Scientism Cannot Explain Away the Grandeur of God

You have opened this page on your web browser. Now you’ve got to close it. Find your shoelaces and start untying. I want you to take off your shoes. Moses approached the burning bush, the bush ablaze with God, and he took off his sandals. For St. Francis, the whole world was a burning bush ablaze with God, and so he never wore sandals. We, too, should take off our shoes. The world is a bush and it’s burning.

You wouldn’t know it, though, if you’ve fallen for the greatest spoof in history—the myth that the world is one big, wet, Godless machine. In a make-believe world made only of mechanical parts, people begin to think with pop scientist Sam Harris that religion is a mental illness and that theology is nothing more than a branch of human ignorance: “It is difficult to imagine a set of beliefs more suggestive of mental illness than those that lie at the heart of many of our religious traditions…. Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings.”

According to theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, believing the brain is a computer will cure people of religion. In an interview, Hawking proclaimed this new mythology: “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”Ethologist Richard Dawkins agrees: “There is no spirit-driven life force, no throbbing, heaving, pullulating, protoplasmic, mystic jelly. Life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information.” In the words of Dilbert, the creation of cartoonist Scott Adams, “Humans are nothing but moist robots.”

Can you hear the grinding of the analog computer as it processes such compelling electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic quantities to model the problem of existence? The noise is anything but beautiful. If the world is a bush ablaze with God, why is everyone wearing sunglasses and pretending they can’t see him? The reason is, in part, because we have bad metaphors. The popular imagination has exchanged what C.S. Lewis called the “discarded image”and Owen Barfield called the “discarded garment,” the vision of a Creator loving his creation, for the shiny metaphor of the machine. But an even deeper reason is found in our theory of a theory.

A Theory of a Theory
The wonderful, inconceivably intricate tapestry is being taken apart strand by stand; each thread is being pulled out, torn up, and analyzed; and at the end even the memory of the design is lost and can no longer be recalled.  —Erwin Chargaff, Heraclitean Fire

Too often we forget that, although sometimes helpful, to describe the universe as a machine is not to proclaim a deep truth but to employ a broken metaphor hammered out on the jumpy and stubborn typewriters of the modern era. As has often been pointed out, scientism is a religion, a “plausibility structure,” to use sociologist Peter Berger’s phrase. Nothing is wrong with scientific inquiry or technology, but we should not assume that this quest can be done outside the lordship of Christ, the Word, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. “Since every science … is concerned with the Trinity before all else,” wrote St. Bonaventure, “every science must necessarily present some trace of this same Trinity.” Our fault has been to compartmentalize the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus, to segregate God’s activity on earth from our scientific inquiry of the very same earth. Hark! The herald angels sing, but the shepherds are splitting atoms and the wise men are in business school, and no one is listening.

So it is that the widely acclaimed, best-selling author and biologist Edward Wilson says babies are “marvelous robots.” He suggests in his On Human Nature (a strange title to issue forth from the laboratory) that the brain is a biological machine of ten billion nerve cells, a device for survival and reproduction. People are nothing more than “extremely complicated machines,” and in Consilience that “the brain is a machine.” What we call thinking is really just chemical and electrical reactions. We are the product of our own molecular architecture, which automatically steers our ethics, which happens to be the only thing that distinguishes us from electronic computers. Chance and environmental necessity created the species. God is our original idea produced by the genetic evolution of nervous and sensory tissues, an idea that ultimately finds origin in quarks and electron shells. Thus, “beliefs are really enabling mechanisms for survival.”

When I purchased Wilson’s On Human Nature, I stepped into a nearby coffeehouse. Within minutes a woman sat down beside me and exclaimed, “I love that book. Wilson is my hero. What do you think of him?” I said I thought he was a good writer who had a lot to say but that I was not too sure of his presuppositions.

“Huh,”she said, suddenly more interested in her espresso than me. We didn’t say another word. It was as if someone drew a curtain. I must confess I was a little relieved to be spared the possibility of continuing the conversation. Looking back, I imagine it would have continued the way most of these conversations do:

“Um, you believe in whom?” she would ask in honest surprise.

“Jesus,” I would repeat. The coffee shop would become suddenly quiet.

“But, like, haven’t you heard of biology?”

“But of course.”

She would nod. Then, with a flood of pity, she would lean over: “Actually, did you know the brain is really an appliance?” she’d whisper, inviting me to share her amazement. “It’s even fueled by biochemicals and capable of mass-producing ideas as big as God, you know.”

I would blink dreamily back at her and ask, “Is that all the brain is?”

This woman has exchanged the Discarded Image for the shiny mechanical metaphors of today’s poets. Unlike her, however, most of us do not read philosophy books on materialism. So how did we become materialists? The model created by academics filters down to the courtrooms, to the classrooms, and, finally, to popular culture, where it is absorbed by teens and children and ordinary adults who will never read a philosophy book. It becomes prejudiced and thoughtless habit. We might think we live in a world of pristine MacBooks and J.Crew sweaters, a world so advanced it need not bother with threadbare poetry and tattered religion. But this ideology is born out of a religion—even if it’s the religion of New York elitism, newscaster exaggeration, newspeak, Microsoft, McDonald’s, and MTV. Behind every science research journal, calendar, business model, children’s book, or pop song is a constellation of assumptions about the kind of creatures we are. Even if these ideologies claim not to be religious, they weave our religious narrative, for human beings are inherently religious.

Before the modern era, theories about how the world works were just that: theories. They called their data “phenomena,” which to them meant something like what we mean by the word appearances. The phrase that dominated astronomy in the Middle Ages was “to save the appearances.” A scientific model was valued because it was convenient or practical, not because it was what we today would call a fact. The idea was to work with the explanatory models or paradigms best capable of “saving the phenomena” (σώζειν τά φαινόμενα, sozein ta phainomena). An astronomer’s hypothesis was an arrangement, a prop, for saving the appearances. “Things appear to be this way,” he would say. “They seem to be thus and such; they give the impression of being so.” The scientists in the sixteenth century, who also happened to be bishops, did not disagree with Galileo for his use of the telescope or his spotting Jupiter’s moons. They disagreed with his theory of a theory. Galileo believed a theory is not a theory, but a fact. His hypotheses did not “save the appearances,” but claimed to state truth.

In his Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry, Owen Barfield put it this way: “A representation, which is collectively mistaken for an ultimate—ought not to be called a representation. It is an idol. Thus the phenomena themselves are idols, when they are imagined as enjoying that independence of human perception which can in fact only pertain to the unrepresented.”

The notion that the models and stories we invent to explain the phenomena are actually deep truths was codified in the so-called Enlightenment of the seventeenth century and has since become unquestioned. Watching someone try to understand that the “law of gravity”is a man-made metaphor to describe the inexplicable is like watching someone wrestle a demon off his shoulders. People actually think “science”exists independent of or outside of the human narrative, the way a medieval thinker would think of God. Thus leading scientists, like Edward Wilson, can say, “The human mind evolved to believe in the gods. It did not evolve to believe in biology.”

Catholics believe the incarnation is the key to human nature. Scientists under the spell of the mechanical metaphor believe that biology is the key to human nature. They mistake the window for the view, as if the glass were an end in itself. Theories are no longer acknowledged as man-made models, but as established facts. “When the nature and limitations of artificial images are forgotten,” writes Barfield, “they become idols.”

Two Worlds
Serious historians are abandoning the absurd notion that the medieval church persecuted all scientists as wizards. It is very nearly the opposite of the truth.  —G. K. Chesterton, Saint Thomas Aquinas

If Christ is not our starting point, something other than Christ is. The American Dream, for example. When we forget that the Incarnation has practical applications for every corner of human life, we (often unconsciously) stuff Jesus into a box and get on with “real life,” by which we mean our cars, Walmart, the new business merger, and so on. We start to manage churches like businesses. Our worship services imitate the liturgy of the megamall or the Super Bowl halftime show—not because we’re trying to reach the culture, but because we actually are the culture. We begin to wear sunglasses. The world doesn’t look like it’s burning with the presence of God anymore.

We have a choice between two worlds. The world of Christendom is bright and burning with what St. John called the Light of the World. The world of contemporary pop-culture is cold and clicking with just bytes and bytes and bytes. Although there are similarities, by these two worlds I do not mean them to reflect what the British scientist C.P. Snow calls “the two cultures,” although his thesis illustrates the breakdown of communication between the sciences and the humanities. I mean something more along the lines of what Augustine spoke of in The City of God.

The longer we explore the differences between Christendom and contemporary pop-culture, the more we discover these outlooks on reality are in direct opposition to one another. One is the City of God, the other is the City of Man. Each city asks different questions. Physicist Paul Dirac gives this answer to the question of whether light is a particle or a wave: both, simultaneously. Light appears as a wave if you ask “a wave question,”and it appears as a particle when you ask “a particle question.” This reminds us that our observations will always be the observations of observers.

Science will always be a human science, a saving of the appearances. There is no such thing as a “pure science,” because our hypotheses hinge on what questions we ask. In the end, any scientist who chillingly determines to be “objective” will never really know the deep wholeness of a woman or a tree or a dog. Only affection and intimacy reveal to us the deeper qualities of creation. Only affection will bring us to our knees in epistemic humility. We see through a veil dimly, and as we shall explore later, how we know is shaped by how we love.

“Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God” (1 Cor. 8:2–3). God is present everywhere, even in the material world, because we live in a world where God has spoken and Jesus has trod. “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God,” wrote C.S. Lewis. “The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.”

The World is Burning
How much happier you would be, how much more of you there would be, if the hammer of a higher God could smash your small cosmos.   —G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

God walked in the garden, but we are of the garden. The space between the species and the specimen is not so great. In the world of contemporary pop-culture we are isolated from our surroundings. We “objectively observe” an “environment” in search of “facts.” In Christendom, however, we are invited to lovingly participate in creation, and so our fingers are always dirty. Unlike God, we are not able to step outside. Our five fallible senses, our invented instruments, our language, invite us to participate in creation as creatures. There is a ceiling to human knowledge, and only divine revelation can install skylights. Only in Christ does the riddle of creation cohere: “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16–17).

The world is a bush and it’s burning. In the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins, “the world is charged with the grandeur of God.” And if you seek his face, it will be your Purgatory, your process of preparation to enter the holy presence of the all-holy Trinity.

The paradox of biochemistry, the chemistry of life, is that it cannot define life. It can hardly study life. We must kill a cell before we can pick it apart. “It is typical of the mechanistic moderns,” said G.K. Chesterton, “that, even when they try to imagine a live thing, they can only think of a mechanical metaphor from a dead thing.”

It is truly strange that we think we are so advanced because of science and technology. The Nuremberg Code of medical ethics was not founded on a new biochemical discovery, but on an old and poetic conviction. Dr. Eduard Wirths at the Auschwitz concentration camp was a very different kind of doctor than Hildegard of Bingen at the monastery in Rupertsberg, and the difference is not that Wirths was more advanced or evolved. Science is but a tool in the hands of villains and saints; but can science discern which is which? On its own, biology can no more argue against human destruction and hate as it can defend human dignity and love. It must build its case for the value of human life from some other discipline: the discipline of taking off your shoes.

Editor’s note: The image above titled “Creation of Sun, Moon and Planets” from the Sistine Chapel was painted by Michelangelo, circa 1511.

Tyler Blanski


Tyler Blanski, a Catholic convert, is the author of When Donkeys Talk: Rediscovering the Mystery and Wonder of Christianity (Zondervan, 2012) and Mud & Poetry: Love, Sex, and the Sacred (Upper Room Books, 2010).

  • ForChristAlone

    #1 “If Christ is not our starting point, something other than Christ is. The American Dream, for example. When we forget that the Incarnation has practical applications for every corner of human life, we (often unconsciously) stuff Jesus into a box and get on with “real life,” by which we mean our cars, Walmart, the new business merger, and so on.”

    I have come to the conclusion that we ought to change the name of the feast day called “The Annunciation” to “The Incarnation” and that it, rather than Christmas or Easter ought to be the pivot of our liturgical calendar. One thing it would certainly accomplish is that Satan would be royally pissed off by this, the secularists will be baffled and confused as hell, and Christians will have to re-think their perceptions of who man is vis a vis the created world.

    #2 “When I purchased Wilson’s On Human Nature, I stepped into a nearby coffeehouse. Within minutes a woman sat down beside me and exclaimed, “I love that book. Wilson is my hero. What do you think of him?”

    The author forgot to mention that this happened at Starbuck’s

    • Vinnie

      It would pull the rug out from under what Christmas and Easter have become. To the benefit of all.

    • DE-173

      You mean Charbucks or Tarbucks, right?

    • former atheist

      Re:”Wilson is my hero…” I am amazed at the level of intellectual sloth out there, especially in the land-of-the-godless!

      For example, it is fashionable today to suggest that historically Christianity has been a force for evil rather than good: In his book “Atheist Delusions”, Historian David Hart describes how Richard Dawkins and other “new atheists” would have us believe that Western humanity, during the times of “the age of faith, culture stagnated, that science languished, wars of religion were routinely waged, that witches were burned by inquisitors, and Western humanity laboured in brutish subjugation to dogma, superstition, and the unholy alliance of church and state. That withering blasts of fanaticism and fideism had long since scorched away the last remnants of classical learning; that inquiry was stifled; that the literary remains of classical antiquity had long ago been consigned to the fires of faith, and that even the great achievements of “Greek science” were forgotten…”

      Dawkins’ story then generally continues [with the assertion] that the dawn of a new age gave birth to the Enlightenment, where church, superstition and intolerance were cast off in favour of reason, science and progress.”

      This, says Hart, “is a tale that is ‘easily followed and utterly captivating in its explanatory tidiness…”

      — BUT there is a HUGE PROBLEM with Dawkins’ story — “its DEFECT is that it happens to be FALSE in EVERY identifiable detail.”

      That is why it is interesting that even Jurgen Habermas (an atheist but nevertheless very appreciative of the immense contribution of Christianity to progress in civilisation and science) stated in 1999:

      “For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as MORE than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the DIRECT LEGACY of the JUDAIC ethic of JUSTICE and the CHRISTIAN ETHIC of LOVE. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical re-appropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is NO ALTERNATIVE to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk.” (from Jurgen Habermas “Time of Transitions”, Polity Press, 2006, page. 150-151)

      • former atheist

        “There is a ceiling to human knowledge, and only divine revelation can install skylights.” “Only in Christ does the riddle of creation cohere”

        These “skylights” are granted solely to the humble of heart who pray for wisdom]. It is interesting that the world’s top astro-phycists, scientists,
        mathematicians also readily confirm this same kind of observation:

        * John Polkinghorne, Professor of Mathematical Physics (University of Cambridge, and University of Kent) points out that wave particle duality in quantum physics is a case where two conflicting interpretations both apply to a situation (NB the discoverer was also vindicated – but after much derision and ridicule by his peers). By analogy, in orthodox Christianity theologians assert the concept that Jesus was BOTH human and divine. Just as physicists reconcile the dual nature of light, theologians reconcile the seeming paradox of Jesus’ true nature.

        * John Lennox, Mathematician (Oxford): examines the bizarre illogical arguments put forward by Atheists eg., in reference to immutable Laws of the universe with their “exacting precision” possibly “accidentally” / “magically” self-assembling with no Law-maker / Law-giver-God” (see Hawking)

        … and the analogy of camera parts somehow “magically” congregating in exactly the exactly-required correct sequence

        … so that such ill-considered notions, along with the sum total of
        their assertions – are “nothing but INCOHERENT MADNESS. What happened to their logic?”

        * Question: Is not relying on such illogical “magic” / “chance” precisely the
        definition of “superstition”?

        * Professor Edward Feser calls Atheism – “the ultimate superstition”.

        * John Lennox, Mathematician (Oxford) also describes a watch analogy and explains that no matter how long a collection of watch components are shaken about, they are unlikely to fall into the correct order to form a working watch … This surely requires a designer.

        * On the theory of Evolution, Pope Benedict ALSO says that a process of evolution in nature is entirely consistent with Genesis. He explains: “one day” (or “YOM” in Hebrew) as described in Genesis, would have been just as long as God intended … perhaps millions of years; that God’s “days” are not like our “days”… and that the Catholic and Anglican Churches, from the outset, saw Darwin’s theory of Evolution as entirely consistent with Genesis.

        * Lennox also states that surely there is nothing to stop God from introducing “something new” into the equation, if He (being a Law-maker)
        so wishes … much like an artist introducing a new colour into his work.

        * John Maynard Smith (originally an aeronautical engineer, became a British theoretical evolutionary biologist and geneticist and professor
        of biology at the University of Sussex): “…no biologist imagines that complex structures arise in a single step” (implying the necessity of a gradual evolutionary process).

        *Even eminent Astro-phycists, mathematicians, scientists (some of whom are agnostic) are moved by the logic of a “super-human entity”; “super-Mind”; “super-engineer”; “super -architect” of all that exists:

        * Barry Parker (cosmologist): “Who created these laws? There is no question but that a God will always be needed.” (20)

        *Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics): “When I began my
        career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced
        atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would
        be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.” (16)
        Note: Tipler since has actually converted to Christianity, hence his latest book, The Physics Of Christianity.

        * Fred Hoyle (British astrophysicist) — on whether the universe is simply (as Dawkins would have us believe) … just a lucky “coincidence??“

        – Take the delicate balance inside the hydrogen atom. Hoyle says:

        – If the combined masses of the proton and electron were suddenly to become a little more rather than a little less than the mass of the neutron, the effect would be devastating. The hydrogen atom would become
        unstable. Throughout the Universe all the hydrogen atoms would immediately break down to form neutrons and neutrinos. Robbed of its nuclear fuel, the Sun would fade and collapse. Across the whole of space, stars like the Sun would contract in their billions, releasing a deadly flood of X-rays as they burned out. By that time life on Earth, needless to say, would already have been extinguished).

        – These peculiar coincidences, the PRECISE balance of oxygen and carbon and of particles in the hydrogen atom (not to mention countless others), Hoyle refers to as “anthropic”—almost human, “as if Someone were speaking to us.”

        * George Ellis (British astrophysicist): “Amazing fine tuning occurs in the laws that make this [complexity] possible. Realization of the complexity of what is accomplished makes it very difficult not to use the word ‘miraculous’ without taking a stand as to the ontological status of the word.” (3)

        *Alan Sandage (winner of the Crawford prize in astronomy): “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.” (6)

        * John O’Keefe (astronomer at NASA): “We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures.. .. If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.” (7)

        * George Greenstein (astronomer): “As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency – or, rather, Agency – must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?” (8)

        * Arthur Eddington (astrophysicist): “The idea of a universal mind or Logos would be, I think, a fairly plausible inference from the present state of scientific theory.” (9)

        * Arno Penzias (Nobel prize in physics): “Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.” (10)

        *Roger Penrose (mathematician and author): “I would say the universe has a purpose. It’s not there just somehow by chance.” (11)

        * Tony Rothman (physicist): “When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it’s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.” (12)

        * Vera Kistiakowsky (MIT physicist): “The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine.” (13)

        * Robert Jastrow (self-proclaimed agnostic): “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” (14)

        * Alexander Polyakov (Soviet mathematician): “We know that nature is described by the best of all possible mathematics because God created it.”(17)

        * Ed Harrison (cosmologist): “Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God – the design argument of Paley – updated and refurbished. The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one…. Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or
        design argument.” (18)

        * Edward Milne (British cosmologist): “As to the cause of the Universe, in context of expansion, that is left for the reader to insert, but our picture is incomplete without Him [God].” (19)

        * Drs. Zehavi, and Dekel (cosmologists): “This type of universe, however, seems to require a degree of fine tuning of the initial conditions that is in apparent conflict with ‘common wisdom’.” (21)

        * Arthur L. Schawlow (Professor of Physics at Stanford University, 1981 Nobel Prize in physics): “It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one must ask why and not just how. The only possible answers are religious. . . . I find a need for God in the universe and in my own life.” (22)

        * Henry “Fritz” Schaefer (Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia): “The significance and joy in my science comes in those occasional moments of discovering something new and saying to myself, ‘So that’s how God did it.’ My goal is to understand a little corner of God’s plan.” (23)

        * Wernher von Braun (Pioneer rocket engineer) “I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.” (24)

        *Carl Woese (microbiologist from the University of Illinois) “Life in Universe – rare or unique? I walk both sides of that street. One day I can say that given the 100 billion stars in our galaxy and the 100 billion or more galaxies, there have to be some planets that formed and evolved in ways very, very like the Earth has, and so would contain microbial life at least. There are other days when I say that the anthropic principal, which makes this universe a special one out of an uncountably large number of universes, may not apply only to that aspect of nature we define in the realm of physics, but may extend to chemistry and biology. In that case life on Earth could be entirely unique.” (25)

        * Antony Flew (Professor of Philosophy, former atheist, author, and debater) “It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.” (26)

        * Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics): “From the perspective of the latest physical theories, Christianity is not a mere religion, but an experimentally testable science.” (27)

        * Professor Francis Collins, (former atheist): on Fine-Tuning and other Pointers to God – Fine-tuning refers to the surprising precision of nature’s physical constants and the beginning state of the universe. Both of these features converge as potential pointers to a Creator. To explain the present state of the universe, scientific theories absolutely require that the physical constants of nature — like the strength of gravity — and the
        beginning state of the Universe — like its density — have extremely
        precise values. The slightest variation from their actual values results in an early universe that never becomes capable of hosting life. For this reason, the universe seems finely-tuned for life
        A Lucky Accident? …since interpretation of the evidence points in favour of an intelligent creator, … not surprisingly, fine-tuning arguments unsettle those who embrace the philosophy of naturalism (atheists).” From:

        1. Jim Holt. 1997. Science Resurrects God. The Wall Street Journal (December 24, 1997), Dow Jones & Co., Inc.
        2. Hoyle, F. 1982. The Universe: Past and Present Reflections. Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics: 20:16.
        3. Ellis, G.F.R. 1993. The Anthropic Principle: Laws and Environments. The Anthropic Principle, F. Bertola and U.Curi, ed. New York, Cambridge University Press, p. 30.
        4. Davies, P. 1988. The Cosmic Blueprint: New Discoveries in Nature’s Creative Ability To Order the Universe. New York: Simon and Schuster, p.203.
        5. Davies, P. 1984. Superforce: The Search for a Grand Unified Theory of Nature. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984), p. 243.
        6. Willford, J.N. March 12, 1991. Sizing up the Cosmos: An Astronomers Quest. New York Times, p. B9.
        7. Heeren, F. 1995. Show Me God. Wheeling, IL, Searchlight Publications, p. 200.
        8. Greenstein, G. 1988. The Symbiotic Universe. New York: William Morrow, p.27.
        9. Heeren, F. 1995. Show Me God. Wheeling, IL, Searchlight Publications, p. 233.
        10. Margenau, H and R.A. Varghese, ed. 1992. Cosmos, Bios, and Theos. La Salle, IL, Open Court, p.83.

        11. Penrose, R. 1992. A Brief History of Time (movie). Burbank, CA, Paramount Pictures, Inc.
        12. Casti, J.L. 1989. Paradigms Lost. New York, Avon Books, p.482-483.
        13. Margenau, H and R.A. Varghese, ed. 1992. Cosmos, Bios, and Theos. La Salle, IL, Open Court, p.52.
        14. Jastrow, R. 1978. God and the Astronomers. New York, W.W. Norton, p. 116.
        15. Hawking, S. 1988. A Brief History of Time. p. 175.
        16. Tipler, F.J. 1994. The Physics Of Immortality. New York, Doubleday, Preface.
        17. Gannes, S. October 13, 1986. Fortune. p. 57
        18. Harrison, E. 1985.
        Masks of the Universe. New York, Collier Books, Macmillan, pp. 252, 263.
        19. Heeren, F. 1995. Show Me God. Wheeling, IL, Searchlight Publications, p. 166-167.
        20. Heeren, F. 1995. Show Me God. Wheeling, IL, Searchlight Publications, p. 223.
        21. Zehavi, I, and A. Dekel. 1999. Evidence for a positive cosmological constant from flows of galaxies and distant supernovae Nature 401: 252-254.
        22. Margenau, H. and R. A. Varghese, eds. Cosmos, Bios, Theos: Scientists Reflect on Science, God, and the Origins of the Universe, Life, and Homo Sapiens (Open Court Pub. Co., La Salle, IL, 1992).
        23. Sheler, J. L. and J.M. Schrof, “The Creation”, U.S. News & World Report (December 23, 1991):56-64.
        24. McIver, T. 1986. Ancient Tales and Space-Age Myths of Creationist Evangelism. The Skeptical Inquirer 10:258-276.
        25. Mullen, L. 2001. The Three Domains of Life from
        26. Atheist Becomes Theist: Exclusive Interview with Former Atheist Antony Flew at Biola University (PDF version).
        27. Tipler, F.J. 2007. The Physics Of Christianity. New York, Doubleday.

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    Dawkins and their ilk are cosmic ‘killjoys’. Killjoy – what a wonderful old word! It literally means a person who kills joy. The discovery of the Incarnate Christ is quite simply the discovery of one’s own unique happiness, how could it be otherwise?

    “The Catholic discipline rests upon the conviction that man must have pleasure and if he does not find it in the service of God he will seek it in the false and ephemeral joys of the world; for man innately knows that he was made for happiness and endeavors at all costs to attain his destiny.”
    – Digby, MORES CATHOLICI Vol.2, Pg. 129

  • Scientists are simply not interested in explaining or disproving the “Grandeur of God.” Such subjective, intangible theological matters are irrelevant to scientific research. Scientists observe phenomena, propose theories to explain those phenomena, then conduct experiments and other research to either prove or disprove those theories. THAT’S the scientific method. There is no empirical research that can investigate the “Grandeur of God.”

    Why not simply leave it to scientists to investigate the HOWS of the Universe, and leave it to philosophers and theologians to debate the WHYS?

    • GG

      Because scientists, or anyone, devoid of moral truth are mere materialists that view everything through a faulty lens.

    • maineman

      The problem, PB, is that there ARE scientists who insist on going where they lack the expertise to go. Hawkings is a good example.

      And our schools, even most of the Catholic ones, hold up the idols as some sort of truth. When I encounter a teen who says they do not believe in God or are not sure He exists, I usually ask them, “Where do you think everything came from?” The usual answer is, “Evolution.”

      This is what happens when we “simply leave it to scientists . . . .” Too many of them begin to insist that they are high priests. Then the intellectuals, most of whom are too ignorant to know better, follow along, and the children are malformed.

      • DE-173

        The same scientists who once dismissed Pasteur and Einstein.

        • Fred

          The same scientists who pray at the alter of global … I mean, climate change. It is settled science after all don’t you know.

      • TomT

        Science is not about “proving” or “disproving” the existence , or the relative grandeur, of any of the thousands gods of the various human cultures. That is a pointless endeavor, as there is no data. Does anyone make any effort to disprove the existence of Thor? Those are not valid scientific questions. You’d have to have a testable hypotheses of what “the grandeur of God” is, and know how one would detect and quantify the data of grandeur. For example, What is the unit of measure for “grandeur.” My son is a scientist and engineer, it’s all physics and mechanics in his area of speciality and It’s ALL done with math, like the rest of the hard sciences. Science is about explanation of HOW nature works, not WHY?

        • maineman

          Correct. Science can apply only to the material realm, which is why it is such a problem when it wanders into the philosophical and theological, as the Hawkings of the world are wont to do with it.

        • crakpot

          No data?

          What do you call resurrection after having been dead three days?

          To simply ignore such data, knowing that absolutely every single living thing on this planet someday dies, is illogical.

          From a moral standpoint, it’s original sin – so don’t want to have to acknowledge or be dependent on a superior being that you’d pass up a chance at eternal life?

      • MarcAlcan

        The problem, PB, is that there ARE scientists who insist on going where they lack the expertise to go. Hawkings is a good example.
        And that I think nails the problem on the head.
        Scientists should confine themselves to science and stop pontificating about things they are clueless about.

    • DE-173

      When the Book of Genesis explains that plants were created BEFORE the Sun, theologians might simply argue that God, being the omnipotent being He is, can create everything any way He wants.

      Except, it doesn’t.

      1:5] God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

      [1:11] Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so.

      • DEAR DE-173:

        According to Genesis, seedbearing plants appeared on the THIRD day of Creation. The Sun, Moon, and stars appeared on the FOURTH day. If you accept this as literal truth, that’s your prerogative. But it’s still scientifically meaningless. To accept such a thing causes all we know about astronomy and biology to fall apart.

        • DE-173

          Oh, you’ve confused “appeared” with “existed”.

          Just because the sun was inapparent, doesn’t mean it was non-existent. You have no idea what promordial gasses existed in the atmosphere.

          Of course you really were into biology, you wouldn’t be in such a war with anatomy.

    • former atheist

      1. In January 2005, two remarkable events occurred:

      The first was that Oxford atheist and Darwinian scientist, Richard Dawkins, was publicly asked what he believed to be true but could not prove. This was an interesting question because he is on record as saying that “you should not believe anything without evidence.”

      NOW Dawkins concedes: “I believe, but I CANNOT PROVE, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all design anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection.” In other words, he ADMITS that much of what he believes, including his fundamental assumptions about the universe, are a BLIND LEAP of FAITH, but UN-supported by evidence – ironically, a criteria which he himself has FAILED to follow and yet denounced in others as (yes, you guessed it) — as “SUPERSTITION” in others. The pot has come full circle calling the kettle black.

      But Dawkins still has not the clarity of mind to realise that he, like his (supposedly-intelligent) peers, are committing a “CATEGORY ERROR” (Dawkins had demanded
      that the existence of God be proved using scientific instruments – as though God consisted of biological material under his microscope.

      But then we know from Romans 1-28 that “… and just as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind” … “and hardness of heart and darkness of mind.”

      Dawkins seems curiously oblivious to the Cosmological argument of which the First Premise is this: What ever begins to exist has a cause (eg the Big Bang Theory as proposed by Rev. Monsignor Georges-Henri Lemaître and for whom Albert Einstein gave a standing ovation lecture at a seminar in California in 1933):
      The logic is simple and compelling:
      Whatever begins to exist has a cause
      The universe began to exist
      Therefore the universe has a cause.

      The other extraordinary event was that the international doyen of philosophical atheism, Prof. Anthony Flew, who finally publicly announced that he has abandoned his
      atheism, and had done so on the basis of scientific arguments, which now persuade him that there IS a God.

      Very interesting that two of the most prominent atheists in their fields have made startling confessions, then taking positions at opposite ends of the spectrum: Dawkins
      admits that much of his belief CANNOT in fact be supported by scientific evidence … while Flew abandons the very atheism that made him famous, and precisely BECAUSE of the scientific evidence.

      Aristotle said you should NEVER try to prove the obvious with arguments which are themselves LESS obvious. Dawkins seems to have forgotten this simple criteria and now admits that he CANNOT verify his theories about the creation of the universe.
      and …

      What finally persuaded Flew that there IS a God – is the current unfolding scientific evidence about the origins of the universe.

      2. The Bible text does not say God supernaturally created (bara) “mature plants”. The command is in the “Hiphil” verb form, indicating the land was to be the agent causing the sprouting. In any case, you can be comforted in knowing that many plants don’t require the intense sunlight from the sun and began to grow at the “dawn of time” after God said “let there be light”
      Hope this helps.

  • Vinnie

    Who am I? You are from I Am.

  • Fun read, especially the second time through. Finding worthwhile questions from beginning to end.

    Have you “exchanged the Discarded Image for the shiny mechanical metaphors of today’s poets.”?

    Do you “mistake the window for the view”? Is the glass an end in itself????

    The answers will depend upon perception, context and point of view. Discovering “I” am only the conduit, never the source, the cause or the resource, but at best a willing brush the Universe may use as IT wills gives the freedom ‘to be’. Avoiding the position only eliminates struggle. How many times must we experience the lesson before the suffering ends? As often as it does. Just when “I” ‘think’ i got it, I ain’t got it.

    • maineman

      Dunno, Michael. The Universe willing things sounds a lot like anthropomorphizing the material realm. Are you sure that’s what you meant?

      • What is ‘God’s will’ to you?

        • maineman

          To me, the universe refers to the material creation, which is within but is distinct from the Creator. And because He created me, He must necessarily have human qualities, which would preclude referring to Him as It. So God’s will is, I think, what He does/wants.

          • A very small god you have. Mine is Everything.

            • DE-173

              A short step from here to Pantheism or Animism.

              • Thank you for the reminder. There are many very smart Pharisees like you here too.

                • maineman

                  I had the same thought as DE, Michael. Unless I misunderstand you, you seem to be referring to a kind of pantheism.

                  The God that I’m describing, the traditional God of Christianity, contains “everything” in a sense and therefore is greater than everything. That is, “everything” is contingent on God, whereas God must necessarily be noncontingent and uncreated.

  • Fred

    It really only takes the innocence of child to see, but many of us lose that as we deal with the realities of everyday life, becoming of it rather in it. No matter how much we exalt certain personalities for their scientific wisdom, the simple questioning of a child will eventually humble. An inquisitive child always asks but why is that so in response to every answer given to every question until … there is none to give trying to explain things in the physical realm. The proud individual can’t accept the limits of their finite minds, and will never, ever come to terms with the infinite spatial, material and temporal universe. I used to flirt with silly notions about rejecting divine creation, but after I accepted Christ I find humor in those who are flummoxed by the limits on not knowing what they don’t know, but yet are so certain. To that I say, God bless for the innocence of our children – may we all come to accept the gift that they are, for ourselves as well.

  • Nick_Palmer3

    A fun, sharply pointed article. Thanks,Tyler.

    I do, however, believe that you’ve bit off a bit much for a single piece, and in the process are more “preaching to the converted” than trying to convince the skeptic. That’s fine, and you do a good job. Your “Big Leap,” in my mind, is from “scientism” to “Christianity” or even “Roman Catholicism.” I would break things down first into the step from “scientism” to a belief in one God, and then from one God to the one-true-Triune God of Roman Catholicism.

    The first step deals with God “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). This addresses the patent silliness of the Wilsons and Dawkins and Hawkings of the world. As David Bentley Hart so bracingly points out (‘Atheist Delusions’ and ‘The Experience of God’), scientism rests on some truly heroic myths and presuppositions, ones that dwarf the beliefs of those of us who believe in one God. It is actually quite touching how ridiculous are the underlying ideas on which these seemingly intelligent men rely.

    Once one has made the move to one God, then one can address an understudying of how the Triune God, Incarnation and Resurrection “answer” the deepest questions in truth. Mysteries yet remain, but Christ simply makes sense. Faith and Reason — as so aptly driven home by beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

    • MarcAlcan

      I would break things down first into the step from “scientism” to a belief in one God, and then from one God to the one-true-Triune God of Roman Catholicism.

      That is exactly what I say when discussing belief with atheists and Christians alike. So many people (Protestants in general) just quote Bible verse as if an atheist should just take that for a fact.
      For thinking people the process is more atheism to deism to theism to Christianity to Catholicism.
      Except of course when one is just “whammed” by grace. And that has indeed happened many times.

  • Cap America

    I’m not too keen on scientist-bashing. I do think that some of them quickly overstep the bounds of their specialty.

    The “scientism” concept is one that is very important for Catholics to know about, and to use in general discussion. There’s a big difference between collecting scientific facts and assembling workable scientific theories. . . and then jumping wildly to the notion that scientific techniques explain everything.

    • Fred

      I wasn’t aware that anyone was bashing scientists here, and of course nor should they. After all, many great ones are priests who are scientists such as Georges Lamaître who helped theorize the big bang. The fault lies in the un-believers who can be scientists who don’t recognize their limits and those who don’t have a clue about science but somehow think it can explain everything that they can’t phantom. I know people like to poke sticks at the church’s trial of Galileo.

      • former atheist

        The God-less delight in dredging up the popular atheist MYTH of Galileo and his (alleged) terrible imprisonment; and the MYTH that science and religion are not compatible. But these are deliberate DECEPTIONS that can be completely DISMANTLED and discarded into the dustbin of history.:

        Prof. Nicola Cabibbo, ex-president of the Italian Institute of Nuclear Physics summarized the case:

        – “Galileo was NOT condemned for his scientific theses, but because he wanted to formulate theology” (see Nicola Cabibbo, 30 Dias, January 1993, p.33.)

        – The Roman Inquisition’s (supposedly infamous) “persecution” of Galileo was NOTHING of the sort. The Church’s denunciation of the Pythagorean doctrine of the motion of the earth in 1616 did NOT affect Galileo in the least. His works continued to be available, and Galileo’s name was not attached to the denunciation.

        – The Church had merely asked Galileo to “wait until more scientific evidence could become available to support his new and (still-UNproven) theory”.

        THEREFORE It is a GOOD thing that the Church did NOT rush to embrace Galileo’s views, because it turned out that his ideas proved NOT entirely correct:

        – Galileo believed that the sun was NOT just the fixed center of the solar system but the fixed center of the universe.

        – But, we NOW know that the sun is NOT the center of the universe and that it DOES move—it simply orbits the center of the galaxy rather than the earth.

        As more recent science has shown, both Galileo and his opponents were PARTLY RIGHT and PARTLY WRONG:

        – Galileo was RIGHT in asserting the mobility of the earth and WRONG in asserting the immobility of the sun.

        – His opponents were RIGHT in asserting the mobility of the sun and WRONG in asserting the immobility of the earth.

        THEREFORE: IF the Catholic Church had rushed to endorse Galileo’s views (and there were many in the Church who were quite favorable to them) —the Church would have [mistakenly] embraced what modern science has since disproved.

        • Fred

          So true, and so very much more. God bless.

    • GG

      It is not bashing. Scientism is a type of god to many people. It is a serious error. Just look to many threads at this sites and read the comments by those who oppose moral truth. They quickly rely on “studies” and para experts and peer review as a standard to determine right and wrong.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Materialists gaily refute themselves out of their own mouths.

    Materialists present their arguments in words.

    Certainly, words are configurations of material objects, ink marks on a page, sound waves in succession &c

    But words have meaning; they can represent material facts (or possible facts or states of affairs).

    The relationship between a word and the fact &c that it represents, its meaning, is not a material fact or relationship.

    Semantics is not and cannot be one of the physical sciences; neither is logic; neither is ethics. That is where the analogy between the mind and a computer breaks down.

  • Chris Gait

    To describe the grandeur of God is impossible, just as it is impossible to describe Santa Claus’ beard. Both are ineffable, mythical figures. And don’t even get me started on descriptions of the fluffiness of the tail of the Easter Bunny.

    • Don’t get ME started on the Easter Bunny, either.

  • Harry

    Scientism not only cannot explain away the grandeur of God, it can’t explain consciousness; it has no explanation for how the Universe began now that it is an established cosmological fact that there was a point at which the natural Universe didn’t exist; it can’t explain the fact that it was virtually impossible for the Universe to have mindlessly and accidentally configured itself such that life would even be a possibility; it has no idea how the first single-celled, reproducing life form, consisting of what we now know is nanotechnology light years beyond anything modern science knows how to build from scratch, came into being. It has no idea how the digital information contained in the coding regions of DNA — the assembly instructions for that nanotechnology — was arrived at.

    Scientism requires an irrational, blind faith, is a perversion of true science by atheism, and is on its way to the ash heap of history.