I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a long time, but somehow just never got around to it. To me, it reeks of common sense and obviousness, but to many others, it’s something they haven’t really thought about. Science’s place as the ultimate truth-finder in the modern world is taken as a given. But is it really? I contend that it isn’t.
What does the Bible have to say about worldly wisdom? Here’s just one passage (1 Corinthians 1:18-25):
“19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
I was going to highlight or bold certain parts, but I think pretty much all of it sends a strong point across to the reader. Please take the time to digest it on your own, and maybe apply it to what we’re talking about here.
Before people start accusing me of “bashing” on science, let me make something clear. Science has made amazing contributions to this world, and I think that was an intentional part of God’s design
I am also relatively supportive of technology. I could not write this blog without it, nor enjoy many of the creature comforts I take for granted every day. AIR CONDITIONING! (Sorry, just had to get that in there.)
But what I’m talking about is a narrower view of science; the kind that purports to tell us about the universe and its past. I am talking about scientific “facts” such as naturalistic evolution, archeology that seemingly contradicts the Bible, and other such fields. Much of this science is based on theory and speculation rather than repeatable, testable results. I am not talking about science that we see and use on an everyday basis (and therefore can easily find faults with over time). A big bulk of science cannot be contained in a laboratory and “proved,” but this doesn’t stop people from swallowing these “truths” wholesale and allowing them to dictate their beliefs.
Here are three primary reasons I do not place science on the same pedestal as other people.
1. The scientific community is not as truth-driven or open-minded as some people assume.
In a perfect world, the scientific community’s sole purpose would be to find truth regardless of logistics, politics, and greed. But the fact of the matter is, real truth is often not the sole (or even primary) aim. There are often strong competing factors at play that cannot be ignored or brushed off as something on the fringes.
For instance, a lot of science is driven by the need and desire for funding. Where there is money, there the scientists will flock. Can we blame them? They need to pay their bills and make a living just like we do. This often means that they will do the kind of work that interests rich philanthropists or the public eye at the time. This also means results could be tweaked or pushed in a particular direction to keep the money flowing.
As C. W. Adams puts it: “In the real world, research is not the rational pursuit of knowledge many might imagine it to be. Rather, it is a system riddled with competitive forces; greed; profits; the pursuit of personal recognition; and quite simply, survival issues for the individual researcher.”
Furthermore, there is a strong pressure toward conformity in the scientific community to avoid being ostracized by one’s peers. Breaking from the mold requires a strong sense of purpose and conviction, for this is often considered to result in career suicide. C. W. Adams calls this “peer-control.”
“…it must be understood that the range of study, and the ability of these professors to travel outside the box, is also severely limited by the educational institutions that employ them. Maintaining job security in these institutions usually requires some sort of peer control process that research scientists undertake when determining hypotheses. Although speculation is obviously encouraged, the topics and range of speculation are thoroughly restricted.”
Remember also that true scientific facts never contradict the Bible nor render God obsolete.
2. Science is continually changing and amending prior “certainties.”
Nietzsche once said that “madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups.” This aptly describes why so many of the world’s brightest minds can often be in complete agreement on certain “truths” that later end up being completely (and sometimes hilariously) wrong. A scientific consensus is far from a sure thing, as history would teach us.
Carl Sagan once wrote: “Even a succession of professional scientists–including famous astronomers who had made other discoveries that are confirmed and now justly celebrated–can make serious, even profound errors in pattern recognition.”
The bottom line is that just because you throw more people into the mix doesn’t mean that you can prevent blindness. What often happens is a phenomenon that Yale psychologist Irving L. Janis terms as “the groupthink syndrome.” There are three main symptoms of this:
1. Overestimate of the group’s power and morality, including “an unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality, inclining the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their actions.” [emphasis added]
2. Closed-mindedness, including a refusal to consider alternative explanations and stereotyped negative views of those who aren’t part of the group’s consensus. The group takes on a “win-lose fighting stance” toward alternative views.
3. Pressure toward uniformity, including “a shared illusion of unanimity concerning judgments conforming to the majority view”; “direct pressure on any member who expresses strong arguments against any of the group’s stereotypes”; and “the emergence of self-appointed mind-guards … who protect the group from adverse information that might shatter their shared complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decisions.”
Think about some of the failed assumptions and certainties of the past: the world is flat (bogus); the atom is the smallest building block of matter (false); the universe is necessarily infinite (now we know of the Big Bang)…the list goes on and on.
Did you know that there have been a large number of prominent scientists and experts who have published material “proving” that the Bible wasn’t factual? That certain people-groups mentioned in scripture never existed? And usually what happens is that years or decades later, some archeologist will unearth new evidence to validate the claims of the Bible, not those ever-sure experts.
If science ever seems to run counter to what God’s unchanging and eternal Word says, I’m hitching my wagon to the source of truth that has never been proved wrong.
3. Scientists are made up of faulty and biased people just like you and me.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of the word “scientist,” I am not immediately struck with reverence and awe. Respect, sure…many of them work very hard and are gifted with relatively bright minds. But at the basic core, they are people just like us who deal with insecurities, fight against stubbornness and pride, and are shaped by the influences around them.
I suspect that people who look up to scientists as the end-all-be-all have never really known a scientist (or at least one from a “respectable” school). Guess what? They range from academic hermits to clumsy goof balls. Many of them, due to their narrow focus on studying, lack common sense in important areas that some of us take for granted. They are sometimes unsuccessful in love due to a basic misunderstanding of human interaction. Sometimes they are great at it. I would no sooner take advice from someone who works in the sciences than a trusted friend.
(Be honest: don’t we all laugh at Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory because we can relate to the brilliant-at-something guy who is seriously lacking in other common areas? I alluded to his difficulty in grasping sarcasm in an earlier post.)
The point is, they are no more reliable as finders of the truth than the average reasonable adult. It is easy to see how these people could be swept away in a cool and exciting new idea, rather than putting on the brakes of common sense…especially if being at the forefront of this thinking puts them in a superior intellectual position.
* * *
The point of this post was not to bash on science or scientists, but rather to give a reminder/reality check that man is just man. We are fallible creatures and our systems are bound to be flawed as well. To be sure, we have been given great power and authority over this world, but there is always One who is supremely higher. Let’s not make the mistake of getting so full of ourselves that we miss the fact that we are His creation. The creation cannot be greater than the Creator, can it?
And that very thought was what drove Satan to rebel in the first place…funny how it all fits into this world, his current domain, isn’t it?
In acrostic form i choose to describe modern science as: Systematic Consensus of Idiots Evolved from Neurotic Confused Endorphins
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There’s a quote by Richard Feynman (from THE CHARACTER OF PHYSICAL LAW), that I really like: “Everything in physical science is a lot of protons, neutrons and electrons, while in daily life, we talk about men and history or beauty and hope. Which is nearer to God: beauty and hope or the fundamental laws? To stand at either end and to walk off that end of the pier only, hoping that out in that direction is a complete understanding, is a mistake.” Science has its place — and can be a lot of fun, too — but at best it can only provide incomplete appreciation and understanding of this amazing, complex tapestry of God’s creation, like looking at an impressionist painting too close so all you see are dots. One has to step back and see it as a whole to really understand what it is all about. And even then, we still can’t know everything about the artist from observing his creation.
The more “truth” is sought through science and the more “Truth” is sought through a spiritual relationship with “God, our Creator”, the closer we come to a complete understanding of God’s amazing creation and the closer we come to seeing the same thing.