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I ask this after seeing a documentary on BBC TV, the evening of 27 October 2021, where Professor Brian Cox started a new series on the universe. This first episode dealt with the way the universe created the birth of stars, how the death of stars gave rise to heavier elements (vital for life) so that when our sun had been around for a few billion years, there were enough heavy elements to create life on a planet at just the right distance from it, where an atmosphere could retain them. (The eminent physicist used the word ‘created’, not the phrase, ‘gave rise to’.)

But then he said (several times) that, in a sense, the stars did create life, so it was understandable that people used to worship the sun as a god, for to them the sun WAS a god! It had given rise to life.

He combined this with claiming there was no intelligent, creator God, but that we owe the marvel of our life to our second-generation sun, which, in turn, had been created by the universe which had been a nursery for billions of suns. He could have concluded, “Let us gaze in wonder at our god-like sun!” I’m a bit surprised that he did not, though the concluding shot seemed to have him doing just that.

I want to ask Christians who (like me) don’t object in principle to theories about the Big Bang and developments thereafter, if such a naturalistic INTERPRETATION of life and meaning is pseudo-science that should be flagged up as potentially dangerous in going beyond the remit of science. Further, does this not actively seek to undermine peoples’ faith in an intelligent creator God, substituting him for things the Creator created? And have not Christians been warned centuries ago about those who worship the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25)?

On the point about stars giving meaning to life here on earth, that claim was also repeated more than once by Professor Cox. Yet the atheist philosopher Thomas Nagal has written this in his book “Mind and Cosmos – why the Neo-Darwinian view of the world is almost certainly false”:

“But if the mental is not itself merely physical, it cannot be fully explained by physical science. Evolutionary naturalism implies that we shouldn’t take any of our convictions seriously, including the scientific world picture on which evolutionary naturalism itself depends.” (OUP, 2012) p14.

The point here is that naturalism, and therefore atheism, undermines the foundations of the very rationality that is needed to construct or understand or believe in any kind of argument whatsoever, let alone a scientific one.

That is why I’m asking why a documentary such as this seems to have an agenda of replacing belief in an intelligent Creator God with a view of stars being god-like creators of life and meaning. Is that not a star too far?

Please note that I am NOT asking for stuff about the age of the universe, or seeking attacks on science. I just want to know if other Christians who appreciate science (as I do) have points to make about where science should end, and speculation based on atheistic interpretation begins – the latter being a subtle danger to watch out for. Additional Source: Can Science Explain Everything, pp 47-49, John C. Lennox, 2019

EDIT in view of concerns about this Q being off-topic: I am merely using the BBC documentary and Prof. Cox's comments as an example of what I'm asking about. As one answer shows, such a pseudo-scientific trend was spotted back in 1968. Have Christians who appreciate science got other examples, or would you disagree that this is happening at a subtle level?

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    I am not a 100% sure this is even on topic? I like the question, but it seems too speculative to me for this site!
    – Ken Graham
    Oct 29 '21 at 9:14
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    I agree with the above question and with its own analysis. I remember seeing the film '2001' (in 1968, I think) when I was still a schoolboy living in Glasgow. It seemed to me, even then, over half a century ago, that what this question has highlighted was an undercurrent in that highly acclaimed and very popular (in its day) film. Yes, I agree.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 29 '21 at 9:37
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    As many educated Westerners his age, Cox is an atheist; his use of the term is, at best, poetic; to his mind, discussions such as these would evoke the imagery of a third world ruler, who, upon hearing of a certain Elvis being called the king of rock & roll, would immediately issue a thorough investigation into the suspicious matter, trying to root out all those listening to his potentially subversive music as traitors to the throne. As for life on earth being the product of the sun & stars, this is no more pagan than man & animals being made of the dust of the ground, as described in Genesis.
    – Lucian
    Oct 29 '21 at 13:05
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    I basically agree with @Lucian, Brian Cox is just waxing poetic. I have a scientific background and I've seen a lot of Cox's media work and although he is good at presenting science fairly accurately, he also has a tendency to descend into overly-romantic nonsense and strained symbolic drivel like this. Oct 29 '21 at 16:30
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    Professor Cox seems to be imputing knowledge to ancient man that he did not have. Ancient sun worshippers did not believe that the sun gods they worshipped were unintelligent, and they had no knowledge of historical cosmology that could imply to them that the solar system or life on the planet was physically caused by the sun. The most they knew was that plants needed the sun to survive and that it got too cold to survive if the sun was gone for long periods of time. They worshipped the sun because they worshipped many natural phenomena, especially cyclical ones, as deities.
    – jaredad7
    Nov 30 '21 at 16:33
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A lot of the scientific literature I've read, since Asimov on (things I can comprehend, popular science, not the hard stuff) seem to make this assertion; the way scientists describes stars make them seem as if they are creatures. At a macro scale, how could the interior life of an insect be considered to have "more creative power" than the interior life of a star.

Stars, if taken as an entity, produce elements, jettison them into space, dissolve, reform, creates the components for the dust the God formed Adam out of.

But if stars as creatures exercised their creative power to generate life, then Christianity all religion and everything is false, wrong and dangerous.

Considering a test for what man is opposed to other creators:

Within visible creation, man is the only creature who not only is capable of knowing but who knows that he knows, and is therefore interested in the real truth of what he perceives. People cannot be genuinely indifferent to the question of whether what they know is true or not. If they discover that it is false, they reject it; but if they can establish its truth, they feel themselves rewarded.

https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_14091998_fides-et-ratio.html

Especially the interior life, the ability to think about thinking is not present in Stars.

Therefore, as a system, maybe a macro system (like stars or solar systems - anything that is gravitationally interesting) could be considered somewhere above plants and the lower animals in the order of creation. But they can't be considered above humanity, the angels or having a remote connection to God.

Nothing except God can be eternal. And this statement is far from impossible to uphold: ... the will of God is the cause of things.

https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1046.htm

So, when someone tries to reorder creation, they are doing the wrong thing. They can try to shoehorn a new discovery in the order of creation under man, but they would have to prove the faculties of the soul that are of a higher order than man if they are to place anything between man and God.

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  • That's a key point: "a macro system could be considered somewhere above plants and the lower animals in the order of creation. But they can't be considered above humanity, the angels or having a remote connection to God." However, systems have no life in, or of, themselves, or any intelligence! Plants and animals have life and are designed to reproduce - by God. So, I would never place planets and stars above living creatures. Maybe I should ask a Q on that?!?
    – Anne
    Oct 31 '21 at 11:55
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    @anne, I think that's pure speculation and placing them on the classical order of creation anywhere above other forms of inert matter is probably something I just invented. Although I'm relatively certain Isaac Asimov wrote at least two novels about sentient stars. Nemesis was the one that I remember.
    – Peter Turner
    Nov 1 '21 at 3:44
  • Yes, when science fiction ideas are allowed into the picture, focus is inclined to be lost! Because some turn out to be astonishingly predictive - ahead of the scientists, even - that is why it's more vital than ever to know where to draw the line between pure science and interpretation of science based on assorted ideas and beliefs, especially ones that seem to lock out the very idea of God as Creator.
    – Anne
    Nov 1 '21 at 11:52
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You need go no further in your search for "points to make about where science should end, and speculation based on atheistic interpretation [should begin]" than to consider the Christian presuppositions that underlay the researches and discoveries of famous scientists from the past.

I agree with Stephanie Hertzenberg who put together a shortlist of some of those famous scientists from the past, including Pasteur, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Linnaeus, George Washington Carver, and Gregor Mendel. These men knew where the line was drawn between science and Christian faith. They saw the two pursuits as complementary, since the scientific mindset, they believed, is a gift from our Creator-God and is meant to be used both to glorify Him and benefit humankind.

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    . . . . . but we are informed that in the last days (which we may well be in, right now) a global ideology will pervade all of the earth-dwellers. And we are informed of the kind of ideology that it is. So these past 'scientists' are now, perhaps, not relevant to the present situation that unfolds around us.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 29 '21 at 12:46
  • @Nigel: I disagree. If we cannot learn from luminaries such as Galileo, Pasteur, Carver, Linnaeus, and Mendel, then I guess we cannot learn from the luminaries from Scripture, either! The truths of God's Word are eternally relevant, and so are the testimonies of true believers in Jesus, whether they are scientists and/or saints from the past, the present, or the future. I agree with you that the unbelieving zeitgeist in the last days will perhaps reach its climax when the church universal is whisked away with Jesus' return, but in our Christian witness today, our attempts to be relevant can Oct 29 '21 at 13:24
  • backfire on us in unexpected ways. The 21st century is no different from any previous century in this: Unbelief is unbelief, regardless of the century. That science has progressed by leaps and bounds in recent years, with the mapping of the human genome, for example, is very clear, and Christian apologists need to be relevant in their defense of the faith. However, the world's counterfeit faiths (including naturalism, scientism, and all the other -isms) can be countered best through the wise use of Scripture and by appeals to the testimony of believers who are scientists in whatever century. Oct 29 '21 at 13:41
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This may be closed, it doesn’t feel ‘Christian’ enough in its focus (?) but nonetheless, I also saw the documentary and concur: as much as I admire him, Cox does weave a pseudo-scientific neo-pagan / naturalist thread into his reading of the birth of stars. I think his subtext might be that although the West has, in the past, written off paganism as nonsense, there is a generative quality that the universe / stars / elements posses, and this quality (at least the germ of it) is recognised by pagan cosmologies.

I don’t think the secondary “creative” quality of stars competes with the creative actions of God: they cry out His glory - which includes his creative powers. The problem of course is that God is out the picture as the primary creative source..

I personally think the most intriguing statement is made at the end of the miniseries where Cox, almost talking to the crew more than us, mentions the information layer theorised to underpin the ‘holographic’ universe. The universe is sustained by the Word?

Your question and elaboration betray an era where Christian thought underpinned much public discourse. That era has sadly passed.. 😏

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    Yeah, 70 years ago C.S. Lewis was on the BBC explaining Mere Christianity, but even then he realized that his work was to explain Christian thought to a populous that didn't get it.
    – Peter Turner
    Oct 29 '21 at 17:15
  • True…. If only! Oct 29 '21 at 19:07
  • "The problem of course is that God is out the picture as the primary creative source." You hit the nail on it. Christians don't have an issue with something in nature being a secondary cause (like evolution) as long as God is acknowledged to exist, and being the primary cause (such as creating out of nothing). In philosophy of religion, primary vs. secondary is the common terminology used. This article has excellent description. Oct 31 '21 at 5:07
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    Don’t you guys say doccie? 🤣🌸 Documentary would be better than docu., let me change it quick… Oct 31 '21 at 8:53
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He puts the horse before the cart. Only when you have an extant universe can it be populated with cosmic bodies. How can a star exist before the universe? You need to first have a universe before a star can exist.

Whatever created the universe had to have an existence that was not bound to our physical universe. This is offcourse not a possibility for the naturalist, but that is a limitation of the worldview and not a critique of Christianity.

Maybe if scientist like this spend more time in developing a more robust worldview and less time on day time television trying to be a spokesman then maybe his beliefs would better serve the atheism he tries to promote

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