Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Science and Faith...

Just listened to an interview with 'the Pope's Astronomer' Brother Guy Consolmagno over on the Unbelievable podcast. He comes over as a nice and intelligent guy who knows science and who knows faith, and sees no conflict between the two.

I found his outlook on life very interesting, and he made one comment which I must share with you here...

He said: "Faith is what you do when you don't have the facts and you have to make a decision anyway."

Fascinating. For him, "faith" is an action, not a belief. Its not 'blind faith' but rather a way of using your belief structure (presumably at least partially based on experience and evidence) to make decisions in contexts where you have no information or insufficient evidence. Of course, people of all belief structures have to do this, whether theists, atheists, or whatever. By this definition, atheists use faith all the time. Hmmm.

Anyway, I also found his general outlook on life and reality interesting, if slightly frustrating. Without using these words, he has a 'presuppositional' approach to reality. He says that he starts with the fundamental belief in God and then studies the universe (he is an astronomer, after all) on the understanding that all of it is God's creation; he sees it 'through the eyes of faith'. Nothing he has observed contradicts his fundamental presupposition. His world view appears to be self-consistent. He also admits that he has friends who start from an atheist presupposition and have managed to construct entirely self-consistent atheistic world views. In other words, he is happy to believe that the all the evidence that the universe has to offer is simultaneously consistent with the presumption that there is a creator God and with the presumption that there is not. Fundamentally this means that he believes that study of the universe itself cannot be used to give evidence to answer a question 'is there a God?'

I don't know about you, but I find that mindset quite frustrating. For me, if there is a God, it should be evident in 'His' creation. If a detailed and thorough study of the universe cannot lead an honest seeker to an answer about whether there is a God or not, then what is the point? How can anyone justifiably believe in a God? Is it really just a matter of arbitrarily deciding to believe or not, and then living consistent with that? Surely there must be objective evidence one way or the other?

Brother Consolmango seems to think not: "One of the things I see as a trait of God is he always gives us plausible deniability, every time he makes himself known he also says 'if you don't want to believe in me, you don't have to, its your choice'".


Mike Blyth said...

It's bad enough to think that God wants us just to guess at his existence. I can certainly understand the idea that we need just to believe that there is a good creator. But that's not nearly enough for Christianity, it's not even 10% of what Christians need to believe. To think we can and must just presuppose the entire Christian is more than I can understand.

luschen said...

I make this point to people in my bible study group all the time - I am the token questioner - and they answer, well of course God is evident in all of creation - how can you look at a sunrise or a newborn baby or the milky way and not believe in a Creator who created all this for our benefit? Of course I look at the same things and see refraction, or evolution, or gravity/randomness and see no sign of God anywhere. I really think it does come down to presupposition.