‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Christian Values and Intelligent Life at the BBC

There were two significant programmes on BBC television on Easter Sunday night (4th April) that highlighted one of the major challenges we face as Christians in education

Nicky Campbell investigates whether Christians are being discriminated against Nicky Campbell, Are Christians being persecuted? BBC1, Sunday 04 April, 10.50 - 11.50 pm

In a BBC 2 Documentary Prof. Brian Cox explored how the search for aliens has followed the search for water. Last in the series (5/5) Prof Brian Cox, Wonders of the Solar System 5 Aliens, BBC2, Sunday 04 April, 9-10 pm.

In a two minute segment (05-22 to 07-24 minutes into the BBC1 programme on iplayer) Nicky Campbell looked at what is happening in schools. He mentioned a recent report that looked into the teaching of RE in schools (can anyone identify this report?) The report found that most Christian student teachers thought that sharing their beliefs in the classroom could be unprofessional. But it was a different story for agnostics and atheists – they believed that sharing their lack of beliefs or questions could be a positive contribution. Nicky then went and talked to education students at Canterbury Christ Church University (a Christian foundation!) and found this to be exactly true.

This highlights the most important thing that my colleague Mark Roques and I (www.realitybites.org.uk) always want to get across. There is no neutral position – everyone is thinking, speaking and acting out of a worldview position, even if (as in our world of a fundamentally uneducated populace, i.e. worldview ignorant) that worldview is eclectic, self-contradictory and unrecognised. The trouble with agnosticism, atheism and secularism is that they are essentially negative positions, whereas their proponents will actually all have positive beliefs that (aware or unaware) they are living out. They may deny (agnostically) that they have any worldview, but actually they cannot avoid living as if a particular worldview is true. Our worldview is what we live, not what we profess (these are often very different – another reflection of the lack of worldview education – of the ignorance of the relationship between beliefs and life) So the key question is: what is their worldview (their faith, their divinity belief à la Roy Clouser’s The Myth of Religious Neutrality)? Then let’s have that worldview on the table and open to the same searching critique that Christians are expected to face.

Secularists treat their position as a default starting point that doesn’t need to be scrutinised. We have seen this in almost all of the recent Darwin Year programmes. A Richard Dawkins or Colin Blakemore is given free reign to (negatively) critique religious beliefs, but their own materialism is not exposed to similar critique. Implicitly, the different varieties of secularism are positions of science and reason that don’t need to be critiqued.

Brian Cox’s BBC2 programme illustrated this. There was nothing new in his programme, but it was interesting to see key assumptions laid out unapologetically, but without any rational (never mind empirical) justification being offered.

In the first place he assumed that physicalism is true – that in the end there is only physics, that the universal laws of physics create everything.

He also assumed that life is just chemistry (we are 96% just four elements: C,H,O, and N, he noted). All we need for life to be possible is chemicals, an energy source (such as the sun) and a medium (water). However he did concede that, even on this view, the creation of life on Earth was probably due to “the rarest combination of chance and the laws of physics”.

Thirdly he assumed that because life can exist in the most extreme (‘alien’) environments on Earth, therefore life may exist in extreme environments elsewhere in the Solar system (such as in a possible ocean beneath the icy crust of Jupiter’s moon Europa). This is a proposition that requires a lot more justification: that organisms now live in such environments does not demonstrate that they could arise in such environments (granting, for the sake of the argument, that life can ‘emerge’ from purely chemical systems).

At no point (like Dawkins, Blakemore et al.) did he consider the materialism-busting problems of free will (agency), consciousness, intelligence (etc.). If we are just chemical machines, wholly governed by some combination of chance and the universal laws of physics, then from where do we get human free will (to follow the evidence, to follow an argument …), reason, science, morality ….? What, then, do we teach the children in school? At present it is actually still Christian assumptions that govern much of the teaching in citizenship, PSHE etc. We can’t allow that dishonesty and deception to continue can we? Are we ready for a truly Godless world?
Arthur Jones

1 comment:

Critias said...

The fact that the church continually fails to unpick such anti-Christian arguments as you sketch, and fails to show the Christian basis of the positive intellectual basis of Western society (despite its many ills) will, I'm sure go down in the history of Christian mission as one of the great failures of nerve...mind..spirit!!