Is Faith The Absence Of Evidence?

In the arena of philosophical and scientific discussion the word faith is often used to describe a belief that is unsubstantiated. In other words faith is employed to fill gaps in knowledge, thus the more faith I have the further I travel outside the scope of empirical evidence.

But what exactly is it that constitutes faith? Derived from the Greek word pistis, faith is simply translated “to be persuaded.” So what is it that persuades someone like myself to believe in God? Is it evidence in that which is evident? or is it blind unsubstantiated claims completely void of reason?

I am frequently told that it is the latter of the two, that to profess the notion that God created the world is to place some abstract wibble wobble like widget in place of science. Such ideas falsely assume that creationist such as myself are inserting God as a mechanism in place of science. On the contrary, I hold God as an agent who has established the laws of nature.

In the words of John Lennox -“Suppose we have a Rolls Royce turbo jet engine, and I offer two explanations of it, first is aeronautical engineering and the basic laws of thermodynamics. Another explanations is Rolls and Royce, Choose one! Well anyone can see that’s an absurdity, their two different kinds of explanations, the first is in terms of law and mechanism, that is the scientific one, and the second is in terms of agency”

The conflict between theism and atheism is not whether God and science contradict each other, what it really boils down to for me is the question of origins – How did life begin? There are only two possible explanations

a) life was created

b) life evolved naturally through non-living particles

Both have some rather supernatural implications. On one hand you have to either accept that an all powerful and eternal God created the universe, or that – despite it being mathematically impossible and scientifically implausible – life evolved naturally through an unguided process – take your pick!

I recently had a conversation with a blogger in which he explained to me how “New Atheists [such as himself] clearly self identify as agnostic atheists.” which simply means that while they don’t claim to have sufficient knowledge to make a conclusion on how life began, they are persuaded that God doesn’t exist.

When confronted with the question of origins most atheist like the blogger I mentioned will try to conveniently play the agnostic card and say they don’t presume to know how life began and that they would never pretend to know something so silly. We are often led to believe that atheist make no claims of belief, that they simply assert the “lack of a belief” in a intelligent designer. Albeit to deny the existence of God is to directly infer the only other alternative whether they care to admit it or not. The agnostic card hidden up the sleeve is just an attempt to save face and not commit intellectual suicide by saying that they believe life evolved naturally.

The English astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle’s explained why life could not have arisen by a purely natural unguided process:

“life could not have had a random beginning.. the trouble is that there is about two thousand enzymes, and the chance of obtaining them all in a random trial is only one part in 10 to the 40,000 power, an outrageous small probability that could not be faced even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup. If one is not prejudiced either by social beliefs or by a scientific training into the conviction that life originated on the Earth, this simple calculation wipes the idea entirely out of court….The enormous information content of even the simplest living systems…cannot in our view be generated by what are often called “natural” processes…For life to have originated on the Earth it would be necessary that quite explicit instruction should have been provided for its assembly…There is no way in which we can expect to avoid the need for information, no way in which we can simply get by with a bigger and better organic soup, as we ourselves hoped might be possible a year or two ago.”

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13 thoughts on “Is Faith The Absence Of Evidence?

  1. Every time someone claims this or that has been proven to be mathematically impossible, I think back to the time someone claimed it was mathematically impossible for bees to fly. One of the reasons scientists avoid making absolute claims is because it makes them look unscientific when new evidence comes along to contradict them.

    “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.” That was Jesus’ comment to Thomas when he expressed his skepticism. And it is this type of faith that Christians regularly endorse as the best kind. Evidence is entirely optional and is not prohibited for faith. You certainly would not stop believing in Jesus if he suddenly appeared before you in the flesh and confirmed your faith.

    With all due respect to Sir Hoyle and his contributions to science, he was a physicist and not a biologist. And he was also prone to make claims outside his field of expertise including some choice thoughts like the idea that HIV came from space. Given the rather rapid advancement in this area recently and the discoveries made on Mars about the building blocks of life, Sir Hoyle’s ideas in this area are not a safe hook upon which to hang your hat.

    You’re free to make the claim that God was the agency that started everything. However, nobody else is required to accept such a notion on unsubstantiated faith or a questionable claim about what is not possible. Any answer rooted in the supernatural is by definition out of the reach of science as it can neither be proven nor dis-proven. And any such answer is not useful since it can not be applied or lead to future scientific discoveries. It is therefore entirely appropriate to ignore the idea that “life was created” until some actual evidence points to it.

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    • Your right that Sir Hoyle is not a biologist, thus while his opinion is definitely more credible than mine or yours, perhaps he is not qualified to make such expert conclusions. However, after being one of the leading chemical evolutionary theorist in the world, Dr. Dean Kenyon famously converted to Christianity after expressing the exact same concerns as Sir Hoyle.

      Kenyon expressed that amino acids couldn’t organize themselves in a meaningful biological sequence without a pre-existing set of genetic instructions. Kenyon truly has one of the most astounding conversions I have ever heard of, the man who once wrote the text books used throughout all the major universities actually came to what he described to be a “intellectual road-block”. He said that it was only after an extensive encounter with the evidence that he realized that life could only be explained by an acting agent.

      You say that there is no evidence that life was created, I would have to disagree. Edwin Hubble’s discovery of the expanding universe has huge theistic implications, Renown American astronomer, Allan Sandage reluctantly stated “Here is evidence for what can only be described as a supernatural event. There is no way that this could have been predicted within the realm of physics as we know it.”

      even the likes of Stephen Hawking’s acknowledged its theistic implications “Hubble’s discovery on the expansion of the universe was one of the most important intellectual discoveries of the 20th century, or of any century. It transformed the debate about whether the universe had a beginning. If galaxies are moving apart, they must have been closer together in the past.. Many scientist were still unhappy with the universe having a beginning because it seemed to imply that physics broke down. One would have to invoke an outside agency, for convenience sake, one can call God.” While Hawking most certainly doesn’t believe in the Judeo-Christian God, he most certainly acknowledges the likelihood of an acting agent.

      Furthermore, the burst of fundamentally new and complex life forms arising in the Cambrian epoch without any known precursor in the fossil record has enormous theistic implications, such phenomena was enough to convince distinguished biologist such as Louis Agassiz that Darwin’s theory was rubbish.

      The reality is that there is plenty of evidence to support the theory of intelligent design. I would argue there is more evidence in support of creationism than evolution, and would challenge anyone to try and prove me wrong.

      Jesus was right that it is better to believe without seeing, because God has put the truth in our hearts, blessed is the man that doesn’t seek a sign to convince him of whats already in his heart. It would be like telling your spouse or close family member that they needed to prove that they loved you, typically such a request would have a damaging impact on the relationship. In the end Its better to obey from the heart or the spirit, which one day you will see is just as real as anything in the physical world.

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      • The fundamental problem with intelligent design is it makes no predictions and does not advance science in any way. It merely makes claims that this or that isn’t possible, and fills in the gaps it claims to make with an undetectable designer and unprovable hypotheses. It is creationism in disguise. Cite all the individual scientists you want, that means little until it becomes the accepted scientific consensus. There is a clear path for how that can happen, through peer-reviewed studies presenting evidence. Instead, ID wants to cheat by redefining science to suit a religious agenda.

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    • The scientific paradigm of new atheist try to squeeze reality in a materialistic defined box, so that the scientific paradigm becomes all the more important and nature has to be squeezed to fit the paradigm. I noticed that naturalist have seemed to create this ideology that precludes the acknowledgment of God’s existence, thus regardless if he actually exist or not they are incapable of finding him because he doesn’t fit into their scientific paradigm. The question is not about simply advancing science, science in it self is not an end result, rather we use science to point us to the truth and to understand how the universe operates. Again there is only two possible explanations
      a) life was created
      b) life evolved naturally

      Very distinguished biologist hold that explanation b is scientifically impossible, thus solution a is the only other alternative, this is not simply a matter of ‘filling in the gaps’ with wild outlandish claims, on the contrary its allowing the evidence to point toward the truth, whether or not the truth fits into your scientific paradigm or not is irrelevant. We needn’t concern ourselves with the material concept of ‘reality’ as much as we should concern ourselves with ‘actuality’.

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      • “Myself and [e]very other distinguished biologist hold that explanation b is scientifically impossible…”
        I find it highly unlikely that you are a distinguished biologist given what seems to be a rather tenuous grasp on science. Support for evolution (which you stated earlier there was little valid evidence for) is found among more than 99% of prominent biologists, and it is regarded as the main underpinning of modern biology. Abiogenesis is a somewhat different question in that bacteria don’t leave fossils so direct evidence is unlikely to be found. But even in the case that Earth was seeded by an alien race, following the chain backwards will eventually lead to abiogenesis of the race that seeded us, or the race that seeded them or so on.

        Science does not seek truth. It is a tool for verifying claims and steering us away from what is false.

        “We needn’t concern ourselves with ‘reality’ as much as we should concern ourselves with ‘actuality’.”
        And on that note any credibility you might have been attempting to maintain just went out the window.

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    • “Support for evolution (which you stated earlier there was little valid evidence for) is found among more than 99% of prominent biologists, and it is regarded as the main underpinning of modern biology.”

      So I’m genuinely interested to hear three or two reasons why you believe evolution in scientifically valid. Sorry I’m just tired of hearing individuals constantly asserting this and that, appealing to science without ever really saying anything scientific. Do you believe natural selection acting on random mutations has the power to produce new biological novelties? Could you point me to clear evidence in the fossil record where we can see the transition of one species into another species? Can you explain to me your theory on the origins of genetic information? I’m assuming since you so strongly support evolution that you’ve attempted to answer such questions, and that you haven’t just blindly adopted the Darwinian theory.

      I look forward to hearing back from you on these issues, although I must admit this is typically the point where people stop responding.

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      • Sorry, I didn’t actually see this response. A few reasons why I think it’s scientifically valid:

        1. Some of the best evidence for evolution is found in the genetic record rather than the fossil record. In part this is because creation of fossils is the exception rather than the rule; without the right conditions nature simply absorbs corpses rather than preserving any portion of them. Instead it is the modification of DNA over time that allows us to see the history and map of life on Earth. Some of the same techniques that allow us determine definitively if Thomas Jefferson had children with his slave Sally Hemings allow us to track the lineage of wolves to chihuahuas. More importantly, it’s possible to compare the DNA of two currently living organisms, make predictions about how far back in time those two organisms diverged, and then compare those predictions against the fossil record as well as other living organisms. Darwin predicted that mankind evolved in Africa, and fossils that we identify as our ancestors have since been found there. It was predicted that insect wings evolved from gills and that there was a transitional phase of water-skimming. They went looking for water-skimming insects and found in the stonefly DNA primitive elements not found in any other more “modern” flying insect.
        2. Transitional fossils do exist. That statement may be a bit of a misnomer because if evolution is true then every fossil and skeleton is a transitional form. But you can go back and see fairly clearly the line of evolution of the turtle, going from creatures with no shells and teeth to creatures with a carapace and no teeth, and intermediate forms having details such as increasingly broad-bladed ribs and shelled turtles with teeth. Some fossils to consult: captorhinus, scutosaurus, odontochelys, deltavjatia vjatkensis, proganochelys. This would also be the answer to whether random selection can evolve biological novelties as I think a turtle carapace fits that bill.
        3. Evolutionary theory makes predictions which have been verified. That was part of my previous two reasons but it merits highlighting. It’s a hallmark of science and as far as I know entirely lacking from intelligent design.

        It’s important to note that the question of abiogenesis is separate from evolution. Evolution covers progression from single-celled (and possibly viruses and bacterial) life to modern complex forms. The typical arguments against macro evolution are that we can’t watch it happen, but the block would be the timescales involved. The concept of millions or billions of years, and what can happen with trillions or quadrillions (or more) of generations across the entire planet is simply beyond many people.

        There are a number of competing hypotheses for the origins of DNA. RNA is clearly thought to be the precursor to DNA, RNA also has simpler precursors and so on. What is required is a chemical sequence capable of stable replication, from that point almost anything is possible given sufficient time. Science does not claim to have answered this and it’s still the subject of ongoing research, which is why I said hypotheses. As I said, cellular evidence from billions of years ago is nearly impossible to come by and more solid evidence is needed before a current hypothesis (or one as yet unstated) can “win”. This is the strength of science BTW, the insistence that assertions be backed by some evidence as well as the idea that there’s always more to learn. It’s also why ID will remain on the fringes until it produces evidence.

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      • thanks for your response. I appreciate you taking the time to explain. I will be sure to look further into different studies about DNA records and look into the list of the transitional fossils that you provided

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  2. The exercise of faith first, followed by evidence. Many people rely on the soul to give them the answers/reasoning. Isaiah 1: 18Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

    19If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:

    20But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”

    The reasoning is not really one relying on their ‘reason’/ their ‘abilities,’ but their obedience; their willingness to surrender to HIS reason(s). Talk about thrill seeking/risk takers! Got to be absolutely crazy to follow ‘GOD’, or HE IS real and the reality that we claim we know, is less real than HIS reality.

    When does one become real? asked the Velveteen Rabbit. It’s all about love. Not blue pills and red pills.

    Big problem with the institutional church is that it is dead in faith. Just a big fat party, social club. Where’s the risk?

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  3. Reblogged this on sistersreachout and commented:
    I just “met” Nathanael David and I love his blog. He is a Christian and very, very smart! I am sharing this one article he has written, but I want to encourage you all to seriously check out his website. If you are a Christian, his writing will hugely encourage you in your faith. If you are not a Christian, then I encourage you to allow yourself to be challenged about your beliefs. You owe it to yourself and your eternity to do so. God bless you all, Debbie. 🙂

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