Faith: Science and the Quest for Truth

In our last discussion, we looked at prominent scientist Stephen Hawking’s declaration that God is no longer necessary to explain the origin of the Universe. When we hear such things, it is easy to get the impression that God has somehow been declared dead, the idea being that if science were to explain all that there was to know, it would logically follow that God does not exist.

The ironic thing about such a line of reasoning is twofold. The first is that even if science has achieved, or were to achieve, such a feat, the discovery of such a world as we find that operates by consistent, predictable laws which can be reduced down to logic and mathematics, does more to suggest evidence for an Intelligence behind the Universe than it does to disprove it. But the second thing is that science, in managing to explain the world around us by purely natural processes, has merely done its job, and in so doing, has not so much dispelled the world of mystery as it has demonstrated its own limitations.

It seems elementary to point out that science is a discipline whose efforts are confined to the material world. This is its area of study, and further, it is also the area to which it is limited in attributing a cause. In other words, both the subject of study and the explanation must finds its roots in the material world. As an example, science can answer the question, “how does the biological cell function?” but it cannot answer the question, “Does God exist?” Likewise, in answer to the former question, science cannot say ,“God causes the cell the function.” The distinction here goes beyond capability and more to the definition of what we mean by cause: Science seeks to explain causal interrelationships: The interrelationship of objects to others (the cell functions in part by the actions of Mitochondria within the cell) and matter to governing principles (the apple falls because of the law of gravity). In this respect, science more closely explains to answer how the world around us functions, but not ultimately why.

As mentioned, this explanation of science is rather elementary, and it would be of little consequence, and hardly worth mentioning, except that in our day, science has been given a status of what seems the sole arbiter of truth, being placed in a position of confirming or denying all that we might know.

This was demonstrated well during an event while I was a freshman in college. A spontaneous debate took place in the middle of campus on the topic of abortion. At the moment I came upon the scene, a number of students in the crowd were challenging one woman and asking her, “How do you know abortion is wrong?” To which she responded, raising up a Bible in her hand, “Because of the Word of God!” This drew some negative responses. And one student in particular raised her hand to the sky and said, “Long live science!”

It was an interesting exchange and highlighted the near-sacred reverence science has been given in our academic culture. We no longer believe in the Bible; we believe in science.

I suppose by declaring, “Long live science,” my fellow university student was suggesting science was the only thing we really need to answer all questions of our existence, whether it be how the Universe was formed or whether aborting unborn children is an act of murder. But why would science be the best arbiter of right and wrong? How would it even determine a basis for morality? How, in fact, would it even confirm that there is such a thing?

In keeping with modern thought, the answer given is that science has proven, pretty much beyond any reasonable doubt, that there is nothing beyond the observable universe, and the sooner we all get over our personal notions of an imaginary world beyond it, the more suited we will be to have a serious discussion about morality (and every other topic, conceivably). But this is the very point we are making, namely, the current regard for science as the only reliable form of ascertaining truth is circular reasoning at its best, which goes as follows: There is nothing beyond the observable world because science, confined to confirming truth within the observable world, has not been able to confirm any reality beyond it.

But the skeptic might respond and say: “Okay, fine. A reality beyond what we observe could hypothetically exist. But even if we allow for that possibility, how could we know with any certainty? A reality that may exist but cannot be proven is hardly worth taking seriously.” This question is justified, but the conclusion is not. The error is to assume the same means of confirming truth in the observable world are the same as those for the metaphysical world. This clearly is not necessarily the case; in fact, considering the vast difference between the observable and metaphysical, there is good reason to believe this would not be the case.

Besides, I have never known someone to come to faith in Jesus Christ through a carefully orchestrated experiment. It’s something else entirely.

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