Friday, December 3, 2010
Interesting billboard. I find it funny because it celebrates reason but does not engage in reason. Is it rational to just assert something is a myth? Is it more reasonable to reject all stories of the supernatural? There is a common perception that science has shown the supernatural can't happen. Really science has very little to say about the supernatural. It is in the business of analyzing the natural. That is explaining events that occur in the world in some sort of predictable way. It can't analyze the supernatural. All it can do is declare that the event is impossible within the framework of the laws of science. But that is not even in dispute. Nobody accepts the virgin birth and claims it is anything other than a miracle. Even Mary knew it was impossible. That didn't mean she lacked faith. It just means she knew science. Virgins don't have children. There is a perception that atheism is advancing because science has advanced to a point where we know these things are impossible. But no new scientific knowledge has changed the facts since the first century. The relationship between sex and children was well understood then.
So what has changed? We have more detailed information about how natural conception takes place. What does that tell us about supernatural conception. Not much.So our level of knowledge has not changed but our acceptance of ignorance has. We tend to be more quick to say that if I don't understand it I don't believe it. But is that based on reason? If we are investigating possible interventions by God into human history is it reasonable to expect to understand how God does things?
We have many stories of supernatural events. Some credible, some not. Some from long ago, some quite recent. A small percentage of them are quite well documented. That small percentage still amounts to thousands of events. So what is the reasonable response to these stories? Is it just to dismiss them all as impossible? How do we know that? From science? What experiment would you expect a different result from if the virgin birth was true? Same for any miracle story. Experiments can show that miracles are not reproducible. But who is saying they are? So science tells us something is not possible naturally. That is precisely why people are suggesting a supernatural cause. So declaring you just KNOW something is a myth is hardly a celebration of reason. It is a refusal to engage in reason.
The truth is most people are afraid to think seriously about the big questions of life. Atheism is gaining popularity not because it encourages deep thinking but because it avoids it. The atheism of a Bertrand Russell was deep and brutally honest. The atheism of Hitchens or Dawkins is more about sneering at Christian thought than responding to it. It is often good because it encourages those who secretly rejected the gospel to more openly reject the gospel. But they are still not being honest with themselves. They think they have rejected faith and embraced reason. The truth is they have embraced a faith IN reason that does not stand up to rational scrutiny. They often are unaware that faith AND reason is what Christianity actually teaches.