Friday, July 16, 2010

Seeing is believing

Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who was the first person in space said, "I looked and looked but I didn't see God." Gagarin and others have the view that seeing is believing. In other words, God has to be empirically verified in order to believe in his existence. Empiricism is the philosophical belief that, "All human knowledge is derived ultimately from sense experience."[1] The late philosopher Thomas Hobbs introduced many aspects of empirical knowledge and it seemed to have crystallized during the time of Charles Darwin. The interesting thing at accepting only empirical knowledge is that Darwin's theory has very little empirical evidence. Can God only be known by way of sense experience? Is the only way to obtain knowledge through empirical means?

Much of what we call scientific knowledge comes by way of non-empirical means. For example, the fields of Biology and Geology are largely based upon an inference to the best explanation. In Geology, finding many polished stones in an area can best be explained as being the result of water action. Likewise, an arrowhead found by an Archaeologist would represent a rock that had been worked on by past humans. No one would infer that the natural elements of weather carved out an arrowhead. The point is, many aspects of science are not based on empirical knowledge.

If one has to see to believe then we should throw out the belief of black holes, electrons and quarks. There is a reason why black holes are called black. Against the backdrop of space, black holes are invisible, but why do we believe in their existence? We can observe the gravitation pull that black holes have on other aspects of matter. Likewise, electrons and quarks, though unseen, exhibit certain properties to confirm their existence.

Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God;the skies proclaim the work of his hands." The Apostle Paul states, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.(Rom. 1:20)" Paul and David have made statements that knowledge does not necessarily have to be obtained in an empirical way. I would contend that the properties of God are observable such that we can reasonably believe in His existence, though He can't be seen. We can believe in that which we do not see. Some individuals are bent on non-belief in God simply for the reason that they want to be in position of a god.

In the book of Luke, there is a story of a rich man who was placed in Hades (away form the presence of God). Luke says the rich man was in torment and requested that someone from the dead return to earth to warn his family about Hades. The response given was, "'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.(Luke 16:31)" Some will not believe even if the overwhelming evidence for God's existence is present. Seeing is not always related to believing.

[1] Nash, Ronald, Life's Ultimate Questions, p. 388

No comments: