In this episode, Kurt talks with Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland about scientism: What it is, how it has affected our society, and its shortcomings.
Kurt: Well a good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. This is episode 114, if I’m counting accurately. Hopefully, I haven’t skipped any episodes here. Last week we had an excellent episode with Cameron Bertuzzi of Capturing Christianity where we talked about street epistemology or what has come to be known as an atheistic evangelism. For some people trying to bring enough doubt to a person’s faith so they would give up Christian belief. This is a movement that’s been growing and we wanted to share some with you some thoughts and insights on how Christians should respond to these ideas. If you haven’t had the opportunity yet to listen to this episode, I want to encourage you to do so. You can go to our website, Veracityhill.com, and click on the recent posts there. On today’s episode, we’re talking about scientism which is an interesting form of epistemology, a way of studying knowledge, a viewpoint or framework of interpreting the world, but before we get into that, I’ve got just one announcement here.
We are two weeks away from the annual Defenders Conference 2018. This year’s theme is on divine genocide. Genocide in Scripture? Did God really command the Israelites to kill even the women and the children? We’re bringing in four different Christian perspectives on how to interpret these various passages. John Walton, Paul Copan, Clay Jones, and Kenton Sparks. It’s going to be a great opportunity for you to come and listen in on these viewpoints, to become aware of these different ways of understanding these passages. I know when I am talking to people about apologetics and I might be evangelizing to someone, they might raise an objection. I like to have multiple answers ready because even if that person doesn’t agree with me on how to solve that quandary, they might be sympathetic to an alternative explanation and so by providing multiple answers, you can help to tear down that obstacle to faith in Christ. I want to encourage you wherever you live, we have a family from Oklahoma coming, a couple from Virginia, a fellow from Florida, six high school teachers from Louisville, Kentucky. People from all over the country are coming for this event. I want to encourage you if you’ve got a free weekend here in two weeks come join us in Chicagoland at the Christian Church of Clarendon Hills. It’s going to be a great opportunity, a lot of fun, and you’ll meet other people who are interested in apologetics as well. If you want to learn more information about that, you can go to Thedefendersconference.com and you can see breakout sessions and register online as well. Walk-ins are welcome, but it will be a bit more convenient for you and for us if you can sign up online beforehand.
On today’s show we’re talking about scientism and what that is and we have invited the distinguished professor of philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology which is located at my alma mater, BIOLA University in La Mirada, California. He is none other than Dr. JP Moreland. JP. Thank you so much for joining us on our program today.
JP: It’s a delight to be with you.
Kurt: Thanks. So you have great experience not just in Christian academia, but in Christian ministry yourself, unless I explain to people your background, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the things you’ve done in Christian ministry?
JP: I came to Christ at the University of Missouri while I was a physical chemistry major in 1968 in the midst of the 60’s. I joined the staff of what’s now called CREW and was on staff from ’70 to ’75, went to Dallas Seminary for four years, joined staff again and taught at their headquarter seminary and then did my MA and PhD and philosophy at the University of California and then USC. Planted two churches, planted two campus crusade works, and I have taught at BIOLA University for 29 years. That’s just enough to start getting an education.
Kurt: That’s great. Wonderful, of course, not just from your ministry rep but also, your job as a professor. That in itself is a ministry I know to many students. Sadly, I didn’t have the opportunity to have you as a professor when I was there, one of the things I wish I did have, but I know you’ve been a blessing to many people there. You’ve also published many works, some of which just come to mind, Love God With Your Mind, Scaling the Secular City, Kingdom Triangle, even more philosophical works on substance dualism which is one of your areas of specialty. Tell us a little bit about this recent work that’s forthcoming called Scientism and Secularism.
JP: Kurt. I was very discouraged and concerned that in a recent Barna poll, the six reasons people are leaving Christianity and the church are all, believe it or not, intellectual reasons. One of the main reasons is that the church is not helping people interact with science. I have seen a false and a wicked ideology called scientism affect peoples’ confidence in Christ or in the Bible and it’s affected people from coming to Jesus in the first place. Crossway Publishers asked me to write a book on the subject. I did. It’s out now. It’s called Scientism and Secularism: Learning To Defeat A Dangerous Ideology. That’s the concern that I’ve had. The book is written for a lay audience, especially homeschool parents and Christian school teachers, but we have got to be updated about what this is, Kurt, and what’s wrong with it.
Kurt: Many of your, I want to ask you, what’s it like having the gift of prophecy because some of your books really have anticipated social movements that have come and maybe it’s just been a testament to your place in academia. You’ve seen the philosophical work out there and you know what’s going to come, it’s going to come to the general audience sooner or later.
JP: You’re absolutely right. That’s why shows like yours and books like the one I just did are so important so that Christians can be informed and given eyes to see and things to say to people when these trends happen.
Kurt: The trend to scientism has been happening recently. I can think of the physicist, Neil Degrasse Tyson. He’s been a big scientismist if you could call it that. Before we keep talking about it, I guess we should ask this question. What is scientism and why does it matter?
JP: Good question. Scientism is basically the view that the only way we can know reality is through the methods of the hard sciences. If you can prove something in physics and chemistry or neuroscience or biology, then you can know it, but if you can’t prove it and test it in the lab empirically, then it’s just personal opinion. What this means is all the things that matter to us, is there a God? Do I have a soul? Is there anything morally right? Is there life after death? What should the state be doing and how should I vote? These are all questions that scientism would say is just an expression of personal emotion and feeling and so that means that Christian claims, ethical claims, are your opinion and nobody can know who’s right or wrong and so that marginalizes Christianity.
Kurt: And there are ways in which the growing movement of scientism had affected, first the Christian church, it sort of found its way, seeped its way in, what are some of the ways that it’s affected the Christian church?
JP: One of the ways scientism has affected the discipleship parenting in the church is that Christians have retreated from believing that faith is confidence based on what we know or based on what we have reason to believe, in which case reason supports faith, to a view that faith is just a choice to believe something without any rational considerations at all. It’s an absolutely blind step in the dark. This has been a way for Christians to protect themselves because if reason is on the side of the atheist and if science keeps showing that certain things the Bible appears to teach is not true, then the best thing to do is, of course, is just retreat and say “We don’t care about that stuff. We know this is true because we choose to believe it.” That’s a protective movement. The problem is when kids get away from their families and get away from even good churches and go to college, it’s not enough. They get picked off like shooting fish in a barrel. Scientism tells us that we’ve been taught in Scripture is something no one can know is true so the church has abandoned teaching people why they believe what they believe and thinks that if you just teach people what to believe and have them accept it by faith, then that will grow to a mature believer, but it just doesn’t work, especially these days.
Kurt: Before I forget, compliments of Crossway, we are giving away a copy of your book. For those that are tuning in now or you’re watching this video or listening via podcast, I want to encourage you to share the video on Facebook. If you’re listening on podcast, hop on your app, go to Veracity Hill on Facebook and share this video and comment below, and we will select someone later this week to receive a free copy of Dr. Moreland’s now published book, I guess maybe it’s just come out. It’s a wonderful opportunity for you to get your hands on this copy and again, thank you to Crossway, the publisher here for that opportunity. Dr. Moreland. We talked about here how scientism has sort of crept into the church and it’s malformed the views that people, in general, have about what faith even means, but how has scientism affected the universities? How has it gone into the academia, into the ivory tower and changed the way that professors have viewed their students, have viewed the pursuit of knowledge, etc.
JP: In the universities, it is widely thought that the only disciplines that really give knowledge of reality are the sciences, especially the hard sciences. What that means is that the soft sciences, psychology and sociology, all the humanities, my goodness, certainly theological claims, are just kind of postmodern. They’re not making statements that are true. Certainly, they’re not making statements that anybody could know are true. Students are coming to believe that religious claims and ethical claims are things that you can believe them for yourself, but if you try to enforce them on other people, you’re trying to legislate morality. Nobody would say you’re legislating chemistry if you say there’s hydrochloric acid in that beaker because we take ourselves to know that that’s true, but we don’t take ourselves to know that God exists or abortion’s wrong and things of that sort. One other thing on this if I may. Knowledge is what gives people the authority to act and speak in public. It’s because dentists have a certain branch of knowledge or lawyers have a certain domain of knowledge, that we give them the right to pull teeth or to write contracts because they have a certain body of knowledge. That also gives people confidence to speak boldly about something that they actually know about. If my dentist said to me, “I don’t have any clue about molars, I don’t know anything about them, but I have to tell them I have some very passionate feelings about molars and I really believe them deeply by faith and I hired a guy to develop some CDs and I listen to moral music in my car and sing to it. May I fix your molars?” He’s not getting a mile from my mouth. If Christianity is not a source of knowledge and reality, then it isn’t to be taken seriously. Scientism as I state clearly in my book, Scientism and Secularism, scientism eventually leads to a secular society. We’ve already seen it in Europe, and to the erosion of boldness and confidence among our young people and even adults that Christianity is something you could really take seriously because we can’t really know whether it’s true.
Kurt: That does seem one way to, if you’re a non-believer, it seems like one way to avoid some of the things that Christians say about human nature.
Kurt: For example, if Christianity is true, it’s going to require people to repent from their sins in all those ways and so if you could undercut the truth of Christianity by just saying, “We can’t know religious claims are true or ethical claims are true” then that’s one way for non-believers to sort of get out of that. The trouble is, if in fact, there is value to the truth claims, then that might be the hound of heaven coming for that person.
JP: Absolutely. The real issue now is even if the claims of Christianity are true, if nobody can know whether they’re true, then you can’t get up and say, “Jesus died for our sins and that’s the truth”, because somebody’s going to say that’s just a blind faith statement. Even if it is true, you have absolutely no grounds for that because you can’t prove it scientifically. Can you prove that scientifically? No. Then you can’t know it, can you? You ever heard that? Boy I have.
Kurt: So what are some of the problems that are facing scientism? Maybe I should clarify. What are some of the intellectual problems with scientism?
JP: It has three huge problems. First of all, it’s self-refuting. Something is self-refuting if it makes itself false, so for example, the statement, “No statements are longer than three words” is itself longer than three words and so it makes itself false. If I say, “There are no truths,” then I’m offering that as a truth and the statement makes itself false. The statement, the only thing that can be true or known to be true is what can be proven in the hard sciences can not itself be proven in the hard sciences. It is actually a statement of philosophy about science. It is not a statement of science like water is H2O or the continents float on plates or something of that sort so it’s self-refuting and can’t possibly be true.
Secondly, scientism does not allow for the stating and the defending of the assumptions of science themselves. Science makes a whole host of assumptions. For example, it assumes a certain view of what truth is. It assumes a certain view of what it means to know something. It assumes that the laws of logic and mathematics are true. Science cannot verify any of these things. By the way, it shocks people to know that logic and mathematics are not known scientifically. The reason is that logic and mathematics gives us necessary truths, truths that even God couldn’t make false, and they’re known in a way that’s called a priori. They’re known without appealing to sense experience, but all scientific truths are contingent truths. That means they may be true but there could have been a different law of gravity or something like that and we know them through sense experience. If science can be no better than the strength of the assumptions on which it rests and if those assumptions are themselves philosophical, and every single one of them is now under attack at the university and the task of defending these assumptions is a task of philosophy, then scientism is an enemy of science because it leaves science vulnerable and it then causes people to say science may work, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.
The other thing, if I have a few more minutes here is that things that we know with greater certainty outside science than we do inside science. Let me give you an illustration that I use in the book. Last three years I’ve struggled with three different kinds of cancer. I’ve had seven surgeries, chemo, radiation, you name it. I’ve had it. I was in the hospital after my colon cancer surgery for nine days and I had different nurses. One nurse came in and was taking care of me and she said, “Tell me. What do you do for a living?” I said, “I’m a philosophy professor.” “Oh! Well, that’s interesting. How did that happen?” I said, “I was an undergraduate physical chemistry major and then I went into theology and did a graduate degree and then I did my PhD in philosophy.” She had an odd look on her face, and I said “Let me tell you what I believe you’re thinking and then you can tell me whether I’m right or not. I think you’re thinking, “Gosh. He started off in chemistry where you deal with real hard facts and truth and you can actually know whether you’re right and for some reason you went into theology and philosophy which is just a shuffling of personal feelings and opinions and nobody can really know whether they’re right or not.” She looked at me and I kid you not, she said, “That’s exactly what I was thinking.” I said, “Do you know there are some things in ethics that I know with greater certainty than I know that electrons exist?” She said, “You’re pulling my leg.” I said, “No. For example, torturing little babies for the fun of it is wrong is something I know with greater certainty than I know there are such things as electrons.” She said, “Can you back that up?” I said, “Yeah. Do you know anything about the history of the electron?” “No.” I said, “If you study the history of the electron from German wave theorists to J.J. Thompson who was a particle theorist about electrons in Britain all the way through to electrons as they were understood in the light of the aether up to the Bohr electron up to the quantum electron, you will discover that the idea of what an electron is has changed dramatically in the last few hundred years. We no longer believe that Thompsonian electrons exist. We no longer believe that Bohr electrons exist. So now here’s the problem? We now believe in the quantum electron. Why would it not make sense to say that fifty years from now new evidence will come in and we will no longer believe there’s any such thing as a quantum electron? So when you say ‘Do electrons exist and do you know that?’ I’m going to say, ‘Which one do you mean?’ and you probably mean the most recent one, quantum electrons. I think they probably exist, but I wouldn’t be irrational to say that in 50 years we might find evidence that will overturn that. I cannot imagine any kind of evidence that we could discover in 50 years that would overturn my knowledge that torturing the little babies for the fun of it is wrong. I can imagine culture getting to the point where people no longer believe that tragically, but I’m talking about discovering evidence that would show that’s irrational. I can’t imagine what it would be so I have greater certainty that the ethical claim is true than that there are electrons.” I’m glad that she wasn’t giving me my medicine that morning. I’m not sure what she would have given me. That’s the problem with scientism. It’s self-refuting. It does not allow for the stating and defending of the assumptions of science, and it does not allow for the fact that there are things that we know outside of science and sometimes with greater certainty than some of the things we know in science.
Kurt: I’m taking some notes here and for those that are following along here watching the video, if you’re listening online, I want to encourage you to get a pen, get a piece of paper, and take some notes, because this is some excellent material to help us. Dr. Moreland. #2 there. You talked about it can’t defend the assumptions that it has and you listed a few of those but just for my own note’s sake, could we run through some of those assumptions that scientism has?
JP: Sure. Just to let our viewers know, I have virtually a whole chapter on this in the book on Scientism and Secularism. I can’t go over all of them here, but one of them is that the laws of logic and truth and mathematics are true. 2 and 2 is actually 4. If P, then Q and P, therefore Q. Second, that the laws of logic and mathematics are not only true, they apply to reality. Some have argued that it’s an absolute miracle that a formula a guy develops in his study can take it outside in the world and it actually describes reality. Another one is that our minds and our senses give us reliable information about the world including information about the world’s deep structure and that means its structure beyond observations. If evolution is how we got our minds and our senses, then you might argue that it would be able to give us information about what we see and hear and so on, because that would help us with survival value, but there’s absolutely no reason why our minds would have the ability to penetrate to these deep underlying laws of nature that describe things that can’t be seen like Quantum theory and subatomic particle theory and that’s an assumption that science makes that it can’t justify. Truth is, of course, correspondence with reality, that there is such a thing as truth, and it actually assumes certain values that they take to be objectively true, for example, report your test results honestly, and don’t cheat when you tell people what you’ve discovered. Science could not work if that moral value is not followed, but science can’t justify that value. I’m sorry here, Kurt. I’m just asserting these right now, but I don’t have time to defend all these, but in the book I make them even more clearer and I defend them so I want your viewers to know, I’m not just blowing hot air here. These are actually part of the literature in this field and I try to make this clear so a layperson can understand it.
Kurt: Certainly. We are going to put up a link to the book so people can go ahead and purchase that on our website just to make it convenient for anyone who wants to purchase the book, we’ll give you the Amazon link too. While you’re at our website, you can subscribe too so you never miss an episode that we bring to you week after week. Dr. Moreland. We’ve got to head to a short break here, but when we come back we’re going to keep talking about scientism. I’ve got a few more questions from you. I’ve solicited questions from our followers online and we’ve got a number of questions that came in. As I mentioned to you before we started the program, some of the questions are a bit more technical but we’re going to take the time and flesh out what some of those big terms might mean and then to hear Dr. Moreland’s response so please be sure to stick with us through this 90-second break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you want to learn how you can become a sponsor or just one of our patrons, you can go to our website, Veracityhill.com and click on that patron tab. We would love to get your monthly support as we continue to grow this Vodcast ministry. Originally we started out as just a podcast, just doing audio. Chris, it was out of my house actually for a few of those episodes, right out of that bedroom, and then we moved into the Defenders Media office here, and then we slowly increase. It’s great. You can go back and watch some of our old episodes and you can see how we’ve grown in our production and our quality and we couldn’t do it without supporters like you so we would love to get your recurring support.
Okay, on today’s program I’m joined by Dr. JP Moreland at Talbot School of Theology located at BIOLA University. JP. Before we continue our discussion, we do a short segment on our show called Rapid Questions where we ask sort of fun, goofy questions. We get to know a little bit more about you and I intentionally don’t warn our guests about this just so we can get good old genuine questions. We’re going to put sixty seconds on the game clock here and for those that have been following along, we’ve had a list of questions we’ve used time and time again. I’ve actually printed up a bunch more of questions so we’ve got some new fresh questions.
JP: God have mercy on me.
Kurt: Okay. I’ll start the game clock. I’ll ask some of our recognizable questions for those that follow along and then we’ll hit up some new ones so are you ready?
Kurt: Okay. Here we go. Taco Bell
Kurt: What’s your favorite TV show?
JP: Dateline NBC.
Kurt: Do you drink Dr. Pepper?
JP: No. I love it, but I just don’t drink it.
Kurt: Okay. Good. I’ll take it. What’s on the walls of the room you are in?
JP: Pictures of my grandchildren and of Europe where we went to Europe.
Kurt: Would you ever consider living abroad?
Kurt: What’s the last thing you purchased?
JP: Some trail mix.
Kurt: Are you a good cook?
JP: Absolutely not.
Kurt: Are you a morning bird or a
JP: A morning bird.
Kurt: If you had a big win in the lottery, how long would you wait until you tell people?
JP: I would tell them within 30 seconds.
Kurt: What kind of car do you drive?
JP: I drive an old Honda Civic.
Kurt: Okay. Nice. Thank you for playing that round of Rapid Questions.
JP: Glad I made it.
Kurt: Honda. That’s the brand of car that the disciples drive because they were of one accord, they drove a Honda Accord of course. Cheesy Dad joke there. Let me ask you, you’ve got pictures of your travels in Europe and where have you been in Europe?
JP: I’ve been all over Italy and Greece. I’ve been in Scotland in the UK and England rather, I’ve been to Paris and to Strasbourg, France.
Kurt: Very nice. I had a wonderful opportunity to live in England for a year and during that time my wife and I got to travel which was great. What was that?
JP: What a privilege.
Kurt: Yes. Yes. It was. It’s really convenient. Once you can get across the pond as they say, the travel is not all that expensive to get from place to place, so things are smaller than you think they are over there. Let’s get back to today’s topic. We are talking about scientism, what it is, how it’s affected our society, and what some of its shortcomings are and before the break we were talking about some of these assumptions that are held within that framework. How would someone sympathetic to scientism handle, this is one example you bring up in your book, how would someone sympathetic to scientism handle the issue of consciousness?
JP: The problem is, and I have an entire chapter in the book on this question, it is starting to be acknowledged by atheist philosophers that if consciousness is real and by that I mean, it it’s the way we know it is from the first-person perspective. Pain is something that hurts and throbs and so on. If consciousness is really real there will be no scientific explanation for it, especially no Darwinian explanation. Colin McGinn, who is one of the leading philosophers of mind and an atheist, said that Darwinian theory will never explain the origin of consciousness and here’s why. Darwinian theory explains things combinatorially. That’s a $1.98 cent word. That means it explains things by the arrangement of parts due to mutation or natural selection to explain more complicated arrangements of parts, so it is really good at explaining the origin of the brain and the body because the brain and the body is a certain arrangement of parts. It’s different than the arrangement of the parts of the dog let’s say. The problem is conscious states like a feeling of pain are not made up of parts in a structure. Pain is just a simple quality of hurtfulness. Darwinism and scientific explanation in general is the wrong kind of explanation to explain the origin of consciousness. If consciousness is real, then there’d have to be an extra scientific explanation and one would be a theistic explanation because you start with consciousness. If you say in the beginning was the logos, then you have an explanation for mind. If you say in the beginning were the particles and your story is just a history of the rearrangement of the particles, you’re going to end up with rearranged particles, not consciousness, because that’s getting something from nothing. How do advocates of scientism deal with this? They try to reduce consciousness to brain states or something physical so they don’t have to deal with it and so they’ve got a bunch of reductive attempts to say consciousness is really nothing but the activity of the brain or so, but that has not worked and it hasn’t worked for 80 years since it was begun in the 1930’s. Now more and more scientists, advocates of scientism, are trying to say “Consciousness just emerges when matter reaches the right level of complexity.” The problem is that’s just a name for the problem. It’s not a solution. The question is how could it emerge from consciousnessless matter?
Kurt: What is, you say they’re advocates of scientism and I’ve kind of called them scientismists. What do you refer to someone who affirms scientism?
JP: Up until now I’ve said advocates of scientism, but I think we ought to stipulate scientismists and use that from now. I like your stipulative definition. Let’s refer to them as scientismists from now on.
Kurt: Alright. That works for me. Chris. Make a note. We’re going to get this trademarked. In your book, you also lay out how scientism is an enemy of the sciences when you really think about it. How is that the case? If those that think the hard sciences are the only way to truth, not just the final arbiter but the sole arbiter of truth, how is it that that’s really in conflict with the mission of scientific inquiry?
JP: That’s a very good question. I think we’ve already hinted at it and that is that there is simply no way for science to defend its assumptions and therefore, it kind of leads science floating in midair without being grounded in the assumptions it makes. To put it differently, if you’re a scientismist, then you just have to blind faithly postulate the assumptions of science and then say “We’re going to do science, but it’s based on blind faith.” A lot of people might say “Look. What difference does it make because science does what it does whether they can justify their assumptions or not.” But that’s really, I hate to say this, I don’t mean to be mean-spirited, that’s a very uneducated response, because as I show in the book, there’s a difference between scientific realism and scientific anti-realism. Scientific realism says that the more science advances, the closer and closer we get to approximate truth of what’s out there in reality. In this view, scientific theories are really true or at least approximately true and if they postulate electrons, then electrons really exist. Scientific anti-realism says “No. The purpose of science is simply to make accurate predictions and to harmonize with our observations” or to put it differently, scientific theories work, but because they work, that doesn’t mean they’re true. They can show a whole line of hundreds of theories in the history of science that worked, that is they helped generate technology, they made useful predictions and so on, but later they were found out to be completely false. A person who says “We don’t need to worry about this mumbo jumbo about the assumptions of science. Science can get along nicely all on its own after all, thank you very much.” No, it can’t, because you can’t now claim that scientific theories give us the truth about reality because there’s an equally plausible rival theory that says, “No. Scientific theories are really helpful at making predictions, but that doesn’t mean they’re true.” Scientism is an enemy of science because it leaves science vulnerable to attack because it can’t justify its own assumptions.
Kurt: Or we might think here, this is one example you talked about earlier, that science assumes people are going to report their findings truthfully.
Kurt: But there is nothing in the scientific field that says one ought to do that. That’s an ethical question. That’s a philosophical question. If scientism were true, then you might think it would become an enemy of science because there’s no intellectual grounding or there’s no reason why someone should report their findings truthfully and sometimes we get scenarios where scientists get in trouble for not doing that.
JP: Exactly. I wonder why wouldn’t the following principle be wise? Report your findings in a way that’s in your best interest for your career as long as you make it pretty likely that you’re not going to get caught? Seems to me to be a really reasonable rule if you’re not a theist or don’t believe in objective morals, so you’re absolutely right about that. That’s a very good illustration.
Kurt: You might even modify the language there to report one’s findings for their survival of their career or something like that.
JP: Exactly. You know something else, Kurt, one of the ways that scientism is an enemy of science is that scientists think they can sometimes pontificate about everything and they make claims about things that are not scientific and they end up looking like fools. Richard Dawkins is a classic example. He raises the problem, “Who designed the designer?”, as if that’s some big heavy problem no Christian has ever thought of. That was solved 1,600 years ago. When he said that, he just makes himself look like an idiot. Again, he was on Fox News and the reporter asked him, “Can you explain where the universe came from? Where did all this come from?” Dawkins said, “We’re working on it.” What he didn’t realize it is that science will never be able to explain the origin of the universe. Why? In my book, I demonstrate very clearly that science can’t start explaining anything until its got a universe to use in its explanation. So it explains one part of the universe, water, by appealing to another part of the universe, hydrogen and oxygen and the laws of chemistry. It therefore can’t explain the origin of the very thing it needs to assume before it can start explaining. When Dawkins makes a statement like that people who know something go, “That guy’s a goofball.” It just discredits. In Scientism and Secularism things people can teach their kids or teach in Sunday School or say on the street that will help them defeat this dangerous ideology.
Kurt: If you want to get your free copy of the book all you have to do is share this video and comment our video stream on that Facebook and you’ll be entered to win. We’re going to select one winner at random to get a free copy of the book compliments of Crossway Books. Dr. Moreland, my last question to you before we go to some of the Q&A from some of our followers. How should Christians move forward in welcoming the advancement of science? In our society today, there are some people that are, they really are anti-science. They pit religion vs. science and some people want to side with religion more than so-called science, whatever that might mean, but what are some ways Christians can welcome scientific inquiry and findings?
JP: Well, science is a gift of God to us and the entire history of science has been and large involved Christians who’ve been working in the sciences. Think of all the things that science has discovered that’s made our lives so much more wonderful. Medicine. I like air conditioning. Things of that sort. I celebrate science and I wish more of our young people would go into science. I just want to make clear that there’s a difference between celebrating the gift of science and distorting the ugly philosophical view of scientism.
Kurt: Good. For those that are interested in thinking more of the ways that Christianity and science are compatible and sort of speak to one another, I did a great interview with Fuz Rana I think a year or so ago of Reasons To Believe where we chatted about those issues so that would be, I’m not sure which episode that would be but you can go through our website and check our listings there. We have solicited questions from our followers and some of these questions are certainly from some of your fans because they are some more technical questions. First here, we’ve got a comment from Seth. Seth writes this. “Hello, Dr. Moreland. Thank you so much for all you’ve done for the Kingdom of God. I’ve benefited from your work tremendously and I pray your new book receives the wide reading it is truly deserving of.” He writes, “I had a question regarding your view of abstract objects. I know you are a realist concerning abstracta, so I was wondering what your view is on their relationship to God.” So first, before you answer, maybe we could talk about what does Seth here mean when he talks about abstract objects, and what does it mean to be realist?
JP: An abstract object would be something that exists outside of space and time, like the number 2 or the color red or brownness, circularity, and things of that sort. For a whole bunch of reasons, I think that these things exist. They’re properties or attributes so attributes or properties that we use in the essence like brownness or painfulness or that sort of thing are abstract objects. The problem for Christians is that they seem to be necessary beings. They don’t seem to have come into existence and perished so how did God create them and did He create His own attributes. My view is that God creates abstract objects in the sense that He necessarily sustains them in existence. He doesn’t bring them into existence, because that’s like creating a square circle. You can’t bring something into existence that is not in time, but God still creates them in the sense that He is the sustainer of them in existence. What about His own properties? Does He sustain them in existence? No, because that means He would have to have the properties before He could sustain them. When it comes to God’s own attributes, like omnipotence, the property of being all-powerful or all-loving, that sort of thing, I believe that these are abstract objects that God simply finds Himself possessing so that God does not create His own attributes, but He does sustain necessarily in existence other abstract objects.
Kurt: We have a follow-up from someone following on our livestream right now, David, he asks, “How does the color red exist before it’s created.” He says, “I’m confused with this though I’m sure about laws of logic and numbers,” so how would say, a color exist?
JP: Don’t think the color red is a wavelength of light please because wavelengths of light vibrate and the color red doesn’t. It’s a simple quality. Not the same thing. They may go together. Okay. Redness exists before anything has it. You have to distinguish between redness itself and a red object, something having the color of red. I’m saying that properties can exist without something having to have them. Before there was a color red or take some modern color that humans have caused to be instantiated, I[NP1] don’t know enough about it, but those colors didn’t come into exist in 2005 when the first object had it. They existed timelessly. It doesn’t make sense to say that redness came into existence. It makes sense to say that for the first time an object had redness or instantiated redness. That’s what I think. The instantiation of redness is in space and time. It’s right there on the apple’s surface over on the table.
Kurt: Okay. I know that can be a bit technical for folks. Maybe we’ll take something a little bit easier. This question is from another viewer, Kyle. He writes, “How deeply should we expect lay Christians to be able to respond to such complex epistemological issues? How much should we emphasize that lay Christians trust those in the church with expertise?”
JP: I really like this question. I think that lay Christians should do a little bit better job than they are now, so they all should read one or two simple apologetics books and I’m just stroking you here, but they ought to listen to podcasts like this, and go to websites where there are answers to questions, and that’s good enough, but what they have to do is value that this is being done. That’s what we don’t have today. The lay Christian may say, “I can do it a little bit, but I’m sure glad that we have people that do this.” Thus, every local church ought to identify people in the church who have a passion for apologetics. When I pastored, we did that. We brought them books to read. We had some that liked ethics. Others liked science and Christianity and others liked arguments for God and we had to become pretty decent experts on those Christians and we told the people of the church, “If your kid gets asked a question or if you get asked a question you can’t answer say, ‘You know, I don’t know the answer to that, but I know somebody in the church that does. Would you like to have lunch next week with my friend?’ ” That’s what you do. With real tough questions, it’s good to know that we’ve got scholars in the academy that know these issues and can go toe to toe and deal with them in the professional journals and so on so at that point what a layperson could do is say, “Dude. That’s way over my head, but we have people” and give a couple of names “but we’ve got people who are professional scholars who know you how to deal with those questions. I would refer you to them, because that’s above my paygrade.”
Kurt: Even if the layperson didn’t know about the scholars, they would know the apologist who would hopefully know who these scholars are.
JP: It goes up the chain. Absolutely right. We all have a role to play don’t we?
Kurt: Great. Next question comes from Cameron. Do you think belief in God can be rational without arguments?
JP: Yes. I think belief in God can be rational based on experience without an argument. For example, when a person looks at the created world, they could intuitively grasp that it is designed and needs a designer without having to have an argument. My Mom and Dad were blue-collar workers. They couldn’t give a design argument if their life depended on it, but when they experienced a number of things in nature, they just saw these things and they immediately were able to grasp, “Good night. This couldn’t have happened by chance. It had to be designed.” It was based on a spiritual intuition. I think that kind of thing, all this had to come from somewhere, or “I don’t know about you, but I know that there are right and wrong and I know that had to come from somewhere.” Those are intuitions based on experiencing the moral law or design or something like that.
Kurt: Luke is here.
JP: I don’t agree with Alvin Plantinga’s view though that belief in God is properly basic.
Kurt: Okay. That’s a good distinction and maybe there might be some follow-up there. Luke is here, asks a very important question. “How can one acquire a copy of the Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism without having to take out a second mortgage?”
JP: That book is an absolute must for people that are interested in the subject. I would say wait till the paperback. There will be a paperback that will eventually come out and when it does, get it, just like the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology required a second mortgage and you’ve got it there….
Kurt: Up on top of my shelf.
JP: Did you get the hardback or the paperbck?
Kurt: I actually did get the hardback?
JP: What were you thinking about?!
Kurt: The hardbacks, they last a long time.
JP: Alright. Wait for the paperback.
Kurt: If you can’t afford the paperback, I’m sure the local library has it and you can check out some of those books, and of course, local libraries can be very helpful. If they don’t have it, they’ll figure out a way to acquire it for you whether it’s purchasing it or through some networks. Good question, Lucas. Tim asks here, “What do you think of the growth in the last decades of the charismatic intellectuals and their future? It seems like much of what you urged in Kingdom Triangle about being less concerned with the controversial titles and more concerned to seek the person and work of the Holy Spirit has been exactly what has happened. What do you see happening in the future?”
JP: I’m very encouraged because I believe that there needs to be a combination of kingdom power and the life of the Spirit and the life of the mind. I don’t see why you have to have one or the other. I think that there is a growing number of what you might call signs and wonders intellectuals. I’m personally not charismatic. I’m what’s called third wave. I don’t believe in a second baptism of the Spirit, but it doesn’t matter to me if people do. The point is that is happening. Signs and wonders are multiplying like rabbits all over the world. What they’re desiring is that we send teachers to help develop thinking leadership for all the converts that are coming through signs and wonders.
Kurt; This is, for those of you who don’t know you, you said you’ve got that third wave, you go to Vineyard Anaheim, is that right?
JP: Yes. I’ve seen people healed. I’ve been given, just two days ago I’ve got words of knowledge for two long men at a conference I never met in a life and they both started crying because it was just what they needed to hear and I didn’t know anything about them. It was wonderful.
Kurt: That’s great. I’m curious to ask. You mentioned earlier on the program today about how many surgeries you’ve had. Here’s a question for me. How is your health?
JP: I think I’m going to make it. At this point, all my head and catscans, colonoscopies and endoscopies are clear. I’ve got a colonoscopy next Friday, but it’s a good sign that after a little over two and a half years all are cleared so I’m optimistic.
Kurt: That’s great. Wow. That’s wonderful news. I know you’ve been dealing with health issues for many years now.
JP: Thank you, sir.
Kurt: That’s great. We’ll make this our last technical question. Cole, he asks, “Why choose substance dualism over hylomorphism?” Maybe we can explain those terms.
JP: It’s hard, but by substance dualism, that is consistent with what’s called hylomoprhism. Hylomorphism is the view that a human being is a composite of what’s called form and that would be the form of being human which turns out to be a soul and matter which is called prime matter.
Kurt: The body. The flesh.
JP: Substance dualism is thought of as two substances. The body’s the substance and so is the soul. I don’t believe that. As a substance dualist I believe that there is an immaterial or real self or I or ego that can exist without the body, but I don’t think the body is a separate substance. I think the body is an insouled material structure that depends on the soul for its existence. If the soul is withdrawn from the body, it’s not a body any longer. It’s a corpse. hylomorphism[NP2] than I am to Descartes.
Kurt: Okay. Seth has a question related here to this answer then. Where is the soul located? Is it spatially located anywhere?
JP: Yes. The soul is to the body as God is to space. God is fully present at every point in space. The soul is fully present at which point throughout the body. That’s why if you get part of your body cut off, you don’t become 80% of a person. The soul is omnipresent throughout a certain region of space, namely the region of the body just as God is called and[NP3] it’s the view that Aquinas and all the medieval thinkers held and I think it makes the best sense. I think the soul then is fully located at each point of the body. I think it also contains our genetic information and that’s what seems to be fully present throughout the body too. That’s my view.
Kurt: That’s really interesting because that seems to work with my thoughts on the intermediate state.
Kurt: I want to follow-up here and this would be my last question for you. I hold to the minority position, the sleep state model, and for those that have been following the show a long time, I’ve probably mentioned that before. The majority view is that the soul leaves the body and goes to Heaven and then will come back on the day of resurrection. With your view that there’s sort of this, a unified tension between the soul and the body, I don’t want to say attached, maybe you’re uncomfortable with that language, that the soul is attached to the body, what would then that entail for the intermediate state after death?
JP: I’m the other way. I’d say the body’s attached to the soul. The soul can exist without the body, but the body can’t without the soul. A soul is capable of existing whether asleep or life, unconscious rather, I think it’s conscious, but you’d still think the soul exists without the body. My view implies that as well. I don’t think it emerges from the body in which case you’ve got a problem. I think the body is actually dependent for its existence on the soul.
Kurt: Gotcha. I’ll have to think more about that. I’m open to changing my view on that. That’s one of those fun little things.
JP: I’ve got a book on it called, “The Soul: Why It’s Real and Why It Matters.”
Kurt: And this is a field that you’ve been thinking for many years. You’ve written many books on it. This is one of your areas of expertise I’ll have to do some more reading on that. I’m presently working on my own PhD studies so I’ve got to complete that stuff before I can go off into other ventures.
JP: Good luck to you.
Kurt: Great. Dr. Moreland. Thank you so much for joining us on our program today, enlightening us on what scientism is and how it’s affected our society and ways we can respond to understand its shortcomings. We’ll be sure to put a link to our website and I hope many people will check it out.
JP: It’s been my privilege and I hope your viewers will promote your show and tell other people to watch it.
Kurt: Great. Thank you so much. God bless you.
JP: God bless you. Bye-bye.
Kurt: That does it for our show today. I am grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors, Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Fox Restoration, and Non-Profit Megaphone. Thank you to our technical producer today, Chris, and AJ also keeping tabs over there. Good to see you AJ. Special thanks to our guest, Dr. JP Moreland. Before I finally say off here, let me say next we’ve got J. Warner Wallace, the cold-case detective. Next week’s episode is going to be great. You’ll want to tune in. You just won’t want to miss that interview. Last, but not least here, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP1]Unsure around 50:15
[NP2]Unclear at 1:00:10
[NP3]Unsure of term at 1:00:50