In our daily life we are faced with observations for which we have no valid explanation. There are questions for which we don’t know any valid answer.
For some of these questions we know that we cannot know the answer. “Does it all make sense?” is one of them. See The meaning of life.
Some of these questions have been unanswered at some time but got an answer as science evolved. For example, 500 years ago we had no valid answer to the question whether the Earth is flat or spheric, but today we can validly say that we know the answer to this question.
And then a lot of questions are kind of work in progress: What are the causes of cancer or asthma? Is climate change so urgent that it requires actions that might put at risk economic stability? How can we satisfy the needs for water, food, shelter, energy, health, education of a growing human population? How can we manage to live on this planet in sustainable peace?
These questions are the field of science.
The art of managing human knowledge.
- scientific method¶
A set of methodologies used to answer questions formulated as theories.
- scientific evidence¶
Evidence that confirms (or counters) a theory in accordance with scientific method.
- scientific community¶
A world-wide network of scientists interacting in diverse ways in accordance with scientific method.
Intermezzo: Watch Pumba and Timon talking about the stars.
“I don’t trust in science”¶
There are people who refuse to trust in science. The Bible contains some passages that might be interpreted into this direction. For example:
“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” (Ps 118:8)
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”” (Proverbs 3:5)
I agree that we should not trust in science blindly. Indeed scientific evidence does not mean that something is “definitively true” because science is just a product of human civilisation, and it is limited to the visible world. Furthermore, scientific research is limited by available money. Pseudo-scientific methods can be abused by corporations who want to present some theory as if it was scientific evidence.
But don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. God created humans with a brain, senses and intellectual capacities. He wants us to observe and analyze the visible world. He wants us to give a name to everything. Refusing to accept scientific evidence as a more trustworthy tool than for example a Holy Scripture is a form of superstition and leads to unrealistic results.
Science is not objective¶
Evangelical author Gene Veith purports (in Canceling Science) that science is “the realm that purports to be totally objective”. I don’t agree with this claim. Real scientists don’t claim to be totally objective. Rather the opposite. A real scientist says that nothing –including Holy Scriptures– is totally objective. This is also what Jesus told the religious leaders of his lifetime: even your Holy Scriptures aren’t the whole truth.
Does science push back God to his ramparts?¶
Some people say that science “pushes back God to his ramparts”, constantly gaining ground as our technologies evolve.
This statement is based on a correct observation: certain questions have moved during human history from the invisible to the visible world. Two thousand years ago humanity did not know about bacteria, viruses, evolution, atoms and such things. We did not know whether Earth is a sphere or not. In two thousand years humanity will probably know much more than today, and humans will be surprised when learning from historic sources that we didn’t know these things.
What I dislike with this statement is that it implies that the Universe would consist of two “territories”, a visible “human world” and an invisible Kingdom of God. Christians don’t believe this. Christians believe that the Kingdom of God penetrates the visible world. They are not separate territories.
Yes, humans want to know the whole truth. But let’s acknowledge that we will never reach that goal. Let’s stop claiming that some Holy Scripture or some scientific report is infallible or perfect. If we want to get useful results despite our lack of absolute truth, we need to combine science and religion. The former focuses on the visible world, the latter on the invisible world. And we should consider every decision from both sides. Science and religion complement each other. When one of them refuses to acknowledge the other, then something is wrong.
People have turned to religious practice to help them deal with issues of life and death, loss and meaning for thousands of years. In his new book How God Works, psychologist David DeSteno uses the latest scientific evidence to examine how rituals help shape behaviors such as compassion, trust and resilience and why many of them are so beneficial. – washingtonpost.com (2021-10-05)