Why science in Britain is in decline

To read the rantings of fellows of the Royal Society recently, one would certainly think that the institution has been taken over by fools and bigots.

Well, it has. It is no wonder that interest in science is declining rapidly, and that physics and chemistry departments at universities are being wound up – who wants to be in a ship of fools? The issue over Professor Michael Reiss (see the post ‘Disgrace at the Royal Society’) brings the matter into sharp focus. Reiss was not teaching that creationism be taught in the schools (he is an evolutionist), but that if the subject of creation is raised by a student, the teacher should engage the student and bring scientific principles to bear on the matter. One way to put pupils off science forever is to tell them to shut up and sit down if they so much as utter the C-word in class. Richard Dawkins would have them humiliated. Ring any bells? Animal Farm? That student, and many other observers in the class, will likely be lost to science forever, for asking a genuine question.

Let’s make ourselves clear. Reiss wasn’t suggesting that creationism be put on the science syllabus, he was merely suggesting that there are benefits in discussing the topic if a student raises the matter, and the fellows of the Royal Society know that’s the case. Thus Sir Richard Roberts, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for Medicine:

I think it outrageous that this man is suggesting that creationism should be discussed in a science classroom. It is an incredible idea and I am drafting a letter to other Nobel laureates – which would be sent to the Royal Society – to ask that Reiss be made to stand down.

Well, with friends like this, who needs enemies?

Sir Harry Kroto, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, is even more forthright. He argued that Reiss didn’t have the intellectual integrity to teach science because he believed in God. What a daft assertion: there would be no Royal Society, and there would be precious little ‘modern science’, without the Christian worldview. It was Christianity that gave the motivation (the glory of God) and the theological framework (that God is rational, so his creation can be searched rationally; and that time/history is linear, not cyclical) for modern science. I will be dealing with this in some later posts. With atheistic science, the motivation is money, prestige and power (especially power – that involves keeping others out), and the framework is borrowed (without credit) and secularized for convenience. TRUE science turns to dust in the hands of atheists.

In the discipline in which I specialize (electrical and magnetic), those who worked out the major principles were devout Christians – in fact, many had Calvinist and Presbyterian backgrounds, as had many of those who founded the Royal Society in the seventeenth century.

Michael Faraday FRS, the ‘father of electricity and magnetism’ had this to say in a public lecture (found in Experimental Researches in Chemistry and Physics)

The book of nature which we have to read is written by the finger of God.

In 1858 the Royal Society invited Faraday to be the next President of the Society (he declined). Faraday also wrote

The beauty of electricity, or of any other force, is not that the power is mysterious and unexpected, but that it under law…

James Clerk Maxwell FRS, the ‘father of electromagnetism’ declared

I think that men of science as well as other men need to learn from Christ, and I think that Christians whose minds are scientific are bound to study science that this view of the glory of God may be as extensive as their being is capable of.

And Sir William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) FRS, who was President of the Royal Society 1890-1895 and was active in work on the application of electricity and magnetism, stated in a lecture

I have long felt that there was a general impression in the non-scientific world, that the scientific world believes science has discovered ways of explaining all the facts of nature without adopting any definite belief in a Creator. I have never doubted that this impression was utterly groundless. It seems to be that when a scientific man says…that there is no God, he does not express his own ideas clearly…He is out of his depth.

We can pretty much say that until some time into the twentieth century, less than one hundred years ago, the scientific philosophies of today’s fellows of the Royal Society would have been regarded as utter rubbish. And so they are.

The article by Kroto that I referred to appeared in the Guardian on September 28, entitled Blinded by a divine light, and sub-titled Creationists such as the Rev Reiss don’t have the intellectual integrity to teach science.

First of all, you will note that Professor Reiss is referred to as a creationist, though he is an avowed evolutionist. Ah, but you see, according to Kroto

I, and many of my Royal Society colleagues, do have a problem with an ordained minister as Director of Science Education…An ordained minister must have accepted that there was a creator…

So, anyone who believes in a creator – let’s face it, any Christian – is by definition a creationist, so doesn’t have intellectual integrity.

It really does not matter whether one believes a mystical entity created the universe 5,000 or 10,000 million years ago – both are equally irrational unsubstantiated claims of no fundamental validity.

So whether you believe that God created Adam and Eve a few thousand years ago, or that God initiated a ‘Big Bang’ ten billion years or so ago, and life evolved by evolution, you are (according to the prophet Kroto) being irrational. Now, to say that belief in a creator is irrational is not a statement that belongs within the realm of natural science. Kroto is a chemist, for sure, but since when did he have the authority to make such profound theological pronouncements? Were all the scientists up to the twentieth century not real scientists? Did they all lack intellectual integrity?

Actually, Kroto’s argument is self-refuting, and well below the standard we would expect of a Royal Society fellow, and Nobel laureate. He soon reaches for the self-destruct button:

Let me clarify the fundamental philosophical issue…Science is based solely on doubt-based, disinterested examination of the natural and physical world. It is entirely independent of personal belief. There is a very important, fundamental concomitant – that is to accept absolutely nothing whatever, for which there is no evidence, as having any fundamental validity.

Righto. Well, if science is based solely on examination of the natural and physical world, then those statements are unscientific, because they are not based on examination of the natural and physical world. What’s more, since there is no physical evidence of the truth of the statements, they are, by Kroto’s own definition, fundamentally invalid.

To avoid the inevitable – a self-refuting definition – an atheist must counter that the statement is a philosophical one, outside the realm of science itself. Fine. So the laws of logic and mathematics are outside natural science. They are, after all, not material – there’s no physical evidence that they exist and are valid.

Does physics use the laws of logic and mathematics? It does.

Do physicists personally believe them to be valid throughout the universe? They do.

So natural science, to make sense, is based entirely on principles and beliefs outside the realm of natural science itself – principles and beliefs on which natural science has absolutely nothing to say, and yet upon which it is entirely dependent. Kroto again:

Let me clarify the fundamental philosophical issue…Science is based solely on doubt-based, disinterested examination of the natural and physical world. It is entirely independent of personal belief. (emphasis mine)

Yeah, right! The statements are untrue or invalid or self-refuting. Probably all three. So much for the intellectual integrity of the atheists!


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