THE LESSON OF THE ROSEBUSH [c. 1958]

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Excerpted from The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe, edited by John Clover Monsma. New York: G.P. Putman’s Sons, 1958

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THE LESSON OF THE ROSEBUSH

By Merritt Stanley Congden, Natural Scientist and Philosopher

Ph.D., Sc.D., Webster University, S.T.D., Burton University; formerly Professor of Basic Science, Trinity College, Florida; member of American Physical Society, Mediæval Academy of America, and numerous other scientific groups. Specialist in psychology, physics, philosophy of science, Biblical re­search.

Many years ago I saw a beautiful, cultivated rose­bush in bloom beside a lonely road in Pennsylvania. When I passed the place later, I noticed near the bush the crum­bling remains of a cellar wall covered with weeds and briars. There was no building for at least half a mile. As­suming the utter improbability that this rosebush had resulted by chance from some seed or viable fragment of a far-distant bush carried by wind, water, fowl or mammal, I knew intuitively that some mature human being had care­fully planted it near his home. I did not see it planted nor did I have any historical source to consult, but I was forced to the irresistible conclusion that it could have come to its present location and condition only by human agency and intervention.

Image Credit: By Frank Vincentz – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3485801

At first we might decry the use of this kind of analogical inference in the fields of science, but we are promptly confronted with the fact that this is indeed the very type of evidence upon which our oldest natural science, astron­omy, is founded. We cannot coerce the galaxies, stars or planets from their orbits for experimental investigation. We cannot eliminate cosmic rays from the scene. The Doppler Effect (change in number of sound and light waves, depend­ing on distance) may perhaps be radically influenced by gigantic distances, and the continuous acceleration of the speed of remotely distant nebulae may possibly outrun that of light beyond the “cosmic curtain,” shutting off any further view of them. But we cannot alter or modify these factors. We can observe them at a distance, but we cannot experi­ment with them.

Therefore, we must depend upon the probability involved in analogous processes among the galaxies, just as we depend upon the laws governing mass and energy even among the elementary particles of the atoms. Although we can dis­tinctly see the stars and nebulae and can discern the nature of their apparent and real movements, so far we have never seen directly any component of the atom. And yet, that first atomic bomb thoroughly supported and vindicated our theoretical interpretations of the structure and functions of the invisible atom. Both of these groups of entities (galaxies and atoms) can indeed be defined operationally, and can also be sustained by logical inference from empirical (ex­perimental) data.

Of course, the cosmic object (totality of external phenomena) must have powers and traits which are truly anal­ogous to our own. This means that some consistent pattern for what we call “personality” must be provided in the cosmic framework. Such a provision would necessarily re­quire the assistance of metaphysics (the non-physical or supernatural) in establishing a rational ground for any dualistic concept, for behavioristic psychology by itself seems to be unable to provide that ground.

I have often demanded of my students that they tell me the exact chemical formula for a “thought,” the exact length in centimeters, the exact weight in grams, its color, its form or shape, its potential pressures or inner tensions, its “field,” and its location or its direction and speed of movement. They could not describe a thought in any physical terms, equations or formulas. A new vocabulary had to be intro­duced which lacked the accepted designations or “signs” and the conventional meanings of the vocabulary of physi­cal science.

This problem cannot be merely ‘laughed off,” for if the cosmos be not dyadic (consisting of two parts or elements), then the problem of human “thought” has never been dealt with seriously. And if a monistic (unitary; consisting of one element) contention insists upon a purely material essence in thought, then we must demand its complete description in physical terms alone. This has never been done. The materialistic postulates of Democritus, Hobbes or the mod­ern behaviorists, or the idealistic presuppositions of Leibnitz, Berkeley or Hegel, are merely speculative hypotheses with­out even empirical foundation as far as experimental valida­tion is concerned. The validity of any philosophy of Nature can be and should be challenged, unless such a philosophy furnishes an adequate rationale which deals with all types of facts, factors, features and elements in the natural universe.

Science is tested knowledge, but it is still subject to human vagaries, illusions and inaccuracies. It is legitimate only within the confines of its own areas. It is rigidly restricted to quantitative data for description and prediction. It begins and ends with probability, not certainty. Its results are approximations subject to “probable error,” especially in measurements and correlations. Its products are tentative and are modified frequently by new data. There is no finality in scientific inferences. The scientist says: “Up to the present, the facts are thus and so.”

Science starts from undeniable axioms and precepts which are not essentially dependent upon physical reality. Thus science erects its systematized knowledge upon philosophi­cal foundations. Personal experience, in science as in philos­ophy and religion, is the ultimate test of all truth, and be­comes the final arbiter. Any inference made by one scientist must prove to be true and valid for all scientists. Yet, our individual perceptions of natural phenomena are highly con­ditioned and relative.

Nevertheless, these limitations do not destroy the positive values and virtues of the scientific approach, but they do channel the efforts and circumscribe the results. Conse­quently, natural science is utterly unable to deal directly with problems which are largely devoid of entities suscep­tible of quantitative analysis and synthesis. The question “Is there a personal God?” is prima facie such a problem. But if there are definite impingement of the spiritual entities upon the material entities, this fact becomes an appropriate concern of natural science. And any legitimate manner or method of dealing with it effectively must be accepted, in­cluding analogical inference.

There are many indications that the processes of Nature and of science, although they cannot fully confirm or refute the existence or functioning of non-material entities, do not pre­clude the probability of realities in realms beyond the purely physical. By analogy to our own intelligent agency in a world fraught with rational values, we must accept the implications of similar rational activity and intelligent control involved in the bell-shaped curve of distribution (even in the elec­tron orbits), the “water cycle,” the “carbon dioxide cycle,” the amazing processes of biological reproduction, the vital process of photosynthesis for storing solar energy for the living things of earth—ad infinitum. How, indeed, can we conceive of any arbitrary or fortuitous initiation of such processes without intelligent agency? How do the abstrac­tions concerning uniformity and universality, causality and integration, teleology and interfunction, or conservation and equilibrium continue age after age to satisfy the de­mands of an activated cosmos? How could they operate rationally throughout Nature without the sustaining intelli­gence of a rational Creator who works in and through His creation?

There are no facts yet wrested from the intriguing mys­teries of this strange, onrushing cosmos which can in any degree disprove the existence and intelligent activities of an unconditioned, personal God. On the contrary, when as careful scientists we analyze and synthesize the data of the natural world, even by analogical inference, we are observ­ing only the phenomena of the operations of that unseen Being who cannot be found by mere scientific seeking, but who can and did manifest Himself in human form. For science is indeed “watching God work.”

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