Science Is A Tool, Not An Authority
7 Jan 2011
One of the things Christians are attacked over is their “unreasonably blind” faith, and “willful ignorance” of modern science. Although I would agree that there are Christians that hold their beliefs without asking the questions of why, that is not the case for all, and those that do ask the questions find that there are reasonable arguments for the Christian worldview. One of the blogs I read regularly is that of Dr. Albert Mohler. Yesterday he posted an article entitled No Buzzing Little Fly - Why the Creation-Evolution Debate is So Important1. The article was in response to another article that had been written by Dr. Darrell Falk entitled The Dawning of a New Day2. Dr. Mohler argues that creationism is the mechanism that God used to create us, while Dr. Falk argues in favor of science and theistic evolution. I thought this is the perfect opportunity to post some of my thoughts regarding science.
Dr. Mohler addresses two of the common misconceptions regarding science that Dr. Falk holds. The first is that science has been highly successful informing us of the natural world. While this is true, Dr. Mohler reminds Dr. Falk that science has also suffered several embarrassments. The second is the belief that “scientific knowledge is not deeply flawed.” To this, Dr. Mohler replied, “That is nothing less than a manifesto for scientism. Science, as a form of knowledge, is here granted a status that can only be described as infallible. The dangers of this proposal are only intensified when we recognize that ‘scientific knowledge’ is not even a stable intellectual construct.” Quite frankly, there is an arrogance surrounding science that I find distasteful, and I find scientism to be a superb definition. Basing my decision regarding this matter solely on my feelings would be irrational, but as Dr. Mohler points out very well, there are reasons why I find it distasteful.
Dr. Falk cites “peer review by experts” as one of the methods used to help reveal the “amazingly intricate detail about the tapestry of the natural world.” While making this statement is not false, it is not complete. The peer review process itself is flawed. I remember listening to a debate on the radio a couple of years ago. It was on the Bob Dutko Show and featured Dr. Grady McMurty and a member of Michigan Skeptics whose name escapes me now; I’ll call him Johnny for simplicities sake. I wish I had a transcript, but it went something like this: Johnny stated that studies provided by creation scientists were not taken seriously because they had not gone through the mainstream peer review process. Dr. McMurty replied that studies had been submitted, but were not accepted on the basis that they supported creationism. Johnny replied that they weren’t accepted because they didn’t meet expectations. Dr. McMurty replied, you mean evolution. The debate devolved into a sort of circular reasoning as to why the studies were dismissed. The bottom line is that creation scientists are forced to operate outside mainstream science. We can see an example of the hostility, and censorship, mainstream scientists place on “outside” beliefs based on the news today that a study regarding the existence of ESP will be printed in a major scientific journal: “But the scientific community is filled with grumbles over Bem’s work. Many researchers question the wisdom of writing, much less publishing, research on humans’ ability to see the future”3.
Dr. Falk points out the “pre-conceived” ideas that creation scientists operate from, but fails to point out the pre-conceived ideas that evolution scientists operate from. These are the same pre-conceived ideas that keep studies conducted by creation scientists from gaining access to mainstream peer review. These are the same pre-conceived ideas many atheists, skeptics, and freethinkers hold that anything remotely related to God’s involvement is lunacy, including creationism, intelligent design, and theistic evolution.
Dr. Falk points out William Dembski’s failure to reply to Dr. Joe Felsenstein who had shown “that two of Dembski’s most important ideas were wrong at their very core.” While this may be true, I’d like to point out that William Dembski’s studies are not the only studies that exist. I don’t know why Dembski did not at least reply, and it’s unfortunate that he did not since Dr. Felsenstein took so much time out of his “busy schedule.” I can’t help but think that Dr. Falk sounds a little condescending here.
Besides, evolutionary scientists have not answered all the questions posed by creation scientists either, and in the cases where they have made the attempt, they have not done it convincingly. Although there are several problems, some of the most glaring to me are 1) the contradiction to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, 2) the lack of transitional fossil forms in the fossil record, and 3) ancient pottery and drawings depicting rather accurate creatures which supposedly were not encountered by man until the late 1800’s, and then only in fossil form, i.e., dinosaurs.
Dr. Falk asks, “Will we ever be able to show the followers of Albert Mohler, John MacArthur and others that Christian theology doesn’t stand or fall on how we understand Genesis 1 or the question of whether Adam and Eve were the sole genetic progenitors of the human race?”
This is not a simple answer, because Christian theology could stand or fall if we accept an explanation that is contrary to the teachings of Genesis 1, particularly with Adam and Eve. I can entertain different theories regarding how God brought all this into being, for example, creationism or theistic evolution. Obviously, I lean heavily towards creationism (see above). I can also entertain different theories regarding the interpretation of Genesis 1, for example, a literal or figurative day. Again, I lean heavily towards literal. I don’t, however, buy into a figurative Adam and Eve. If evolution was the process used by God, then there is a definitive couple in the evolutionary tree that defines all of fallen humanity. But, again, I don’t believe this. I don’t believe, specifically, that macro-evolution was God’s method.
Science is a tool, and as such, doesn’t tell us anything. Scientists tell us what they have discovered using scientific methods. Scientists, both creation and evolutionary, are fallible and to argue otherwise would be to elevate them to a god-like status. Scientists are also human, and therefore, subject to their fallen nature. They will make mistakes, misinterpret information, and at times, misrepresent information. A shining example, almost perfectly timed, is this story from CNN: Retracted autism study an ‘elaborate fraud,’ British journal finds4. Thomas Lifson from American Thinker had this comment: “The sad truth is that science, one of the crowning achievements of western civilization, is seriously endangered because of fraud. This study is the tip of the iceberg. Global warming research, explicitly designed to find certain outcomes (“hide the decline”) comes to mind”5.
Personally, I believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. I don’t believe that evolution is a conspiracy, but simply a misinterpretation of scientific data. I’m also sure there are faults within the studies of creation science which Dr. Felsenstein may very well have found, but I don’t believe that it is all faulty. I believe that scientists from both parties, working together towards truth would yield better results than what we have now: a hostile scientific community working simply to prove the other wrong. I also believe that scientists from both parties need to recognize there is a limit to what can be discovered through science. Although, good science can be performed in a lab, and we can observe the way things are, extending that into “that’s how it was,” is irresponsible. Studies in a lab, under ideal conditions, and manipulated by scientists, only proves what can be accomplished in a lab, through intelligent manipulation (intelligent design?). It does not mean that’s how it actually happened in the wild. That can only be proven by actually witnessing it in the wild, without artificial manipulation.
I’ve learned to question everyone’s ideas, including creation scientists, mainstream evolutionary scientists, liberal and conservative theologians, and even myself, where it appears to me that most people today only question those who disagree with them. Science has become particularly dangerous, because there is a perception that science is an authority that should not be questioned. But as I stated before, science is a tool, and when we rely on a tool for authority, it’s obvious we no longer care about the answers.
- Mohler, Albert. “No Buzzing Little Fly - Why the Creation-Evolution Debate is So Important.” AlbertMohler.com. 5 Jan 2011. ↩
- Falk, Darrel. “The Dawning of a New Day.” BioLogos. 31 Dec 2010. ↩
- Potter, Ned. “ESP Study Gets Published in Scientific Journal.” ABC News. 6 Jan 2011. ↩
- “Retracted autism study an ‘elaborate fraud,’ British journal finds.” CNN. 5 Jan 2011. ↩
- Lifson, Thomas. “Major scientific fraud uncovered.” American Thinker. 6 Jan 2011. ↩
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