MIT students examine Easter

This was brought to my attention by Tout Wang, a former graduate student in physics who is now a professor at Gordon College. He and David Kwabi wrote this article while they were graduate students at MIT. As he pointed out to me, the structure and arguments of the article is remarkably similar to my piece on the resurrection at PS (http://peacefulscience.org/daniel-ang-a-scientist-looks-at-the-resurrection/), even though I was not aware of his article at all while writing mine. It’s possible that the way we understand the resurrection is a common one among (evangelical) Christian physicists.

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@swamidass will love this quote from your link to the article, @dga471:

“This brings us to the philosophical question of whether we can know anything about reality beyond what science tells us. In the materialistic worldview, all of reality can be reduced to interactions between matter and thus probed by the tools of science, but the position is “unscientific” in the same sense as the resurrection truth claim above.”

"The Christian perspective on the question is perhaps best articulated by the eminent physicist-turned-Anglican-minister John Polkinghorne. In his words:

“Science deals with an objective dimension, in which things can be manipulated and events repeated, thereby affording it access to the great weapon of experimental verifiability. Yet we all know that there are many levels of encounter with reality … in which neither manipulation nor repetition are possible without doing violence to the reality encountered.”

Apparently Polkinghorne is unfamiliar with historical and observational sciences, all done without manipulation or repetition.

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@John_Harshman,

I believe Polkinghome is attempting to defend those sciences… he is saying that there are valid sciences that do no violence to the reality encountered - - even without repeatable events, etc…

Then he really needs to say it some other way, because he says “science”, not “some sciences”. How do you know he meant it in that highly non-intuitive way?

@John_Harshman,

Because he has been defending Evolution against religious zealots for decades.

Maybe he doesn’t know that most evolutionary biology isn’t an experimental science. Perhaps some context to the quote would be helpful. Where does it come from?

Amen!

I suspect you think that’s a bad thing. If so, you are wrong.

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I don’t know where it comes from.

I found it; Google was my friend. Unfortunately, there’s no more context; it’s just something he tossed off in the middle of talking about something else. I suspect Polkinghorne just has a model of science that fits the physics he knows but not other areas of science he isn’t as familiar with.

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I would say that even in the case of many historical sciences, there is still the same notion of scientific data which means multiple observations, even if it was of a single historical event. For example, the Big Bang happened a long time ago, but our evidence for it consists of (among other things) modern-day observations of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) - observations which are done multiple times with several different methods. There is an element of “repetition” there for sure. Now, one could argue that with the Resurrection, people did do this - some of the disciples exhibited skepticism when the women first told them about the empty tomb and made sure to check for themselves if it was true. Thomas only believed after Jesus showed him evidence that he really was the risen, bodily Jesus.

Next, the resurrection is very different from historical science, in that it was too small of an event to leave a lasting physical impact on the world like the CMB. However, this is not unique to the Resurrection: many historical events are only known to us via testimony, not any sort of physical evidence, because they were too insignificant to likely leave any such physical evidence.

One could even go far and argue that the Resurrection did leave a lot of lasting evidence: the transformation of the Church from a small, frightened band of Jewish disciples in the backwaters of the Roman Empire to becoming a worldwide faith.

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Repetition, fine. But he’s clearly working from an experimental perspective: manipulation. Sure, an experiment is just a way to set up conditions so that you get clear observations. And it doesn’t affect his main point, that the Resurrection isn’t amenable to science of any sort. I just don’t like the idea that physics equals all science.

It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just a fact.

Fair enough. And I don’t like the idea that the majority view in any scientific field equals science in that field - whether that field be evolutionary theory, cosmology, climatology, or anything else.

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While people have been known to martyr themselves because of abstract beliefs, the disciples died for insisting on the reality of their personal experiences.

That goes for today, too.