Sunday, January 08, 2012
Pandeism and Science
I mean to state this proposition with great care and specificity: Pandeism has no conflict with science whatsoever; indeed, Pandeism embraces the scientific method and the awesome nature of scientific discovery, and as with religion, Pandeism fully accounts for science. This is not to suggest that the means of accounting are the same -- for Pandeism accounts for religious experiences -- to the extent they exist as something more than coincidence or psychological phenomena -- as manifestations of the underlying unconscious power of our Creator, often denoted by Pandeists as the Deus. But neither does this mean that Pandeism assumes generally that religious experiences are, in fact, anything more than coincidence or psychological phenomena. After all, one man's vision or revelation is another's hallucination; one man's prophecy is another's clever use of vague wording and exploitation of biases of memory and expectation; one man's miracle is another's parlour trick.
And What Is Science?
Let us step back a moment and remember what Science is, and what Pandeism is. Science is at bottom not simply a set of beliefs about the nature of the world, but a method of arriving at principles. This method generally involves the specific steps of developing a theory which accounts for especial observations, of developing an experiment (or a series of them) which would serve to falsify the theory based upon contrary results, and performing this experiment. A rock bottom concern of such endeavours is the replicability of the results. That is, if one man conducts an experiment in Kansas City to determine the effect of mixing one enzyme with another, or of colliding two particles of matter, or of teaching a crustacean multiplication, then a counterpart in the field in Boston or Berlin or Bangalore ought to be able to sit down with the same materials at the same starting point, and achieve the same result. It is in this way -- by studying the means by which a proposition is tested, and replicating outcomes, that scientists gain confidence that the outcome is valid.
Confessedly, there are some fields wherein that sort of experimentation is not so simple a thing to engage in, either because of the scale or complexity of the elements involved, or the time frame over which results may be gleaned, or both. Cosmology and evolution offer examples of these problems. We might over a billion years observe two stars developing in different ways based on predictable differences in their known compositions; we might in that same period of time evolve a sea cucumber into a wombat and back again; but the human life span simply does not allow for observations of such periods. Naetheless, we are able to observe many billions of snippets of the evolution of stars and of life, and to make predictions which may be tested by examining stars and life forms known to be at certain stages in these processes. And so, science may equally gain confidence that even these more difficult areas (so far as experimentation is concerned) have provided for valid scientific outcomes.
And What Conflict Does Religion Raise?
A traditional and historic difficulty arises with theistic religions, for these tend to present their own theories about how things came to be, with specific ideas presented as to the time frames, order, and means. And theological accounts tend to be based not on observation or experimentation or verification, but simply on a claim that somebody wrote down in the distant past, almost invariably asserted to have been communicated to that writer by their deity. Religion comes with several built-in defenses to the scrutability of these claims. One is, when somebody comes along and observes for example that the Earth goes round the Sun despite religious authorities teaching otherwise, to kill that person and burn their documentation of the fact; or to at least beat them up, or threaten them with torture, so that they recant the claim and cause others to cower from making such claims. Indeed, recantation of scientific claims is thusly accorded great weight in religious circles, there being no end to the assertions that Charles Darwin recanted his theory of evolution. But recantation is meaningless in science, where replicable experiments by one scientist, even an opponent of the recanted theory, can produce documentation of the truth of that theory. Darwin's recantation held no more power to change the facts observed than did Galileo's or indeed than would a recantation by Pythagoras of the Pythagorean theorem.
But religious literalists have no choice but to soldier on, attempting to prove for as long as possible that the Sun orbits the Earth, that animal species are not related by common descent, that rocks in the ground are thousands rather than billions of years old, that homosexual couples raise maladjusted children, that illnesses are caused by evil spirits, or that the lights in the night sky are pinpricks in a great blanket. The next option is to deem the scientific results to be a test, or a creation of an evil spirit designed to fool us. It is, they might imagine, an evil being who put those strange skeletons in the ground, and who made it appear to us that light was coming from stars millions of light years away. A final defense is to effectively rewrite the scripture so as to cast accounts which contravene science as simply metaphors for the actual scientific results, or to simply pay them no mind at all and focus on those things which are yet claimed to be beyond the ken of science.
And How Does Pandeism Reconcile Science and Religion?
Pandeism need raise none of religion's defenses. For, to the Pandeist, who believes that an intelligent Creator set forth our Universe, logically needing do no more than provide its energy and establish the governing dynamics which guide its behaviour, science is precisely the practice of discovering those very governing dynamics. Gravity, electromagnetism, radioactive decay, evolution, these are not things to be disputed or explained away, but discoveries which take us ever closer to fully knowing the measure of our Creator's design. If the scientific method indicates that our Universe is 13.72 billion years old, then that soundly indicates that our Creator set forth our Universe 13.72 billion years ago. If the fossil record and DNA combine to indicate a common ancestor for man and apes, then that soundly indicates that our Creator set forth a Universe wherein evolution by natural selection would likely lead to some branches of life evolving the capacity for intelligent thought (and in every instance where this is so, it follows that the branch so evolved would have a similar branch lacking such capacity as its closest evolutionary relation).
And, returning to the proposition that Pandeism fully accounts for both scientific and theological evidence, these things are made complementary through it. As a theology of reason, Pandeism does not assume that theological accounts are true, but firstly notes the proposition of David Hume that in order for a miracle to be credible, the documentation supporting it must be such that it is more likely that the miracle occurred than that those purporting to have witnessed it are lying, or were mistaken, or were deceived. A plausible scientific explanation for a perceived miracle would render mistaken the belief that it was miraculous. The possibility of a scientific explanation, or of a simple misreporting or misunderstanding of what was observed, raises a substantial, though perhaps not impenetrable, barrier to the assumption that any recounted miracle is indeed a true account.
It is only if that barrier to believability is overcome that Pandeism need provide a metaphysical accounting for the miraculous thing, and this is fully accomplished -- for all faiths -- by the pandeistic model of an underlying unconscious sustaining power. And no science yet known to man can provide evidence contravening the possibility that such is the nature of what is fundamentally responsible for the Creation and sustainment of our Universe in being.