Miracles

Every advance of knowledge in our civilization is accompanied by a conservative backlash to that advance.

Based on the scientific study in earlier posts, we’ve learned that individual reaction to change is probably genetic.  Liberals tend to view change optimistically.  Conservatives feel threatened by change.  Both dispositions have evolutionary value.  Tribes made entirely of liberals might take risks that could threaten the tribe’s survival.  Conservatives might never venture outside their known area which poses a whole other set of risks.

Science is apolitical.  There are conservative scientists and liberal scientists, but science itself is driven by a whole other motivation.  That’s to explain how stuff works.

The scientific method is a process developed to manage this continual questioning of the status quo.

The result is that existing theories are continuously refined and sometimes even replaced.

So it is fair to say that science never really proves anything because it is always questioning everything.

What drives these changes is new data.  That data can either be theoretical or experimental.  Scientists are thinking about new ways to explain existing phenomena or challenging existing explanations based on the results of new experiments.

Some examples may help to prove the point.

The Catholic Church developed a theory of how the universe was structured based on their interpretation of the Bible and the work of Ptolemy.  The problem was that the observed movement of the planets did not adhere to the theory.  The earth-centric theorists continued to refine their theories to account for these increasingly eccentric orbits.  But it finally all came apart when Galileo improved the telescope to the point where he observed moons orbiting Jupiter.  We don’t consider moons orbiting other planets revolutionary today, but in 1609 it was heretical.  Everything in the universe was supposed to orbit the earth.  It took the Catholic Church almost 400 years to finally admit that it was wrong.  That’s conservative.

One of the problems in today’s culture is that science is perceived by conservatives as a liberal pursuit.  That’s not only because of the natural tendency of conservatives to be suspicious of change.  It’s also because the conservative movement has embraced religious fundamentalism as a component of their belief structure.  Fundamentalists not only believe that science is a liberal pursuit.  They believe that it is an atheistic one as well.  From a fundamentalist point of view, the world is a structure of beliefs governed by God.

So we have a culture, aided by the Internet, where science is no longer the arbiter of what is true.  It is only another opinion that conservatives choose to accept or reject based on how it aligns with their beliefs.  This frustrates liberals to no end because liberals look to science as the common basis for any discussion rather than just another opinion.  The liberal perspective is that everyone is not entitled to their own set of facts.

This brings us to the discussion of miracles.

Conservative fundamentalists use miracles to replace science.  Climate change is a good example.  Fundamentalists use a “dominion” theory to suggest that we don’t have to worry about climate change because God gave man dominion over the earth.  Why would God give man dominion over the earth and then allow man to so pollute the earth as to make it uninhabitable.  Essentially, if God was able to free the Biblical Jews from Egypt, He certainly can deal with something like climate change.  The problems, from a fundamentalist conservative point of view, are not scientific ones.  They are political – specifically we aren’t Christian enough.  If our country fully embraced the conservative Christian lifestyle, we would enjoy the protection God has promised to those who believe.

It’s not the liberals don’t believe in miracles, but speaking for myself, here’s how at least one liberal looks at it.

I don’t think that God who is omnipotent should need to suspend the laws that He put in place to prove to us that He exists.  He already has designed an incredible universe and the laws that control it.  Why would He need a miracle to prove to us that He is here, when you can just look around you and see His likeness reflected everywhere?  Also miracles are capricious and random.  Why is any particular moment in human history more important than any other to a being who is infinite, eternal, all powerful, all knowing, and all loving?  So why would one moment deserve a miracle and another not?

The miracle, in my understanding, is that life is not random.  There are just too many moments in all of our lives that defy simple coincidence.  Life has a purpose, that’s what the real message of the Bible is.  That purpose is to better understand and embrace our relationship with our Creator.  That suggests that our Creator is an active participant in our learning and has a grand plan for all his creation to understand and express His perfection.

The miracle is that there ARE answers to our questions.  Our dominion is that we ARE able to both discover the laws that govern God’s creation and use them to improve and perfect our lives.

The miracle is that we ARE all part of a larger plan.  As we understand and yield to that plan, our lives become more fulfilling and harmonious.

God doesn’t need a miracle.  He only needs to make sure that the right person is at the right place in the right time to effect the changes that further His plan.

The other part of miracles is that as science advances, we can often explain what previously seemed unexplained.

People used to think that the world is flat.  We now know that is not the case even though only a small number of us have either gone up in space or actually traveled around the world.  We used to think that the universe orbited the earth.  We now know that not to be the case even though very few of us have looked through a telescope to see the moons of Jupiter.

Even parting the Red Sea has been explained by the phenomena of standing waves, tides, and the geological configuration of the sea floor.  When the proper conditions exist, the Red Sea replicates what was described in the Bible without the need of Moses or the pharaoh’s army.  The miracle was that this natural phenomena happened at the moment that Moses needed it.

Here’s my take on how some of the world’s current controversies will be resolved by science.

  1. Climate change will ultimately become an accepted fact rather than a point of political contention.  The efforts to mitigate climate change will lead to new abundant non-polluting sustainable energy sources.  This will finally transform the economy from one of haves and have nots to one powered by maximizing human potential.
  2. Advances in understanding human reproduction and genetics will finally produce a cheap 100% effective contraceptive that will eliminate unplanned pregnancies.  It will be universally administered just like many other immunizations.  Genetic testing will dramatically reduce birth defects.  Population growth will stabilize as education increases.  Family sizes will shrink along with childhood mortality.  Lifespans and retirement age will increase.  Abortion will become an accepted, necessary, and relatively rare medical procedure rather than the contentious form of birth control that it is today.
  3. We will finally make contact with another intelligent species.  This will serve to unify the earth and cause much deeper reflection on the whole concept of Christ as the exclusive savior as we discover that the religious tradition of this alien civilization got to the same place, but by a different route.

Will these or any other scientific discoveries eliminate miracles or diminish the role of God?  No.  If anything, the more we understand, the wider and more spectacular the universe becomes.  The more we appreciate the universe that God created, the more we become willing to embrace the plan that he has for everyone in that creation.

 

 

8 Responses to “Miracles”

  1. keith says:

    #1)YS Every advance of knowledge in our civilization is accompanied by a conservative backlash to that advance.

    MR) EVERYONE? Oil? Gas? Fire? Auto´s? Cement? Steel? Penacilan? Xrays? The printin press, the greatest invention of all time, IMHO? Computors? Paper? Plane? Mining? The wheel?

    #2)YS)One of the problems in today’s culture is that science is perceived by conservatives as a liberal pursuit. That’s not only because of the natural tendency of conservatives to be suspicious of change. It’s also because the conservative movement has embraced religious fundamentalism as a component of their belief structure. Fundamentalists not only believe that science is a liberal pursuit. They believe that it is an atheistic one as well. From a fundamentalist point of view, the world is a structure of beliefs governed by God.

    MR) I personally know of no Cristian or conservitives who this statment would apply to. Who are you speaking of? Do you KNOW any?

    Question, I can´t tell what you believe from your post. Did Jesus do mircles?

  2. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Yes, that is the nature of conservatism – fearful of change. As I explained, that isn’t a value judgement. It’s just the balance between optimism and pessimism about the future.

    I’ve already posted the studies which support these claims. If you would like to post your own studies to dispute these claims, feel free. Your own personal experience is not relevant unless you’ve asked the same questions that academics did.

    I have already said that I believe in miracles.

    You may have too narrow a view of what a miracle is.

    Did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead? Yes.

    Is it important to know how he did it? No.

    Did raising Lazarus from the dead require God to suspend the laws of nature? No.

    Is it possible for us to repeat the miracles that Jesus performed? Yes, He told us that we would do that and greater works.

    Do I care how the miracles are performed today? No. The “How” isn’t important. The “Why” is what is important.

  3. keith says:

    Jeff,
    Do you believe this study also? (Article I copied and paste)

    Scientists from Aarhus University in Denmark collected data on bicep size, socio-economic status and support for economic redistribution from hundreds in America, Argentina and Denmark. The Results are in.

    Guess what they found out? No shocker there. Men who are stronger physically tend to be conservative politically. That’s right liberal ladies, eat your heart out. Our men are stronger. For those of us who love conservative men, this is no shock. People who are able to take care of themselves and others tend to be conservative, while those who need to lean on others and support the welfare state are naturally liberal.

    The Study leaves little room for doubt. The figures are quite revealing. Men with higher levels of upper body strength were far less likely to support the re-distribution of wealth, and far less likely to support left-wing ideology. In Stark contrast, men with less upper body strength were far less likely to assert their self-interest, and supported programs that re-distributed wealth.

    It is simple biology really. The liberals, being naturally weaker, support programs that will level the playing field for them. Since they cannot take care of themselves, they have designed a system of living that works for them, and protects them, and allows them to remain weaker, while still surviving. It is rather ingenious really. I mean you have to admire the tenacity. “I can’t take care of myself, so I will find a way to make someone else do it. ”

  4. keith says:

    As to miracles – The only reason I brought them up was because you stated you live by science and facts, as opposed to conservitives who you think don´t. (talk about profiling!!) I threw in a comment about miracles becasue if you believe in those then not everything is a fact or science. .So, since you do believe in them then you and I are in the same boat, We believe in science but GOD did and can trump scinece with miracles. If you think I have to narrow of a view of them then suggesting that what I believe a miracle coud be, then I would say your view is too narrow also.

  5. Jeff Beamsley says:

    You seem to believe that the most important part of a miracle is that God trumped science.

    You use that claim to support a larger belief that science and religion are opposed. That belief allows you to reject the claims of science whenever they call your religious (or political) beliefs into question because God ultimately can assert His power over the “godless” scientists.

    That’s too bad.

    I believe this sort of “magic” thinking (much like most of fundamentalism) gets in the way of a deeper and more rewarding understanding of God’s relationship to his creation man.

    What if God put all of these natural laws in place in order to GUIDE us to Him?

    Rejecting His natural laws also rejects his instruction and leads some people down a very different path.

    IMHO, it doesn’t matter HOW a particular miracle happened. What matters is that it DID happen at a time and place that was useful for our instruction and growth in understanding of our Creator.

    In my belief system, miracles are a daily experience which affirm God’s presence in my life.

    Sorry that you don’t see life in the same way.

  6. keith says:

    Your response resembles in no way anything I believe, have said or accept. Science and God ARE NOT OPPOSED. I agree that there are laws of science, and God created them, PERIOD!!!!!!!!!! We can stop this discussion because for whatever reason you simply can´t accept, or understand, what I believe. You simply play to a naritive that is predispositioned.

    Roms chapter 1 talks about what is natural. The writer throws out many things that are not natural, in fact CLEARLY SEEN, and you refuse to accept that… You are very confusing!!!

  7. Jeff Beamsley says:

    I said) You use that claim to support a larger belief that science and religion are opposed. That belief allows you to reject the claims of science whenever they call your religious (or political) beliefs into question because God ultimately can assert His power over the “godless” scientists.

    Keith said) Your response resembles in no way anything I believe, have said or accept. Science and God ARE NOT OPPOSED.

    Yet when I posted that Science says that the earth was not created in 7 days, you said “We´re guessing… we don´t KNOW this!”

    When I said that the scientific view is that man was not made from the dust and woman wasn’t cloned from his rib, you said “Science??? how do you prove they were not formed?”

    When I said that that the earth did not stand still because that would seriously violate the laws of physics in more ways that it is worth trying to list, you said “Sure it could… what proof do you have it didn´t. be careful with the word science.”

    Your fundamental argument is “ If God was ¨God enough¨ to create the heavens and the earth, then the virgin birth isn´t so tough. If he can create the heavens and the earth, then a simple flooding of the earth isn´t a big deal”

    Here’s an example of how that goes, though.

    Sure God could cause the whole earth to be flooded, but if that happened, there should be some evidence in the archaeological record. There is no such evidence. Rather than accept that perhaps the whole earth was not flooded, you’re defense is that a God who can flood the whole earth could also erase any evidence of that flood if He so chooses.

    You see how that works? God is your answer for any fact that challenges your belief.

    You also support that argument by saying that, in your view, God NEEDS to assert His power to suspend the laws of nature because otherwise, “He´s probably not a very big God”.

    Finally, when God and the findings of science seem opposed, you suggest that “this doesn´t mean the bible is wrong. Maybe our reasoning lacks full knowledge”

    So what we have in YOUR OWN WORDS is just what I said in my comment.

    When scientific discoveries and theories call your beliefs (which are by the way tightly bound to your politics) about how God operates into question, you are forced to make a choice. In every case that I’ve seen so far, you choose a fundamentalist approach to both God, the Bible, and science. You need an all powerful God to regularly intervene into the lives of men in order to both prove Himself to be “a very big God” and also permit you to reject out of hand the conclusions drawn by scientists who don’t have this bias.

    You don’t believe in science. You only believe in SOME science when it supports your point of view. As I’ve said before, this isn’t surprising. It is something that appears to be part of being a conservative.

    It is also the challenge that we have in our personal political discussions and the larger dialogues between liberals and conservatives. Whenever conservatives get backed into a corner by facts, they often defend themselves using religious arguments and the discussion is over.

    You DO believe in God, but you seem ready and willing to reject the thought that perhaps science is leading us CLOSER to God rather than further away.

    You are welcome to your beliefs.

    Please do me the favor,however, of at least owning them.

  8. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Here’s a link to the actual study rather than a right wing interpretation of what the paper meant.

    http://www.ia.ucsb.edu/pa/display.aspx?pkey=3016

    Here are the key quotes.

    The researchers collected data on bicep size, socioeconomic status, and support for economic redistribution from hundreds of people in the United States, Argentina, and Denmark. In line with their hypothesis, the data revealed that stronger men are more likely to assert their economic self interest.

    What counts as self-interest regarding redistribution, however, varies based on socioeconomic status (SES). Redistribution increases the share of resources of low-SES men, and decreases the share of resources of high-SES men. “Men of low-SES stand to gain, whereas men of high-SES stand to lose,” Sznycer said. “What we found is that higher upper-body strength exacerbates your self-interested stance. Bigger biceps correlate with more support for redistribution among low-SES men, and with more opposition to redistribution among high-SES men.”

    and

    According to Sznycer, the paper’s other lead author, however, socioeconomic status by itself doesn’t predict people’s attitudes about redistribution. “It’s only when you combine the information about strength and socioeconomic status that you can predict these political attitudes,” said Sznycer. “This suggests that the human mind is ecologically rational and designed for small-scale societies rather than means-end rational. In short, within our modern skulls lies a brain designed for ancestral challenges.”

    So the only “big bicep” people who turn out to politically conservative are those who also have a lot of money. They object to sharing their wealth with others even when that distribution can be proved to be a means to an end that they support. In other words, they are selfish but that selfishness may be a product of the way their brain evolved during a time when being strong and selfish was an evolutionary advantage.

    Yup that sounds about right. 🙂

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