The ingenious methodologies of research by humans going in the positive direction from ignorance to a more truthful understanding of the phenomena in the natural world, cannot break through the impregnable barrier of the empiricism of matter and energy to unravel the greater ingenuity in the creative, abstract thinking coming from another direction, that resides within the intelligent agency that invented the thing being researched.
We do not formally recognize that the data we obtain by studying falling objects though space using the modern scientific method, that reaches the laudable point of sophistication to be able to send men to the moon and back, that this factual database falls short of the imaginative creativity that brought into being a reality as amazing as the force of gravity that we investigate.
This issue of the glass ceiling of the empiricism of the scientific method is central to the God and science debate.
Let’s analyze this issue in more detail.
In the making of Italian spaghetti sauce, a favorite topic in this book, there are at least three main realities.
The first is the cookbook recipe of sequential steps.
The second is the taste-test reaction from the spaghetti eaters.
The third is the breaking-down of the various ingredients into their individual chemical components using the scientific method in a laboratory by trained scientists.
Similarly, artistic oil painting, water-color painting, and ink drawing can be divided into at minimum three main realities.
The first is the sequential steps of mechanically producing a work of art.
The second is the opinionated viewing by the public of this artwork in a museum.
The third, again, is the breaking-down of the painting ingredients into their chemical components via the scientific method in the controlled environment of a laboratory by scientific researchers.
Another easily understood example might be the construction of a new house, which again can be divided into at least three main realities.
The first is the sequential steps of the assembly of the house from the ground up, following a well-established pattern common to all new housing construction.
The second might be the “curb-appeal” of the front elevation of the house as viewed from the street, or the utility of the floor plan for optimal living.
But the third reality once again can go into the highly technical aspects of what is called materials science, which studies the structural strengths of materials, resistance to fire, waterproofing qualities, insulating between heat and cold, and sound insulation.
In these examples, it would be the height of arrogant hubris to insist that the scientifically empirical perspective was the only one that mattered.
In each of the realities given in the three examples above, it was the Scientific Revolution that added the new, third approach of discovering empirical, fact-based evidence at this level of detail.
But the scientific method is the new kid on the block.
Long before Newton’s equations described gravity, people could throw a small rock four feet above themselves and observe the repetitive laws of physics that the rock always comes down to the ground, without being able to describe this reality mathematically.
Long before the scientific field of modern chemistry, a mother would explain the sequential steps of dressing and seasoning the meat from an elk killed by the hunter/gatherer husband, to her daughter in preparation for cooking, before these steps were ever recorded in a cookbook or analyzed chemically in a laboratory for its nutritional value in terms of sodium, sugar, calories, and fat content, or the features of heat in cooking.
The sequential steps for doing all manner of things, and the theorizing and conceptualization of the good or bad, right or wrong, and best practices compared to poor practices, were a part of the human experience long before the scientific method of research was invented in the 1500’s.
Scientific materialists cannot dogmatically insist that mankind has been wrong all this time by placing faith, confidence, and value in the first two realities in each of the three simple examples given above, and in countless other examples commonly observed and perceived in ordinary life.
Most people can detect the intelligence of design in good Italian spaghetti, world-class paintings in a museum, and pleasing architecture in buildings.
Most people can detect the presence of design in the natural world. The question then becomes the plausibility of competing explanations for its source.
The recognition of intelligence that infers design occurs in the middle, second reality of the three examples given above.
It is not up to scientific materialists to tell us that methodological materialism defines the entirely of reality.
It is not the job of scientists to tell us about the limits of reality.
We are capable of making that determination ourselves.
It seems to me that the arguments made by scientific materialists that only natural causations and explanations are allowed in science, makes reasonable sense only until we reach the near end-point of the investigation of a particular area of research…when most or enough of the data is in.
Once we confidently reach the nearly complete, end-points of research projects that generate sufficient data to begin drawing final conclusions, then broader interpretations and the consequences of the evidence must be allowed that fall outside of the domain of materialistic explanations.
This is what happened in the example of the discovery by Edwin Hubble of an expanding universe that led to the theory of the Big Bang, which has definite theistic implications.
This is what we see in the fine-tuned constants of physics in the universe, that are too precise to be the product of blind chance.
This is what we see in the information content in DNA and in the nanotechnology at work in living cells that defies a materialistic explanation through a blind and undirected process.
When and if the brilliant scientific method of research in the future discovers a complete matter-and-energy explanation of precisely how the creation of the universe occurred in terms of purely naturalistic causations…then the complexity, specificity, and coherently integrated systems of this information would be so magnificent in its scope and breadth as to be fantastically beyond any atheistic explanation.
This is the dilemma for modern science today, in that the atheism of scientific materialism is incapable of recognizing the fundamental dichotomy of perception in the scientific method that when most of the factual data is in, this leads to valid inferences to the best explanations that go beyond the limited domain of materialism.
The more we learn about the information required to produce function and fit within living and non-living systems, the more difficult it is to make a plausible argument that the empirical, fact-based evidence derived through the scientific method can exclude agency from the theorizing and conceptualization drawn from this evidence.
This is based upon the reasonable, modern recognition that human scientific research is going in the positive direction towards the discovery of truth regarding the workings in the natural world, using our human thinking skills, while the realities we study deserve the same recognition and appreciation of the cognitive, analytical thinking skills that come from another direction in producing these phenomena, in the first place.
This is an excerpt from my book Pondering Our World: Christian Essays on Science and Faith.