A Little Noise

28Apr/140

Science and Immortality

A summary of the article "Science and Immortality", by Rev. T. W. Fowle, Popular Science May 1872.

Modern science affects belief in two ways:

  1. Believers in science require proof from observable facts alone.
  2. Believers in science are biased against any supernatural explanation.

Four common arguments for belief in immortality:

  1. It is an "original intuition", meaning we were created with the belief.
  2. It is a universal belief.
  3. It follows necessarily from the existence of God.
  4. It is essential as a motive for morality.

Rebuttal:

  1. It could have arisen after creation, and must have if Evolution is true as many men of science believe.
  2. It is not universally believed. Moses made no indication of believing in an afterlife, Buddha believed that eternity was non-existence, Julius Caesar believed in no-afterlife enough to consider death too good for his enemies.
  3. To a man of science demanding proof, the idea of God is just an attempt to explain our past which we don't understand, and immortality is likewise an attempt to explain our future.
  4. Buddhists are moral, and immortality is not their motive. Pharaoh believed in immortality, and yet the resulting behavior was immoral. So it is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality.

It would be sufficient proof for life after death if a man were resurrected. Jesus was resurrected, and would be sufficient proof if the account were believed. Those who testified to the Resurrection may have been mistaken, but there is no reason to assume them to be liars. They were multiple men, who were able to see something amazing and miraculous and describe it in a sober and measured manner. We take historical testimony as factual all the time and rely upon it to be true. The only reason anyone doubts the testimony of the apostles is that it requires a supernatural element. When the miraculous is involved, then a certain turn of mind will simply assume that any testimony is always mistaken.

There is the Religious and, for lack of a better word, the "Rational," at war within each of us, and we tend to one side or the other. Do we dwell on the present natural world or on hopes for the future? The rise of scientific thinking will cause doubts about the supernatural, but it will also help clear away erroneous dogmas. The bias to one side or the other will be created and sustained by moral means. Each side, religious and scientific, has moral value to offer.

There is no intellectual shortcut to the Christian faith; we cannot logically or scientifically prove the way to Christ (and here are my favorite quotes from this article: You can’t win by shouting). The conclusion is to live as Christ taught, and so win by faith what we cannot by force.

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