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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Answers Can Science Provide Humanity?

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Don Stewart
Why did life on earth begin? Why are we here? What is our purpose for existence? Is there an Intelligence who designed the universe, or is everything the result of chance? If an Intelligence did create the universe who is He?

Unfortunately, science can never really answer the above questions. It can only describe our universe and the way in which it regularly operates. Science, as we shall see, is limited in what it can tell us.

Cannot Observe Past

One limitation of science is that it cannot directly observe the past. Scientists study the earth as it exists today. Scientists who make observations through a microscope or a telescope record our universe as it presently stands. Science can gather evidence about the past but it cannot prove what happened. This is because science relies on repeatable verification. The scientific method requires multiple, direct or indirect observations of repeatable events. The scientist in the laboratory does his experiment today and expects to be able to do it again tomorrow with the same results. Since any conclusion regarding past events or circumstances cannot be made as a result of direct observation or experimentation, it places them outside the realm of "scientific proof."

Beyond Scientific Inquiry

No question about our origins can be answered scientifically because first origin questions involve events that are forever in the past. The very beginnings of the universe, and of life on earth, cannot be repeated. Neither was there any human to observe and record them. Hence, questions about the origin of life and the universe are unable to be considered by the scientific method of experimentation and repetition. Scientist Robert Gange writes:

Events that are reproducible lend themselves to scientific inquiry. Events that are unpredictable lend themselves to statistical inquiry. But singular events lend themselves to legal inquiry. The creation of the world or of life are one-time happenings, thus lending themselves to such legal inquiry. The same, incidentally, can be said of the bodily resurrection that history records for Jesus Christ (a one-time happening). We must ask ourselves what role science can play in such questions.

Since science is concerned with reproducible events, it has no jurisdiction whatsoever in questions of origin or destiny. It can and does, however, gather evidence in support of one interpretation or another. In other words, it "assists the court" in gathering evidence on which the jury (you and I) renders a verdict. Unfortunately, we as jurists cannot be entirely objective because we are personally affected by the outcome (Robert Gange, Origins and Destiny, Dallas: Word Publishing, 1986, p. 33).

Any conclusion made on these subjects is ultimately based upon faith, not scientific proof.

Scientists Exercise Faith

This brings us to our next point - scientists exercise faith. Though the perception is often given that the evolutionary scientist deals with facts while the theologian operates on faith, this is not the case. The unbelieving scientist is just as much a person of faith as a believing scientist or a theologian. Agnostic scientist, Robert Jastrow, writes:

Perhaps the appearance of life on the earth is a miracle. Scientists are reluctant to accept that view but their choices are limited. Either life was created on the Earth by the will of a being outside the grasp of scientific understanding, or it evolved on our planet spontaneously, through chemical reactions occurring in nonliving matter lying on the surface of the planet. The first theory places the question of the origin of life beyond the reach of scientific inquiry. It is a statement of faith in the power of a supreme being not subject to the laws of science. The second theory is also an act of faith. The act consists in assuming that the scientific view of the origin of life is correct, without having concrete evidence to support that belief (Robert Jastrow, "Gods Creation," Science Digest, Special Spring Issue, 1980, p. 68).

Jastrow makes a couple of important points. There are only two alternatives a person has: (1) to believe in a Creator or (2) to believe that everything happened by chance. There are no other choices. Also, whatever a person assumes, he does so by faith. The explanation from both the creationist and evolutionist positions requires a person to exercise faith.

In the introduction of the 1971 edition of Darwins The Origin of Species scientist L. H. Matthews wrote:

The fact of evolution is the backbone of biology, and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded on an unproved theory-is it then a science or a faith? Belief in the theory of evolution is thus exactly parallel to belief in special creation-both are concepts which believers know to be true but neither, up to the present, has been capable of proof (L.H Matthews, The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin, London: J.M. Dent and Sons, Ltd. , 1971, p. 10).

Scientist Ian Taylor also recognizes that those who take a naturalistic approach to origins must do it by faith.

While this naturalistic approach scorns the miraculous as an explanation, an element of miracle must nevertheless be involved since the mechanism for bringing order out of disorder is said to be chance. The alternative explanation recognizes that nature is ordered and highly complex, openly concluding that an intelligent Creator was responsible and that miracle was involved. In either case, each view is based upon faith, since there were no witnesses to our origins neither can they be repeated in a laboratory, they are essentially the unknowable and unprovable (Ian Taylor, In the Minds of Men, Revised Edition, Toronto: TFE Publishing, 1987, p. xviii).

Whether one believes life was supernaturally designed or evolved by blind chance, the belief is based upon faith, not repeatable scientific evidence or the testimony of a human observer.

Scientific Theories Change

It should also be noted that the history of science consists of one new theory after another. Sometimes theories are abandoned entirely. Other theories have been changed so often that they lose their original identity. They become like the proverbial pair of pants that ended up more patch than pants. There are times that a theory seems so factual that it is unchallenged for generations, only to be later overturned by the uncovering of new facts. Thus, a scientific hypothesis, theory, or law is not in the same realm as absolute truth.

Dr. Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb, described the progress of science since the Second World War in the following way:

Practically everything that for years we believed to be true has been proven false or incorrect by subsequent discovery. In fact there is only one statement that I would now dare to make positively: There is absolutely nothing faster than the speed of light - maybe (Readers Digest, September 1970, p. 20).

Statements Must Be Challenged

Often in popular literature we read phrases such as "Scientists have proved that . . ." or "Science has shown . . ." or "Scientists believe . . . ."

These phrases are often used as insurance against any criticism of what is about to be said. If you can introduce a remark with "Science has shown . . ."or "Science has proved that . . ." then you can say almost anything and get away with it. However, no scientific statement is unassailable and no theory should be regarded as final.

Therefore, the so-called experts should be challenged as Marshall and Sandra Hall write:
Who is to say, after all that ordinary citizens dont have the right to question any group of experts if that groups actions affect the entire spectrum of everybodys life, young, old, working or at leisure? If an engineer designs a bridge and it falls during the five oclock rush and kills eighty-one nonengineers, who will say the victims survivors can make no effective complaint because they are not engineers? If atomic scientists make some little slip and wipe out Oregon, are citizens from neighboring states to allow new atomic sites to be built near them because they feel unqualified as non-scientists in a making such a decision? (Marshall and Sandra Hall, The Truth: God or Evolution, Nutley, New Jersey: Craig Press, 1974, p. 99).

Scientists Not Always Objective

There is also the matter that scientists are human beings. The usual picture of a scientist is a person who is open-minded, willing to explore all areas and to study all the data. It is important to understand that there are some scientists who are not always detached, dispassionate observers. These scientists are not very quick to abandon their own particular theory even though they may find contradictory evidence. Only if all efforts fail and additional facts incompatible with the accepted theory are uncovered will they begin to consider other explanations.

Admission Of Prejudice

Some scientists have even admitted that they wanted to get rid of the idea of God as Creator. Aldous Huxley, one of the early advocates of the theory of evolution, wrote about his prejudices:

I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for that assumption . . . The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way they find advantageous to themselves . . . .

For myself as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom; we objected to the political and economic system because it was unjust. The supporters of these systems claimed that in some way they embodied the meaning (a Christian meaning, they insisted) of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and at the same time justifying ourselves in our political and erotic revolt; we could deny that the world had any meaning whatsoever (Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means, New York: Harper it cannot observe the past. Because past events cannot be repeated or tested experimentally, any theory about them is a faith assumption. Scientists, like the rest of us, exercise faith. Therefore, those who believe in chance evolution do so on the basis of faith, not indisputable evidence.

Finally, not all scientists have been objective in their dealing with the evidence. This should make us cautious about accepting a scientific conclusion too readily. Because of its limitations, and the fact that scientific theories continually change, science cannot provide the last word on any matter. Robert Jastrow offers a fitting observation:

Our theory of evolution has become . . . one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus outside of empirical science but not necessarily false. No one can think of a way in which to test it.
But now science comes to a great event - the birth of the Universe - and it asks: What Cause produced this effect? Who, or what, put the matter and energy into the Universe? Was the world created out of nothing or was it gathered together out of pre-existing materials? And: What force or forces created the outward momentum of the initial explosion? But that is just what science cannot find out (Dr. Robert Jastrow in a talk on "God and the Astronomers," Phi Beta Kappa Lecture, AAAS meeting, Washington, D.C., February 14, 1978).

Science is of no help in answering our ultimate concerns. Fortunately, the answers to these questions have been revealed to mankind by the Creator Himself. They are found in the pages of the Bible.
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