Does Science Have Limits?

Science is a beneficial enterprise. Science has enabled today’s society to enjoy luxuries never dreamed about in past generations. Science does, however, have limitations, and we will attempt to discuss some of these in this article.

Does Science Have Limits?

The study of science has made many things possible that were unthinkable just a few generations ago. We are now able to get to any destination in the world within a matter of hours, when previously it took weeks. We put a man on the moon. We have a world of information at our fingertips via the internet. Medical science has advanced greatly. These are just a few of the accomplishments that have been made possible through the application of science. Science is a valuable tool.

Considering all the ways science has enhanced our lives, it is no wonder so many people hold science (and scientists) in such high esteem. Some have even come to believe that the only way we can know anything at all is through science. This view has become more and more pervasive of late in today’s culture.

Scientism: an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities) (Merriam-Webster). This view, although now widely held, is easily falsified. First of all, the notion defeats itself. See the following dialogue.

Fred: Science is the only way we can know anything. If it can’t be proven scientifically, then I don’t believe it.

Joe: Really? Can you show me the scientific experiment that proves that statement?

Of course there is not and will never be an experiment to prove science is the only source of true knowledge. Here’s another defeater: science can not tell you what you are thinking right now. Note, I am not talking about mapping neural pathways to see which ones are lighting up as your thoughts process, I am talking about the substance of your actual thoughts. Science has no way to “read your mind”, as it were. Yet, you A. are actually thinking, B. are aware of what you are thinking and C. absolutely no scientific experiment has informed you of these facts. In other words, you have true knowledge of your thoughts entirely separate from the enterprise of science.

In fact, the scientist relies on several presuppositions before he can even attempt to engage the  Scientific Method. Among these include knowledge that there is a world external to the mind that operates in an orderly fashion and which can be explored and understood; that the findings discovered through science can be intelligibly communicated to others; the existence of numbers and the operations of mathematics;  the laws of logic; the principle of cause and effect… these are just a few of the facts that must be assumed to exist before any scientific experiment can be accomplished, and without which the scientific enterprise would be totally incoherent and useless.

Additionally, we must remain cognizant that the operations of science are performed by people just like you and me. People with varying degrees of talent, education and intelligence, people living in an imperfect world with pressures to perform adequately in their job, pressures to pay bills and support families, and everything else that goes along with being human. Just as in any other walk of life, there are biases that cloud judgment, there is dishonesty, and there are mistakes made in innocence but are not always caught.

Finally, science can not really speak to the things most people deem to be most important in their lives. Abstract and immaterial ideas such as joyfulness, satisfaction, freedom, love, right and wrong… these things are not discovered through science, but through our direct experience with the world around it.

So we see, a healthy respect for the enterprise of science is warranted, however we must be careful not to overrate its capabilities.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Are the Origin of Life and Evolution Two Separate issues?

Many times people try to divorce the origin of Life and Evolution as two separate issues. However this is mistaken and misleading.

(This article is the second in a series of articles on evolution, particularly neo-Darwinian evolution. The first article in the series can be found HERE.)

“Darwin never mentioned life’s origin!” This is a common argument one might hear on various blogs and boards when discussing the Origin of Life (OOL) in relationship to neo-Darwinian evolution (NDE). “You have to have life before it can evolve.” However, scientists in the field and professors who teach the subjects realize that the two subjects are inextricably linked. In this article I will attempt to show how one can not simply dismiss the subject of OOL when discussing NDE.

First witness: Wikipedia. I don’t typically recommend Wikipedia for research, especially when looking for information that is controversial or politically charged. However, for subjects for which there seems to be consensus, it can be a good starting place. In the Wikipedia article on evolution, under the evolutionary history of life, the first sub-heading is “Origin of Life“.

Next, we have a well reasoned article written by Greg Laden, at Science Blogs. Mr. Laden concludes:

Most models for the origin of life are very Darwinian. Most have some selection going on, most have some diversification going on, and all, by necessity and definition, have change over time going on. And, it is organic change, because the stuff of life before the primordial animation was organic stuff.

The origin of life is part of evolutionary biology. (emphasis mine)

Tell us what you really think, Greg. Finally, I present to you a website located on the University of California, Berkeley, web site. This series of web pages is dedicated to “understanding evolution for teachers.” Part of this series is on-you guessed it-the Origin of Life. So, now at least you have a few handy resources to refer to when someone tells you that evolution and the origin of life are two separate issues.

The thing is, why do they make such a fuss about it? In a recent article I posted, “Is Science Opposed to Christianity?“, I was told not once but twice that the two subjects can not be discussed jointly: “these are 2 completely different scientific doctrines” and “you confuse abiogenesis with evolution.” I provided these same references for the gentleman who leveled these charges, but as happens so many times in these types of discussions, he simply deflected and refused to acknowledge the evidence offered.

Here are my thoughts on the equivocation: proponents of NDE know that when it comes to OOL, they have no footing whatsoever. As I quoted in my article “The Origin of Life: A Pause for Clarity“,  prominent OOL scientist Eugene Koonin woefully stated:

“However, the origin of life—or, to be more precise, the origin of the first replicator systems and the origin of translation-remains a huge enigma, and progress in solving these problems has been very modest — in the case of translation, nearly negligible However, these advances remain only preliminaries, even if important ones, because they do not even come close to a coherent scenario for prebiological evolution, from the first organic molecules to the first replicator systems, and from these to bona fide biological entities in which information storage and function are partitioned between distinct classes of molecules (nucleic acids and proteins, respectively).”

“In my view, all advances notwithstanding, evolutionary biology is and will remain woefully incomplete until there is at least a plausible, even if not compelling, origin of life scenario.” Koonin, Eugene V. (2012). The Logic of Chance: The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution. , Pearson Education, Inc., Publishing as FT Press Science, New Jersey, page 417. (Emphases mine)

Well said, Dr. Koonin. Notice how low he sets the bar- “plausible… if not compelling.” Conversely, proponents of NDE do feel like they are on solid ground when discussing the neo-Darwinian synthesis. After all, it is widely accepted, there seems to be overwhelming consensus in the scientific community, and it is universally taught in the public school system. However, over the next few articles I will attempt to show some of the areas in which NDE falls far short of explaining life as we see it today.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Thank you for your time!

Previous Writings Published on “The Patch” (Part 2)

About a year ago, I started publishing articles on a web site called “The Patch“, which a actually collection of sites specific to local communities. I started posting in the Woodstock Patch, and branched out from there to cover much of the metro-Atlanta area and even some other states. “The Patch” has recently undergone a major reformat, and thus far the tools provided to post articles on the new platform seem to be somewhat of a downgrade from what they were previously.

I tried somewhat to start working on a foundational basis of explaining why the Christian worldview is a reasonable worldview to hold. Here I will list links to the articles I posted there, and along the way I might pull them out, dust them off, and re-post them. Take a look. Let me know what you think!

The Dials of Life

This will be the first article in a series on the origin of life. The series will cover a brief explanation of the conditions that make life possible, what we mean when we say something is “alive”, and an exploration into the concept of abiogenesis.

The (Not-So) Simple Life

In this article on the subject of life, we will discuss what it actually means to be “alive”, and some of the minimum requirements for life to exist.

The Origin of Life

In order to live, life must be specifically programmed. Can this programming be explained by naturalistic processes?

The Origin of Life: A Pause for Clarity

There have been many and varied challenges to my post on “The (Not So) Simple Life”. In this article I will attempt to cut through the smoke screens that are typically thrown up on these issues and get to the crux of the matter.

The Mystery of Science (Not Really)

Science: Some love it, some hate it, many ignore it. What is science and how is it accomplished?

Does Science Have Limits?

Science is a beneficial enterprise. Science has enabled today’s society to enjoy luxuries never dreamed about in past generations. Science does, however, have limitations, and we will attempt to discuss some of these limitations in this article.

Is Science Opposed to Christianity?

The claim has been made, in recent years, that the Christian faith stands in opposition to the scientific enterprise. Christians are labeled as “science deniers”, among other things. Is this historically accurate?

Was the Sinking of the Titanic a Copycat Myth?

A 1898 Novella, “Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan”, was published. The story contains many eerie similarities with the actual story of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, fourteen years later!

Horus and Jesus: Practically Twins! (well, not really….)

As I wrote in my last post, there are many different sources that claim a multitude of similarities between the Egyptian sky god Horus and Jesus of Nazareth. Does closer scrutiny bear out these claims? The devil, as they say, is in the details…

Cross Roads of Faith: News Roundup, July 20th, 2014

This week: smart Christians, overzealous ACLU actions, the atheists that don’t exist, the inhabited planet that never was!

Evolution? What do you mean by that?

“Evolution.” The term can have different meanings based on the context of the conversation, or the thoughts and views of the person speaking or being spoken to. This article will attempt to draw some of the different meanings of “Evolution”.

Cross Roads of Faith: News Roundup July 26th, 2014

Welcome to the Cross Roads of Faith News Roundup!

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