Yesterday morning a reader posted the following comment on my article “Why I don’t take young earth creationism seriously (even though I do take young earth creationists seriously)“:
“Most, if not all scientists will tell you that a virgin conveiving, [sic] a man being fully man and fully god, and a resurrection are impossible too.”
Since we’ve been discussing themes pertaining to science and scientism, I thought this post was worth highlighting given the commenter’s interesting views on scientists.
Note first that the commenter finds it worthwhile to point out that (most, if not all!) scientists will tell you that virginal conceptions and resurrections are “impossible”. This observation reminds me of the following passage from C.S. Lewis’ book Miracles:
“The idea that the progress of science has somehow altered this question [concerning the historicity of gospel miracle accounts] is closely bound up with the idea that people ‘in olden times’ believer in them [miracles] ‘because they didn’t know the laws of Nature’. Thus you will hear people say, ‘The early Christians believed that Christ was the son of a virgin, but we know that this is a scientific impossibility’. Such people seem to have an idea that belief in miracles arose at a period when men were so ignorant of the course of nature that they did not perceive a miracle to be contrary to it. A moment’s thought shows this to be nonsense: and the story of the Virgin Birth is a particularly striking example. When St Joseph discovered that his fiancée was going to have a baby, he not unnaturally decided to repudiate her. Why? Because he knew just as well as any modern gynaecologist that in the ordinary course of nature women do not have babies unless they have lain with men. No doubt the modern gynaecologist knows several other things about birth and begetting which St Joseph did not know. But those things do not concern the main point—that a virgin birth is contrary to the course of nature. And St Joseph obviously knew that.”
To sum up, you don’t need a scientist to tell you that virginal conceptions and resurrections do not happen in the normal course of events.
However, any scientist who tells you that virginal conceptions and resurrections are beyond the power of an omnipotent being is clearly working beyond her professional capacities. If God exists then miracles are not a problem and that includes even virginal conceptions and resurrections! So then the next question would be whether there is evidence in the present or past for such miraculous actions. And that is a matter for the investigator and historian.
You’ll note that in the discussion thus far I’ve held off commenting on the third point, i.e. “a man being fully man and fully god.” I’ve held off commenting on this point until now because this is a matter of pure conceptual reflection. Do the concepts of humanity and divinity have incompossible properties such that no being could simultaneously exemplify human and divine natures? That’s the question at issue. And the thought that a person would be capable to opine on that matter simply because she happens to be a scientist is so patently absurd that it needs special emphasis.
Think about it. Dr. Jones has a PhD in marine biology and is currently doing research on coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. So of course if you want to get an informed opinion on whether it is possible for a being simultaneously to exemplify human and divine natures, you should go to Dr. Jones.
(Gee, I hope that wasn’t too sarcastic!)
You might think all this critical analysis of one poorly thought out comment is rather unseemly. Except that the comment in question illustrates so effectively the otherwise inexplicable willingness of so-called skeptics to defer to the opinion of scientists like Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, and the late Victor Stenger on matters of which they are so clearly ignorant.