Scientist or Philosopher?

You may or may not be aware, but “iTunes U” offers some great free resources. One of the resources I’ve been slowly working through is a course on “C.S. Lewis” from Reformed Theological Seminary taught by the late Dr. Knox Chamberlin. I really enjoy the lectures when I get around to listening to one. Last week I was listening to a lecture titled “The Grand Miracle: The Incarnation of the Son of God” in which Dr. Chamberlin recounts Lewis’ understanding of the incarnation. There was one point in particular that I found very illuminating and helpful! Dr. Chamberlin focused this part of his lecture on the “scientific” arguments against the possibility of miracles. Here is the quote in full:

To say that miracles cannot occur is a philosophical statement, not a scientific statement. To assert that miracles cannot occur is a philosophical statement; a statement which itself is not subject to scientific verification.

If you’re speaking as a scientist you can say, “In our total experience a virginal conception [the incarnation] has never been the subject of scientific scrutiny.” But to infer from that that such an event cannot occur is to move from speaking as a scientist to speaking as a philosopher.

I thought this quotation was so helpful because in it Dr. Chamberlin does a wonderful job at showing the limits to scientific inquiry. There are some things that science can observe and from observing those things they can offer theories. However, there are a host of other things that science cannot observe. Unfortunately, many scientists (actually just atheists relying on the idea of science) attempt to use “science” to “disprove” subjects that science cannot truly have a say in.

This is especially true in the concept of the supernatural or miracles. The entire notion of the supernatural or miracle is that it is outside the realm of normative experience. For a scientist to say that miracles cannot occur is essentially to say:

Something occurring outside the realm of normative experience cannot occur because it is outside the realm of normative experience.

The reasoning does not hold here. As stated above, the entire idea of the miraculous is that it is outside the norm of observable experience. The scientist is limited to the realm of normative experience. There is nothing in the realm of normative experience that can shed light (from a scientific perspective) on the machinations of something outside the realm of normative experience.

Food for thought!

Michael

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