After posting "Thoughts on Faith and Science," I received this response, which I thought was worthy of reflection and address:
"You and the article's author are talking about two different things. However, to your point:
'The third is my understanding of miracles. While I don't think it is necessary that most of the miraculous stories in the bible be literally true (and I am not denying their possibility or existence either), I do think that the basic understanding of the Incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ be true in order for Christian faith to maintain any coherence. These miraculous events, if actually breaking any physical laws, would be 'one-off' affairs, meaning they would be non-replicable (sic) and therefore untouchable to scientific investigation.'
This is what makes science and religion completely incompatible. Science encompasses all things and for something to lie outside the realm of science means that they are at odds on a fundamental level. Merely the existence of some supernatural being (and even there, in the very word supernatural, implies incompatibility with natural science) already defies the very idea of science, much less that this being could pass part of itself into an impossible child (for humans) who then subsequently dies and comes back to life with no outside intervention after a much-too-long period of time.
A miracle may be a miracle in the sense that it is impossible to explain by our current understanding or knowledge. This is fine and compatible with science. But if you step outside the realm of science - 'untouchable to scientific investigation' - then that is where you can no longer the idea of a miracle with science. Fundamentally.
You can argue that the incarnation was poetic and metaphorical, that the death was not a death but some coma that was misinterpreted as death, that the resurrection was a recovery from this coma (perhaps with outside aid, despite what the bible says), and I will buy every bit of it. That is completely compatible with science. But to say that it's a 'one-off' and 'untouchable to [science]' is not acceptable to science." - Mr. Chen, Posted on Facebook, September 11, 2015.
Below are my musings in response to the points of contention Mr. Chen brought up:
Thanks for your thoughts Mr. Chen! I apologize for the late reply as I've been pretty swamped with schoolwork recently.
You're right, my response was really more geared toward comments I had seen in the posting from which this article was taken, and not to the article itself. Another poster made a great summery of the article in his comment [posted on Facebook, above these], with which I generally agreed (especially in its application to political ideas).
I've had some time to reflect on your points and they made me realize that my statement that miraculous events are “untouchable to scientific investigation” isn't exactly true. They may not be repeatable in a lab, but they are subject to historical, anthropological, and archaeological investigation, which are still branches of science. I think, then, a reasonable conversation about events like the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus must rest on what we know about these areas.
However, I've also noticed that we're operating on a number of assumptions regarding natural science that we should probably take a look at. First, we are assuming God would need to break the laws of physics in order for these events to happen. This may very well be true, but I wonder if there are other theological interpretations where this isn't necessary. It seems to me that while the standard laws of physics would be largely deterministic in regards to what events are possible, the nature of many quantum events seem to be more probabilistic in nature. This opens some pretty fantastic possibilities for what would still be regarded as natural phenomena. Since I'm not an expert in these areas, these are just my musings as I read more about them, but I find their implications very intriguing for discussions about God or miracles.
I also question your statement that “science encompasses all things.” I would argue that science encompasses our reasonable inferences regarding subjects we can observe. To truly “encompass all things” we must have knowledge of every bit of information in the universe, and I don't think our species will ever make it to that point naturally. I'm not saying that it's impossible, but based on what I currently know, I think we will always have more to discover.
Perhaps the best analogous event to what we are talking about (and to which we can both agree actually happened) is the Big Bang. Again, I am not an expert in this field, so I may very well be off in my understanding of it. However, my understanding is that the current laws of physics break down in the moments immediately following and surrounding the singularity which signaled the beginning of the event. This could have multiple implications. If the laws of physics can break down once, why can they not do it again? One may very well call this event miraculous, for lack of a better term.
The problem is, many Christians are tempted to leave it at that, with a definition of miracles resting in ignorance rather than what we know. To me, the only relevant God is a revealed God. This means that the true importance of any miraculous (or otherwise unexplained) event rests entirely in revelation. For Christians, this revelation rests primarily in the Incarnation and in the experiences of those who wrote scripture. I think such revelations are naturally possible (without breaking any physical laws) since, much like other quantum events, the nature of the mind also appears to be less deterministic and more probabilistic.
Now, I recognize that allowing for the possibility of miracles does not necessarily mean their certainty. This is where I think historical, anthropological, and psychological study becomes important for their investigation. But the purpose of my response here isn't really to delve into their certainty (which would probably take a bunch more posts); it's mostly just to show the reasonableness of their possibility.
Finally, just to address the coma theory. While as possible as just about anything else, even that would be very unlikely. A man who had just been beaten severely, crucified, stabbed in the side, and left for dead in a cave with probably very little oxygen, and no food or water; would be just about as unlikely to get up, go on a walk and talk with people, as one who had actually been dead. Such an event would probably require Divine intervention. :D #science #religion #atheism #christianity #faith