The Copernicus Group is based in Toronto, Canada. The group provides lectures in the Greater Toronto Area on Science and Faith issues particularly in Origins Science – that is: the origin of the universe, life, species and related subjects.
The Copernicus Group derives its name from Nicholas Copernicus the Polish astronomer who in 1543 published his finding that the earth revolved around the sun. His discovery was not readily accepted because the view held by most educated people of the day was that the sun revolved around the earth. The conventional view was wrong because the foundational assumption regarding the universe – that the earth and human life must be at its center – was wrong. Today science has a very similar foundational assumption – all processes must be understandable to humans by naturalistic processes.
Foundational assumptions affect conclusions. As a result The Copernicus Lectures on Science & Faith will attempt to present scientific observations in a neutral manner – meaning that neither the Naturalistic assumption nor any religious assumption will be made as a starting point – and conclusions will be left to the audience members.
From Superstition to Superordinary
It was a little over a hundred and fifty years ago that a strictly scientific investigation for the origin of life and matter began. The inquiry was based upon the understanding that superstition and religious teachings would be rejected and in their place would be the foundational assumption that all development was simply a necessary result of understandable scientific laws and chance. The method was called naturalism in which Darwinian evolution comprised a major part. The research moved forward spectacularly well; supporting evidence grew to the point that virtually all scientists were sufficiently confident to assert that naturalism was a fundamental truth and that evolution was an established fact.
However, after some decades a few small cracks appeared in the scientific model – nothing too worrisome – but certainly things that needed some kind of explanation. The first group of problems included the issues related to quantum mechanics when it was discovered that the behavior of atomic particles could not be precisely predicted. For example certain particles changed their behavior over time, some being in two places at once or even influenced the action of other particles located far away - with no explanation as to why! This was the first sign that all was not right with the idea that understandable laws and chance could explain everything. In approximately the same time period it was observed that the universe was actually expanding and then later it was concluded that it must also have had a beginning point. At the time the vast majority of scientist believed – despite it being a philosophical leap - the universe had always existed. This was problematic for the model because “chance” now had to work within a definite number of years, not an infinite period, and the Big Bang phenomenon, as it was called, was too close to a “superordinary event” for comfort!
Nevertheless science marched on and mathematics was invoked to understand the deluge of scientific observations being made - but it was not the analytical mathematics used in everyday science and engineering - this new type of mathematics needed to make sense and synthesize findings that at first glance appeared to be contradictory. For example if all of the mass of the universe was located close together during an origin event then the enormous gravitational forces would distort time to the point of meaninglessness and make the expansion of matter impossible. As a result the mathematics required numerous assumptions to be made such that the underlying scientific model had slipped into the realm of speculation. But the mathematics did demonstrate one firm fact and that was that the many measured constants of physics each had a most remarkable feature – that their values were necessary. In other words if any one of their values was, in fact, different then the universe would simply not exist. The cracks had now become significantly larger. But the mathematics and observations of the universe had one more fundamental problem to offer – for the scientific model to be correct then the universe must comprise matter that can only be characterized as having very un-natural properties. Furthermore this unnatural matter must represent over 95% of all the substance in the universe! The cracks were now gaping holes.
During the time that findings of cosmology and physics were being uncooperative biology was being downright perverse. DNA investigations, rather than throwing light on the process of evolution exposed that life was, at a minimum, a highly complex computer code with an intricate informational content that not only defined protein matter but simultaneously checked for their accuracy in manufacture and also specified their precise final destination point within an organism. The origin of such complexity was more than a mystery it was tantamount to an impossibility. Indeed as “higher” animals contained a greater amount of coded information than simple ones the question of how the coded complexity developed over time was also deeply problematic. The predicament was not mitigated by laboratory research exemplified by the humble fruit fly that stubbornly refused to cooperate and produce complex changes despite tens of thousands of experimental attempts. Similarly the problem got no help from physics as newly developed information theory indicated that entropy would simply prevent the natural development of the data. But perhaps the biggest difficulty of all was the list of anomalies that had built up which indicated against, rather than for, the naturalistic science. Rather than acknowledge the anomalies scientists chose to respond by intermingling obfuscation with narrative tales of “millions of years” and “everything is explainable by natural selection”. This response was sufficient for many but in reality naturalism was now misshapen beyond recognition.
Science started out with a goal of exposing superstition for what it was but in the process it revealed something that could not have been predicted – the reality of the Superordinary is unavoidable and the naturalistic model has significant limitations. What was worse was that the characteristics of the so called Superordinary were not inconsistent with those that would have been predicted by a theistic philosophy. Naturalism had effectively collapsed and it was only by the adoption of anti-realism philosophies and the use of obfuscation that allowed it to continue to be the belief of choice for much of academia and the intelligentsia. However, to many, Science had gone full circle and had become a parody of itself as its foundational assumptions were no more than the superstitions and significantly worse than the theistic understandings that it set out to replace.