In my previous article, I discussed a worldview known as scientism – the view that truth can only be discovered by what science can tell us. I pointed out several flaws in this view, and some of the questions science cannot answer. So, if this view is flawed, then why have so many people begun to adopt it? Why do people champion science with such unquestioning faith and cling to the notion that only science can give us ultimate truth?
Science Doesn’t Say Anything – Scientists Do
When an experiment is performed, it is up to the observer to come up with a conclusion. The science itself doesn’t give us the answer directly. Observable evidence points to a conclusion. As new evidence is discovered, theories shift and change because the data changes. For example, scientists used to believe that the universe was static, constant, a fixed size. The size it was now is the size it always had been and always will be. One of the greatest champions of this view was Albert Einstein. But, once Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe was expanding – and he showed this expansion to Einstein – Einstein was forced to drop his theory because new evidence had been introduced.
Sometimes you may hear the term “settled science”. This term implies that some scientific fact or theory should no longer be argued about; we have all the evidence we need, we have come to the only logical conclusion possible, and this matter is now closed. But, doesn’t that line of thinking fly in the face of how scientific discovery works? We used to think the Earth was flat, and that everything revolved around it. Theories of motion and physics continue to evolve as time goes on. Clearly, slamming the door on a theory completely shuts one off from even considering alternate possibilities and exploring them.
One of my favorite shows in the past 20 years has been Mythbusters. In this show, the hosts would start with a myth or urban legend – like eating Pop Rocks and drinking soda makes your stomach explode, or cleaning hardened cement from a mixer with explosives (my personal favorite). They would then develop a series of tests to see if the myth was true and come to a conclusion. A lot of the time, they probably got it right. Yet, time after time, they revisited myths because they hadn’t considered some fact or variable, and routinely came to a different conclusion. This is how science is to be done. If you do a test, come to a conclusion, do the same test a few more times, and get the same results, then your conclusion is sound. But, once new evidence is discovered, the results need to be reconsidered to see if your theory needs to be altered.
The Religion of Science
Many people will be quick to criticize Christians’ belief in God as having a “blind faith” in something that would seem to be counter to what our senses tell us. They say Christians close their eyes to the evidence of science. When Christians offer God as an explanation, they are often criticized as using a “god of the gaps” argument. It goes something like this – I can’t explain this thing, so therefore God is the answer. But, what if we do our investigations, and the evidence leads us to a conclusion that a supernatural event did occur, or a supernatural Creator did kick off the Big Bang? If we only rely on science to be able to offer a natural explanation of reality, we automatically reject that supernatural events could occur before we begin our investigation. Being raised from the dead is a supernatural event. The universe popping into existence from nothing is a supernatural event – meaning they require forces outside of nature for them to occur. So, if you automatically reject that supernatural events are possible, you’ve now closed off the investigation that a supernatural event could have happened before your investigation even began!
In an article he wrote in 1997, Professor Richard Lewontin made this very up-front admission
‘Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that Miracles may happen. [Emphasis in original.]
Lewontin is committed to materialism, and encourages others to be even if the evidence looks like it is leading somewhere else! This is almost the textbook definition of “blind faith”. And he says that if a series of scientific tests ultimately prove the existence of a supernatural Being or event, then the science was wrong and we need to redo the tests until the tests determine that God doesn’t exist. This isn’t being open-minded at all. This is deciding on the conclusion before the experiment begins. And if the experiment gives you undesired results, then your experiment was wrong. You need to keep redoing your tests until they tell you God does not exist.
When Einstein began to apply some of his theories to the study of the static universe, he realized that some of the numbers didn’t add up. For example, a finite universe could become so dense that it would collapse in on itself and become a giant black hole. In order to get around this problem he created what he called his cosmological constant. In other words, he fudged it. He was balancing his bank account at the end of the month, saw a few thousand dollars unaccounted for and just wrote “other” next to it! He was so committed to the concept of a static universe that when his numbers didn’t add up, he invented something that would make the equation work. After Hubble showed him the expanding universe, Einstein would later go on to call his mathematical gymnastics one of the “greatest blunders” of his life.
Sometimes Really Smart People Get It Wrong
So why do we give so much credit to scientists? Make no mistake – scientists are usually highly intelligent people. There is also no question that science has been responsible for an explosion of knowledge we have gained in the past couple hundred years. But, it’s wrong to think that someone who is highly intelligent in one arena of knowledge is highly intelligent in all arenas. When it comes to technology, and making devices talk to one another, I’m a pretty smart guy. I also love to learn, and know a little about a very broad range of topics. I formulated a lot of opinions on a lot of stuff over the years. But, it wasn’t until I actually started studying logic, reasoning and philosophy that I found out how terrible I was at reasoning and philosophy! There were all kinds of logical flaws in the conclusions I had formulated. Many modern day philosophers have said the same thing about a lot of the philosophical work that scientists like Richard Dawkins, Steven Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Bill Nye have done. Even the atheist philosophers are quick to point out their logical blunders. These men are all brilliant. Bill Nye is a highly entertaining and effective teacher of scientific principles. But brilliance in one area does not infer brilliance in all areas.
Science is a great mechanism for us to learn more about the natural world we live in. The impact it has had on our lives in things like medicine, travel, and interacting with the environment are undeniable. Scientific discovery continues to advance humankind generation after generation. And that’s what learning is – discovery.. If we are sincerely seeking truth, we have to be open to going where discovery leads us. Even if the evidence ultimately points to a cause outside of our natural universe – one science can’t explain.