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
Richard Dawkins, atheist Oxford Professor of biology, who prefers to label himself as one of the militant atheists, contends that blind, mindless, and unguided processes have the ability and power to produce complex biological information, and that the intricate information contained in the DNA in the human genome containing 7 billion bits of information merely emerged out of matter in an automatic, mindless and unguided process. In The River Out of Eden, Dawkins further makes this astonishing statement: “The universe we observe has … no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. … DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.” Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the DNA molecule together with James Watson, made this statement: “You, your joys and sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” In other words, you are nothing but nerves and molecules-you have no spirit, no creative force within you, no freewill, no soul; just a random assemblage of atoms and molecules and nerves!!! Stephen Hawking further asserts that “”It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behavior is determined by physical law, so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.”
If all of the above is true and that there is no evil and no good; that we merely dance to the music of DNA, then what do we say about morality? Why should anyone be held responsible for crime if they are merely helplessly dancing to the tune of their DNA? Why should did we have Nuremberg trials? Why was the Rwandan genocide abhorrent? Why were we so shocked about the carnage at Columbine and Virginia Tech and many others?
However, some scientists take a different view from all this. They do not relish in pitting science against religion. Scientists such as Dr. Fritz Schaefer, III do not relish in pitting science against religion. Schaefer makes this statement: “The significance and joy in my science comes in the occasional moments of discovering something new and saying to myself, ‘So that’s how God did it!’ My goal is to understand a little corner of God’s plan.” Francis Collins, physician-geneticist who led the Human Genome Project (HGP) has written a book titled The Language of God in which he tries to help people address the confusion caused by the conflict between science and religion. It seems that he has managed to demonstrate that science and religion are compatible. God reveals his creative genius by revealing the laws of nature.
I am not proselytizing, nor am I trying to convince anyone to believe in a particular manner. I am only challenging us to think, critically, and analyze the arguments advanced by both sides and make intelligent choices.
Learn more about your inherent worth: http://youtu.be/9TOcHIb8N5k