Applying Science to Philosophical Problems


Some people think that science has no bearing on philosophy and/or theology. This is wrong. A few examples:
  1. In theology, there was a long-standing question about how God relates to time. One camp claimed that God was eternal, which is to say that He was always there and always would be. The other camp claimed that God was atemporal, meaning that He was outside of time, sort of like the way we are outside of in-world time for movies. Then, about 100 years ago, Einstein developed general relativity. I don't really understand it, but one implication is that time doesn't happen at the same rate everywhere. It can slow down or stop if there is enough gravity. Beyond that, you have a black hole and no one knows for sure what happens. But it seems pretty clear to me that weird stuff like that wouldn't work with God, so God has to be outside of time.
  2. Also in theology, there is the problem of evil. In one of its many variants, it poses the question of why there is suffering in the world. One very good answer was discovered by Paul Brand during his medical research on leprosy. His discovery was that, despite popular belief, leprosy does not distort and maim people. Instead, it destroys a person's ability to feel pain, and they subsequently do all the other damage to themselves. His conclusion from this is that pain is essential to health and should be thought of as your body's warning system instead of as a problem to be solved. He also determined (through experiments with artificial nerves) that the system had to be painful and impossible to disable for it to work. Unfortunately.

    More info: Phillip Yancy's book "Where is God when It Hurts?" is the best source I have found.
  3. In philosophy, Kant suggested that we do not see that world as it really is, but only a modified form that has gone through our senses and brains. He probably wasn't the first with this idea, but I think of it as his. As an example, maybe oranges aren't really round, they just act like they are. Most interestingly, he suggested that neither space nor time really existed (at least as we know them) and we only think they do because our brains add them for us automatically. I recently read an analysis of near-death experiences that appears to address these questions (which I count as science because it was systematic). People who have these experiences report being able to see dark things clearly even though they still look black, while we would just see shapeless black. They also report not feeling any sense of time while they are gone. Based on this, it seems reasonable to me to conclude that Kant was right. The world is not as it seems.

    More info:
I don't have any other real point here. Just that science is interesting. Any more nutty ideas, anyone?


I got the following useful response:
I don't quite see the difference between "eternal" and "atemporal" in your first point. Is it that if God is eternal, he still moves through time like we do, except that he always was and always will be? So that at any given moment he exists in that moment but is not present in any others? If that is right, does atemporal then imply that God exists in all moments as if they are the present? Or is that something else?
My response to this response was:
Eternal: God moves through time. At this point He is only at the present. In the future, there will be a future Him, just like there will be a future you.
Atemporal: God is sort of outside time. He can reach in and change things whenever, like an author can revise any part of a story.

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