When a Harvard professor declares belief in God to be illogical


Academia may seem to be naturally at odds with the faith, but Paul Baxter writes that logic veers toward what can't be explained. GETTY/Special Academia may seem to be naturally at odds with the faith, but Paul Baxter writes that logic veers toward what can't be explained. GETTY/Special

A brilliant friend, retired physician, and concerned environmentalist who barely missed the Nazi extermination camps that claimed his grandparents recently sent me an article by Harvard physicist Lisa Randall. Although the article was published in Time magazine on October 3, 2011 he thought it was timely in this yet another election year. Her article was entitled How Science Can Lead the Way – to a better (environmentally correct) world if political leaders would rely on “a rational, scientific way of thinking” which she adds “could be unifying.”

What is most divisive and offensive for Christians is her clearly expressed belief that “religion” has “a fundamental disregard for rational and scientific thinking” (especially when it comes to creationism and prayer). She denigrated Governor Rick Perry’s view of evolution and his decision to “pray for the end of a drought rather than critically evaluate climate science” and therefore support her belief in man-made climate change. She makes it clear in this article and her books that there is a grand canyon separating science from religion which, in her confident opinion, is “unbridgeable by logical thought!”

Her subtitle for the article reads: “What we lose when we put faith over logic.” In her mind, faith is illogical and in compatible with science.

What do we say to such a person who, according to Time magazine, is one of the “100 Most Influential People”? She is often cited as the theoretical physicist in the world. When it comes to peering into “Dark Matter” and probing the limits of the universe, she may well be without peer, but when it comes to open minded philosophy, particularly logic, she seems to be stumbling into a rather narrow-minded, closeted naturalism!

She is a naturalist who has no room for any supernaturalism that would embody divine creation, revelation, answered prayers, and miracles, all of which are out of bounds in her philosophical closed system.

The problem for her as a philosophical naturalist is that she does what she cannot do, logically speaking. C.S. Lewis spells it out with impeccable logic in his insightful and incisive book Miracles, whose title is anathema to naturalists like Lisa Randall. He observed: “The Naturalist cannot condemn other people’s thoughts because they have irrational causes and continue to believe his (her) own which have (if Naturalism is true) equally irrational causes” (p. 28).

He quoted J.B.S. Haldane in Possible Worlds (p. 209) who explained, quite logically: “If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true … and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.”

One of the very first courses I was required to take as an intercollegiate debater on scholarship was logic, a course that certainly taught the truth of what Lewis says a little later in his book (p. 34): “… a train of thought loses all rational credentials as soon as it can be shown to be wholly the result of irrational causes… dependence on the irrational (naturalism) … undermines the credentials of thought.” What Lewis goes on to say is in conformity with Scripture and logic: “Human minds … do not come from nowhere. Each has come into Nature from Supernature: each has its tap-root in an eternal, self-existent, rational Being, whom we call God… We are interested in Man only because his rationality is the little tell-tale rift in Nature which shows that there is something beyond or behind her.”

Open-minded scientists accept this reality and their religious beliefs help them explore the world beyond this created universe.

Professor Randall’s naturalism also causes a major problem for her, not just logically, but morally! While she is very much on a moral crusade on behalf of the earth’s environmental health and wellbeing, what is the basis for her attempt to arouse our conscience in a “good” cause? If she is in fact a “scientific determinist” then doesn’t she believe all our thoughts and feelings are simply determined randomly without any basis in absolute values of good and evil? If as she supposes, that everything is caused by particles operating within the laws of physics, then as Andy Dirkson points out, it is “logically absurd of her to speak of obligations and choices” because our choices are “determined by chemical and physical accidents.” It is ironic that while she is an avid campaigner for politicians to make “her kind of choices,” her ideology undercuts the very nature of human freedom and morality.

According to scientific materialism there is no free will or moral responsibility. One writer says it exemplifies a “worldview that is irrational, self-contradictory, and morally bankrupt.”

C.S. Lewis observes: “The Naturalists must not destroy all my reverence for conscience on Monday and expect to find me still venerating it on Tuesday.”

I fear what is happening to our culture when such professors – along with much entertainment – are combining to undercut our Judeo-Christian conscience and leave us in an ever so dangerous moral wilderness!

academics, apologetics, climate, media, rationale