idea that we were made by someone or something is, I think, self-centered. When you think that we share, for example, 60% of our genes with sea cucumbers (creatures not known for their brains) I cannot believe that this world and this universe was created just for us. I think all things are. My children often ask me what I believe and I tell them that I do not believe in a being in the sky who created us, looks out for us and obscurely teaches us right from wrong (that must come from within us). That on the palm of my hand grow millions of germs. I wash my hands without a second thought for Fred germ or Todd germ. Perhaps they have some philosophy regarding the intermittent coming of the soap scourge. Perhaps, if they are as twisted as man, they believe that when I wash my hands I am punishing them. In the same way I may look up at the big warm face of the sun and bask in its golden splendor. I know that the big warm face of the sun looks down on our insignificant, moldy little planet and does not see me. I tell them that this is what I believe but that they are free to make up their own minds. I very much want my children to grow up to question everything and think for themselves.

Rocky said...

Thanks Cassandra,
you certainly make valid points. I too want to raise my children to question everything and to think for themselves. I do believe in a creator, but not one that punishes (either now or eternally). I believe that we all were created with a choice. I believe that is the biggest part of it, the choice. I don't really have a way of proving one way or the other. I believe I have to just go on my faith. I am not sure if all things exist for us or if we exist for them. I think it is great that we do exist and have the ability to choose what we think and how we interact with nature and others. I think it is wonderful that you are thoughtful enough to spend quality time with your children and teach them. This is a quality that is very much lacking in many families. regardless of our beliefs, we can exist together in a world that accepts all of us.

The Prophecy said...

I came here to wish you success on your CT manifesto proposal. But this caught my eye.

I plan to teach a course in synaesthesia/ experiential learning in a national park this summer. It occurs to me that unless we become aware of the existence around us, we do not understand its interconnectedness. And we certainly do not understand relationships, rights and duties, superiorities and priorities.

Now i don't sound simple. The thing is that unless we know the cat and the fish and the worm- we will not understand their relationships and certainly not thier place in the food chain.

As a younger person, my belief was that knowledge is like silk: you have to go to China to buy it. I.e. knowledge is "produced" by certain people and places and we are prolly missing out on life big time if we never get to meet them.

Not so. I understand now that knowledge is simply around us, and we gradually come alive to become aware of it, use it, and create something. Creativity here is in the sense of this philosophy: "all creativity is merely seeing the links between creation."

Taking a direction from this, I reasoned recently: the smallest known fish in the world was discovered recently. We don't even know all the fish, forget about all creation and their relations and interconnectedness.

How can we, with this limited vision, judge the Being of a Creator?

My blog is http://alustforlife.blogspot.com

Trevor Gay said...

Wow!!!

What wonderful rich comments! - thank you all so much.

I will reflect on these and make a considered response in the next couple of days after I give the reflection time that your comments deserve.

Suffice to say this is not a ‘simple’ topic - even if that statement goes against my own stated philosophy about Simplicity!- I guess some things are just not simple after all

Trevor Gay said...

Having had a chance to read all the comments it is wonderful that we have our own beliefs and important that we do not impose them on others.

The joy of being a person living in a democracy is that I can choose what I wish to believe, influenced by people, things, events, listening, reading, doing and observing. I do not necessarily ask for ‘hard evidence’ to believe what I feel I want to believe.

It seems to me science and religion can and do co-exist - indeed the two have always co-existed.

Perhaps society gains less by arguing the rights and wrongs of both and we gain more by creating our own beliefs whilst keeping an open mind about the views of others.

Cassandra Helm said...

I think discussing ideas allow us each to form our own opinion. If you were afraid of offending me, I would never get to hear your point of view. If I were afraid of offending Rocky, he would never hear mine. I am wary of this culture of not giving offense.

My mother told me something once in passing that has always stayed with me. She said that there is never any point in being offended. Something is either the truth or it is not. This is actually a great wisdom. If someone should, for example, refer to the size of your nose, you have to be willing to look in the mirror honestly and say, well, gee, my nose is kind of big. Likewise if you look in the mirror honestly and find that you have a proboscus of average size, there is also no point in being offended since the other person is not stating a truth.

Being honest about your opinions does not mean that you do not respect another’s right to form their own and engaging in a debate does not mean that you think the other person a fool; far from it since you obviously respect them enough to share in a conversation. It simply means that you have not been convinced that their view holds the answer.

I have thought very hard about religion over the years and feel very strongly that these customs are man-made. All you have to do is take a walk in the country after dark and imagine what it would be like not to have a flashlight in your pocket to feel how erie and frightening the world must have been. In this age of reason when we see a shadow move or eyes catching moonlight staring at us from the branch of a tree, we can take our flashlight, shine it on the branch and see that it is the eyes not of a demon spirit, but of an owl staring at us from the branch. I do not claim that science has all of the answers. It is like walking through the dark woods with a flashlight. We can't see everything, but we can study and learn and build steadily on what we have learned and expand the collective knowledge of mankind. No religion is ever going to do that. They can only keep us in the dark and tell us what lies in store at the end. Well, we all find out what surprises are in store for us when death comes. Until then we are only guessing.

This is my opinion, I hope I have offended no one in freely speaking my mind and I can assure you that none of my friends here have offended me.

Rocky said...

Cassandra,
You are very much right. Even though I am a creationist and believe in a creator, I too believe that religion is full of customs and misinformation. I also agree that have differing opinions is what makes us learn and grow. For example, I looked in the mirror and found that I do not have such a big nose. However, I am overweight and bald. (I look terrifyingly similar to Fred on your blog page) There is nothing wrong with that. I can be an overweight, bald, creationist and be great friends with you. I must remember to respect you and your point of view and learn from you. All of which I do. If we all agreed all the time, there would be nothing to write about and/or debate. That sounds very Orwellian and bad to me. Stick to your convictions and we will all learn and grow together. By the way, You make the greatest cartoons. They are very intellectual and very funny. I like all the hidden messages. Maybe you could do one on this debate.

Trevor Gay said...

Wow!! The discussion goes on brilliantly. Thank Rocky and Cassandra

I hope I have not offended anyone either – if I did it was unintentional - honest!

I never get offended these days - maybe when I was younger it was more of a problem but now I believe perception is everything.
for instance if anyone thinks I have a big nose then I have a big nose in their eyes and nothing I say will change that perception.

It is rather like age - to my mum who is 77 I am her ‘young lad’ at 53 and to my daughter who is 25 I am an ‘old wrinkly’ - Both are right.

My position is clear - I am a Christian and proud of that. I also believe science has helped advance civilisation enormously. Both have a place in my world. They can and should co-exixt in your world.

As regards offence I agree sometimes we bend over backward not to offend and sometimes calling a spade a spade is absolutely necessary. I just think that the world would be a much nicer place if there was less argument and more compromise. Meeting someone half way is not weakness it is strength and I see many situations within families where people may even go to their death with unresolved conflict that could have easily been sorted years before if only there was a meeting half way between two polarized opinions.

I think it was Groucho Marx who said;

‘Those are my principle and if you don’t like them – I have some more’

Trevor Gay said...

PS

Groucho of course said principles plural not singular!

Also I just remembered something else ...

When I worked in a Bar we were always told we should never discuss religion or politics in the Pub - probably a good idea :-)

Cassandra Helm said...

You are absolutely right, as if we can go through life never unintentionally stepping on people's toes!

Good advice about the pub, mostly because that's how punchups start, I'm beggining to think that in blogging though conversation that is worthwhile comes with disagreement. For example you are of the opinion that being Christain should be a part of my life. Why? I do not feel that you should be an atheist! ... and so a coversation that has ended could continue well into the next milennea! Noel is reading Thomas Paine right now and it was all I could do to restrain him from comming into this thread. No doubt he'll be ready to spring should you post another topic like this. I have friends from many backgraounds. Many of them lead pretty secular lives but some of them are quite religious. I even have a friend who is a Jehovah's witness. Thankfully friendship is based on how we look at life and not how we see the afterlife. She look at me with a benevolent tolerance and I the same. It's quite funny really.

As for offence Trevor we have blogged with each other long enough that we can realx. I can assure that I am pretty much impossible to offend.

cassandra Helm said...

Ahh! Right, I've done it again! That's what you get for hitting publish instead of preview!

Annie said...

Am I missing something Cassandra?

I haven't read anyone say, as you quoted, "you are of the opinion that being Christian SHOULD be a part of my life." Please yourself.

Believing in a creator is the OPPOSITE of being self-centred, methinks. It's the belief in a power so much mightier than us.

Ah well, what do any of us know? I'm not ashamed to admit having the intelligence of a sea cucumber.

Cassandra Helm said...

Hello Annie,

I got that from the following:

My position is clear - I am a Christian and proud of that. I also believe science has helped advance civilization enormously. Both have a place in my world. They can and should co-exixt in your world.

In my opinion believing that something up there is taking a special interest in Annie or Cassandra is self centered. Science does not claim to have all the answers, but at least strives to solve the unknown through the use of our reasoning minds. I prefer this to having a priest interpret for me ancient tribal myths that I can read and interpret for myself. It also bothers me when people claim to believe in one religion or another. I know that Trevor didn't mean this, but his above quote could imply that Christianity is the RIGHT religion and something polytheistic like, say, Hinduism is not, but it is in the nature of religions who speak with the awesome power of having God(s) on their side to believe they are right, sometimes right enough to wage war in the name of those God(s), as in the crusades or the current problems we are having with radical Islam.

Monotheistic religions are rather new to the spiritual scene (so to speak) having only been around a few thousand years. It is more usual to find modern tribal religions as being polytheistic and most ancient religions were also polytheistic (a problem Moses had to contend with). This actually makes some sense to me. It is logical to see that wind blows and that therefore there must be some force propelling it. It also true - fire, wind, rain, thunder etc are propelled by forces, but of course today we understand what propels them and know it is not the Gods.

Monotheism, among other things, tries to explain how the universe came to be. It is there, right? It must have come from somewhere. Our logical minds must have some explanation. I am actually very interested in religions. Historically they have had enormous impact and they also have and do provide a philosophy to guide people. I do NOT think that any man-made religion is the word of a God. Today when people speak to God they are put on medication. You may say this is offensive, but it is the truth and not meant to offend, but to explain how I have reached my conclusions and formed my opinion. I would be very interested to know how you have formed yours.

Trevor mentions you often, it is nice to finally get to speak with you!

Trevor Gay said...

Crikey!! - I have never had as many comments on one topic!

Sorry Cassandra - My previous comment was NOT meant to say 'religion and science should exist in YOUR world' - it was meant to say in 'OUR' world. One thing life has definitely taught me is NOT to impose my views on others!

The point I was trying to make – albeit not clearly - was that I think it is very healthy that sceince and reoieligion can, do and should co-exist in a free world. Variety is good.

I will never have a purely scientific view nor a purely spiritual view - there will always be a mixture. My predominant belief will be spiritual.

I have formed my Christian view over many years based on pragmatism and doing things; from personal and family experiences of life; from reading; from writing; from listening and most important from being in love.

I guess another thing that sways it for me is the Stephen Hawking quote that science can explain the universe but cannot explain why there is a universe in the first place for scientists to explore.

For me – and I repeat I would never dream of imposing this on anyone else – even my own kids – God is there for all of us and we only need to ask. For those who do not wish to ask that is also fine. It took me many years to truly discover the joy of Christianity and all human beings will travel their own journey over their lifetime. For those who never believe that is a choice that I respect. I am however reminded of the old saying ‘you do not hear of many atheists on a sinking ship’

Cassandra Helm said...

‘you do not hear of many atheists on a sinking ship’

I agree, I think that most people's desire to turn to a religion stems ultimately from a fear of death.

Please don't worry about my feeling imposed upon, I don't and I suspected your comment had not come out exactly as you had intended since it didn't sound like you.

Thanks for posting such an interesting topic. How often do people get to speak so candidly about their most personal views?