Are Faith and Science Compatible? (In Question)

Are Faith and Science Compatible? (In Question)


Edited Transcript

Note: This transcript picks up where the audio recording of Michael Stewart (host) and Ken Boa (guest speaker) begins (mid-sentence) and fills in necessary info in brackets.

Michael Stewart (MS): He [David Berlinski] wrote a book [The Devil’s Delusion] dealing with the issue we’ll talk about tonight: science, faith, reason, the interaction of these things. He said, “If God did not create the world, then what is His use? And if He did, then what is His explanation? In other words, who caused God?” A child’s question has given way to an adult’s dilemma. I think this evening our question is one that we all wrestle with in different ways at various points in our life. Sometimes in life that childlike faith faces a dilemma, faces questions, and often in today’s culture it is a question regarding science.

So, tonight we’re taking up the question, “Science or faith?” I’ll put it another way, “Are science and faith compatible?” We’ll talk about the relationship among science, faith, and reason in depth, and to discuss that topic tonight we have with us Dr. Ken Boa. If you were here last time in December, Dr. Boa was with us and discussed the Star of Bethlehem. As always, you get a chance to text in your questions this evening. You can text them to 980-999-0047.

If you have any questions about the relationship among science, faith, and reason, we’ll take those questions. And, since we are focusing on a science topic, there are undoubtedly questions in various fields of science. Feel free to text those in as well, because part of the dilemma, part of the challenge to the faith, is the specific questions regarding science.

Dr. Boa, it’s good to have you back this evening. Thanks for coming. One of the reasons we’ve asked you to address this particular topic is because you spent time in each of these academic fields: astronomy, philosophy, religion. What causes a person who’s starting out in his academic career in science to switch and go to seminary of all places?

Ken Boa (KB): You know, I was an astronomy major at Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Ohio. At that time, it was before it was federated with Western Reserve and now has become Case Western Reserve. Pretty rigorous program, everyone took the same curriculum for the first 2 years in math and physics and so forth, and then we differentiated from there.

I was a scientific humanist for the bulk of the time that I was there. I had a religious background and blew that off. I remember taking—[it was] almost like a formal exercise—taking this Bible and putting it on the shelf and never opening it again for the next four years. Nor did I ever meet one person at Case who professed to be a believer at all. It was an entirely interesting environment in that context, and so I myself was absorbed into that mindset. Without going into details though, there were a number of things that occurred in many ways against my will that forced me to become aware of a spiritual side that I’d more or less been repressing. And that context, then, forced me to come to see that there was much more than met the eye.

So, the upshot in part led to the realization that the Scriptures really were what they claim to be, a kind of blueprint for living. At that juncture, with that apprehension, my next logical step would be, what am I going to do about that? If this purports to be a blueprint, a guidebook for a living, I’ve got to find out what it says. So, I knew that night I was going to go to this particular seminary. I was always impressed by a particular individual in my life who knew Scripture extremely well. I did not go there to get prepared for a “ministry” at all—I just wanted to figure out how to get my head together. I went there really a pretty screwed up individual.

So I applied to the school, but then I had already been accepted at Columbia and Berkeley. So, I went to Berkeley, and it was the summer of ’67. I’m an older guy than you think. I was a full-blown hippie in the summer of love in Berkeley California in the Haight-Ashbury district, immersed in that psychedelic arena. Then, for other reasons, after a number of months, it became evident that I needed to actually take the risk of giving up that graduate student deferment and go to see if I was accepted at that school that I’d applied to. I still remember the application: among other things, they asked “Do you use tobacco?” I said “No.” They didn’t ask if I used Hash or Marijuana. I honestly said “No, I don’t use tobacco.” They didn’t ask if I used these other things.

So I was a piece of work when I went there, because I was going through conscious world view transition. I had to get my head together. Essentially, I was still immersed in Eastern mysticism, occultism, I was an ardent evolutionist, and I was also involved in psychedelic drugs. “But apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”

So really my first year with it was agonizing, because I was going through a conscious world view transition, a conscious transition from one to another, and I began to encounter some writers, one of whom I’d never heard of, a guy named C. S. Lewis, and I began to read his works. At that time, a fellow by the name of Francis Schaeffer began to write his first books, Escape from Reason and The God Who Is There.

I remember going through this agony. I know I’m over-answering your question, but it is germane to this. And so far, you’re dealing here more than just with science per se, philosophy per se, or any discipline. But actually, you bring with you a kind of set of glasses that are almost cemented to your face, a worldview. I recall going through that first year hating the place, because I was going through a culture shock—hating the place. I had to wear a coat and tie, which I redefined what that looked like. I had to cut my hair, and it gave me grief all the time over that.

But at the end of the day, I managed to stay there. But at the end of about a year I had a kind of epiphany, which was more than just cognitive, but it was actually visceral; it was psychological; it was everything. All realms of knowledge that I’d ever dabbled in suddenly merged together into a more or less coherent pattern. It was consistent, coherent, comprehensive, and clear—I’d never had such an experience. It was a worldview, a theistic worldview, and I went from there. But that was a major change, so I began to realize right from the beginning, then, that worldview-thinking is essential. That’s one of the reasons why I’m on the faculty of the Colson Center—with Chuck Colson, formerly, and you know, now it’s called the Colson Center—because of that whole idea of worldview.

So, as a scientist, as a philosopher, as a person who seeks to understand, you have to understand as well that you don’t come to anything with an epistemological neutrality. There’s always a commitment to a way of seeing, a way of knowing, a way of living. At the end of the day, then, there is no purely neutral ground. A choice will be made. Then one has to choose which direction one might take. Even vis-à-vis the issue of the ultimate reality of God, I believe there are two kinds of people in the world: those who seek to know God and those who seek to avoid Him. I also believe that both will succeed in the end.

I believe there are two kinds of people in the world: those who seek to know God and those who seek to avoid Him. I also believe that both will succeed in the end.

If someone wants to spend their entire life to avoid those claims, then the gates of hell in that sense of being away from Him, are locked from the inside. So, at the end I believe those who seek will find. [To] those who knock it will be opened. Those who ask, it will be given to them (Matthew 7:7–8). So I went through that journey, that process, in trying to help me understand and articulate a way of looking at the world and seeking to see how there’s a coherent way of grasping and understanding the philosophies and the ideologies, the whole realm.

As a one who is driven by the love of story of narrative, I teach a lot of different things because I’m a generalist. I love to teach film; I love to teach literature; but I’d like to look at it through the realm of worldview: what is the worldview implicit in this particular director’s work, or that author? So, it goes from there. So a long question but at the end of the day, it relates to science. Because as Berlinski is going to say, there is no such thing as a purely neutral position, no stance, no Archimedean vantage point or epistemological point at which you can say you’ve got it all. You’d have to be off the world to understand it, to lift the world, so that’s really it.

MS: The term you used is an important one for you understand. Epistemological neutrality. Epistemology is a philosophical study of how we know things, what does it mean to know, what’s the means by which we can know anything. Very central to our question tonight of faith. Is it a means of knowing, of reason, what falls within the categories of logic? You mentioned that you were dabbling in Eastern religion, at the same time you were pursuing these things of science. In some sense we know that you’ve embraced both religion and science. Did you have a disdain for Western religions at that time?

KB: A kind of disdain. As many have done—often they were rebelling against the tradition in which they were raised. So, I dabbled, as many did in that period in the late ‘60s, with the typical literature that time. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig; Carlos Castaneda; Hermann Hesse, especially [his] Siddhartha and Steppenwolf, but his most important book Magister Ludi, The Glass Bead Game; and Timothy Leary’s The Tibetan Book of the Dead[efn_note]Timothy Leary, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead.[/efn_note] and so it goes.

There’s a certain literature, a certain genre, a certain mode, that’s just what one would be exposed to. It would force you to kind of wrestle with those basic things: What’s real? Those writers would actually explore the idea of, “How do you know that what you claim that you’re experiencing has an actual reality that’s consistent, that actually fits?” Castaneda, I remember he talked about his journeys to Ixtlan and the experiences that he had with Mescalito[efn_note]Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan.[/efn_note]—which reminds me of my favorite episode of The Simpsons.

Because in this one Homer Simpson—it’s not a drug, a psychedelic so much as it’s an incredibly powerful pepper, so that Chief Wiggum is trying to just to defeat him at this at this chili tasting contest. So, he puts these things—and they’re literally quivering and moving—and oh, he was going to die. He failed, but then he discovered by accident that if he puts wax in his mouth to try to get rid of the pain, he can eat these things. Then he goes off into this vision. Johnny Cash is his guide as the coyote. It goes on, but it’s pretty funny stuff.

MS: He told you he was a generalist!

KB: It reminds me of a lot of things for that era. Crazy stuff—as The Doors called their album, strange days.

MS: You mentioned a title of a book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. That was actually in my very first introduction to philosophy course. That was the first book ever assigned. I believe it’s piercing that it says in that book, that “the delusion in the individual we call insanity. But delusion of the masses we call religion.”[efn_note]The actual quote as it appears in the text is, “When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.”[/efn_note]

KB: That’s right, that’s exactly right. He uses Phaedrus by Plato, and he uses that particular dialogue and goes into the exploration of “What is sane? What is sanity?” He goes through the loss of that. His other books would follow on that, discuss the very same sort of thing. It’s intriguing stuff though. You’re exploring, “What is the nature of consciousness and the experience? How can you go off the edge and go beyond that?” That’s exactly what happened. He went beyond the boundary of sanity.

I’ve seen people actually do that as well, people who overdosed or whatever, because LSD was a powerful drug, and so far as an overdose of that and others could in fact lead to such a schizoid state that they could perhaps not recover [from it]. I met some people who became vegetables from that experience—it was a very intriguing thing—where they went beyond the point of any return. I had something close to that, when I had a quadruple dose without knowing until it was too late. But that’s another discussion.

But the fact/fantasy distinction is one that one might wrestle with. You might have supposed, “You know, this would be kind of a pleasant and interesting thing to go through a conscious dream”—think again. I was desperate to find some kind of link, some kind of tether to reality, because I was really beginning to realize if that I hadn’t, then it wasn’t tethered; it would be lost. And this question then surfaces—all these things are raised by epistemology—“How do you know that you know?” and “What means do you have?”

There are three basic options for our understanding. One is through the sensory apparatus, so we think about it, that we can do it through empiricism, empirical work. But secondly, rationalism is that you can do reasoning and deductive reasoning and so forth. These are two gateways to a great deal of knowledge. But those two in and of themselves do not provide fundamental answers, decisive answers, for the biggest questions of life, namely, “Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here, and where am I going?”

Those, in my mind, require a third way of knowing beyond epistemology—rather, empiricism—and rationalism. The third way would be revelation, so that would become essential there as well.

MS: Speaking of being tethered to reality, we also want to tether ourselves to some practical applications. Anytime we have In Questions, we talk about some deep topics, and we’re always going to ask, “How can we apply this?” But in tonight’s topic especially, science and the spectrum that it covers, our applications are going to depend on our entry point, our degree of education, interest, background, profession, training.

Regardless of where we stand, to the person who’s never going to gaze down the microscope or gaze through the telescope, give us a practical application regarding this debate. What can we take away if we’re not ever going to be a scientific expert, but we want to engage with this topic?

KB: Generally, as you know the two are pitched at loggerheads, even the way it was said, it was posed here: Science—what was the other?—or faith. You notice that they were at loggerheads. There’s a bifurcation; is it possible to have them both? So, the supposition is that the man of science, the person of science, is one who has, in fact, the evidence only on their side. But at the end of the day, everybody lives by faith, including Richard Dawkins at the end.

You can’t actually prove first premises of this sort. So, the question is going to be, “What is the evidences that one can go to and use?” I find it very helpful to look at certain not incontrovertible features of the world and explore those incontrovertible features and use what I think is most fundamental scientific methodology—namely abduction, as it’s been described by Charles Peirce.[efn_note]Charles Sanders Peirce, a philosopher, scientist, and mathematician. He first coined the term “abductive reasoning.” Abduction, or abductive reasoning, draws a hypothesis from a conclusion rather than a conclusion from a hypothesis. It begins at the end, so to speak, and works backward.[/efn_note] But the idea of abduction, or to ask yourself “inference to the best explanation.”

If I observe something, say Mount Rushmore—I remember I was invited to speak at the governor’s breakfast there in South Dakota. I took it for the wrong reasons. I just wanted to mark off South Dakota, as if I only have one more state to visit out of the 50 now.

MS: Don’t worry, he’d been to North Carolina before.

KB: The other reason was because I wanted to see Mount Rushmore and it’d amuse me to see North by Northwest again, because, of course, it’s all fictional with the airport on the top of all that, but it was fun to watch that and to see that. Given that, you look at Mount Rushmore and you can say, “Here’s the portion that has not been touched.” But then, Gutzon Borglum—the one who crafted that based on a model and then very ingeniously projected these things and actually made that work—that section that Borglum worked on, we could say, “What would be the inference to the best explanation for those components, as opposed to the other components of that mountain?”

One could very easily account for the other components by erosion and a variety of tectonic explanations, metamorphosis and so forth. But for these figures, these presidential figures, it would seem to require something more than just that. You see the concept would be the inference to the best explanation, [which] would appear to be some designing Agency. So, when you ask the question of inference to the best explanation, you’re looking at data, you’re looking at evidence, you’re looking at features of the world and asking, “What’s the best way of accounting for this, chance or necessity or design?”

You see the concept there? Those are only three nodes you’ve got. Chance, necessity and design. So, in exploring those features of the world—four of them I like to use a lot—are, first of all, the evidence for the universe’s beginning, which is of a fairly recent vintage. Secondly, the evidence for the fine-tuning of the cosmos, which is a growing phenomenon, hugely growing. Previously, at the time that Sagan wrote Contact, there were about 20 criteria that were considered being fine-tuning parameters. Now there are well over 800 of these. It keeps growing every year. New fine-tuning parameters, that everything must be in this perfect order or you cannot have the conditions for a robust context for life at all. Fine-tuning becomes a growing phenomenon.

A third one is, the evidence for the impossibility of abiogenesis—that is to say, the first self. You cannot appeal to evolution, to mutation and natural selection, or abiogenesis, because the thing’s not alive. You have the incredible and growing grasp of the complexity of the cell itself. If you just limited yourself to the biomacromolecules and the genetic code, it becomes increasingly astonishing—even the so-called junk DNA turns out to be not so much junk after all, but actually operating systems within operating systems. It appears to be programmatic redundancy, not unlike the understanding that has now been grasped by one of the most important figures of the 20th century, a mind as great or greater than Einstein’s and had a greater impact on us, but you probably don’t know who the guy was, which is kind of an interesting thing—Claude Shannon,[efn_note]Claude Shannon was a mathematician who worked with analog as well as digital electronics, known for his information theory, which relates to coding and computer circuits.[/efn_note] who single-handedly developed information technology, the nature of moving from an analog to looking at information in terms of bits and bytes. Phenomenal! The point is even Shannon knew, even in that time in dealing with transmission systems, that you needed to have redundancy. This is why if you scratch a CD, an audio CD, it’ll still play, because they build in redundancy.

That is exactly what you see in the genetic material. By the way, you also see built-in redundancy in your neuronal complex in the brain. Insofar as a person has a stroke, and they’re able to recover memory and skills that were lost by actually using that redundancy to reorganize the material itself. It’s quite a phenomenal thing. Memories, for example, are not found in one place, but they are redundantly placed. We have these phenomenal—but even if you just limited yourself to a simple cell, there’s no such thing as a simple cell. The simplest plant cell or animal cell, if it’s increased to the size of Charlotte, would be about as complex.

You have that, and then the fourth area has to do with information itself, going back to Shannon. What is information? What’s the nature of it? Especially when you’re dealing with specified complexity and the nature of communication semiotics. These are four features of the world—that is to say, the evidence for the universe, its beginning; its fine-tuning; the impossibility of biogenesis; and fourth, the nature of information as being actual systems.

How best do we account for those four? Is it by chance or is it by some kind of an Agency that is involved with more than chance, but is a designing Agency? You see the concept that I’m going to. It’s not a matter of saying, it’s one or the other, just to say, what is your best node or understanding of the explanation for these features of the world that are in fact embraced and understood.

MS: I want to get into the specifics of some of those four areas. You mentioned Richard Dawkins, whom we’ll interact with in a moment. But before we do that, I want to give you this question from the audience because it relates to a practical application for the non-scientist. The question is, “What misconceptions do you see in non-scientists about science that they’re unaware of?”

KB: Good one. One of those misconceptions is the supposition that all knowledge, if it’s not scientific, is not knowledge. I’ve encountered this on a number of occasions, where the supposition, then, is if it’s not a scientific statement, it’s not a true statement. But that statement itself is not scientifically warranted; you see, it’s a self-defeater, because by its own nature you cannot demonstrate that empirically or quantitatively. You see the point there?

One misconception is the supposition that all knowledge, if it’s not scientific, is not knowledge.

There are many forms of knowledge, and science I believe is a robust source of knowledge. But there are other forms of knowledge, including personal knowledge, historical knowledge, moral knowledge, aesthetic knowledge, philosophical knowledge. There are other forms that we can see that relate to, then, the whole idea of knowledge having several gateways, several points, so that one does not ultimately say that the others are not valid. There are other forms and nodes of knowledge.

To the point of Pascal—you’re probably familiar with him, in some way or another, some of you heard of Pascal, as, in fact, a computer language. Indeed, it’s named after Blaise Pascal, who was one of the greatest minds of his age. In fact, if he had focused just in that scientific area, who can know what the man who was capable of doing? But Pascal, in his writings, argued that “the heart has its reasons that reason itself does not know.”[efn_note]“The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.” Blaise Pascal, Pensées 277, translated by W. F. Trotter (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2002).[/efn_note]

So, he dealt with what Michael Polanyi, who is a scientist himself, argued—that, in fact, there’s a personal dynamic, there’s personal knowledge, what he called a tacit dimension,[efn_note]See Polanyi’s books, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy and The Tacit Dimension.[/efn_note] and what Karl Popper talked about as well. So, when you’re dealing with this whole area of science itself, you’re dealing with people who are grasping the fact that there are, in fact, scientific revolutions, paradigms that take place—Actually, Thomas Kuhns’s work on that[efn_note]Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.[/efn_note] discusses that idea of a shift in knowledge—and the idea that one can in fact see that there are personal tacit dynamics that transcend mere science itself. Science cannot account for them all.

The question one has to raise is, “Why was science as we know it, not technology—the Greeks had technology, the Egyptians had technology, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Chinese had technologies—why was it that science as we know it only appeared once in human history?

It appeared in Western Europe, and it appeared, really, earlier than you might think. It really began with Bacon and others before it, and then it was developed. But especially around the 13th century and on, it developed and developed until it reached its efflorescence in the 15th and 16th and 17th centuries, where the vast bulk of these people who were scientists that you will know about—most of them you’ll know about when you think about Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton alone, Paley, and others—you will know that these scientists embraced a viewpoint, a worldview, that was actually compatible with science in a way that other philosophies were not—namely that the world is in fact a universe, not a chaos. That it is ordered, that there’s a mind behind it, and that the mind of the Maker is also the One who made our minds. So, there would be a correspondence between our thinking and the world itself, you see, because of that nature. Moreover, we are invited to study it, to actually have dominion over it, to study it and to use it, rather than to worship it or to be afraid of it.

You see the concept here? And so, you had, then, the freedom to say that you had the conditions for appropriating knowledge and science in a beneficial way that led to its actual appearance for the first time, and the only time in human history. Now, that science itself has become a universal language that now actually has spread throughout the world. It’s not a different science. It’s that science that says that our minds are ordered and that there is a capacity, that there is a correspondence, between our cognitive capacity and the way the world is ordered—and that we were invited to study it, to learn about it, to have dominion over it. So, it’s more consistent with a theistic grasp of the world than with a non-theistic grasp, which is consistent with the vast bulk of the earliest scientists. It was only with the so-called “Enlightenment” that there was a shift away from that mindset. There are reasons for that that are not actually scientific.

MS: We talk about these different worldviews, and we’ve got spectrums within science, spectrums within religion, and a believer probably falls anywhere along that spectrum in terms of his scientific views. A lot goes into that—profession, background, your approach to Scripture. I want to talk about the philosophy behind making those sorts of decisions, because just shooting for the middle doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of integrity to it. Whether you fall on strict materialism on one end of the spectrum or Young Earth creationism on the other, how do we begin that pursuit, that approach?

KB: I see a spectrum, as you say, and the spectrum would go from—you could call it a kind of a deistic evolution, to a theistic evolution, to an Old Earth creationism, to a Young Earth creationism, a pretty broad spectrum. But what they all share, those theorists, would be the idea of openness to a designing Agency that transcends the imminent realm. Whereas the other node of explanation would be that there is a closedness to that; there is no open, no possibility of something beyond the realm of the imminent, the material—nothing transcendent, in other words. The basic divide, then, is between those possibilities.

On one end of the spectrum I’d put, for example, Albert Einstein, who believed in a super Intellect. His was more or less the God of Spinoza, Benedict Spinoza.[efn_note]Benedict de Spinoza, also known as Baruch Spinoza, was a Jewish-Dutch philosopher during the Enlightenment whose works were labeled as “atheistic” for his more deistic views on religion.[/efn_note] It was more of a deistic kind of a viewpoint. Antony Flew, if you recall, was the Richard Dawkins of the ‘70s and ‘80s, who later, at the age of 82, changed his mind.[efn_note]For the story of Flew’s transition out of atheism, see his book, There is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, cowritten with Roy Abraham Yarghese[/efn_note] This is astonishing! Generally, you write a whole library of material—and then at the age of 82, you say, “It’s a little embarrassing to say that all my books are wrong”? It’s an astonishing measure of humility that the man engaged in. He was convinced because of the nature, in this particular instance, of the genetic material, such that the human DNA, basically the human genome, contains more information than an entire set of the inside of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and so, whence comes this knowledge? He shifted his perspective as an older man, and he became what you’d call in that spectrum more of a deist. Then there are others who are more theistic.

MS: Define that term, “deist.”

KB: A deist would [believe in] a kind of clock-maker deity, that there was some deity that started the whole process, wound up the clock and hasn’t been seen since. You see, he went away, and he’s not engaged in any kind of miraculous involvement, there’s no robust engagement in the world, of God’s action in the world. Whereas a theist would say, no, that that there is in fact a richer account of God’s action in the world, different ways in which he works.

There’d be a difference between that, and within theism another difference would be whether one is a Trinitarian, and that has huge implications for other reasons. But at the end, though, what they find is people in this whole spectrum share in common is an openness to some kind of designing Agency that has intelligence, that has teleology,[efn_note]The idea that there is design and purpose in the world.[/efn_note] purpose, an end in mind, an end in view. That is really, in my view, a major thing that they would share in common.

As to the in-house debates of how old the universe is, how it was made—those, in my mind, are secondary to the larger issue of whether one’s open to the possibility of a designing Agency. This is why it’s interesting, for example—that a person who’s utterly closed to that Agency will, in fact, be very robustly fascinated by and want to invest in and promote SETI. You know what SETI is? “The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence.” A great deal of—many billions of— dollars has been invested in that search.

They’re looking for things like, for example, perhaps a sequence of prime numbers or something like that, which would intimate that in these radio frequencies from space that there may be something that goes beyond just static or noise. There’s some designing Agency. I’m here to tell you that if, in fact, you found a code that was being transmitted, that was similar to your human DNA, what conclusion would be reached—basically, the four nucleotide pairs, they’re nucleotides, and the information that they contain—if you were to see a pattern of that sort, what would conclusion would one reach? The obvious answer: there’s an Agency, there’s an intelligent Agency behind it. They would be open to that possibility because it wouldn’t imply a transcendent Agency but rather an imminent, namely an alien, intelligence—you tracking with me?

But the very same things that we use to look at, for example, your human body and all the features in it would be regarded as not being relevant to this discussion. Because they would imply perhaps something beyond that—you see how it works? Your own worldview glasses will shape the way you view the reality that you encounter.

Your own worldview glasses will shape the way you view the reality that you encounter.

I just read, I’ve got to throw this in—Errol, I told you, I was going to do it. I was just reading to Errol about an article I read from the Salk Institute,[efn_note]The Salk Institute for Biological Studies.[/efn_note] and they just realized something quite remarkable—I love these things when I read them—it turns out that the capacity of human memory turns out to be at one order of magnitude greater than ever previously suspected. That is to say, now it’s in the range of the petabytes,[efn_note]A petabyte is approximately 1 million gigabytes (so 1015 bytes).[/efn_note] and that what you have, in fact, is similar in capacity to the entire worldwide web. Scary stuff! And it was based upon neurotransmitters that were found in the hippocampus—which they were able to discover that there were 26 discrete states in which the synapses, between the axons and the dendrites, actually operate—in such a way that they radically changed the whole dynamic. The upshot being, then, that we now are in the range of multi-petabytes rather than just what we previously thought.

It gets curiouser and curiouser, as Alice in Wonderland noticed,[efn_note]The quote “Curiouser and curiouser” is from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll., found at the beginning of the second chapter.[/efn_note] that the more you learn about anything at all—take the simplest feature—the more you learn, I can predict with clarity and assurance, that you will discover that whatever you study will turn out to be far more nuanced, far more complex, far more organized, far more information-rich than you could know now. My prediction is that that will only continue to be the case. Now this new change—I wouldn’t doubt that we may bump to the exabytes.[efn_note]An exabyte is 1,000 petabytes (so 1018 bytes).[/efn_note] That’s another discussion, though.

But it gets more and more phenomenal, and the idea of some kind of a discrete pathway by which these things could develop from one state to another—there is no such pathway that’s available. So, we have a growing faith that is required to embrace the notion that all of this is merely a product of time and chance in the impersonal. It requires more faith now than ever before to embrace that notion, because the evidence will always move more and more for greater complexity, greater elegance, greater realms of information than ever previously discerned.

This is why retro-engineering, reverse engineering, is such an intriguing thing, because when we try to reverse-engineer anything you want—flight, whatever you want to pick, the gecko’s ability to stick on glass, anything you want—turns out we retro-engineer and our best technology is not able to actually match anywhere close in a ballpark what’s actually found in this thing that was presumably the product of time and chance and the impersonal. And so what I’m saying it’s crude what we retro-engineer.

The more we learn about it, the more impressive it becomes. My prediction is that will only continue to be the case, whereby the alternate materialistic explanation will become more and more dry, more insipid, and more and more too thin a soup to sustain a robust grasp of the features of the world.

MS: You mentioned various views, age of the Earth and things like that. You’ve anticipated some of the questions. Let me ask you this: believers in a community find themselves on different sides of this debate. The Young Earth creationist, for example, looks at, say the theistic evolutionist and says, “What Bible is this person reading? How are they not reading Genesis like I am?” And the theistic evolutionist looks at the Young Earth creationist and says, “This person lacks the intelligence and sophistication to navigate science and faith.” How do we exist together as a community of believers holding these different views?

KB: Well, if a person—again, you use the phrase the community of believers, and this is assuming, then, that people are from at least more or less the household of faith or to some degree embrace the possibility of divine revelation to one degree or another. In that case, it’s what I call an “in-house debate.” It’s not really a big deal in my view. There’s different views on that. My view is the Scriptures emphasize the Who of creation more than the how. You with me on this?

The Scriptures emphasize the Who of creation more than the how.

It was, in fact, the product of not [something] impersonal and time and chance, but of an Agency who transcends time and space and matter and energy—that is to say, those things which did not exist prior to the Big Bang. By definition, time and space, matter and energy did not exist a finite time ago. It’s a mystery—that’s another discussion. They’re always trying to get around this by saying, “Well maybe it was quantum foam.” That’s cheating; that’s something, and we’re talking about nothing.

Francis Schaeffer used to say “nothing-nothing.”[efn_note]See Francis A. Schaeffer, He Is There and He Is Not Silent, (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale, 2001) 6–7.[/efn_note] They’re always trying to cheat with the terms. It doesn’t work with quantum foam because you’re talking still about some kind of existing thing, laws of physics and so forth, which are incredibly fine-tuned—but that’s another discussion. Within this household, though, there are various views that people will take—and I’ve got to be honest with you—I’ve gone all over that spectrum, back and forth, processing: What comports best with what the Scriptures teach on the one hand and what science teaches? What’s the overlap, you see?

I’ve become more and more, I have to tell you—I’ve finally come to live with a measure of tension to interpolate. I don’t have an answer. I don’t think we have enough knowledge to grasp this. I do think that there are great scientific reasons that one would use to propose an old earth or an old world. Now here we’re talking about 13.7 billion years for the cosmos since the Big Bang and about 4.6 billion for the earth. Then the opposite, the other extreme, the Young Earthers would actually be more near 10,000-year range.

So, it’s not a little bit of difference; it’s all the difference in the world. So, you have two different views, and I have found good arguments and bad arguments for both. Know there’s some strengths and weaknesses to the Old Earth position and there are strengths and weaknesses to the Young Earth position. Usually, when I’ve heard them debate it’s been—they can’t even hear anything the other is saying; it’s all or nothing.

You know, it’s hard to be completely wrong. It really is hard. If you consider a true-false test, [and] there are hundred questions in this true false test, wouldn’t you be suspicious if somebody got a perfect zero? That’s as hard to achieve as a perfect 100. Even in a series of monkeys you’d get actually a mean of 50 and a bell curve around that. You can be pretty confident about that. A perfect zero—you’d get suspicious about that. It’s really hard to be completely wrong. I call it epistemic humility, another term that I use, having a little charity, a little openness—it’s an intellectual virtue not to claim you know it all.

One way I love to describe education, true education, is moving from cocksure ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty. That’s how I see [it], because I knew more than I’d ever know again, when I graduated from Taste Tech, I knew it all. Now I’m not so sure, and there’s fewer things I’d fight over than there were before. But the ones that I hold core, they are firm. But there’s the periphery. I’ve learned to live with a measure of ambiguity; I’m not entirely sure. There are some things—because I think there are conditions that we don’t have full answers for. But I think we’ll find answers. But I don’t think we’re going to know now.

For example, if you just consider the speed C,[efn_note]C is the speed of light in a mathematical formula.[/efn_note] the assumption that the speed of light is constant, has a great deal to do with relativistic physics. But is it actually fully established? Because there are in fact possible evidences that it could have been the result of an exponential decay curve that exponentially approximates the current rate. Thus, it would appear to be a constant at today’s values, which actually would have been systematically distorted, because if it actually was an exponential decay curve, what appears to be billions of years would only be thousands. Or you could use any number of other things. You can use the whole idea of the decayed constant itself—and the same idea applies for that as well, the decay constant. Was that always a constant, or was that another possible change? So we don’t have full answers to that.

Furthermore, you have time references, you have the time reference system at the beginning of the Big Bang, relative to the time referential system that we have in the now. And when you put those two together, there are two different ways of orienting yourself there [so] that you come up with different results as well. It’s more complex and nuanced than that. There’s one guy who came with a very clever move. I can tell you if you want, I don’t know. Bill Dembski[efn_note]Dr. William A. Dembski, author of Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology.[/efn_note] came up with this very clever thing and I think it’s worth at least thinking about. Shall I throw it in?

MS: I had a chance to actually sit under Dr. Dembski. He’s—if you haven’t followed the intelligent design movement, Dr. Dembski for a while was just sort of the rock star of that movement. He’s since moved into the areas of freedom and education. Tell about Dembski’s work.

KB: Well, he’s got this book, The End of Christianity,[efn_note]The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World.[/efn_note] and he comes up with a very interesting theory that I had never considered before where he’s trying to argue that actual responsible exegetical materials would force you to believe that there was really a historical Adam and so forth. So, he’s trying to come with his cake and eat it too. Here’s what he comes up with: he wants an old earth, but he also wants a literal Adam who lived at a finite time ago and that and for whom the consequences were cosmic in scope, that is to say that the Fall led to the consequences of a disease-death environment.

But how could that be if it was an old earth? You see where I’m going with that? If it was a recent—let’s say 100,000 years ago, whenever you want—that could not retroactively have done that. But he does an analogy with the cross, because the cross of Christ transcends space and time insofar as it retroactively reaches back to the first man Adam and goes ahead to the last person who will be born and actually has bearing and impact, because my view is that in all ages, and all times, the basis for salvation will always have been the death of Christ, that God transcends time and applies it in that manner. So he says, “What about the Fall, that big Eden? That this Edenic situation here was actually in its own, as it were, kind of a bubble whereby a choice was made, and the choice that was made would then retroactively affect the entire world?” You see the concept there? So that what was made a finite time ago would then have actually affected the entire world such that what happened in sin and disobedience really would have led to the fall of the cosmos.

You could process that; I play with it. I gotta tell you, I haven’t a clue. I’ve learned to live with that. You know what I have to say as I’m getting older? I’m beginning to realize I know less and less. I find that the best scholars I know are the ones who know enough to know how little they know. You have to learn a certain amount to know how ignorant you really are.

So, in my view, then, you know, there are some things you can hold at the core and some are at the periphery. But I don’t lose sleep over this anymore, you know, as I did. I have a confidence that when I see the Creator of all things—I think on our resurrected bodies we’re going to flat foreheads. “How did I miss it? How did I miss it? It was right in front [of me!]” I don’t know. It’ll be evident. You ever have this experience when you see a plot, you see how it’s done, how the trick is done—“How did I miss it? It was right in front of me”—and you see where I’m going with that. I have a suspicion that might be an experience we’ll all share.

MS: That book by Dr. Dembski is interesting, The End of Christianity.

KB: Interesting, good word.

MS: What he’s trying to hold on to is that main argument of—what the Young Earth creationist can’t see [the Old Earth answer to]—how do you explain death? Because biblically death is related to sin. If you have that little Adam and Eve who sinned, and then they bring about death, well, the Old Earth models just can’t have it. You have so many years, and fossil records, and things like that. As Dr. Boa said, just as the cross covers all of mankind, there was a sense in which Adam’s sin covered all of mankind. It just wasn’t realized actually in history to Adam.

KB: But retroactively; it’s an interesting idea. I don’t say he’s right; [it’s] just an interesting speculative model that actually could provide a solution, but I have a strong feeling it’s going to be even more surprising than that.

MS: Now you mentioned the Big Bang, and that’s a term, at least in the tradition I grew up in—if you heard the term Big Bang, that was synonymous with atheism, it was synonymous with evolution, naturalism. But you look at a lot of theist defenders of the faith now actually using the Big Bang as evidence of the fact that the universe had a beginning; therefore, that which begins to exist has to have a cause. I imagine there are some in the crowd that hear you say “‘Big Bang’? How can a theist or believer, a Christian, believe in the Big Bang?” Talk a little bit about the Big Bang and what it does not preclude and what it actually gives us.

KB: Robert Jastrow is best known for that little phrase that he says, that the scientists will have come to a realization, that they’ll come to this understanding that it began and they’ll find themselves on the top of a mountain, and just acquiring it, they’ll see a bunch of theologians [who] have been there all along who grasped this idea that there was a beginning to matter, energy, space, and time.[efn_note]Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1992), 107. The exact quote reads, “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.”[/efn_note]

It’s basically saying that the steady-state model, which was the model of choice among cosmologists, turns out to be the one we would love to be true; it’s not the case—it was more of our Aristotelian model, where there was no need for a causality or a causal agent because the universe was eternal, it was infinite in length, there’s no actual change. So, the idea instead of a steady state went against their bias and required a lot of evidence before that would be embraced, especially in 1965, when the cosmic radiation comported beautifully with the microwave radiation with the implications of Big Bang and cosmology and more or less forced people to get—it was actually a pejorative term. George Gamow and others came up with that terminology; it was not a favorable term. But now it’s used in that way, so when they speak of “Big Bang cosmology,” they’re saying that you’re dealing here with, in fact, a singularity—a moment out of which all things came to be.

So, what it implies, though, and what’s interesting about it, is that the universe by its nature is contingent, not necessary—that it came to be; it began. So, you really have this—what I call an “if proposition”—if anything now is, either the universe is eternal or there is something that is not eternal or something that caused it to come into being, but it cannot be the same. It’s either there’s an eternal agency or something beyond that. But if anything now exists, it came into being, and so the question is where.

It’s contingent; it depends for itself on something beyond it. But this goes beyond science, the province of science, it’s limitations, because now you’re dealing more with philosophical knowledge than you are with scientific. That’s why if you go before that it’s more of an Augustinian and more along the lines of Aquinas and more along the lines of metaphysics itself. It’s a tough area of influence, no question about it.

So, we’re touching on things that are mysterious. This, by the way, is interesting, because the multiverse approach seeks to avoid the implications of the Big Bang cosmology by proposing instead that there are a boundless number of universes that bubbled up. This would provide for them as well as a ready answer to the implications, the anthropic implications, of fine-tuning. Because, you see, “We just happen to be the one where we’re having this discussion, so we won the crapshoot.” You see, that’s basically what it comes down to.

There’s reasons why there’s some serious problems with that, one of which is that there’s no empirical evidence at all for the system. It’s very elegant mathematical models that are used, but that’s about what you’ve got. You don’t have any actual empirical warrant for it. What’s interesting here is that people, cosmologists, who are willing now to violate the most fundamental laws of physics—namely the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, that matter was neither created nor destroyed, and the idea of its dissipation of useful energy—they’re willing to violate the most fundamental foundations of physics in order to embrace a theory that has no empirical warrant.

Now, I’d say that’s living by faith, you see. I think it’s partly motivated by the desire to get away from these theistic implications of fine-tuning. I’m not saying it’s science or faith—I’m saying we all live by faith. The question is going to be, “What’s the evidence for this faith that you have?”

I’m not saying it’s science or faith—I’m saying we all live by faith. The question is going to be, “What’s the evidence for this faith that you have?”

The unexamined faith, as you say—just as the unexamined life is not worth living—the unexamined faith isn’t. So, it is good to have doubt; it’s good to reflect; it’s good to go back. Instead of being so cocksure about our understanding, hold back, revisit a thing, and in light of new evidence, to revisit it with your measure of humility to see if that’s a possibility. Because if you choose not to do that, you will stubbornly push forward and not be open, and you’ll be impervious to new evidences that are there.

In my mind, that’s not responsible science or faith—so my thinking here is that there is they don’t need to be construed as at loggerheads. I believe that Scripture properly taught does not contradict science properly taught. It’s just a way of looking at that.

MS: You said, “responsible science,” we often hear the term these days “scientific consensus.”

KB: I was just talking with Errol about that.

MS: Is there such a thing? Is that a good thing?

KB: That drives me crazy! Because you will not get a Nobel Prize for being part of the scientific consensus. People who win those prizes go against the grain, go against the shared expression. As you’ll find, science is not an endeavor that actually works in that method. But actually, it works by being challenged, and going against the consensus is a way in which you do. You take a thing to its own implications rather than just buying into the party line.

As well, you must bear in mind that the history of science is a road that’s strewn with these garden theories all along the way that were consensually embraced by the majority as being true. For example, spontaneous generation, the phlogiston, the idea of the ether, and a wide array of other things that suddenly turns out those are not so accurate as we had supposed.

The majority view has largely been wrong over the history of science. So, rather than just looking at a kind of a political consensus, the issue is, “Where does the evidence take you?” In my mind, the best scientists are ones who are willing to challenge that nexus of accepted thought and reevaluate a thing on its own terms, to revisit the thing rather than just to parrot everything they’ve been fed, they’ve been taught—to revisit that.

Going back to Claude Shannon for a moment, many challenged him because they said that information, you cannot do it in terms of quanta, in terms of bits and bytes of ones and zeros.  You can’t do that; the idea of radio frequencies and signals have to be analog in their nature. So, for him to go against that scientific consensus rather took a measure of courage and a measure of creativity and perseverance. And he demonstrated that that consensual view was in fact erroneous, and so it goes.

You can do this with any area; Tesla was another one; and remember Nicholas Tesla’s fundamental juggernaut was Edison, Thomas Edison, and Edison the proponent of DC,[efn_note]Direct current.[/efn_note] Tesla of AC.[efn_note]Alternating current.[/efn_note] Now it’s an interesting thing, there was a lot of power and money and so forth, there was a lot of things going on there, but again Tesla went against the bias—but it turns out he was right. Alternating current is the way we go, so it goes. I’m just saying, this is true with any area of science.

MS: People are intrigued by those who change their position. You already mentioned Antony Flew, you talked about your own story pursuing science theology. We’ve got several questions related to those changes. Have you seen evidence in your own debates or talks with people that have moved from either scientific materialism to something else, or from atheism to something else? And if so, is there one factor that does that? Is there something that is a key element across those examples?

KB: Well, let’s go back to those four things that I mentioned before. I think a lot of people are never exposed to an alternative point of view. They bought the party line, and they’ve never had an alternative point of view or perspective. If a cogent argument is made, maybe they’d be open to this. I’ll give you one example, two actually, that come to my mind. I gave a lecture on science, faith, and reason at the University of Vienna in Austria and another, the same lecture, I gave at the Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts.

The second one’s even more interesting in some respects because there were about eighty Chinese graduate students almost all from mainland Chinese universities. Well, guess what they were buying into? They were virtually all atheists; this is all they had ever heard. Well, it was a good evening, because by the end of that time many of them changed their position to say, “Hmm, I’m not so sure about this atheism; we’re trying to prove too much.” Many then became open to the possibility of a designing Agency, which wasn’t a bad evening’s work.

My friend who organized the event, many of them—Lee Yi is his name, and he was working with these Chinese students—many of them contacted me, saying, “We’ve never have seen this possibility,” and it opened them up to new possibilities. They’ve never encountered—this is the point—most people are just given the same party line without any dissension, and then they embrace it passively without ever being exposed.

In this case here, an openness to where the evidence goes, in my mind, is as an epistemological virtue. Being open to where the evidence takes you, even if it goes against your desire or bias—this is what I’m arguing. That’s why I don’t say, “It’s a matter of science versus faith, but it’s a matter of, in fact, a faith founded on fact. And what am I building my faith upon? Are there good evidences for it?” So, the same thing happened in Vienna, which was an interesting; the Q&A was the most interesting part of those two lectures, the interaction.

Being exposed to something—I think the average person is only exposed to one line of thought.  Then when they see that there may be another viable alternative, it’s worth at least considering, hopefully holding that thing at arm’s length and assessing it.

MS: You talked about following the evidence where it was. A guy like Richard Dawkins would say that faith is what people have despite the evidence, or that there is no evidence for faith. Pull that quote by Dawkins—he’s the author of The God Delusion, one of the loudest voices against this idea—“Faith is an evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument.”[efn_note]Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008), 347.[/efn_note] That’s not the faith we’re talking about, is it?

KB: Because, you see, very many of his own claims would have, really, no actual literal justification for them. Everyone is going to, as I said before, live by faith at the end of the day— and first principles. You cannot prove or disprove God’s existence in that respect. It’s not that simple, but there are, in fact, good evidences that one can go to, and we can go from there. I find, by the way, the older atheists were far more nuanced, far more balanced, and far more informed, and less shrill and tendentious than the newer atheists, more charitable as well. So, I find that the earlier ones had a good deal more to say.

I’m not impressed with much of what is going [on]. It’s now almost like a TV show, you know, America’s Got Talent, or something like that, and we have this “Who sings best?”—but that’s another discussion. […] Anyway, the idea here is that, no, you’ve got to go and be open enough, be humble enough, to see there may be some possibilities. “There are more things that are in the heavens and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.”[efn_note]William Shakespeare, Hamlet 1.5.[/efn_note] You remember that idea there? There’s more to things, and for me to claim I’ve got all the answers would be a mistake.

You’ve got to have an authority; what’s my authority for truth? You see, it comes down to authorities that we have to use. I’m just saying, though, that I find scientific inquiry—and this is why I like Polanyi[efn_note]Michael Polanyi, author of numerous books, including Science, Faith, and Society (1946) and The Study of Man (1959).[/efn_note] and that’s why I like Popper[efn_note] Karl Popper, a philosopher know for going against the inductive scientific method.[/efn_note] and this is why I like Kuhn;[efn_note]Thomas Kuhn, author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962).[/efn_note] these are thinkers who actually considered the dynamics of science as a sociological and philosophical phenomenon, not merely just something that is off and on. It’s more to it than that; there are reasons why certain consensual views take hold. So, to be open to the evidence and to have a willingness to see where it goes—to me that’s what science is always—inference to the best explanation. To me, that’s what it always comes down to.

MS: Speaking of the shrill nature of Dawkins, he says, “If you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane.”[efn_note]First written by Richard Dawkins in his review of Blueprints: Solving the Mystery of Evolution by Maitland A. Edey and Donald C. Johanson, posted in the New York Times on April 9, 1989.[/efn_note] How do you respond to that quote?

KB: It’s almost not worthy of refutation, because the statement itself is an uncharitable, unnuanced claim that “if you are not one of these”—even the way they use the word “the Brights,”[efn_note]“The Brights” are a self-titled group of people who hold to a worldview, as they would say, free of all superstition and anything supernatural. They refer to anyone not of their worldview as “supers” for having supernatural views. Richard Dawkins is a part of this group.[/efn_note] the clever term “the Brights”—“you’re a dimwit. If you don’t embrace my view, you must be a moral and spiritual and cognitive dimwit,” effectively making that claim. It’s painting, it’s tarring, the opposition with a pretty broad brush, and it’s not at all subtle.

The climax of the claim is also to be totally unaware or oblivious by choice—the whole history of philosophy itself, the philosophy of science, the whole traditions, to say that Aquinas and Augustine fit in that category—it’s just almost scary, am I on the same planet? Or Aristotle or Plato, who, in fact, were developing this whole concept of the Logos,[efn_note]Logos is Greek for “word.” In philosophy, it refers to reason, often a divine reason. In Christianity, the Logos is Jesus Christ, as used in the first chapter of John.[/efn_note] and Plato’s idea of the Logos about being a kind of an Agency, almost impersonal, but the idea that there’s someone, something, or some entity beyond. And then Aristotle goes beyond that and makes him the Unmoved Mover.

In my view, actually, Hellenistic philosophy developed and provided a kind of foundation for the Johannine grasp about the “In the beginning was the Logos.” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through him, and apart from him nothing came into being that has come into being” [John 1:1–2]. What is he claiming? He’s claiming that actually in the beginning was Mind and Agency and Intelligence, who spoke the cosmos into being; that it is an intelligently ordered thing, and He spoke it into being—the One who Himself is not a contingent being, but rather the necessary Being, who always exists in the Tri-unity of the divine community, we call God. We have this mystery within mysteries, that the Logos took on flesh and became one of us. The idea of the Logos doing this and taking humanity—it bristles with mystery and wonder, and it’s something that no one would have ever made up.

But in my mind, it provided the Hellenistic thought—actually, Jerusalem did have a lot to do with Athens.[efn_note]This goes off of a famous question posed by Tertullian (c. 155–220) in De Praescriptione Haereticorum, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” It asks what the secular world of philosophy had to do with the church and Christianity.[/efn_note] I think, in the Providence of God, it actually connected together very well. The idea, to dismiss out of hand these kinds of thinkers, to throw out Descartes and Kant and Hume—it’s astonishing to me that you could really even embrace that notion.

MS: I’m surprised that Dawkins gets the play that he does. I’m hoping [it’s] because he’s the loudest, he’s so intimidating that, you know, the time you’re introduced him maybe in high school, in college, he’s hard to combat. But surprisingly, his central argument of this, “If God is the designer, then who designed God?” is one that has been answered a long time ago.

KB: That’s basically a Sunday school level, one I’ll acknowledge here, because where did God come [from]? “Oh my God you came up with a poser that no one knows. Ooh, I never thought of that, well he got me!” It’s actually a childish question, “Where did God come from?” I remember talking with my grandson Kenny when he was seven. I said, “Where do you think God came from?” He said, “He didn’t come from anywhere; He always is.” That’s the right answer, because He is the self-existent One; the I AM THAT I AM; the One who transcends matter, energy, space, and time; the Alpha and the Omega; the beginning and the end; the first and last. So He is a necessary Being. To say where He came from is to say He must be bound by time and space, “where did he come from in time and space?”—He transcends those categories, so you have a category error. It’s basic simple Sunday school level stuff. It’s not profound.

MS: It’s interesting, if you want to have a good apologetics discussion, talk to a child. That is why Berlinski, this quote we began with, “I’ve talked about the notions of the childhood question becoming the adult dilemma,”[efn_note]David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretentions (New York: Basic Books, 2009). The actual quote is as follows: “A child’s question has given way to an adult’s dilemma.”[/efn_note] it was because of this sort of thing. He brought up, I think, even in his book, the example of Holmes and Watson, “How many times do I have to tell you regarding the evidence, that, once you eliminate the impossible, no matter how improbable, what’s left is in fact the truth.”[efn_note]Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, spoken by Sherlock Holmes in “The Sign of the Four.” The actual quote is, “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth?”[/efn_note]

You mentioned the Chinese example and having not heard those arguments growing up. One of the questions we continue to get is about, “What should we be teaching in schools?” Why don’t you comment on scientific curriculum—evolution, creationism, intelligent design—what’s the role of schools today?

KB: My view—I mean this will not be generally accepted probably—but my view is if you have a university, it claims, then, to be open; it is a context in which there is a playing field of ideas, where we are called to evaluate opposing viewpoints on their own merits, their strengths and their weaknesses. You ought to know the best arguments there are for evolution. You also ought to know that there’s another account as well.

What I’m teaching my grandsons—what I’m already teaching them—is the best arguments you’ll ever hear for both sides. I want them to know both sides. I don’t want them to go to college and say, “Oh man, I never heard that before.” I want them to be prepared, to think it through in advance. But tragically, a lot of kids go to college, and then the professor’s whole agenda is to—he has a moral agenda almost to somehow disabuse these benighted individuals of their view of faith, to replace it with a more enlightened and illuminated account.

But my view is, if a kid can’t understand the best arguments for that opposing position, there’s something wrong. I find there’s an asymmetrical thing here, because generally I find that the best writers in the tradition of design theory know the arguments of their opponents better than the other way around. You need to know both sides. So my view—if it’s a true education, hear both sides evaluated on a level playing field of ideas and see which one actually makes the most sense. What’s most consistent? What’s most comprehensive? What’s most clear? What’s most compatible with the way the world is?

MS: That’s exactly why we host something like In Question. Remember when we talked about the Bart Ehrman’s story, about him at one of the churches in North Carolina and bringing up these objections and the lady approached him and says, “Well why hasn’t my pastor taught me about any of these things?” It’s one reason why I encourage you [to] read books like “The God Delusion.” You only know your position so well as you know the arguments against it.

Before I give people a chance to go to your website and maybe sign up for your newsletter, any closing thoughts that you want to give us on this idea?

KB: You’ve mentioned Dawkins a number of times. One of the most interesting parts in his writings is the idea of climbing Mount Improbable.[efn_note]The phrase is taken from a book by Dawkins entitled Climbing Mount Improbable.[/efn_note] He makes the claim that you can go from— and he uses “Methinks it is like a weasel.”[efn_note]Dawkins uses the sentence “Methinks it is like a weasel” (originally from Hamlet 3.2) in order to try to demonstrate cumulative selection rather than single-step evolution in the case of monkeys randomly hitting a keyboard in an attempt to generate the aforementioned phrase. His point is that his computer simulation did not take long at all when he controlled the experiment by cumulative selection (in essence, the idea that evolution builds on itself due to some process or guidelines instilled by nature, the “watchmaker”), so that this form of evolution is not only possible, but also probable. He then goes on to argue that the “watchmaker” he has mentioned controlling the experiment is actually blind and completely random. See Richard Dawkins, “Accumulating Small Change,” in The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996), 43–76.[/efn_note] So, he then says, “How many iterations would you need to get to actually develop this actual statement, the sentence?”

And so, [in] the way he approaches it, there’s a supposition that if we do one step at a time, each one then makes the next more probable. Once you get the first letter, stop there. Then you get the next one; stop there. You see where he’s going with that? “Break it down; it is possible, isn’t it?” What’s the blunder, the fundamental blunder in this notion? Guess what it is. The information is backloaded because the system has to know what to eliminate in order to stop it there. You see where I’m going with that? The information has been backloaded into the system already so that what doesn’t match “methinks it is like a weasel” won’t be accepted.

Try that game with a random causality, which is much more of what we’re really dealing with, and see what your odds would be in getting that sequence. There will not be enough time on billions of cycles of 13.7 [billion] years[efn_note]One estimate for the age of the universe.[/efn_note]—in fact, quadrillions—to do it. In fact, you know, chance can’t count to 10, let alone beyond these numbers—that’s another discussion.

MS: We want to thank Dr. Boa for being with us this evening. You probably left inspired, confused, wanting more out. One thing we want to do with In Question—we can’t possibly address all the issues of science and faith and reason, but we do want to whet your appetite, and we do at the very least want you to leave saying, “I may never be able to answer all of those questions, but there are people who hold to a very rich faith in God who can, and there are reasons for faith.”

One thing that can equip you, if you will go to this website,, there is just a wealth of information there. In my personal devotion time here lately, I’ve been going through some of his books. I’ve got Handbook to Prayer, Handbook to Spiritual Growth—let me just recommend these resources to you as something that will strengthen your faith, strengthen your heart, strengthen your mind. You’ve got a chance to sign up for his newsletter there on the green table over there. What do they need, email address, physical address?

KB: A physical address—and you can get it both ways. I’d rather you get the physicality, because actually, it’s a pretty piece. Sometimes it’s nice to get that instead of just typical things you get electronically.

MS: If you’d like to sign up for that, put your name, put your address, and he will get that to you. Thank you for coming out this evening. Let me remind you that next week Dr. Richard Howe will be with us. We will be answering the question “Is Jesus the only path to God?” We’ll take up the idea of exclusivism, pluralism, and “What about those who never heard the Gospel?” Hope to see you guys next week. Good night.

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