Reductionism defines life in a bottom-up manner. That is, it explains life in terms of physics and chemistry. Reductionism claims that an organism can only be explained if it is dissected into parts-or broken down into the properties that constitute it (molecules, organelles, cells, tissues, organs, etc.) Ontological reductionism claims that nothing in the universe exists outside of physical objects. Everything can be can be explained in terms of physicochemical objects. As such each physical thing can therefore, be explained in terms of these properties.[i] Bottom-up reductionism is predicated upon the proposition that life started in the form of simpler processes which advanced in a process known as complexification. Carl Sagan, a famous scientist of the 20th century, perceived himself and other people in this manner: “I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan. You are a collection of almost identical molecules with a different collective label.”[ii] This is what he promulgated as an astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist.
Sagan’s mindset does nothing other than demean the intrinsic value of human life. His beliefs claim, implicitly, that the martyrdom, achievements, plight, and suffering experienced in this life all end at death. There is no life, no judgment, no reward beyond the grave – Nothing!!! Some reductionists argue that God is a mere concept that can be explained as a “mental state of active neurons desiring a father figure.” Needless to say this statement is not a scientific one. It is mere speculation that has never been empirically proven to be true. Personally, I require more faith to believe Sagan’s theory than to believe what the Bible says about the stature and dignity of human beings. On what do reductionists base the belief that life ends at death forever? None of them has come back from the dead to authenticate their claims. But we have One who was dead and is alive forevermore. His resurrection has been attested by His followers as well as secular historians. He alone can speak with authority regarding what lies beyond the grave. The Bible tells us that human beings will continue to exist in another dimension in God’s realm for eternity. Reductionism is not equipped to explain many experiences of human life at all. For example, how does it break down the experience of guilt or repentance or the expression of love between two human beings or even ethical behavior? Some of these concepts and experiences can only be understood from the vantage point of metaphysics where science and reductionism’s authority is vacuous.
After Carl Sagan’s death, his wife said “Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we know we would never see each other again. I don’t ever expect to be reunited with Carl.”[iii] But why would this be a tragedy for her if belief in life beyond the grave is just an illusion and her husband was nothing but a collection of calcium, atoms, molecules as they espoused? Wouldn’t his death be a mere disintegration of an animated piece of dust with organized DNA known as Carl Sagan returning to its creator, the universe? Wasn’t that the expected outcome unless, of course, deep down Mrs. Sagan felt a haunting whisper reminding her that her husband was more than matter? A tragedy is what happens when something of intrinsic value is lost not when a bunch of atoms and molecules disappear into nothingness. Human life is sacred. God composed a Moral Code that stipulates, in a language we all can understand, the sacredness of human life and all that defines it. “Thou shalt not kill” does not only forbid the taking of human life, it also affirms its greatness, dignity and goodness. The loss of a human life is a sobering and traumatic experience that changes us forever. Time and again when tragedy strikes, individuals, families and entire communities are gripped with bewilderment and sorrow. They reach out to each other and hold vigils and grieve together in an effort to find healing. Interfaith services are held in memory of the deceased. Not once has any of the speakers at these services ever turned to the crowd to tell them that what was lost were nothing but matter and chemical properties. This is time to turn to Jesus, the Author of life. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the Ending of all creation, not science, not reductionism. “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3, KJV).
[ii] Sagan, C. 1980, Cosmos (New York: Random House), pp. 127.
[iii] Druyan, A. (2003). Ann Druyan Talks About Science, Religion, Wonder, Awe . . . and Carl Sagan. Skeptical Inquirer Volume 27.6. Available from http://www.csicop.org/si/show/ann_druyan_talks_about_science_religion