Thursday, June 02, 2005

Faith, Science and the origin of life

An individual who posts at the Holy Cross Cardinal Newman Society website recently made this claim: "Religion is based on faith. Science is based on facts. For example, religion tells us that God snapped his fingers and man sprang into existence. Science tells us otherwise. If you make your decisions based on faith, you can believe religion. If you make them based on facts, you have to believe science."

For the moment, let's ignore the fact that a growing number of highly respected scientists have some serious problems with "evolution" as it is understood by many today - in the classical Darwinian sense. This individual's assertion that science is "based on facts" is problematic from the standpoint of natural philosophy.

What this individual is saying is that he rejects the whole concept of a Creator and thereby proposes that chance is the fundamental explanation of things such as the existence of life in the universe. But immediately we run into a problem. For those who propose chance as the fundamental explanation of things intend that we understand chance as a first cause - as the event that precipitates all subsequent events.

Why is this a problem? It is a problem because proposing chance as a first cause is like proposing a child as the explanation for its parents. It is simply impossible, given what a child is and given what parents are, that a child should be the explanation for its parents. You cannot propose Q as the cause of P when the very meaning of Q is that it is utterly dependent upon P and simply would not be Q were it not for P.

Confused? Let me try another way of explaining this. To propose chance as an initial cause is to place impossible demands upon it, requiring it to deliver what, of its very nature, it does not have the capacity to deliver. A chance event cannot be an originating event because it can exist in the first place only if there are other, non-chance events which precede it. Those confused souls who insist upon giving an originating role to chance simply do not understand what chance is.

By definition, chance is an irregularity, a departure from the norm. And you cannot have an irregularity if there is no regularity by which it can be identified. You cannot have a departure from the norm until there is first a norm to be departed from.

Therefore, those who propose chance as a first cause are not being honest.

God love you all,
Until next time
Paul Anthony Melanson

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