Skip to comments."Name a Natural Explanation Later Replaced by a Supernatural Explanation"
Posted on 11/25/2018 12:47:12 PM PST by pcottraux
Name a Natural Explanation Later Replaced by a Supernatural Explanation
By Philip Cottraux
I see this one pop up on Twitter from time to time, followed by atheists bragging that theyve never met a theist who can answer it. Unfortunately, Ive been unsuccessful tracking down its origin. In some tweets Ive seen it connected with Sam Harris, but sifting through countless quotes as well as his book The End of Faith (this was a torturous experience) turned up nothing.
Like most atheist gotchas, this one is riddled with false presumptions. I can already hear skeptics getting to the end of this blog and shouting Ah ha! You still failed to provide one! The trap here is that you cant really answer a question with a wrong premise. Its like someone demanding you explain why 2+2=5, then when you inform them 2+2 doesnt =5, they accuse you of dodging the question.
Theists need to be careful not to yield to the snuck premise of questions like these. It tries to present all religion as ancient superstition thats inevitably going extinct while science (which in their minds is synonymous with atheism) triumphs.
The first (and sometimes only) real-world example they go to is that people believed evil spirits were causing the Black Plague and would wear bags of plants to ward them off. Medical science has obviously proven more effective at figuring out how to prevent the spread of disease. Voila! A supernatural explanation giving way to a natural one, which is making the world a better place, right? If I couldnt find an exact quote from Sam Harris, he at least writes obsessively about this.
To their credit, atheists have done a phenomenal job of deceiving people about history. But before I unpack this, let me try to clarify certain definitions. Despite their insistence on referring to religion as superstition, this is actually an inaccurate term. Belief in the supernatural is not the same thing as superstition per se. The same is true of the word magic. Broken down, super-natural simply means beyond nature, a very broad term implying something exists beyond the natural world.
Now lets dissect superstitious. The Latin word stitio refers to excessive fear or dread, insinuating a drive to compulsive rituals. So to be exact, superstition doesnt refer to belief in the supernatural, but excessive dread and use of ceremonies or rites to control the supernatural. So while a superstitious person certainly believes in the supernatural, one can believe in the supernatural but not be superstitious.
You might answer that prayer is no different from a superstitious ritual (this was Sigmund Freuds stance). However, the Biblical concept of prayer is very different from avoiding black cats. We are presented with a God who is open to communication with us, but whose way is perfect. In the Lords prayer, Jesus instructs us to seek His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is very different from chants a person thinks will bend the will of the supernatural to human desires; it is a process of relinquishing control. It doesnt entail obsessively repeating rituals, but trusts that no matter what happens, God will straighten everything out in the end. Now, we can pray for things we desire, such as being healed of a disease, but in the end true prayer is praising God no matter the outcome.
While were getting our definitions straight, let me also delve into atheism a little further. At its heart are the twin philosophies of materialism and naturalism. They sort of mean the same thing, but if you want to get technical, materialism is the belief that physical matter is all there is in the universe, while naturalism claims only the laws of nature is exist. Its important to make that distinction because contrary to what atheists would have you believe, scientific progress is not synonymous with atheism; rather naturalism is a philosophy.
Another false presumption with this challenge, as well as the people who cant answer it, is that God only works through supernatural means. Which means if theres a natural explanation, there is no God. I profoundly disagree: natural explanations only shed light on how God moves. After all, did He not create the laws of physics? Theologically, God working without violating natural laws is called divine providence, which is just one instrument in His tool belt. We call it a miracle when those laws are violated (which atheists swear cannot happen).
With all this in mind, lets now examine the challenge: name a natural explanation later replaced by a supernatural explanation. The false premise is that there have been nothing but supernatural explanations replaced by natural explanations as science marches forward. To call this a gross oversimplification of history would be an understatement.
As I study science, Im shocked at the degree to which atheists have lied about and rewritten history. In many cases, they were even opposed to major scientific discoveries, then claimed credit when such breakthroughs become irrefutable. And years of public school indoctrination has led to gargantuan misconceptions among the general population.
The best example is the Big Bang. Many Christians cringe when they hear that phrase, as if its synonymous with names like Darwin. But the real history of the Big Bang theory is quite different. Although Edwin Hubble is credited with discovering that galaxies are moving further apart in 1918, indicating that a great explosion started the universe, the idea was first proposed two years earlier by a Catholic priest in Belgium, Georges LeMaitres. Atheists beforehand believed the universe was motionless and eternally pre-existing. Astronomer Fred Hoyle first coined the phrase big bang as a term of ridicule for LeMaitres proposal. But after Hubbles observation, no one was laughing. Albert Einstein even professed profound irritation at the discovery for its divine implications.
The Big Bang is significant because it demonstrates that the universe is not only expanding, but has a cause. If you rewind time back to its beginning, all the galaxies and matter condense down to one single point. The question is what caused the explosion that drove it all outward.
This resurrected the ancient kalaam argument for theism, also known as the first cause argument. The simple and profound logic goes as follows: 1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause. 2. The universe exists. 3. Therefore, the universe has a cause. The question it presents is what caused the universe, and heres the problem for naturalists. Time, space, and the laws of physics or chemical reactions didnt exist until after the Big Bang. Therefore, the cause was by definition 1. Eternally pre-existing (not bound by time), 2. Not bound by the laws of physics and (exempt from space) and 3. Immaterial. The cause of the universe is by definition super-natural.
The First Cause argument is so powerful that its universal across religions, unchanging from the dawn of man to today. Do you think its a coincidence that every religion contains an eternal supreme deity that rules over all others? Even in polytheism, there is still a king-god from whom all other secondary gods sprang. For ancient Egypt is was Atum. For the Greeks, Zeus. For Hinduism, its the Brahman. In Islam, Allah. The kalaam philosophy is so pernicious theres evidence of it dating back at least 8,000 years and even remote people (such as the Bantu tribes of Africa or the jungle natives in South America) have been easily converted to Christianity because of it.
But the Big Bang is just one example. Since atheists think advancements in medical science after the bubonic plague makes a strong case for naturalism, lets talk about cellular biology. The building blocks of DNA are far more complicated than Darwin could have ever imagined. If you printed out the genetic code of one cell, it would fill up a stack of paper as high as the Washington Monument (its worth noting that the first geneticist to successfully map the human genome, Francis Collins, is a Christian). The overwhelming mathematical odds against life coming into existence by itself has made any natural explanation a tough pill to swallow. Even in its most primitive form, the leap from non-life to life is beyond impossible to make, to put it mildly. Yet here we are.
Another significant find is the discovery of black holes. A friend of mine on Twitter, Dr. Sarah Salviander, is an astrophysicist and former atheist, now born-again Christian. The Lord reaches everyone in different ways, and studying black holes is what convinced her there is a God. I dont want to speak for her, of course, but my personal observations are as follows:
Stars are essentially huge balls of glowing hot energy being released from the core by nuclear fusion. Gravity from the core is in a tug of war to hold that power in. When the energy finally runs out, gravity wins the battle and sucks in everything in a colossal crunch. The core becomes so dense even light cannot escape its grasp. Scientists estimate there are about a billion black holes wandering across the universe, devouring everything in their path.
Whats freaky is that as the black hole sucks matter into its event horizon, the laws of physics no longer apply (meeting our established definition of miraculous). The event horizon is likely a gateway to alternate dimensions as reality as we understand is flipped upside down (though you would never survive the journey as gravity crushed you slowly and painfully). While the idea of parallel universes used to be laughable a few decades ago, they are now considered scientifically probable. The process behind this is almost exactly the same as the Big Bang, the start of our universe, meaning that we could well be inside an event horizon ourselves.
Now, before critics twist my words into a straw man (hes saying when we die, our souls go into black holes!) let me explain. Im only saying that back holes have made the scientific possibility of metaphysical realms much likelier. Therefore, we cannot dismiss the idea of a place outside the universe where God, heaven, and dare I say, hell is. Higher planes of reality outside our human senses do exist. Far from the invisible man in the sky atheists ridicule, this description of God as an intelligence beyond the physical universe operating the laws of physics and probability is actually quite Biblical. Psalm 113:4: The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.
So in summary, once the premise of Name a natural explanation later replaced by a supernatural explanation is straightened out, we see that scientific discoveries of the Big Bang, the complexity of DNA, and black holes have all given strong support to supernatural origins and catastrophically damaged naturalist philosophy. Theres one more thing I want to add to this before concluding. I spent over two years researching Biblical archaeology and even taught a 12-part series at my church (a few of those are on my YouTube channel, which you can access on the videos page). I cant possibly sum it all up here, but to briefly cover some of the basics:
-Theres strong evidence for an Exodus at the end of Egypts 13th dynasty in the late Bronze Age.
-Excavations from the ruins of Jericho and other Canaanite settlements show strong evidence for Joshuas conquest.
-Theres strong evidence for historical kings of the Old Testament, even going back as far as Saul and David.
-The Dead Sea scrolls and New Testament papyri discoveries lend credibility to the accurate preservation of the Bible over the centuries.
-The evidence is overwhelming for a real historical Jesus whose life is accurately described by the four gospels, especially with regards to His death and resurrection. Its impossible to rise from death, especially one as violent as crucifixion; but if He really came back to life, it proves He was exactly who He claimed to be.
To conclude, I want to present my own counter to the question of naming a natural explanation replaced by a supernatural explanation. From the time of Christ to today, imagine how many people during that time have claimed a miracle has happened.
Ill write more about this at a later time, but the placebo effect is when you feel better because you think youll feel better. Its a powerful trick of the mind, and while scientific studies show it is more potent than previously thought, it has limitations. For example, if doctors tell a patient they have terminal cancer and only have a few months to live, positive thinking has shown to slow its growth and extend their life briefly. Steve McQueen and Bob Marley are two famous examples of this. But the placebo effect cannot shrink tumors or cure cancer. It also cannot open blinded eyes or deaf ears (Ive seen all these happen).
In the course of the almost 2,000 years from the time of Jesus to the Pentecostal revivals that broke out in the early 1900s to today, how many described miracles are we looking at? Thousands, perhaps? Hundreds of thousands? Millions?
Odds are, not all of them are real. Many probably are examples of placebo effects or false claims. But even if all of them are fake except one, one is all it takes. If one miracle has ever happened in human history, then all of atheism is a lie.
My question is what sort of game are you playing with eternity with those kinds of odds?
-Strobel, Lee. The Case for a Creator. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2004, pages 104-107, 97-104, 236-238.
-Polkinghorne, John. The Faith of a Physicist. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1994, pages 71-72.
-Wallace, J. Warner. Gods Crime Scene. David C Cook, Colorado Springs, CO, 2015, pages 75-82.
-Geisler, Norman and Turek, Frank. I Dont Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, 2004, pages 81-82, 115-116.
-Salviander, Sarah. My Research. SarahSalviander.com. Accessed November 24, 2018.
I'm a day late posting this, as I usually upload new blogs Saturdays, but didn't get it up till late last night so decided to get it up this afternoon.
This one was a bit lengthy obviously, but this challenge pops up so much I had a lot of built up thoughts to unleash.
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So-called science related to so called climate change.
Where exactly is this alleged “Natural Explanation” that holds its own water?
Don’t hold your breath!
So.. true story....
Have you ever handled some snakes?
Yes, but in high school science class, not church. :)
Absolute, irrefutable proof that God exists is that liberals don’t believe in him. That alone is good to me as any scientific proof you could offer, maybe better. They’re literally wrong about EVERYTHING.
Thanks. I enjoyed this essay, but he did meander about a fair amount.
“To conclude, I want to present my own counter to the question of naming a natural explanation replaced by a supernatural explanation. From the time of Christ to today, imagine how many people during that time have claimed a miracle has happened.”
I think he did name black holes as an example, using the definition/understanding of natural or naturalism, of something with a natural explanation - the universe - having supernatural properties.
But it’s a never win situation in that the atheist simply includes properties of black holes as natural.
IS this a religious thread or a scientific thread ?
"You mean like Democrats?"
Hi Philip. I see that you are the author. I’m glad to be able to chat with you directly.
“Astronomer Fred Hoyle first coined the phrase big bang as a term of ridicule for LeMaitres proposal. But after Hubbles observation, no one was laughing.”
This is awkwardly written. It makes it seem that Hoyle made his Big Bang joke after LeMaitre’ proposal (1916) but before Hubble’s observation which you state as 1918.
Hoyle was born in 1915 and his Big Bang “ridicule” would therefore be decades after Hubble’s observation.
In other words Hoyle indeed was laughing well after Hubble’s observation.
Just a nit pick but it would be Uranus or possibly Eros depending on whether you agree with the tradition of Hesiod or Aristophanes.
An easy prediction to make given that it's true. A lot of diversion here, but the central point is never made.
Virgin birth. Joseph *had* been going to divorce Mary quietly.
I read the whole thing...I don’t get what the specific question is.
Name an explanation for what? The Universe?
Not trying to be a smart alec, I just don’t see a specific claim made by atheists that I could refute.
I would define supernatural as something that happens which can not be explained by science. The origin of life is one such thing, thought to occur naturally, given conditions suitable for life. But there is no theory for the origin of life which doesn’t involve a necessary step that is not supported by science. All of the theories I’ve seen require an appeal to the supernatural - a component not supported by science.
I love studying this topic! Well done article. I think for some “scientists”, the only reason they believe in Evolution is the alternative is Creation. Like Einstein, the evidence is irritating.
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