Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! We’ve lately been looking at the work of Victor Stenger, one of the new atheists. Tonight, we’re looking at the chapter of “Searching For A World Beyond Matter.”
As is normal for Stenger, we have the usual problem of a lack of sources. For instance, Stenger said that the ancients believed the heart was the center of being and intelligence. Now it could be that this is the case. I’d be willing to grant it for the sake of argument. However, he gives no sources. For a man who raises a battle cry against blind faith, he expects his readers to have blind faith in what he says.
For Stenger, the ancient view of man began to change around the time of Descartes. Once that was done, Europe abandoned blind obedience to authority that had stifled progress for centuries. Instead, people began to rely more on empirical data.
This isn’t really the case. Aristotle was an empiricist and Aquinas followed that tradition. It was around this time that some began to complain against empiricism. Descartes himself was a rationalist. Authorities were also not followed blindly. The teachings that had been handed down had worked for years.
Consider Stenger in his own field. Is it likely that most physicists today have read Ptolemy’s Almagest or works of Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton? It’s quite unlikely, and in some ways, understandable. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Most scientists want to read the latest work in their fields that can be found in their journals and work is built on the foundation of the great scientists of the past.
Philosophy is based on principles more and these are the principles of thinking that tend to trace back to either Plato or Aristotle. There are two competing schools of thought with variations in between them. In theology, it is important to read the ancient texts of the deity one worships and older can be better.
Science on the other hand was not held back. People just did not have the resources or finances to do science until some practical issues were dealt with. These included agriculture and medicine. Knowing the motion of the planets just wasn’t relevant to someone who had little leisure time and simply wanted to keep his family alive.
Going through this chapter, much of what is said isn’t relevant to our purposes until we get to the studies on prayer. Now I will grant I am skeptical of these prayer studies because I do not believe a free-will agent such as God is required to act in such and such a way. However, I also disagree with Stenger that God does not exist based on these studies.
To begin with Stenger, tells us that published findings showing prayer has a positive value have been found unconvincing. He simply points to another book of his to demonstrate this. No reason otherwise is given. It would have been nice to have seen somewhat of an argument.
The numerous problems are ones such as we cannot control all the people praying. Different people are praying for people even if they are not in a “prayed-for” group. These people surely know some other people who are praying for them. You might find one or two who don’t, but it’s likely most people today know a Christian who is praying for them, especially in America where these studies often take place or other developed nations.
Second, God is not forced to answer any prayer and his refusal to do so says nothing about His existence or non-existence. God’s existence is best established by sound argument rather than by experiments of this nature. I believe Christians should stick to the traditional arguments.
Finally, prayer’s greatest benefit will not be seen in the miraculous healing, but in the changing of lives. Prayers may not always change external circumstances, but they will change our relationship to those circumstances. They can change us more than they change the world. Growing in holiness is the best purpose of prayer.
Much of the case showing Stenger’s problems with Near-death experiences and the existence of the soul I have written about elsewhere. I recommend the reader go here
We shall review the next chapter tomorrow.