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Tuesday, April 27, 2010 | Comments (22)

Thanks to the theory of evolution, naturalism is now the dominant religion of modern society. Less than a century and a half ago, Charles Darwin popularized the credo for this secular religion with his book The Origin of Species. Although most of Darwin's theories about the mechanisms of evolution were discarded long ago, the doctrine of evolution itself has managed to achieve the status of a fundamental article of faith in the popular modern mind. Naturalism has now replaced Christianity as the main religion of the Western world, and evolution has become naturalism's principal dogma.

Naturalism is the view that every law and every force operating in the universe is natural rather than moral, spiritual, or supernatural. Naturalism is inherently anti-theistic, rejecting the very concept of a personal God. Many assume naturalism therefore has nothing to do with religion. In fact, it is a common misconception that naturalism embodies the very essence of scientific objectivity. Naturalists themselves like to portray their system as a philosophy that stands in opposition to all faith-based world-views, pretending that it is scientifically and intellectually superior precisely because of its supposed non-religious character.

Not so. Religion is exactly the right word to describe naturalism. The entire philosophy is built on a faith-based premise. Its basic presupposition—an a priori rejection of everything supernatural—requires a giant leap of faith. And nearly all its supporting theories must be taken by faith as well.

Consider the dogma of evolution, for example. The notion that natural evolutionary processes can account for the origin of all living species has never been and never will be established as fact. Nor is it "scientific" in any true sense of the word. Science deals with what can be observed and reproduced by experimentation. The origin of life can be neither observed nor reproduced in any laboratory. By definition, then, true science can give us no knowledge whatsoever about where we came from or how we got here. Belief in evolutionary theory is a matter of sheer faith. And dogmatic belief in any naturalistic theory is no more "scientific" than any other kind of religious faith.

Modern naturalism is often promulgated with a missionary zeal that has powerful religious overtones. The popular fish symbol many Christians put on their cars now has a naturalist counterpart: a fish with feet and the word "Darwin" embossed into its side. The Internet has become naturalism's busiest mission field, where evangelists for the cause aggressively try to deliver benighted souls who still cling to their theistic presuppositions. Judging from the tenor of some of the material I have read seeking to win converts to naturalism, naturalists are often dedicated to their faith with a devout passion that rivals or easily exceeds the fanaticism of any radical religious zealot. Naturalism is clearly as much a religion as any theistic world-view.

The point is further proved by examining the beliefs of those naturalists who claim to be most unfettered by religious beliefs. Take, for example, the case of Carl Sagan, perhaps the best-known scientific celebrity of the past couple of decades. A renowned astronomer and media figure, Sagan was overtly antagonistic to biblical theism. But he became the chief televangelist for the religion of naturalism. He preached a world-view that was based entirely on naturalistic assumptions. Underlying all he taught was the firm conviction that everything in the universe has a natural cause and a natural explanation. That belief—a matter of faith, not a truly scientific observation—governed and shaped every one of his theories about the universe.

Sagan examined the vastness and complexity of the universe and concluded—as he was bound to do, given his starting point—that there is nothing greater than the universe itself. So he borrowed divine attributes such as infinitude, eternality, and omnipotence, and he made them properties of the universe itself.

Sagan's religion was actually a kind of naturalistic pantheism, and his motto sums it up perfectly. He deified the universe and everything in it—insisting that the cosmos itself is that which was, and is, and is to come (cf. Revelation 4:8). Having examined enough of the cosmos to see evidence of the Creator's infinite power and majesty, he imputed that omnipotence and glory to creation itself—precisely the error the apostle Paul describes in Romans 1:20-22:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.

Exactly like the idolaters Paul was describing, Sagan put creation in the Creator's rightful place.

Carl Sagan looked at the universe and saw its greatness and concluded nothing could possibly be greater. His religious presuppositions forced him to deny that the universe was the result of intelligent design. In fact, as a devoted naturalist, he had to deny that it was created at all. Therefore he saw it as eternal and infinite—so it naturally took the place of God in his thinking.

The religious character of the philosophy that shaped Sagan's world-view is evident in much of what he wrote and said. His novel Contact (made into a major motion picture in 1997) is loaded with religious metaphors and imagery. It's about the discovery of extraterrestrial life, which occurs in December 1999, at the dawn of a new millennium, when the world is rife with Messianic expectations and apocalyptic fears. In Sagan's imagination, the discovery of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe becomes the "revelation" that affords a basis for the fusing of science and religion into a world-view that perfectly mirrors Sagan's own belief system—with the cosmos as God and scientists as the new priesthood.


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#1  Posted by Rick White  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 5:17 AM

The thing that still baffles me is how these scientists can hold to their ideas and theories so dogmatically in a field where these ideas and theories are constantly changing. The more we study the universe the more questions arise that just can't be answered or explained. Yet,they will arrogantly cling to their pet theories and accuse creationists of ignorance or just plain stupidity for viewing things differently. I am going to make a prediction. These same scientists that cling so dogmatically to these theories will twenty years from now blush that they once held their beliefs. And no I'm not clairvoyant,I've just seen it happen so many times. I believe these are the type of people Paul is talking about in Romans 1:22. Our ability to study the universe is so limited because of the vast distances we are dealing with. So,to take cheapshots at creationists and the Bible like they do is nothing short of arrogance. God does have a way of dealing with such pride and arrogance though Proverbs 16:18-20. In the end God will deal with the false religion of naturalism just like any other false religion 2 Peter 2:1-4.

#2  Posted by Stacey Petrosky  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 5:36 AM

I'm going back to school now to try and work on a second career. One of the courses I'm currently taking is Anatomy and Physiology. Keeping in mind this is a very basic course I have actually sat in class some days just amazed at how the human body works. And have one several occasions thought to myself quietly in class just how awesome God is.

What I don't understand is someone who has studied this and has way more than a basic understanding of all this can even entertain the idea that we came from nothing. Not only is a baby being conceived and born a miracle but the continuing ongoing life day to day every day is a miracle. Makes me sad and mad all at the same time. He really did form us and continues to sustain us.

#3  Posted by Ken Pulliam  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 8:39 AM

Metaphysical Naturalism is a worldview but it is not a religion, at least not in the common understanding of the word "religion." Naturalism has no liturgy, it has no house of worship, it has no holy book, it offers no prayers or worship, it has no paid clergy. It doesn't mark important events in a person's life such as birth, marriage, death.

Methodological naturalism is not a worldview but a methodogy used in science. Science has to assume natural causes because it has no tools to detect or study the supernatural. The supernatural, whether the kind found in Christian theology or Hindu theology or animistic religions is unpredictable. It acts according to its will and may or may not intervene in the world. Science is based on predictable result and repeatability. Thus, it must be based on methodological naturalism.

#4  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 9:13 AM

Ken,

Your explanation explains why science that attempts deals with the age of the universe is not true science. You said, "Science is based on predictable result and repeatability." That is not possible to do with the age of the earth and the formation of the universe. Science is simply outside its jurisdiction on these issues.

Therefore in this area science is truly faith-based.

#5  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 9:28 AM

Ken writes:

Naturalism has no liturgy, it has no house of worship, it has no holy book, it offers no prayers or worship, it has no paid clergy. It doesn't mark important events in a person's life such as birth, marriage, death.

I disagree. I see lots of religious language within naturalism.  The worldview attempts to explain our existence, define our meaning, and commands how we should think about reality.  It has a lot to say about important events in a person's life, particularly his origin, life, marriage and death.  To ignore these realities, which are often pontificated upon by many of the atheistic writers like Dawkins and Dennet, is naive and simplistic.

Ken continues:

Science has to assume natural causes because it has no tools to detect or study the supernatural. The supernatural, whether the kind found in Christian theology or Hindu theology or animistic religions is unpredictable. It acts according to its will and may or may not intervene in the world.

The Bible is not good enough in your mind to direct our thinking in these areas? Keep in mind I am not saying the Bible is a text book, just that it provides an infallible authoritative understanding of God creating in time and space. Scripture is a revelation from our creator who has told us about creation, who in fact does intervene in the world on a regular basis as He works out his sovereign purposes.  Why would that not be a relevant truth to how we investigate our world?  Do you deny this truth, or just think it is of no matter?

#6  Posted by Josué Morissette  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 9:49 AM

Naturalism has no liturgy, it has no house of worship, it has no holy book, it offers no prayers or worship, it has no paid clergy. It doesn't mark important events in a person's life such as birth, marriage, death.

Actually it does, it holds books from such authors as richard Dawkins and others, as being infailable and the source of truth. Live 8 concert and other types of concerts are a kind of worship to the earth and everything it contains. They have earth day and other yearly events. As far as temple goes, PETA, Greenpeace and others are not without their own infracstructures and regular meetings. All the authors and predominant scientist and conference givers could easily be compared to paid clergy, and to meetings ressembling religious meetings of people who hold a common belief. They have rites of passage such as demonstrations, sit-ins and other acts such as installing banners on bridges or tying yourself up to a tree, or celebrity posing for animal and environnemental causes, that realy solidifies someones status in such organisations. The fact that it is such a young movement that has really been exploding over the last decade or so limits the traditions and rituals they have, but it will come soon enough to add to the ones they already have.

#7  Posted by Ken Pulliam  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 10:21 AM

Gabriel,

Science can and has done repeatability tests in terms of dating various rocks, fossils, and so on. By establishing the accuracy of such dating methods, it has established with a high degree of probability the age of the earth. The age of the earth though is not just based on dating methods. It is confirmed by many different independent scientific disciplines. As for the ultimate origin of things and whether or not supernatural processes were or are at work, science has no tools to gauge such matters.

#8  Posted by Ken Pulliam  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 10:28 AM

Fred,

You say: I see lots of religious language within naturalism. The worldview attempts to explain our existence, define our meaning, and commands how we should think about reality. But this is precisely what a worldview does. If you want to equate the word "religion" with the word "worldview," fine but the dictionary does not agree with you. You say: It has a lot to say about important events in a person's life, particularly his origin, life, marriage and death. Yes as all worldviews do but it does not mark these occasions with religious rituals or symbols.

My point about supernatural not being detectable or confirmable by science is due to the fact that the supernatural person acts according to his will. For example, could the effectiveness of prayer be confirmed or disconfirmed by science in the same way that pharmaceuticals can be tested? The answer is no. Why? Because pharmaceuticals don't have a will; they cannot decide if they are going to work or not. Whereas, God may decide to heal one person but not another. Thus, the supernatural is not subject to scientific testing.

#9  Posted by Mark A Smith  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 10:33 AM

There certainly are scientists who take methodological naturalism and turn into a religion...I have seen it first hand. That being said, most scientists in my observation, do not go this far...they are simply atheists or agnostics.

As far as the nature of science, there is nothing wrong with it being naturalistic because the assumption is that the natural world operates in a certain way, and science discovers how that operation works. The difficulty is, God, through His word and through Jesus Christ, has revealed certain things to us...this is knowledge that CANNOT be gained by observation, but by revelation. This revelation includes the facts that God created the universe, that the only consistent interpretation of Scripture is that the universe is young, that Jesus was both God and man, that He died for our sin, was resurrected, and we can receive salvation by faith with the accompanying filling of the Holy Spirit, etc...These are all supernatural things and BY DEFINITION are not explainable by natural science.

Thus, science is a tool, but is ultimately useless in determining the significant things of life ( as John MacArthur staed above).

#10  Posted by Ken Pulliam  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 10:35 AM

Josue,

No reasonable person believes that Dawkins or any other author is infallible. Science itself is not infallible much less the conclusions of one individual. I doubt that all PETA or Greenpeace members are naturalists. I feel certain there are some supernaturalists in the crowd. These kinds of special interest groups are focused on one issue and yes you could say many of their members demonstrate "religious" zeal but they are not religions, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. They don't have cathedrals with liturgy and clergy and promises of eternal bliss or eternal torment. They simply don't have the trappings of religions. If you want to expand the definition of religion to include groups like PETA and Greenpeace, then just about every movement will have to be defined as a religion. NFL football would be a religion. NASCAR would be a religon. The Republican party and the Democratic Party would be religions. The Atkins diet would be a religion and so on. That is obviously stretching the word beyond any reasonable definition.

#11  Posted by Kurt Hutchison  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 11:44 AM

Hi Ken,

I was an old earther for a long time, and believed the age of the earth was cast in stone based on overwhelming evidence. The problem is the "evidence" is mostly a body of conclusions founded on the presumption of an old earth, and is surprisingly easy to refute for the house of cards it is. All the dating methods have that circular assumption built into them. Read some of the decent scientists that hold to a young earth position, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

I actually switched to the young earth position for theological reasons. Before I studied theology I was blissfully unaware of the many bad theological implications of the old earth position. Once I became aware of them however, my loyalty to scripture forced me to switch, regardless of "evidence". I don't switch positions easily or often, so that was a big deal for me. I knew enough history to know that prevailing scientific wisdom has been proven wrong wrt the Bible over and over again, so I took an "I'll wait for it in this case" approach initially. I found the scientists and their arguments about a year later, so I didn't have to wait very long. I was quite skeptical that they had anything resembling a decent case, but was pleased to find they did.

MacArthur's "The Battle for the Beginning" is a good primer for the theological issues involved, and highlights some of the theological compromises you may be unwittingly making if you adopt old earth.

#12  Posted by Jason Jacobs  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 12:01 PM

Mark A. Smith: I always appreciate your perspective as I know (from reading your prior postings) you are a scientist yourself. You have good insight and communicate it well. Thanks!

#13  Posted by Ken Pulliam  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 12:06 PM

Mark,

You say:Thus, science is a tool, but is ultimately useless in determining the significant things of life ( as John MacArthur staed above).

You are correct. Science cannot answer the ultimate questions such as: Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? and so on. That is why it is not a religion. Religions offer answers to these kinds of questions. Are the answers of one religion better than the answers of another? How can you decide? Most people adopt the religion of their particular culture and never seriously question it. It provides them with "answers".

#14  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 12:20 PM

 Are the answers of one religion better than the answers of another? How can you decide?

It is not too difficult to dismiss many religions because what they teach does not match up with reality. This isn't the time or place to thoroughly discuss this issue; we already know where you stand. But suffice it to say that if you can't see substantial differences among almost every religion and Christianity just from an objective level, you've kept your own eyes closed. I'm quite comfortable tossing out of hand Buddism, Hinduism, and many other religions that have no basis in reality whatsoever.

There is more to it, of course, but if you use reality (i.e. real life, as life really is), you can dismiss many religions.

#15  Posted by Joanne Beange  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 3:59 PM

Dr. Russ Humphreys gives an answer to the question by Rick White in post #1.

There is a little-known irony in the controversy between creationists and evolutionists about the age of the world. The majority of scientists-the evolutionists-rely on a minority of the relevant data. Yet a minority of scientist-the creationists-use the majority of the relevant data. Adding to the irony is the public's wrong impression that is is the other way around. Therefore, many ask: "If the evidence is so strongly for a young earth, why do most scientists believe otherwise?" The answer is simple; Most scientists believe the earth is old because they believe most other scientists believe the earth is old.

To read the whole article go to:

http://creation.com/why-most-scientists-believe-the-world-is-old

#16  Posted by Sara Cart  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 5:49 PM

Just to keep it short and simple...I don't have a religion. Religion is the continual repetition of an event or series of events. I have a faith. A blind belief in a triune God based on the word of the profits and deciples of the Bible which is a book written by God through divine intervention.

#17  Posted by Carol Gayheart  |  Tuesday, April 27, 2010at 7:52 PM

Mark says, "Thus, science is a tool, but is ultimately useless in determining the significant things of life." I like that. I'm thinking, "I have sewing tools, I have kitchen tools, my husband has carpentry tools & car tools,.. Now, if I want to measure how much rain falls tonight, I could use my thimble (but if it overflows, it will not be accurate, so I may have to make some assumptions.) I can use my kitchen measuring cup (but again, if it overflows = no accuracy & thus speculations.) However, my husband cannot use his wrench or drill to measure the rainfall. Those tools would be useless to measure the rain. So it appears that having the right tools is essential. Our discussion here has been measuring the age of earth & now includes measuring supernatural events.

Ken says, "My point about supernatural not being detectable or confirmable by science is due to the fact that the supernatural person acts according to his will... the supernatural is not subject to scientific testing." Agreed. Science cannot measure the supernatural.** But I believe we CAN measure the supernatural by looking at the change in a person's will! Peter denied Christ, but then spent the rest of his life preaching to the point of martyrdom! Saul/Apostle Paul was zealous to kill Christians, yet changed his attitude/belief after a supernatural encounter with Jesus Christ! He too spent his life preaching Christ & was martyred! Even Judas changed/regretted his actions & committed suicide. Jesus’ brothers James & Jude had a change of heart/will. The Bible is full of men changing their wills due to supernatural intervention. Christians have been martyred for their beliefs since the beginning of Christianity. Is that not at least one way to measure the supernatural? If Ken had a true supernatural encounter with Christ and accepted the young earth view, could we say that was a measurable event?

It all comes back to FAITH/BELIEF: **IF the earth was created by God supernaturally, then we should not be surprised that we cannot accurately measure certain aspects of that event with scientific testing methods. If the earth “just happened” naturally, then we might be able to “assume” or “model” some theories, but UNTIL we can RECREATE THE BEGINNING OF THE UNIVERSE, EVEN SCIENCE WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO ACCURATELY EXPLAIN HOW IT ALL BEGAN OR HOW LONG AGO THAT WAS. Personally, I’m content & confident to believe the Author of the universe & His word. And I do believe the serpent & the donkey spoke – but what language? That’s another blog! J

#18  Posted by Keith Farmer  |  Wednesday, April 28, 2010at 7:22 AM

Ken Pulliam wrote: The supernatural, whether the kind found in Christian theology or Hindu theology or animistic religions is unpredictable. It acts according to its will and may or may not intervene in the world.

The statement above does not agree with scripture nor does it agree with the Christian faith in any manner. In fact, what Ken has stated is merely deism.

Christianity, on the other hand, is based on the fact that God possesses necessary being. God's aseity is one of His immutable and non-transferable attributes. In scripture this is evident by such passages as: John 5:26; Psalm 90:2; Acts 17:24-25; and perhaps most notably Acts 17:28...In him we live and move and have our being.

R.C Sproul has a good teaching about God's aseity found here:

http://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/orlando_2004_national_conference/aseity-of-god/

#19  Posted by Anita B  |  Wednesday, April 28, 2010at 2:24 PM

Ken writes: "The supernatural ... is unpredictable. It acts according to its will and may or may not intervene in the world"

Almost, but not quite.

I think most Calvinists will concede that God's "secretive will" is not knowable. That is, although He's told us that killing is wrong, His "actual" will is that people do kill each other for reasons we cannot ascertain (although those people will still be punished for those very actions He decreed, of course). We don't know whether He's going to will a tornado, or a tsunami or a genocide or a bank robbery. From that (our) perspective, He's unpredictable. That doesn't mean He doesn't know what He's going to do. It's all quite intentional, you see.

#20  Posted by Lois Dimitre  |  Wednesday, April 28, 2010at 7:32 PM

To #15 Joanne Beange, and by extension #1 Rick White:

Joanne, thank you for the link to Dr. Humphrey's article. It really 'hits the nail on the head'. In particular, the response he received from another scientist:

"… he did not want to examine the evidence for himself, because, he said, ‘People I trust don’t accept creation'"

I couldn't believe it when I read it! I actually received a very similar response several years ago from a PhD Analytical Chemist (and a theistic evolutionist) with whom I worked. We had an ongoing 'friendly' debate about creation v evolution, young/old earth. I had brought to his attention a particular ICR article written by a PhD biochemist and wanted to get his thoughts. He 'floored me' by dismissing the work out of hand just because the author was a 'young earth creationist' associated with ICR. The inference was his work couldn't be trusted because of his religious beliefs. The ironic thing was they both earned their PhDs at the same university, the author having done so about a decade before the analytical chemist...

#21  Posted by Keith Krohn  |  Wednesday, April 28, 2010at 8:03 PM

I highly recommend MacArthur's teaching on Genesis 6:1 through Genesis 11:32. The teaching is in sixteen parts, coded consecutively as 90-254 through 90-269. You can punch the numbers into the search engine under the "Resources" tab at this website to locate each sermon.

Genesis can be an intimidating book, but I have learned so much from these! If you can commit to listen to one a day for a few weeks, you will be greatly educated in God's truth about where mankind really came from.

Most of us would hopefully consent that God made everything out of nothing as described in the first few chapters of Genesis. But, these sixteen teachings delve into many of the other important topics we often neglect to read or assume we know something about once we've read Genesis 1-3.

These teachings cover everything from evidence to the worldwide flood and how it was actually possible to how modern science misinterprets the fossil record. It also reveals who the Nephilim were, who the modern day descendants of Japheth, Shem and Ham are, what the design of Noah's ark really was and why, which three symbols in the Chinese language are used to spell the word "ship", why Noah sent out a raven first and then a dove into the post-flood world, and what it actually meant that the dove brought back a small snippet of an olive tree.

The best part is that as you listen to these sermons faithfully, you begin to understand how the world has lied to you, censored, and misrepresented a lot of things regarding our origins as God explains them in the Bible! It's been a very educational experience for me and I now have an even greater understanding of how God's word really has ALL the answers, you just have to dig for them.

Thank you John for your diligence in explaining God's Word verse by verse!

#22  Posted by Joanne Beange  |  Thursday, April 29, 2010at 9:04 AM

re: #20 Posted by Lois Dimitre

Just goes to show you that most evolutionary scientists aren't interested in the actual science if it comes from creationists. Creationist scientists are prejudged even before their work is examined.