A Chemist Discovers Philosophy

By Darren L. Williams

G. K. Chesterton tells of an “English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas.”1 Seeing it with fresh eyes, he was enchanted by all the things he formerly overlooked.

This story became Chesterton’s parable for his “rediscovery” of the beauty of orthodox Christian beliefs. Thus, the name of his book became Orthodoxy—and it was a natural follow-up to his scathing evaluation of the intellectuals of his day in his prior book, Heretics. This picture comes to mind as I also feel like a yachtsman traveling to different disciplines in preparation to be an effective Ratio Christi chapter director.

As a physical chemist with 20 years of experience teaching at the college level, I feel comfortable fielding science-faith questions on chemistry in particular and science in general. But I know there are gaps in my education that need to be filled.

The gap in my knowledge of philosophy distresses me the most, so I am actively engaged in learning more. My interest has been fueled as well by scientists who have made statements in books, blogs, memes, and the news that were 99.9% philosophical and 0.1% (or less) scientific.2 Philosophy is the rhetorical battleground, so one must study it to understand the conversation.

PHILOSOPHY OR SCIENCE?

Consider one such rhetorical battle, featuring two atheists. Scientist Richard Dawkins offered this opinion on one of the origins questions: “To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer.”3

Philosopher Michael Ruse countered with this response…

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A Chemist Discovers Philosophy