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The March for Scientism

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Filed under Science

Back in the early 1840s, John Henry Newman observed that physical philosophers—that is, scientists—"are ever inquiring whence things are, not why; referring them to nature, not to mind; and thus they tend to make a system a substitute for a God..." The "tending" has been, as they say, trending ever since. About a hundred years later, in 1948, Fulton Sheen remarked in his outstanding study Philosophy of Religion, that: Science cannot give us a philosophy, nor can it give us an ethics;... Read More

5 Shocking Plot Twists in the Story of Science and Faith

In his excellent book, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), physics professor Stephen M. Barr recounts the typical story of the the universe as told by scientific materialists. It's one of the best summaries of the naturalist worldview I've read, from any perspective: "The world revealed by science bears little resemblance to the world as it was portrayed by religion. Judaism and Christianity taught that the world was created by God, and that things... Read More

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Shows Why Science Can’t Build a Utopia

Atheist astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson recently tweeted, “Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence.” I did my best in 140 characters to show how this sentiment is the exact of opposite of profound. I said, “@neiltyson ‘Rationalia’ is as useless as ‘Correctistan,’ or a country whose constitution says, 'Always make the correct decisions.'" Obviously, public policy should rationally consider... Read More

Learning Morality from Bill and Ted

Early in this review series, I mentioned how Sean Carroll's new book, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, 2016), gradually becomes weaker as you move through the chapters. It starts off strong and invigorating as he talks about cosmology and fundamental physics, his specialities. But as he moves into the philosophy of mind, meaning, and morality, he gets a bit wobbly. Moving From Ought to Is That's evident especially in his chapter on "What... Read More

Is Free Will Real or Are We All Determined?

Throughout Sean Carroll's best-selling book, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, 2016), Carroll seems comfortable holding two apparently contradictory views. This has been show throughout our review series. For example, he's fine both believing that causality is illusory (at the fundamental level of reality) and true (at the macroscopic level.) We see this again in the chapter he dedicates to free will, which begins with this assessment (emphasis... Read More

Why Does the Universe Exist? Atheist Physicist Sean Carroll Answers…

I have to admit, when I first opened Sean Carroll's new book, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, 2016) I immediately flipped to chapter 25, titled "Why Does the Universe Exist?" For many thinkers, ancient and modern, this is the philosophical question: why is there something rather than nothing? Your answer to this question drives your answers to most other big questions, including those about God, meaning, morality, and more. So I was... Read More

The Power and Danger of Bayes’ Theorem

I've noted many flaws and points of confusion in Sean Carroll's new book, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, 2016), but one of the strongest sections is its explanation of Bayes' Theorem. The Theorem is a quantitive way to express confidence in certain beliefs. It requires assigning credences (or probabilities) to events or statements, and then tweaking them based on new information. For example, suppose you're wondering whether a randomly... Read More

Is the Passage of Time Real or Just an Illusion?

One of the main targets of Sean Carroll's new book, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, 2016), is causality. Like many naturalists, he sees where the causal chain leads—a series of contingent causes demands a necessary First Cause. So if you want to avoid a First Cause, you must get rid of causality. As discussed in an earlier post, Carroll's first attempt appealed to the conservation of momentum. It wasn't clear how that principle... Read More

Sean Carroll, Determinism, and Laplace’s Demon

Today we continue our series looking at physicist Sean Carroll's new book, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, 2016). After exploring whether the universe needed a cause to get started, Carroll next turns to the topic of determinism: is reality determined or free? Laplace's Demon Carroll's answer relies on a famous thought-experiment involving "Laplace's Demon". Pierre-Simon Laplace was an accomplished French physicist and mathematician.... Read More

Is Sean Carroll Correct That the Universe Moves By Itself?

Many theists, including myself, believe that some of the strongest arguments for God rely on the logical need for a First Cause of the universe (or First Mover, depending on which argument you use.) This sort of argument goes back at least to Aristotle, who thousands of years ago suggested that, "Everything that is in motion must be moved by something" (and by motion he meant any change whatsoever, not just locomotion, or spatial change). However, physicist Sean Carroll thinks Aristotle... Read More

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