Saturday, September 21, 2019

Is Something Essential Missing?

In 1989 two chemists, Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons held a press conference to announce that they had discovered a process in which nuclear fuel would fuse together to create heat and energy in a small tabletop experiment. Their supposed discovery of "cold fusion" held out the hope of a cheap and abundant supply of energy for the whole world. Yet there were some immediate problems with the experiment. For instance, other scientists were not able to replicate the results despite following the recipe given by Pons and Fleischmann. But perhaps the most obvious hint that something was just not right was the absence of neutrons. In every type of nuclear fusion or fission, excess neutrons should be released. Pons and Fleischmann had originally claimed that their experiment produced excess neutrons, but when other experimenters saw none it became clear that they had not produced any either. When nuclear reactions occur, neutrons must be present. If they are missing then nuclear reactions are not taking place.

Over four previous blog posts, I have been discussing questions that scientists sometimes ask to determine whether or not a particular claim is true, and then asking those questions about the truth claims of Christianity to evaluate its veracity. One of those important questions is, "Is something essential missing?" If a certain required element is missing from a proposed explanation, then the explanation is likely to be not true. When it comes to truth claims from many of the world's religions and various world-views, I believe that there is an essential element that is present within Christianity, but missing from many other philosophies; thus giving credence to the Christian world-view. The issue has to do with human nature and human actions.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Challenge to Christianity: The Problem of Evil

Usually when scientists do multiple experiments to test a theory or model, there will be some experiments that seem to be just a little bit outside of the model predictions. There are almost always a few experiments that are in slight conflict or contradiction to the expectations, even when the model is otherwise well established as being accurate. In science these outlying experiments are often simply due to the nature of statistical analysis. For instance, one out of ten experiments is expected to be about three standard deviations from the average. Sometimes an outlier occurs because the measurement is not very accurate, so it appears to be far from the average but is still sensible given the uncertainty. Sometimes we don't have enough data to make definitive conclusions. In any case, it is important to evaluate if contradictory measurements have reasonable explanations or if they are a real problem for the model being tested.

This is the fourth blog post in which I am applying some of the same criteria that scientists use to test whether or not a theory is true to the claims of biblical Christianity in order to gain insight into whether or not Christianity has objective credibility. The first three questions that have been addressed were, (1) Is the data logically self-consistent?, (2) Is there enough evidence to support the hypothesis?, and (3) Is the hypothesis compatible with other known data? In this post we ask the question (4) Is contradictory evidence conclusive? Nothing is known to 100% accuracy, and every theory or model has some evidence that may appear to contradict the theory, those outlying experiments. But an idea that is valid will have reasonable explanations for those deviations so that the model remains credible.

One of the major challenges to Christianity is the problem of evil and suffering: how could a good and omnipotent God allow evil and suffering? I believe this may be the hardest philosophical question to answer, not just from a Christian worldview, but from any worldview.