Is Science Based on Faith?

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When someone is trying to prove a point (usually to do with the physical world), they will often refer to science by saying something along the lines of “it’s been scientifically proven that X is true.” After this is said, supposedly the case is settled unless there is some sort of evidence to the contrary. This points to the fact that today in current culture science has been venerated, and for clear reasons too – technological advancements (phones, space rockets, computers) – biological advancements (health care, genetics), the list could go on and on.

Great as this may be (and I am a huge fan of science), my one fear is that this sort of progress has led to a very biased approach towards how we view science. Many people have lifted science above all other fields of discipline such as, history, philosophy, art, politics and so on. The most extreme version of this bias comes in the form of scientism – the view that science is the only way to know truth – now this worldview is easily defeated (the statement itself cannot be scientifically tested and so if it is true…it is false), however, that isn’t my main focus here. I really want to focus on the concept of science and faith.

For clarification, when I say faith, I don’t mean it in the sense of religious faith in a creator (there are at least four different definitions of the word faith), I mean faith in the sense of warranted faith, the type of faith that everybody on earth exhibits on a daily basis whether they are religious or not in order to get through life. For example, when you go to drink water from the tap or a bottle, you do not conduct science experiment upon science experiment to determine if the water is clean to drink. When you are sleeping at night, you do not barricade yourself in your room for fear that a family member or friend will walk in and suddenly pull a knife on you in order to do you damage. The list runs deep but when we really take time to view how we live life, we realise that we really do exhibit a lot of faith, and that is what gets us through. The main question again I want to address is this: Is science based on faith?

Now before we get into this, we need to define the word faith. The English Oxford Living Dictionary defines faith as:

Complete trust or confidence in someone or something 

In this sense, we don’t necessarily have to include anything specifically religious at this point, we are just talking about having confidence and trust in something, and anybody is capable of that.

So, is science based on faith? Well on the surface, it seems that the answer is a clear NO, of course it isn’t. Science works via observation, testing, repeating and confirming results, it is in the business of strictly empirical findings. This would seem to be true, and it is! However, the question that I’m asking is not about what science does, but rather what it is based on…or in other words, what makes science possible? I will just focus on one topic below in order to try and help answer the question…mathematics (there are many more paths we could go down).

Mathematics, science and faith?

Science, especially the discipline of physics is based upon mathematics. Mathematics underpins science and seems to uphold it (in a sense). The problem here is that, mathematics – as any scientists will tell you – is law like, so much so that it is essentially refer to as “laws of mathematics”. In order for scientists to be able to land people on the moon, and to be able to send satellites into orbit around the world they have to utilise these laws of mathematics. The huge underlying questions however are: what are the laws of mathematics? Where did they come from? And why are they so consistent? Notice that scientists didn’t create and do no not uphold these laws of mathematics. Einstein knew this very well when he made the statement saying: “How is it possible that mathematics, a product of human thought that is independent of experience, fits so excellently the objects of physical reality?”[1]

The problem is that science is supposed to works empirically, however, the laws of mathematics are immaterial. E=MC2 is not something physical you can touch, it is an immaterial mathematical equation which helps us to understand the nature of mass and energy. Hopefully you are starting to see the big picture here.

Fundamentally, there is a major disconnect between ‘doing science’, and ‘knowing why science works’. The ‘knowing why science works’ part is something that is believed primarily by faith when it comes to truths such as mathematical laws. In fact, this topic cuts so deeply into the world of science that it caused Nobel Prize winning mathematician Eugene Wigner to write an entire paper entitled The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences. The last quote at the end of the paper is probably one of the most striking, and it puts a finger on Wingers central thoughts on the whole topic. Winger says that:

The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.[2]

This to me is a bit like a statement of faith from Wigner, and this is not a bad thing! It is just simply an admittance that science does not contain all the answers, and furthermore, it is an admittance that science cannot even fundamentally account for why it works in the first place.

 

Science and Religion

With this now is mind, I think it is easier to show that the straight line that people tend to draw between science as being “empirical truth” and religion as being “based on pure faith” in not as easily marked as first thought. A few point to consider are that:

  • Faith is a concept that applies to everybody whether religious or not.
  • Science is based upon faith on mathematical laws (and we could extend this to faith in gravity, energy, and light as well since nobody in the world knows what any those things fundamentally are)
  • There are at least four definitions of the word faith (Warranted, blind, evidence based, irrational,) and so we must know which definition we are talking about when we speak about the word
  • Scientists have a fundamental faith in certain unexplainable phenomena just like religious people do. God’s existence cannot be explained by humans, but neither can the laws of mathematics, or gravity, or energy, both fields exhibit very large degree of trust…faith!

 

References:

[1] Max Jammer. 1921. Einstein and Religion, Princeton University Press,

[2] Eugene Wigner. 1960. THE UNREASONABLE EFFECTIVENSS OF MATHEMATICS IN THE NATURAL SCIENCES. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.maths.ed.ac.uk/~aar/papers/wigner.pdf.

Did Jesus Christ Really Exist?

Jesus - real or not

It is widely known today that Jesus did exist. Even the average non-religious person on the street can accept that Jesus was at least a good moral teacher (although there are issues with this position as C.S. Lewis points out). However, on rare occasions, we still overhear the claim that Jesus never really did exist, but instead he was a mere hypothesis as French philosopher Michel Onfray maintains.[1]

What is the evidence that he did exist?

1) Well firstly we have 4 biographies of Jesus’ life: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Now I know the automatic charge from a sceptic against this will be that “the New Testament (NT) isn’t a reliable document”, so let me quickly dispel that myth citing world renown atheist New Testament critical scholar Bart Ehrman. He says that:

If he [Bruce Metzger – most influential 20th century NT scholar] and I were put in a room and asked to hammer out a consensus statement on what we think the original text of the New Testament probably looked like, there would be very few points of disagreement – maybe one or two dozen places out of many thousands.  The position I argue for in ‘Misquoting Jesus’ does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.[2]

Now when we look at the dating of the four biographies, all four of them were written within at least 70 years of Christ’s death. This is excellent in terms of time frame because it means that not enough time has passed between Jesus and the biographies for mythology to creep in. To give you an example of how close this gap is within ancient history, let’s compare it to the Iliad written by Homer. The Iliad is ancient Greek epic poem written in dactylic hexameter.  The problem here is that there is at least a 400 year gap between Homer (850BC according to Herodotus) and the first copy of the Iliad (7-8th Century) available to us. 400 years compared to just 70 is a big difference.

The four biographies also pass the test as standard eyewitness accounts (or at least reports off of eye witnesses – for example the book of Luke) based within first century Jewish culture.

2) St Paul (New Testament evangelist) writes a letter in 1 Corinthians 15 attesting to the life and death of Christ. Scholars place this letter at about 25 years after the death of Christ. Within a historical context, this is a very close proximity, and so counts as valuable evidence adding to the idea that Jesus really did exist since he was being written about so soon after his death.

3) We also have many extra Biblical reports of Jesus cited from ancient figures around the time of Jesus (ill jus point out a few):

3a) Flavius Josephus who was a Romano-Jewish Scholar and historian. He was born 37AD and died 100AD and he wrote a history of Judaism around 93AD in which he makes a reference to James the brother of “Jesus, who was called Christ”.[3].

3b) We also have reports from Irenaeus. Irenaeus lived from 130AD to 202AD and he was an early church father and apologist. He references the four gospels in one of his writings confirming the claims of each of them. This provides good evidence because it shows that the gospels had to have been written before the 2nd century since someone in the 2nd century was referencing all of them. Jesus himself would have lived in the 1st century and so this places a lot more weight on the idea that the gospels were written by people who actually knew Jesus because they were living around the same time as him.

3c) Lastly, we have the Babylonian Talmud which is a commentary on Jewish laws written between 500-600AD. Within this text (Tractate Sanhedrin 43a), we see a clear reference to Jesus Christ and his death by hanging (on the cross) by the hands of the Jews and Romans. It even references the period of time in which Jesus was hung.[4]

We now return to Bart Ehrman prominent atheist scholar and historian. In a series of quotes in his book Did Jesus exist? Bart says that:

Every week I receive two or three e-mails asking me whether Jesus existed as a human being. When I started getting these e-mails, some years ago now, I thought the question was rather peculiar and I did not take it seriously. Of course Jesus existed. Everyone knows he existed. Don’t they?

…I decided to look into the matter. I discovered, to my surprise, an entire body of literature devoted to the question of whether or not there ever was a real man, Jesus.

…I should say at the outset that none of this literature is written by scholars trained in New Testament or early Christian studies teaching at the major, or even the minor, accredited theological seminaries, divinity schools, universities, or colleges of North America or Europe (or anywhere else in the world). Of the thousands of scholars of early Christianity who do teach at such schools, none of them, to my knowledge, has any doubts that Jesus existed.

…But as a historian I think evidence matters. And the past matters. And for anyone to whom both evidence and the past matter, a dispassionate consideration of the case makes it quite plain: Jesus did exist. He may not have been the Jesus that your mother believes in or the Jesus of the stained-glass window or the Jesus of your least favorite televangelist or the Jesus proclaimed by the Vatican, the Southern Baptist Convention, the local megachurch, or the California Gnostic. But he did exist, and we can say a few things, with relative certainty, about him.[5] 

Here we can see even Ehrman himself has no issue with admitting that the historical evidence points to Jesus being a real person. He essentially tells us within these quotes that it isn’t even a debate amongst trained historians and scholars, it only surfaces as a problematic question amongst untrained writers in this area who (possibly) have an agenda (evident in the fact that they misquote Ehrman in support of their point – the mythicist argument).

It seems it is implausible to claim that Jesus didn’t exist. If we can at least get this far then the next question to asses would be, was Jesus really God or just a fraud? And did he prove this on the cross or not?

 

References:

[1] Simon Gathercole. 2017. What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/14/what-is-the-historical-evidence-that-jesus-christ-lived-and-died.

[2] Bart D. Ehrman. 2017. Misquoting Jesus:The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (Plus). [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Misquoting-Jesus-Story-Behind-Changed/dp/0060859512.

[3] William Whiston. 2017. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0146%3Abook%3D20%3Awhiston+chapter%3D9%3Awhiston+section%3D1.

[4] come-and-hear. 2017. Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin Folio 43a. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.come-and-hear.com/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_43.html. [Accessed 2 August 2017].

[5] Bart D. Ehrman. 2017. Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0062204602/?tag=stno-20.

 

According to Richard Dawkins and Francis Crick, Humans are Just Atoms in motion?

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“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”1

According to Richard Dawkins in his book River Out of Eden: A Darwinian view of Life, humans are nothing more than chemical reactions, guided purely by genes acted upon by blind physical forces.

According to Francis Crick co-discoverer of the DNA molecule “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… you’re nothing but a pack of neurons.”2

These are two very bold statements, and it seems you will find people on either side of the fence. Some will totally agree with this reductionist view of life, whilst some will abhor the very thought that humans could be reduced to essentially nothing.

I think firstly – as Professor of Science and Religion – Alister McGrath would say, we need to take both statements seriously. Whilst I don’t personally agree with the view of life portrayed by Dawkins and Crick, I completely and utterly respect them both as people and scientists, and so in challenging their opinions I want to do so respectfully.

Are Dawkins and Crick Correct?

Yes, it is possible that they are correct…however I don’t think the evidence points in favour of them being correct. Let’s take just three points below in order to unpack what I am suggesting.

  1. If Dawkins and Crick are correct, then morality is subjective

This is to say that if humans are nothing more than a ‘bag of neurons’, how do we decide what is right and wrong? A typical response is that “humans just know”, philosophically however, this is illogical and easily refutable; it doesn’t provide an answer at all and it barely even addresses the question at hand.

In this worldview (where there is no God), the human mind is the highest entity. This poses a huge problem because, which human mind decides what is morally acceptable? Theresa May? Trump? Hitler? You? me? If one person decides that they want to go around stealing money off strangers, it has no bearing on someone else who decides that they want to go around giving strangers £50 notes. Remember, according to Dawkins there is “no purpose, no evil, no good” to life, everything is relative and so you cannot suggest in life what ‘OUGHT’ to be done, you can only suggest what ‘IS’. But then what do we do with all the war in the world, and murder, and rape and terrorism? Are all these things ‘not actually evil’? And what do we do with seemingly good things like charity, and selflessness? Are these things ‘not actually good’? Most likely any person with a degree of reasoning capacity would almost undoubtedly agree that raping and then murdering an innocent child is evil, however as soon as they do this they step outside of the Dawkins Crick subjectivism, into the theistic worldview of objectivism. In the theistic worldview, God is the moral standard who is above the human mind and so his commandments (which flow out of his nature) dictate right and wrong. In this way, you can say that certain things ARE right and wrong. However, anyone who ascribes to the Dawkins Crick view, must maintain that right and wrong and purely subjective (which I think is impossible to hold to), because there is no God – or in other words ultimate/objective standard. In this then objective morality seems to point away from this Dawkins Crick view of life.

  1. Humans innately have a deep sense of wonder and meaning. If Dawkins and Crick are correct, these senses are nothing but illusions

According to English writer Jeanette Winterson “We cannot simply eat, sleep, hunt, and reproduce – we are meaning seeking creatures.If the Dawkins Crick view is correct, then Jeanette is wrong as ‘meaning’ is just an illusory chemical component produced by our “selfish genes”. So, which view seems to be more evidentially based? Meaning seems to be embedded into the very fabric of human existence. Every morning that you get up out of your bed you are exhibiting meaning and purpose, every time you go to school, or university or work, or spend time with friends or family, you exhibit meaning. If meaning and purpose exited the world despair would be the only logical position available. Suicide has a strong correlation with a sense of meaninglessness. Professor of psychology Todd Kashan lists 5 signs that relate to suicide rates and amongst that list is ‘hopelessness’, the idea that it isn’t likely that things are going to get better.4

Philosopher Richard Rorty believes that meaning is entirely man made, he suggests that “We invent meaning – including our ideals of identity purpose and value”.5 There are a couple of problems with this view. Firstly, as I have already raised in the first point, who decides who’s meaning is correct? Another way to state it is, what happens when you have two directly conflicting ideals trying to occupy the same space? Survival of the fittest maybe? How do you adjudicate between the two since ultimately, it’s all relative? Secondly, logically and philosophically speaking, the very claim that meaning, purpose and value are subjective IS in itself an objective claim about meaning value and purpose. The phrase ‘we invent meaning’ is an objective claim about how meaning relates to human beings throughout all time and space, and so on the outset, this view is actually self-refuting as it doesn’t actually escape the objective view of meaning which it is trying to do.

A final point to make is on the concept of God and meaning. If there is a God, then there is a possibility of objective meaning to life as it is God who grants us life and the meaning to which we live. Now I think that there is strong evidence to support the existence of God such as the ‘Kalam Cosmological Argument’, the ‘Teleological Argument’ and the Argument from the longest piece of information known to man…DNA, (there is no time to go through each of these these here). If it is true that God does exist, then it lends much credibility to the correlation between faith and objective meaning/purpose. As C.S Lewis boldly maintained “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.”6

3. If Dawkins and Crick are correct…then they are wrong

This is probably the most devastating blow against the Dawkins Crick view. The point again made is that if Dawkins and Crick are right, then they are wrong. So how is this possible? J.B.S Haldane was a British-born Indian geneticist, biometrician and physiologist who opened new paths of research in genetics and evolution. He summarized the fundamental issue with the Dawkins Crick view in a quote in which he says:

“If my mental processes are determined solely by the motion of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.”7

If we understand what is being said here, Haldane points out the fact that the Dawkins Crick position is a self-refuting position from the get go. It can’t even get itself off the ground simply because of the fact that if the view turns out to be true, then it doesn’t just undermine the worldview of theism, it also undermines every single worldview known, including Dawkins and Crick’s own atheism. So, in attempting to prove their worldview, they actually end up disproving it in the end.

I think after going through these three points, it seems clearer that the evidence supposedly in favour of the Dawkins Crick view, is obsolete. Humans are meaning seeking creatures and when we take the evidence logically on board, it suggests to us that we are more than just “a pack of neurons”. We are bio-organism with a mind, a heart a soul and a spirit and all these components plus many more make up the complexity that is…the human being.

 

References

 

[1] Dawkins, RD, 1995. River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life. 1st ed. United Kingdom: Basic Books

[2] Francis Crick, The astonishing Hypothesis: The scientific Search for the Soul. London: Simon & Schuster, 1994, 3; II

[3] Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? London: Vintage, 2012, 68

[4] Dr Todd Kashdan. 2017. Why Do People Kill Themselves? New Warning Signs. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/curious/201405/why-do-people-kill-themselves-new-warning-signs.

[5] Richard Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minneapolis Press, 1982, xlii

[6] C.S Lewis, Essay Collection. London: HarperCollins, 2002, 197, 21

[7] J.B.S Haldane, Possible Worlds, 1927, p.209

Is Religion the Main Cause of Wars?

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This has been echoed many times throughout modern civilisation, “if we got rid of religion, we would have less war in the world.”

Richard Dawkins, arguably the world’s most famous atheist remarks that if religion was abolished, there would be a “much better chance of no more war1

Many atheists seem to hold to this rhetoric, and when in conversation with a religious person, tend to bring up this objection.

In some sense, it is easy to see why this argument is used so frequently; taking the most notable example of our day, ISIS present an ongoing threat that is plastered all over the media constantly. Being a part of Islam it is therefore easy to link the two together and then to suggest that religions like this cause the problems of war and violence in the world. Whilst this seems logical on the outset, here is the major problem: The evidence does not support this view. In fact, it goes almost completely against it.

Firstly, when we look The Encyclopaedia of Wars, with an exhaustive study published in 2008 citing 1,763 throughout anthropological history, it marks a mere ‘123’ of the wars as religious. In percentages, this is only about 7%! The other 93% (or 1,640) of wars were caused by other means.2

This on its own more or less defeats the claim that religion is the main cause of war, however we can support the evidence even further.

The institute for Economics and Peace recently published reports supporting this idea and debunking the myth that religion causes war.3 They found that a country with less religion does not make it necessarily more peaceful. Amongst other places they cite North Korea as an example. North Korea is a country with minimal religion however it was deemed 10th in the ‘least peaceful country’ to be in in 2013.4

Lastly, Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion Alister McGrath comments that:

 

The 20th Century is perhaps the greatest obstacle to that the metanarrative of secular progress has to overcome, not least because of its sacred mythology of the unique capacity of religion to generate violence. The First Word War, the Great Depression and the Second World War all raised awkward questions about the plausibility of this narrative. We were told that if we got rid of religion – or at least neutralized it, pulling out its teeth – then the likelihood of war would be drastically reduced, since religion was a key element in causing global conflict. Yet as far as scholars can see, there were no significant religious motivations for either the First World War (death toll around 16 million) or the Second World War (death toll around 60 million).5

 

The myth that religion is the main cause of war/violence is unfounded according to the evidence. Yes, it may “reflect it”6,  however, as Alister McGrath also states, “We need to face up to the fact that, as a species, human beings are animals that use violence to achieve their ends.”7a 7b  The problem isn’t with religion, the problem is with us…humans.

 

 

Referencing

[1] Louise Ridley. 2014. Does Religion Cause War… And Do Atheists Have Something To Answer For?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/11/14/religions-war-cause-responsible-evidence_n_6156878.html.

 

[2] Charles Phillips. 2017. Encyclopedia of Wars – 3 Volume of Set (Fact on File Library of World History). [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Wars-Volume-Library-History/dp/0816028516.

 

[3] Institute for Economics and Peace. 2017. Religion and War. [ONLINE] Available at: http://economicsandpeace.org/.

 

[4] Forbes. 2017. The Most And Least Peaceful Countries. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/pictures/54f4e703da47a54de82444a7/no-10-north-korea/#60588f2e55f6.

 

 

[5] McGrath, AM, 2017. The Great Mystery – Science, God and the Human Quest for Meaning (p 181 -182). 1st ed. Great Britain: Hodder & Stoughton An Hachette UK company.

 

 

[6] McGrath, AM, 2017. The Great Mystery – Science, God and the Human Quest for Meaning (p 182). 1st ed. Great Britain: Hodder & Stoughton An Hachette UK company.

 

[7] McGrath, AM, 2017. The Great Mystery – Science, God and the Human Quest for Meaning (p 182). 1st ed. Great Britain: Hodder & Stoughton An Hachette UK company.

 

[7b] I do not agree with the statement that humans are animals, however I used the quotation to get across the main point which is about humans and violence

What Was the Significance Between Methuselah and The Flood of Noah?

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As you may know from scripture or possibly by word of mouth, there is a character in the Bible called Methuselah found in Genesis 5. Methuselah was and is the oldest man to ever live on this planet. According to scripture, he lived up until the ripe old age of 969. What a life!

But perhaps what’s even more significant is how God used Methuselah and his life to give an indication as to the coming judgement that was to befall the people of the time. Lets get some of the basic facts and numbers straight.

The genealogy in Genesis 5 presents Enoch as Methuselah’s father. Enoch was sixty-five when he gave birth to Methuselah. Then Enoch lived another 300 years before God whisked him away. That section of scripture plus Hebrews 11:5 indicates that Enoch did not taste death but was transported directly into heaven due to the fact that he walked so closely with God. Following on, we have Methuselah who was 187 when he gave birth to Lamech who was Noah’s father. Lamech was 182 when he gave birth to Noah, and Noah was 600 years old when the Floodwaters came.

So what was the significance?

Well we will need to translate Methuselahs name into its Hebraic meaning. It was tradition back in those days for a child’s name to mean something of value, weather negative or positive depending on certain factors around the time of the child’s birth. If you convert Methuselah to its original Hebraic meaning, it translates to, “his death shall bring Judgement.”

So what was the enormous worldwide event that took place around this time that the Bible records? The flood of Noah of course! Note that Methuselah was 187 years old when he gave birth to Lamech and Lamech was 182 when he gave birth to Noah. Add 187 with 182 and that would make Methuselah 396. Exactly at this age, Noah was born and then exactly 600 years later, Noah was 600 and the Flood came about. Add 600 to 369 and you get 969, the exact year of the flood and Methuselahs death. Remember Methuselahs name’s Hebraic meaning, “His death shall bring Judgement”? Well that’s exactly what happened, just as God intended. God used Methuselah as a reference point in counting down the days until the first worldwide Judgement upon the evil of the world. When the appointed time was up, God released the floodwaters and only Noah and his family who were obedient to God and accepted his grace were saved. God truly does work in mysterious ways doesn’t He!

Who did Cain Marry? – Theology

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Genesis 4: 16 “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. 17 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.”

This is probably one of the most common questions asked in regards to Genesis, Adam and Eve, and the post-sin world in terms of marriage. Who did Cain marry? I’ve been asked about this question on a number of occasions. What I have come to notice is that, I’ve probably heard just as many Christians ask this question as non-Christians.

The answer is actually quite simple and as Christians, we should not allow questions like these ones to cause us to doubt our faith, or bog us down when we are put on the spot by a sceptic. 1 Peter 3:15 reminds us, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

The context of the situation

We have to look at the context of the situation to get a better understanding of what we are dealing with here. In Genesis 1, God creates Adam and Eve the first two humans. In Genesis 3, Satan causes them to sin, and because of this God sadly has to cast them away from his presence and so they begin to physically and spiritually die (before this, they were sinless and in perfect union with God). In Genesis 4, we see that Adam and Eve have their first two children, Cain and Abel. Cain is a farmer, and Abel is a keeper of animals. On one particular day, they both bring offerings unto God, however God rejects Cain’s offering because Cain tries to present his offering based on his own works and in the wrong heart and mind. Cain conspires and kills His brother Abel, and at this point God sends Cain out of his presence. It is at this juncture that the question arises.

Who did Cain Marry?

Genesis 4: 16 “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. 17 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.” As we can see from this verse, Cain makes love to his wife in the land of Nod east of Eden. But who is his wife? Scripture hasn’t mentioned any other female names apart from Eve by this point. Firstly take note that this verse says that Cain knew his wife (had sexual intercourse) in the land of Nod, he did not find her there and then marry as many people mistakenly assert. He was already married to her and just brought her along to Nod.

To answer the Question at hand, Cain married his sister…I know what you might be thinking right now, as most people do as soon as the answer is given. That’s incest! How can he marry his sister! The bible is immoral! Before you make your judgements too quickly, allow me to explain to you why this was perfectly acceptable back then, but not now.

In genesis 5:4 we read, “After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters.” What we see here is that Adam and Eve actually had many other sons and daughters after Cain, Abel and Seth (who is their third son) were born. This means that the only options for marriage were their own sisters (or brothers). Secondly there would be no one to report incest to apart from their own brother or sister and so that wasn’t an issue at the time. Thirdly, incest is a modern word. There was no such thing at that time almost 6000 years ago.

The two most important points to bring up about this actually lie in genetics, and history however.

The Genetic Reason

Scientifically speaking, the only reason why incest is incest, is because since the time of Adam, humans have slowly accumulated mutations and degenerations due to the fact that we are a copy off of a copy off of a copy off of a copy…off of Adam and Eve, (just try to copy a CD a few thousand times, and then compare how much information is left on the last CD as opposed to the first one…Not much!). We are now at a point where, if you were to marry a really close relative, say cousin or sister, your genes would more than likely have a high chance of harbouring the same defects. This means that when you have your child, he or she will now exhibit those deformities (look at the case of Charles Darwin who married his cousin and had 10 children of which, most of them had serious defects and some of them died very early). If humans carried on in this way, before long all humans would pretty much be wiped out. The further away you marry from yourself, the less of a chance that your genes will have the same defects as your partner. Now your child has a much stronger chance of survival as the good genes from one parent will mask over the bad genes from the other parent causing very minor issues if any, as oppose to life threatening ones.

Since Adam and Eve were created perfect, sinless and mutation-less, they had perfect genes and so when they had their sons and daughter, only extremely minor (if any at all) genetic issues started to arise. This means that they could marry each other no problem, and so incest was not a problem. This then leads into the historical reason.

The Historical Reason

God knew that at some point, because of sin and slowly accumulating mutations, there would come a point where extremely close relatives couldn’t marry anymore. This defining point is seen in the book of Leviticus 18:6-18 over 2000 years after Adam and Eve, where God gives an entire list of DO NOT’S to Moses for the Israelites to follow in regards to sexual relations and marriage.

So if God establishes all laws and before this point there was no law against marrying a close relative because of little to no genetic issue, then we can safely say that there truly was nothing wrong with close relatives marrying before this point, it broke absolutely no laws!

It is always good to know that when we come across difficulty in scripture, there is almost always an answer. The answer might not be obvious at first, but because God’s Word is true and he wants us to understand it, he will make sure to provide a way for us to make sense of it!

Can Science Answer Everything? Science Vs. Religion

Math formula

Experiment [science] is the only means of knowledge at our disposal. Everything else is poetry, imagination” – Max Planck.

Many people today take the position that science can answer everything. This viewpoint (whether known or not) involves the affirmation of the idea that science can answer questions of origins, morality and human purpose as well as the workings of astrophysical bodies and the function of DNA within the cell nucleus. Whilst science is no doubt an amazing field of study, research and discovery, I fear that many individuals today have propelled this subject into a position of prominence in which it cannot itself bear the weight of without crumbling.

This ‘scientific’ view of life has a number of names: ‘scientific naturalism’, ‘metaphysical naturalism’[1] , or ‘scientism’. Oxford University Chemist Professor Peter Atkinson is an outspoken believer in this worldview. He asserts that:

Every real question, like, where did the universe come from, where is it going, and how is it getting there – there is nothing of that nature that science cannot illuminate”[2]

Is this position tenable however? It is one thing to make a claim, and another thing to actually demonstrate it to be true.

It seems to me that at the heart of this contention, the underlying issues come to light in the term and saying that we all know and/or hear about so frequently; namely being: science Vs religion or science Vs faith and the unending debate between the two fields. It is assumed by many that science deals with a certain set of questions pertaining to hard facts and real knowledge whilst religion only deals with questions pertaining to purpose, afterlife and morality, all things that are optionally believed but not true or useful for objectivity in real life. Stephen Jay Gould coined this division as ‘Non-Overlapping Magisteria’.[3]

There are multiple problems that follow on from scientific naturalism however, the most obvious of which being that there are many questions that science simply cannot answer. What tends to happen when a person (who holds to scientism) tries to answer a question outside of the realms of science, is that they step into the world of philosophy (usually without even realising). Once this happens, the individual who is trying to prove that their worldview is logically cogent has simultaneously refuted their own worldview, rendering their argument quite useless.

Is it really science vs religion?

Of course this is the idea that is portrayed nowadays, however history paints a completely different backstory story. First and foremost we should understand that every major field of science that we have today (from mathematics, to physics to chemistry etc. – what we call modern science) was started by a believer in God, and not just any God, specifically the God of the Bible. In his book ‘For the Glory of God’ Sociologist and Professor of the social sciences at Baylor University Rodney Stark states that:

Science was not the work of western secularist or even deists; it was entirely the work of devout believers in an active, conscious, creator God.[4]

Professor of History at Queens Mary University Thomas Dixson similarly remarks that:

It was never the intentions of the pioneers of modern science – men such as Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, or Rene Descartes – to undermine religions belief. Far from it. They envisaged Nature as an orderly system of mechanical interactions governed by mathematical Laws. And they hoped that people would see in this new vision the strongest possible evidence of divine power and intelligence.[5]

Secondly, contrary to popular belief, for the most part of the last 2000 years, science and religion have not been at warIn fact this whole idea of ‘science vs religion’’ only originated in the 19th century, just some 2-300 years ago. Two well-known historians were the primary cause of this: Andrew Dickson White and John William Draper. Dickson and White were the two most influential promoters of the ‘conflict thesis’ (the idea that science and religion were conflicting) and they determined to set religion and science into two opposing paths.[6] In his book ‘A history of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom’, White used the metaphor of ‘warfare’ to describe the relation between science and religion.[7]

Ultimately, what we need to realise is that before this point, the average scientist (in the western world) was a Christian, and as we have seen above, it was due to their faith in God that they were able to do such good science, not the opposite. It was because of their belief in the truth of scripture that they determined to apply their knowledge to the physical world. This application is what enabled western world science to advance far beyond that of eastern science where they still held to philosophical and deistic claims about the world. The myth of ‘science vs religion’ is quite frankly unfounded within history and most historians of science of today do not hold to this view anymore. As Lawrence M. Principe Professor of Humanities at Johns Hopkins University puts it:

The idea that scientific and religious camps have historically been separate and antagonistic is rejected by all modern historians of science.[8]

Questions that science cannot answer

Let’s now turn to the main investigation at hand; what are some of the questions that science cannot answer? We will just look at 8 questions of which science has no ultimate say.

  • Science cannot tell us whether or not God exists: This question is by definition, outside the realms of science (since science is to do with things you can observe, test repeat and confirm). This type of a question would fall under the domain of philosophy; within this field, we could come up with a more definite answer, but not in science. Of course, we can use science in order to provide evidence for or against God’s existence, however It cannot give the definitive yes or no answer.
  • Science cannot answer questions of history (objectively speaking): for example, how do we scientifically test who first president of the United States was? You can’t. We find this information out through historical records not scientific experimentation. This is not to say that we cannot infer past event using the scientific method (creationists and evolutionists both do infer past events alike based on an interpretation of the present facts at hand), however many questions such as whether holocaust really happen or not (I do believe it did happen) are not answered by scientifically testing people or buildings; we look to history for this.
  • Science cannot answer questions of origins, purpose and afterlife: How do you scientifically test for a purpose to life? How do you scientifically test if there is an afterlife? A scientific naturalist might say that we are just atoms and chemicals and the universe – which is made up of time space and matter – is all there is, and so there is no afterlife. The issue here is that that very worldview is a philosophy in itself, it is not a statement of truth or science (although it could be true). You could just as easily have a theist say that there is a God and therefore there is a metaphysical reality above the material world. Secondly the idea that the universe only contains time space and energy are a part of the very question at hand we are trying to determine. Scientific naturalism assumes that there is nothing metaphysical, and then goes onto say that there cannot be anything metaphysical because materialism is true. This would be a form of logical fallacy known as circular reasoning, or ‘begging the question’. The actual question isn’t answered because the materialist has assumed their worldview to be correct in order to answer a question that fits within their worldview.
  • The question of how we came to be on an organic and cosmic level are questions that science cannot fully answer. We can derive evidence of the answer from science but yet again, whether you believe in evolution or creation, both of these events were not observed by humans and so again fall outside of science into the realms of philosophy, theology and history.
  • Science cannot answer questions of morality: How do we determine what is right and wrong? Again, historically the fields of theology and philosophy have been at the forefront of this type of search, not science. The obvious question here becomes, how does science point us to a moral code/conduct? It seems to me that science can tell us how something worksBut it cannot tell us why we should carry out an action. For example, if someone is drowning in a lake, science explains to us how they will die within minutes if they are not saved; however, science cannot tell a passer-by why they should jump into the water in order to save the drowning personThat is a moral choice one is compelled to make apart from any knowledge of science.
  • Science cannot answer what the mind is: We know through scientific study and observation that humans have brains, and we can detect and study neurons are conducted through synaptic connections as we grow and develop. However, what is a thought? What is the mind? Scientists do not know exactly what these things are and how they interact with the brain for the simple fact that the mind and our thoughts are immaterial. For example, when you learn a new piece of information, your brain doesn’t suddenly gain ever so slightly in weight. It remains as it is, your entire life. This raises a fundamental question, where are our thoughts stored? Because of the nature of the mind, science cannot offer us an answer because science only deals with what is observable, testable, and repeatable. Of course, the field of neuroscience is a great area of research, and much has been uncovered about the human brain and how nervous system develops. But the point still stands that neuroscience won’t tell us what the mind or for that matter consciousness fundamentally is.
  • Science cannot answer why mathematical laws exist: Einstein marvelled at the appropriateness of mathematical laws in the universe when he said, “How is it possible that mathematics, a product of human thought that is independent of experience, fits so excellently the objects of physical reality?”[9] Einstein saw that there was a major disconnect between doing science and knowing why it works. What he realised was that mathematical laws seemed to be embedded in nature quite independent from what scientists could come up with in their own minds. He, as a scientist, could use mathematical laws, and express them in terms of mathematical equation and formulae, however he could not answer (through science) how they came to be, why they fit so well with his perceived knowledge within science, and how they allowed him to make correct predictions about the world and universe, they just seemed to be there ready to use. The laws of mathematics are immaterial, and yet they are foundational to science especially in the area of physics. What we uncover here is a huge amount of faith underpinning the very essence of science at its core. Scientists have no choice but to maintain that the laws of mathematics are real and will be upheld, without any scientific experimentation to back that claim up. For a theist this might not be such a problem since you would expect God, as a rational being, to create laws that are rational and logical in order for us to utilise. For an atheists however, this might pose a large dilemma; how does so much order come from chaos and blind chance? furthermore why are the laws so consistent? No matter which side you take, the bottom line is that science cannot tell us why these laws exist.
  • Science cannot answer how the scientific method itself came about: What is the scientific method? It is essentially a set of techniques applied to certain phenomena in order to research, and eventually gain new knowledge that was previously unknown. Anything done within the scientific method (observation, hypothesis, testing, repeating, confirmation) can be classed as science; anything outside of this would be classed as something else. The scientific method is said to have characterized science since the 17th century until today by a range of highly acclaimed scientists over the centuries.[10] However, the scientific method itself didn’t come about by the scientific method! It wasn’t an observable phenomenon found in nature tested on, repeated, refined and then eventually released as the latest discovery. It’s It is used in that exact way to characterise what it science, however it itself wasn’t discovered by that same method.
  • Science cannot answer why science works in the first place: The claim that science is the only way we can know anything has a fundamental problem. Bertrand Russell famous philosopher claimed that “Whatever knowledge is attainable must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, man cannot know.”[11] Here is the underlying problem: Russell has made a bold claim about science, however the very statement of speech he has made wasn’t discovered or tested by science/the scientific method, and so is his claim true? In other words, if his claim is true… it is false. It’s a self-refuting worldview right off the bat. There is an even deeper issue here at play however, and that is this (in the word of Professor John Lennox): “at the heart of all science, every scientist no matter who they are or when they have lived, has had a fundamental belief – faith – that the universe is accessible at least in part to the human mind. We call that the rational intelligibility of the universe”.[12] The rational intelligibility of the universe is basically the underlying fact that the human mind has the ability to comprehend the universe (at least in part). This is foundational to science, after all animals are not able to comprehend the universe in the same way we can, and because of this they are extremely limited in their overall perception of the world and what they can do within it compared on a whole with human beings. The rational ineligibility of the universe is taken for granted, not just by scientists, but by everybody, yet it is not a concept that science has an answer to.

There are many more questions like these that we could pose, such as why did music develop? Why do we only seem to move in one direction of time? Is the universe infinite? Why is over 80% of the world religious? Hopefully however this article at least gives an outline of the basic assumptions that every scientist takes for granted (when we look at the basic definition of science and what it can actually account for). My interests lie in philosophy, science and religion and so my questions were thought up along those lines of enquiry, but it would be an fascinating field of research to find out just how many questions in total science cannot answer! Maybe it’s possible that nobody in the world can answer a question like this.

Referencing/citation:

[1] Dr. Denis Alexander () Can Science Explain Everything?, Available at: https://www.bethinking.org/does-science-disprove-god/can-science-explain-everything

[2] P. W. Atkins (2011) On being: a scientist’s exploration of the great questions of existence, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[3] Stephen Jay Gould, “Nonoverlapping Magisteria”, Natural History 106 (March 1997): 16-22

[4] Stark, R., For the Glory of God: How monotheism led to reformations, science, witch-hunts and the end of slavery, Princeton University Press, 2003

[5] Dixon, Thomas (2008) Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction, : Oxford University Press. [P46-47]

[6]Frederick M. Seiler (2008) Science, Religion, and the Rise and Fall of the “Conflict Thesis”, Available at: http://fredseiler.com/essays/ConflictThesis.htm

[7] Dixon White (1896) History of the Warfare of science with theology in Christendom, : D. Appleton & Company

[8]Lawrence M. Principe, Transcript book for lecture course Science and Religion (Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2006), [p. 23]

[9] Albert Einstein (1879 – 1995)

[10] Scientific Method , Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/scientific_method

[11] Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970), Religion and Science, OUP, p. 243, 1961

[12] John Lennox () Faith and Science – Atheism vs Theism , Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bjm4zJKVOE&index=13&list=PLmDyNeFa7FOsSPJ2sPYfDFFriXyeVmBJn&t=325s