Issues of religious faith must not be disguised as modern science

Stabroek News
August 9, 2001

Dear Editor,

A colleague of mine says she has an interest in the continuing debate about using science to support religion. She was happy to make this the topic of conversation during a recent lunch date. I was quick to point out that I do not have a problem with people believing in divine creation. My problem begins when issues of religious faith are clandestinely disguised as modern science in an attempt to impose certain ideas on an unsuspecting public.

Below, I gave a rough outline of what transpired between myself and the young lady.

HER: It was pointed out, correctly, that the resolution at the Faculty of Natural Sciences which allowed for creationism was based on scientific principles - specifically the law of cause and effect as outlined by the scientist, Stanley Beck. That law leads one to recognise an uncaused primary cause (or a first cause) of all causes.

ME: I have often wondered who exactly drafted and piloted the resolution at the University of Guyana. Could it have been "a known creationist?" The Stanley Beck question clearly demonstrates how adept creationists have become at covering up theism with science.

Do you know of the medieval theist called Saint Thomas Aquinas? Before he died in 1274, Saint Thomas produced what is called "The five ways of proving God exists." Saint Thomas is considered by many to be the greatest theologian in Christian history and his philosophy, known as "Thomism" is revered by Roman Catholics.

The first "proof" of Saint Thomas is that of the Prime Mover and the next proof is known as "The First Cause." Aquinas believed the Prime Mover and The First Cause was God.

I believe that someone at UG disguised Aquinas' "Thomism" with Stanley Beck's science and passed it off to the Faculty of Natural Sciences.

HER: I didn't know about St. Thomas' religious beliefs. It was never ever mentioned in any of the lengthy letters which sought to defend the university's decision.

ME:. To tell the truth I found it rather hilarious that the "learned faculty" could not recognise the difference between 21st century science and 13th century religious dogma! Mr. Alfred Bhulai writes that the faculty had to consider "theorems of mathematical logic that showed that science cannot rise above the world of experience to check on its own premises."

Why the faculty bothered to do this is beyond me. They have already bought "Thomism" and so without disguising it with "theorems" of mathematics, they should just quote Aquinas: "Whatever is known is known in the manner in which man can know it."

In other words, both Alfred Bhulai and St. Thomas Aquinas are saying that man can know of the world only that which he learns from his experience of the material world. The difference is that one of these men decided to dress up this principle of Christian faith to look like modern science.

HER: But I can't quarrel with St. Thomas' First Cause principle.

ME: As a precept of Christian faith, neither can I. But when disguised as a scientific rule it runs into serious problems. There are ongoing discussions regarding this. For instance, some people say the First Cause could be the Big Bang. Why does it have to be the Christian God, YHWH?

Also, the philosophers David Hume and Immanuel Kant contend that the religious First Cause argument is riddled with flaws. Hume says that if we think carefully we will realise that what we call "Cause" is actually an "Explanation" for the event. Pause here and think about this.

Hume believed that the First Cause idea is mental trickery, made possible because of the way the human mind works to structure experience. He says that what we actually observe is a continuing flow of events, one following the other without interruption.

In an attempt to distinguish, track, and understand these events, the human mind interrupts this flow and marks one event as a "cause" and the following one an "effect."

Chopping up the uninterrupted flow reality into pieces of "cause and effect" so that we can understand it doesn't mean that reality is truly made up of separate pieces, and that we can find our way back to the first piece or the first cause.

The concept of cause and effect is a product of the human mind. Hume believes we can work our way back to infinity without encountering a first cause. We might fool ourselves into believing that we have arrived at a First Cause simply because we are too ignorant to understand the causes which came before.

Immanuel Kant was able to understand why Saint Thomas, hundreds of years ago proposed the First Cause idea and why modern intelligence is now able to discredit it. The first cause idea, he says, is uprooted from our world of sense experience to explain something that is supposed to transcend it.

Kant believes that problems with First Cause will arise because of the basic flaw of utilizing a principle beyond its valid range of applications.

HER: What do you think?

ME: If you argue that nothing caused God then I'll know that the Universe is capable of producing uncaused Beings.

In other words, if God does not need a cause, then clearly not everything in the universe needs a cause. I will wonder exactly how many Gods have been produced by the universe? On the other hand, you can argue that God itself is the Universe, but then that's Hinduism, isn't it.

HER: Hmm, but as Mr. Bhulai asked, why haven't Hindus and others tried to fit their creation accounts to evolution?

ME: I believe that Hindus and Muslims understand the personal nature of their faith with God. That faith is strong, it is based on belief and trust, it doesn't require evidence, scientific or otherwise. That's why it's called faith. Their beliefs have stood up to the test of time, it doesn't need to be propped up with pseudoscience. In fact, the use of pseudoscience could be considered a breach of faith.

HER: But why can't we have both science and religion?

ME: It is actually important to have both science and religion, but each in its own place. Religion and its spinoff - creationism, should be taught in theology classes, not science classes. All rational scientists and even the law courts in the modern world know that creationism cannot be classified as science. There are basic differences between the two principles: Science is an inquiry aimed at producing knowledge which is provisional and changing. Religion seeks to provide morals and meanings which are confirmed through faith as final and unchanging.

HER: But. . .

ME: Listen, this is not personal and I am not uncomfortable with any religion. I understand that we live in an age of science and not an age of faith and I know how tempting it must be to use science to bolster faith. But I will protest equally loud if, in a biology or anatomy class, a Hindu person tries to misuse science to teach about the four arms of Lord Vishnu or the elephant head of Lord Ganesh.

HER: Mr. Bhulai describes evolutionary science as "decadence."

ME: He also said there are evolutionary scientists on the faculty at UG. Perhaps Mr. Bhulai would explain to his university colleagues why he thinks they spent their entire careers pursuing decadence.

HER: What about the computer programme Bhulai spoke about? The one that Israeli experts were able to use with Hebrew scripture to predict the future?

ME: Yes, I wondered about that too. If Hebrew texts know what's in the future then God could not have given us free will, could he? He already knew what everyone would do and had already written it down!

Mr. Bhulai was pretty vague though, wasn't he? He spoke about Israeli mathematicians and computer experts and even a top Pentagon code breaker but not once did he mention the names of these individuals.

I guess Bhulai may have been referring to what is known as the Bible Code. This code was made popular in a 1997 book of the same name and was written by Michael Drosnin. The book was based on the work of Israeli mathematician Eliyahu Rips who wrote about a computer

programme in the respected journal, Statistical Science. The editors of the journal made it clear that they were not endorsing the work, they were publishing it because it was a "challenging puzzle."

Using an equidistant letter sequencing (ELS) computer programme, Rips scanned the text and found references to words like Hitler and Nazi, Kennedy and Dallas and many other "predictions." Drosnin, the author, was so confident of Rips' work that he sarcastically told Newsweek (June 9, 1997) that if anyone could find a message of assassination in the novel Moby Dick he will believe them.

The scientific community accepted the challenge and an Australian professor, Brendan McKay used the ELS programme on Moby Dick. He found no less than thirteen assassinations of public figures, and leaders of countries and even found a reference to the assassination of Indira Gandhi - all carefully coded within Moby Dick!

McKay decided to use the programme on the UN's Convention on the Law of the Sea and he found "Hear the law of the sea."

In another book, authors Grant Jeffery and Yacov Rambsel reported using the programme on Isaiah and found the phrase "Yeshua is my Name" (Jesus is my Name.) But others found the phrase "Muhammad is my name" twenty one times and "Koresh is my name" no less than forty three times! Do you remember David Koresh? The cult leader who burnt down the Branch Davidian building with all his followers inside?

HER: Mr. Bhulai's letter didn't mention any of that.

ME: Well, in fairness, we are not even sure exactly which computer programme he was referring to.

Mr. Bhulai ended his last letter with a conundrum which turned out to be St. Thomas' Argument of the Wager. Here's one I read somewhere before. It's called "The problem of evil"and it goes like this: If God is omnibenevolent (all good) and omnipotent (all-powerful,) then why is there evil in the world? If He allows evil then he is not all good. If he cannot help but allow evil then He is not all powerful.

Our lunch ended and my colleague and I headed back for work.

Yours faithfully,
Justin DeFreitas