04 January 2009

Human Philosophy and Scientific Hypotheses Cannot Deliver "Truth"

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "The Greatest Fight in the World," Spurgeon's final manifesto.

he history of that human ignorance which calls itself "philosophy" is absolutely identical with the history of fools, except where it diverges into madness. If another Erasmus were to arise and write the history of folly, he would have to give several chapters to philosophy and science, and those chapters would be more telling than any others.

I should not myself dare to say that philosophers and scientists are generally fools; but I would give them liberty to speak of one another, and at the close I would say, "Gentlemen, you are less complimentary to each other than I should have been." I would let the wise of each generation speak of the generation that went before it, or nowadays each half of a generation might deal with the previous half generation; for there is little of theory in science to-day which will survive twenty years, and only a little more which will see the first day of the twentieth century.

We travel now at so rapid a rate that we rush by sets of scientific hypotheses as quickly as we pass telegraph posts when riding in an express train. All that we are certain of to-day is this, that what the learned were sure of a few years ago is now thrown into the limbo of discarded errors.

I believe in science, but not in what is called "science." No proven fact in nature is opposed to revelation. The pretty speculations of the pretentious we cannot reconcile with the Bible, and would not if we could. I feel like the man who said, "I can understand in some degree how these great men have found out the weight of the stars, and their distances from one another, and even how, by the spectroscope, they have discovered the materials of which they are composed; but", said he, "I cannot guess how they found out their names."

Just so. The fanciful part of science, so dear to many, is what we do not accept. That is the important part of science to many—that part which is a mere guess, for which the guessers fight tooth and nail. The mythology of science is as false as the mythology of the heathen; but this is the thing which is made a god of. I say again, as far as its facts are concerned, science is never in conflict with the truths of Holy Scripture, but the hurried deductions drawn from those facts, and the inventions classed as facts, are opposed to Scripture, and necessarily so, because falsehood agrees not with truth.

Two sorts of people have wrought great mischief, and yet they are neither of them worth being considered as judges in the matter: they are both of them disqualified. It is essential than an umpire should know both sides of a question, and neither of these is thus instructed. The first is the irreligious scientist. What does he know about religion? What can he know? He is out of court when the question is—Does science agree with religion? Obviously he who would answer this query must know both of the two things in the question.

The second is a better man, but capable of still more mischief. I mean the unscientific Christian, who will trouble his head about reconciling the Bible with science. He had better leave it alone, and not begin his tinkering trade. The mistake made by such men has been that in trying to solve a difficulty, they have either twisted the Bible, or contorted science. The solution has soon been seen to be erroneous, and then we hear the cry that Scripture has been defeated. Not at all; not at all. It is only a vain gloss upon it which has been removed.

C. H. Spurgeon


James Scott Bell said...

"There is a strange ring of feeling and emotion in these reactions [of scientists to evidence that the universe had a sudden beginning]. They come from the heart whereas you would expect the judgements to come from the brain. Why? I think part of the answer is that scientists cannot bear the thought of a natural phenomenon which cannot be explained, even with unlimited time and money. There is a kind of religion in science, it is the religion of a person who believes there is order and harmony in the universe, and every effect must have its cause, there is no first cause...
This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control..."

"Consider the enormity of the problem. Science has proven that the universe exploded into being at a certain moment. It asks, what cause produced the effect? Who or what put the matter and energy in the universe? Was the universe created out of nothing, or was it gathered together out of pre existing materials? And science cannot answer these questions."

"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 mountain 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."

-- Dr. Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers

W. Ian Hall said...

"The history of that human ignorance which calls itself "philosophy" is absolutely identical with the history of fools, except where it diverges into madness."
Great Quote.

NothingNew said...

Many scientist don't even think about the philosophy behind what they are doing most of the time. Most just go to work every day to earn money to pay their mortgage and maybe they might have a 5-year plan as they work toward the completion of their research project. Most scientists are no more likely to understand truth solely within their occupation any more that a plumber would. Many scientist are brilliant in there particular fields of study, but we make a big mistake to think that their particular knowledge in one field automatically transfers to all others in life.

Quotes from:

"These scientists are motivated by the same things that fuel most scientific progress: economic opportunities and the drive to advance knowledge. "

"As Boulet explains, "We're not really trained to think about it. We're highly specialized engineers and mathematicians and scientists, and we don't really reflect too much on the philosophy of what we're doing."

"Academic researchers, most of the ones I know anyway, are focused on the five-year time frame. You're just looking at your little piece of the gigantic puzzle, and you don't really look at all the pieces being put together into something that's either a gigantic problem or really beautiful."

donsands said...

"..they have either twisted the Bible, or contorted science."

There's been much damage done by these types of Christians. They seem to be intimidated with science, and so simply say, "Science? it's stupid. I just believe the Bible."

The Christian should be able to stand upon the truth, and be engaged with the secular world as well, and be glad for true facts that are discovered by the scientist who are not in the Church.

I asked an immensely intelligent atheist/Darwinist, how did life begin? Was it by lightning striking a mud puddle? I'll give you the mud puddle."
And so we have discussed these things, he being way beyond my pea brain in understanding so many things.
Yet, he has no answer for life itself, neither does he for the resurrection of Jesus.

The Lord has helped me be who I am, and even in the midst of superior brains. And I pray for all those who I discuss these things with. Have to remember to pray, because it tends to become very heated at times. And the sarcasm flows.

Speaking the truth in love needs much prayer all around.

Ed de Blieck said...

An interesting argument in a reasonable tone. It seems to me to boil down to this:

If science concerns the implications arising out of the study of "what is", then religion concerns the implications arising out of the study of "why it is". One, therefore, depends on the other, but both depend on uncovering a "truth" that has been put there by the exogenous variable.

NothingNew said...

My take from some of the more intelligent atheists out there is that they fall into the trap/sin of worshipping their own intelligence/brain.

Everybody eventually worships something (if they want to admit it or not) and unfortunately if you don't worship God you end up worshiping something that has less intelligence, less beauty, and less righteousness.

donsands said...

"My take from some of the more intelligent atheists out there is that they fall into the trap/sin of worshipping their own intelligence/brain."

Perhaps. The one I have had discussions with simply wants evidence, and has set his mind that the evidence proves that this universe, and especially this earth has come about over billion of years of evolution. The fossil finds prove this to him. I went and read some of Darwin's studies, because he asked me to, and I was lost, to be honest. I need help in this arena. And so I say only what I can, and leave the scientific discoveries to better Christians than me. And there are some.
RC Sproul has been a great help to me. And John MacArthur as well.

NothingNew said...

I know the renown and very misguided atheist Richard Dawkins stated that Darwinian Evolution made atheism intellectually stimulating. Meaning that without the theory of macro biological evolution, there would be very little to keep an atheist academically fulfilled about their inherent nihilistic world view.

Unknown said...

Further proof, as if any were needed, of Spurgeon's immeasurable godly wisdom come from the fabulous fountainhead of God's throne.

Yet how sadly most professing James 4:4 Christians today, seemingly preferring sleeping with the world, appear to care nothing for such wisdom in the Psalm 111:10 fear of the LORD, so gullible they rather imagine that even though ALL of the Church Fathers were indisputably ALL young-earth creationists (YECs), prior to manifestly deranged apostate racist Darwin and his gullible fellows in his ship of fools
(like T. H. Huxley and sadly even gullible Charles Hodge and supposed "inerrancy" stalwart B. B. Warfield (sadly including all but a tiny number of cemeteries-seminaries)),
they were of course "proven" by "science" to be all wrong
(though of course with absolutely NO credible or rational evidence to support the mindless, bigoted accusation in our postmodern emergent age of the lunatics running the asylum).
For the few interested in the Absolute and Ultimate Truth and Authority of God's Word on chronology that most, especially Reformed types, seem to reject today, having been conned into believing today's "scientists" really know what they're talking about even as their forefathers blew up Chernobyl and daily contradict one another and prohibit scientific exploration that doesn't conform to their deranged, bigoted, antitheist religious fundamentalism (see how the brainwashing of "Lysenkoism" continues to controls us today as it did the USSR at http://skepdic.com/lysenko.html), check out www.creationontheweb.com and www.trueorigin.org. The irony of the unabashedly evolutionist spin on the article on Lysenkoism is their utterly blind bigoted inability to see that modern evolution's treatment of creation is an exact replay of Lysenkoism's political oppression of Mendelian geneticism. I dismiss "intelligent design" (ID) as just another proven evolution bastard fraud, very sorry that those gullible enough to have rejected God's Truth for the clever deist ID con in a vain attempt to pursue a lazy and vain attempt to harmonize science and Scripture, fail to realize that the bottom line is that it is just as dismissive of Ultimate Biblical Authority over chronology as its illegitimate parent evolution, extensively shown in the above websites.

Yet just as sadly it seems YECs are equally dismissive of God's Word when it comes to Reformed theology, especially Definite Atonement and Irresistible Grace. How tragic that for all the vaunted claims of both Reformed theologians and YECs to hold to God's Word as Ultimate Authority, at the end of the day the one thing they seem to agree most on is that it's not, either for The (not a) True Chronology of God versus man's for the Reformed, or for The (not a) True Soteriology of God versus man's for the YECs. Since I'm childlike enough to believe God for both I'm sadly rejected by both sides as naïve. What both will say in the Judgment when they must give God an account for their ungodly arrogance (especially after the profound Millennia of Church Fathers so great "cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1) give their profound testimony neither would heed) I can't imagine, but we thank God, He will wipe away all tears (Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:4).

NiftyDrewFifty said...

If the Bible is a better source for natural truth than science, than how could it be possible for Noah to go around the whole earth, round up all millions of species of animals from all the continents and all the climates and load them all up on a boat the size of Best Buy and feed and contain them them for 40 days and 40 nights?

DJP said...

The Genesis record answers your question.

Ever read it?

Jon said...

Russ said, "Yet just as sadly it seems YECs are equally dismissive of God's Word when it comes to Reformed theology..."

WhachyoutalkinaboutRuss?! I was a YEC before I even knew about Reformed Theology. The fact that I held to God being sovereign in his creation of the world and that Genesis is to be understood in a plan and straight forward manner (ya'know... a day is a day, not a long period of time, context is guud...) led me to accept God's sovereignty in salvation as well.

I do understand your point that generally YECs are probably not Reformed in their soteriology, but I would definitely imagine that most Reformed people are YECs.

Jon said...

NiftyDrewFifty said, "...how could it be possible for Noah to go around the whole earth, round up all millions of species of animals from all the continents...

First of all, do as Dan says and read the Genesis account of creation and the flood. I then recommend a couple of books for you to read. First and foremost, especially if you're a science kind of guy, is Henry Morris'(www.ICR.org) The Genesis Flood. It lays out a scientific theory that is in harmony with the Biblical record of creation. Is it fallible? Yep, but that doesn't mean it's not plausible. At the very least I find it far more plausible than most uniformatarian theories.

And on a more basic Q&A format of questions such as yours is from Answers In Genesis called The Answers Books.

NiftyDrewFifty said...
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DJP said...


Drew is a newborn troll, or a repackaged old troll, not sure which.

No more responses to or from Drew until he interacts seriously with mine to him of 2:50 PM, January 05, 2009.

Drew: this isn't a troll playground. Other sites are, as I think you've found. Not here.

NiftyDrewFifty said...
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donsands said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NiftyDrewFifty said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
NiftyDrewFifty said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

Not playing, troll. There's lots of places you can frolic to your heart's desire. This isn't one of them.

NiftyDrewFifty said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

One more, Drew, and you're banned.

Doc said...

Christians who will acknowledge that the Bible is inerrant, I submit to you the following:
1. A plain face reading of the text of Genesis seems to indicate a relatively young earth (thousands, not millions/billions of years old)
2. There are scientists with PhD's in the relevant fields who will acknowledge that the data obtained through observation of the world around us tends to indicate a relatively young earth. They may be in the minority of all scientists, but they exist.
3. The vast majority of those scientists who maintain that the data tends to indicate an old earth with neo-Darwinian evolution accounting for life's diversity do not acknowledge that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.

Therefore, I am justified, until and unless someone can demonstrate to me otherwise, in maintaining that most likely the earth is young, and special creation explains the diversity of life as we know it. Is it possible that somehow the earth is old and that God used some mechanism that looks like neo-Darwinian evo to bring about life? Perhaps, but only if one claims that the plain face reading of the text of Scripture is wrong. I see no reason to do that. "The book of nature!" some cry. I see nothing in the book of nature that does not accord with the plain text of Scripture (and I have some special training, having a bachelor's in Biology and an M.D.), and have no particular inclination to take the word of atheists and their fellow-travelers about the subject. For the few devout Christian scientists who still maintain that the earth is old, and for the very few who maintain that God used some neo-Darwinian mechanism to create life, I will oppose the testimony of the devout Christian scientists who declare the opposite. Since Scripture appears to agree with the latter, there I stand.

Matthew said...

Doc has some interesting comments. I have a bachelor's of religious education and will soon have completed my B.Sc, and was raised in a young earth creationist household, so trying to relate what I see in nature to what I see in scripture has been a very big issue for me. I have for the last several years been leaning towards a theistic evolution point of view. The project that I am currently working on would not work if the basics behind Darwinian evolution were not true. Darwinian evolution has changed considerably over the years, it has been refined and revamped, but the core has remained relatively the same for the past 150 years, and I have a feeling it will not get thrown away any time in the forseeable future. It has deep explanatory power. As for Scripture, well, it has lasted for the past several thousand years, and obviously has deeper explanatory power. I don't really think either should be thrown out. As for inerrancy, I think a proper reading of scripture calls into question your specific definition of inerrancy. If you were to read Macbeth as a history book, you would be mistaken. If you were to read today's newspaper and criticize it because its paragraphs don't rhyme, you would be considered crazy. So why do we feel that we should interpret all scripture, regardless of its genre, as literal? Do you believe that Job and his friends really had a conversation in poetic form? A plain literal reading would cause you to believe that. Genesis 1 is a complicated genre that does not lend itself to the same type of interpretation as, say, Genesis 12. See Bruce Watke for a good commentary on this. Also, read Kenneth Miller's Finding Darwin's God for a good take by a Christian on where young and old earth creationism goes wrong, scientifically, logically and in some cases theologically.