Answering the Big Questions

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, March 16, 2017 7 comments

by Steve Risner

Today, I will attempt to explore the value of science in our modern world. To do that, I'll need to define what I'm talking about when I say “science.” Science can formally be described as the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. In other words, science is the study of the world around us. The knowledge we gain through observation and experimentation on the world around us can be cataloged and added to. Observations are made through our senses and through instrumentation.

There are varying categories of science, but I feel that unless they meet the basic criterion of observation and experimentation, they have moved past or outside the realms of science. This means “historical sciences” like that of cosmogony (the origins of the universe) and evolutionary biology are not actually science but history and/or philosophy. Such things are interesting, but they can never be touted as anything more than philosophical musings of times past that no human was present for and no human can possibly know the conditions of.

Now I will make a few notes on what science is not. Science is not synonymous with atheism. Science is a systematic attempt to study the world. Atheism is nothing more than a philosophy—a self-defeating one at that. Science is not anti-religion. In fact, the two have little in common unless one makes scientism your faith. Science is actually nothing more than a tool, much like a hammer or a computer or a chain saw. You can use those things however you like, whether you're an atheist, a Christian, a Hindu, or something else. The same can be said of science. You see, religion and science attempt to explain very different things. They are not mutually exclusive, but one can fill in the gaps that the other leaves.

Science tells us about nature, and really that's the end of it. It can't tell you about the past if there was no one there to verify it. You may be able to use forensic science to determine who shot the sheriff in 1820, but you can't use science to tell you about where the solar system came from or how potassium came into existence or the origin of DNA. If fact, you can't even use science to determine how life emerged on this planet. It's literally impossible. Even if one were to make life in a lab from non-living matter, there would be absolutely no way to know if this happened in the past on earth. Science, which was invented by Christians, and for quite some time was dominated by Christian thought, is a way for us to understand the creation. It was hijacked by humanists in the 1700-1800's with the sole purpose of discrediting the Bible and directing man away from God.

Religion is something completely different. Religion tells us about our origins. It can help us figure out our purpose in life. Religion gives us a look at our identity—who are we? It can also offer us a glimpse into our destiny if we allow it to. These questions are profound and cannot ever be answered by science. Humanism, atheism, and even scientism or materialism will attempt to tell us that science can and does answer these questions—especially those dealing with origins—but the “science” they refer to is their philosophy and has little if anything to do with science as a way to acquire knowledge about the world around us.

Science can tell us how to read stored information on a drive the size of your thumb. Science can help get us over the Atlantic in a few hours without getting wet. Science can put men on the moon and deliver high quality images from satellites right to your home or even to a screen in your pocket. Science can help us generate medication or help us diagnose disease processes. Science can help us build skyscrapers or fast cars. Science can even be used to win wars or elections. But the most important questions man has ever been challenged with have nothing to do with science.

Science can't answer the most basic and critical questions humanity has ever asked. Science is completely useless when it comes to telling us what love is or why we love. It cannot tell us why we hate or why we clash as we do. Science cannot answer us if we ask what it is we value or why we value it. Science can't tell us what being human actually means. It fails utterly to explain morality or being nice. It doesn't tell us why we want justice or revenge. Science cannot offer you an explanation of guilt or mourning or what to do with such things. Science can't tell us the meaning of life, or what it means to be successful, or what we're supposed to do with our lives. The biggest question of all—the one that ties most of these questions together—also cannot be answered by science. That question is simple: Is there a God, and if so, who is He and what does He want from me? That's three questions, but you get the idea. This question—is God real—will lead us to answer the other big questions of life concerning origin, purpose, destiny, and strong emotional experiences. You can see from the given definition of science that we discussed earlier that it can tell you nothing about these questions, really.

The bonds of love, whether between a man and woman, father and child, human and pet, or just one person's concern and care for a total stranger, can never be explained by science. Right and wrong in terms of conduct are not things science can determine for us. Science is amoral; this means it is not concerned with morality at all. This is different than being immoral; immoral means NOT moral—it's bad. A hammer is amoral; how you choose to use it can be moral or immoral. If you use it to pound in a nail as you build a house, that's a good use of a hammer. If you use it to kill your neighbor's cat because you're a cat hater, that's an immoral use of the hammer. Science is the same way. The hammer doesn't choose right and wrong or moral or not. Science doesn't either. It works to the will of the person. And science cannot tell us about morality. Religion does that.

The fact is, if naturalism is true, none of these questions even matter. If you and I are just a collection of atoms and our thoughts are just random firings of neurons that we have no control over, there is literally no value in anything. We've discussed many times the cold, bleak philosophy of atheism, which sings the praises of your insignificance. A world dominated by “science” (again, so called because it is philosophy that has disguised itself as science) and atheism is worse than any nightmare you could imagine.

This is a short writing on the value of science and the difference between it and religion. The two do not cover the same ground at all. Suggesting otherwise tells me you don't understand what science is or can do. It also may tell me you have a hidden agenda (or not so hidden). Science cannot answer the questions man wants answered and religion speaks to. Science can help warm your food for you in 30 seconds or tell you if there's a traffic jam up ahead miles before you get there. Who you are or why you're here or how to be truly fulfilled are found in religion. I hope this helps.

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ashleyhr said...

"Science tells us about nature, and really that's the end of it. It can't tell you about the past if there was no one there to verify it." The logic of your position is that science cannot ever rule out any things that may be claimed to have happened on Earth in the unseen past (unseen by our species because they did not yet exist or because they were living elsewhere or simply unseen by either anyone alive today or someone who verified them as happening at the actual time in question). Which would be absurd. I can assure you that we were invaded by Martians in 1066 or thereabouts. However none of them survived or bred - which is why there is no evidence and nobody else apart from people who believe this story agree with this story. But while science cannot prove it right it also cannot prove it wrong!

"Science, which was invented by Christians, and for quite some time was dominated by Christian thought, is a way for us to understand the creation. It was hijacked by humanists in the 1700-1800's with the sole purpose of discrediting the Bible and directing man away from God." That is ridiculous highly simplistic and somewhat arrogant historical revisionism.

Steve said...

Thanks for reading my blog posts. I genuinely appreciate your time and comments.
The reason I say that science cannot tell us for sure about anything from a time no one was around for and no one knows the conditions of is that there is literally no way for you or I to determine how to even do an experiment on something we don't know the conditions of and have no verifiable evidence from anyone from the time.
Your example of Martians invading a thousand years ago is actually funny, so thank you. But I'm afraid there are two errors in your thinking here if I may point them out. 1) 1066 was a time humans were around for so that misses my point and 2) this is not a scientific matter. This is an historical matter. You wouldn't ask a chemist about Napolean's defeat at Waterloo or a biologist to confirm something about the pyramids. Aliens visiting in the Middle Ages is something of science-fiction, but not a scientific inquiry. Archeology is considered a social science or a humanity. It's not a hard science like physics or chemistry. Perhaps you could try again with a better thought out example, but this one fails, in my opinion.

Your claim that I'm revising history is completely false. Christians did invent science. Read this blog post from 3 years ago and show me (don't just say it's wrong but show me) what's wrong with it:

Christians dominated scientific thought until the 1700's when Darwin (Erasmus) and others of his time (many French, actually, although most think this began in England) began to construct an alternate history of the world (built on paganism and/or pantheism as much as atheism/humanism). Their stated goal was to remove God from science, which is crazy to me. God created nature. Including Him in the study of nature is only logical. Not that He is to be studied--that's not possible using science.
Lyell specifically stated he was on a mission to remove Moses from geology (the Flood of Noah is what he's referencing). Darwin lost faith in God as a result of seeing nature and how it can be brutal. Many of the day were intent on creating a new story. Wallace, a total wacko who was on a spiritual journey that caused him to stumble onto his mechanism for evolution, beat Darwin to it...except Darwin stole his ideas (much like he stole ideas from countless others and gave little to no credit to any of them).
Anyway, rather than go on and on, I'll leave it at that. If you want to claim I've revised history, please outline the right history for me here if you can please.

ashleyhr said...

My analogy might not have been perfect (what analogy is) but you have avoided my main point - you say "1066 was a time humans were around" as if that nullifies what I wrote but I DID make clear that events, or claimed events, of the unseen past could include ones "unseen by either anyone alive today or someone who verified them as happening at the actual time in question". Also, your apparent position is also that science can never rule out as having occurred particular claimed natural or historical events in Earth's unseen and distant past.

What was wrong with your previous blog post or your comment that Christians 'invented' science? That it failed to mention the early scientific breakthroughs of the muslim world and the chinese who, please correct me if I am wrong, were not professing Christians. Also I am sure that many of those Christian scientists you mention would NOT agree with the science denial of today's young earth creationism (some probably would).

ashleyhr said...

Wikipedia also mentions the Greeks.

Steve said...

Hello Ashley
I apologize for my lack of timely replies. As you can see, I've not had a blog post out for a few weeks, as well. Let me try to explain my statements to you.

In response to my critique of your analogy, you said, "Also, your apparent position is also that science can never rule out as having occurred particular claimed natural or historical events in Earth's unseen and distant past."
Actually, I would love to know how you think this is remotely possible. Sure, we can probably exclude logically impossible things from a list of past events. We would probably, from a naturalistic stand point, eliminate any events that we've never seen happen at all or cannot make happen in a lab.
If you want to suggest that the Big Bang or stellar evolution or solar evolution or biological evolution (after abiogenesis) is "provable" by science, go ahead. It would make you look foolish, but by all means don't let me stop you. As I've stated in blog posts before, even if we could do something like create life in a lab from non-living material, this would in no way support abiogenesis. The same is true for other things. Just because we can do it (with a great deal of planning and a very meticulously orchestrated chain of events) it in no way means it did happen or even could happen in nature. If you don't know the conditions that surrounded an event, how could you possibly consider that we could know about that event? If no one was there to verify something that we have no idea about the conditions, how could you suggest we can understand it from a scientific standpoint? At the very best, you can speculate on something that maybe could happen. This is not a scientific statement. It's based on your own personal worldview and philosophy more than anything. In fact, how you interpret the facts of science will very often come down to your worldview. Two scientists can view the exact same evidence and have very different views on what it means--not just creationist vs evolutionist or whatever. This happens in science all the time. It's because the evidence needs to interpreted. There are very often times we have no idea which interpretation, if any, is correct. This is exceptionally true if we don't understand the conditions that surrounded something. I mean, look, we have no idea. We are so small and can actually physically occupy such a tiny piece of the universe, we have no clue what goes on in the depths of the universe. At best, we can assume (which is mostly what you do in you "scientific" reasoning) a great deal and then take a guess and what maybe could happen. Can you test if the Big Bang happened? You may be able to make a prediction that allegedly the Big Bang should fulfill but if it turns out to be true, does that mean the Big Bang happened? Not at all. Not in the slightest. You seem to want to give science a great deal more credit than it deserves and you want it (or more likely need it) to produce answers for you that it simply cannot do. You failed mention the vast majority of the content of this blog post. You want to bicker about a singe statement that you don't agree with (but you opinion is only's your take) that is a small portion of the idea here.
In my post, the quote your hammering on could likely have been more complete had I included the idea of the unknown (and unknowable) nature of the conditions. If this helps you, there you go. I apologize. The point is the same either way--you cannot possibly come close to knowing if the Big Bang happened, if stellar evolution happened, if the solar system evolved, if the earth evolved, if life on earth arose from non-living material (although, if you want to be consistent, you'll have to concede from a scientific stance, it's statistically impossible). You have no idea and cannot know until you can time travel.

Steve said...

....but to your comment on what I did NOT mention in my blog post about the foundations of modern science, yeah? Okay? I didn't mention a lot of stuff because I can't mention everything. I mentioned what was important to the point. That point? Modern science (not modern scientific discoveries...that's not the point at all) was invented, founded, fashioned, and systematized by Biblical creationists AND most of those who were not Biblical creationists who had major dealings on this topic (some you may or may not have mentioned) were not foolish enough to believe that God did not exist. You failed terribly here, Ashley. Nearly every (if not every) major branch of science was founded by a Biblical creationist. That's the point. Atheists owe a great deal of gratitude to Biblical creationists because science is what it is because of them.

You said, "...your apparent position is also that science can never rule out as having occurred particular claimed natural or historical events in Earth's unseen and distant past." Never is a strong word. It's rarely correct, although it can be. However, would you agree that if something you require in your origins myth is contradictory to the foundational premise of that myth (naturalism), that thing should be excluded from your tale? I do. But I appreciate being consistent. Perhaps you don't. All scientific experiments have failed to produce life in a test tube. All of them. Every last one. In fact, the law of biogenesis stands in opposition to your myth, if you stand on naturalism. We've never observed a solar system be born nor have we seen a star form (although their formation would be trivial in this conversation from my perspective...even though it's essential for yours). We've never seen a singularity and have no idea if one could exist. We don't know if the universe is expanding (perhaps it is...maybe not...maybe something else). We don't know how old it is. Most ideas based on uniformitarianism are absolutely false and demonstrably so. But that's not important, right? As long as it upholds your origins myth and your naive belief that we actually have a clue about most of this stuff, you're okay with it.
Thanks for the comments. Keep them coming if you have more. Please be patient with me. I'm doing the best I can at getting back to you.

ashleyhr said...

I was simply making the point that science can rule out a literally global flood 4,500 years ago but young earth creationists claim otherwise because of their worldview. (Your second comment then addresses this; I've commented briefly below.)

"You failed terribly here". Keep telling yourself that. Maybe your religious faith depends on critics failing all the time. I am not trying to destroy your Christian faith. But bad science and bad ie skewed history deserves to be questioned. I never denied that some scientists of the past eg Faraday were essentially creationist Christians (and some might still have been today though one group of theistic evolutionists scientist Christians in the UK set up a group based in Cambridge which they named the Faraday Institute so perhaps they think he was motivated more by interpreting evidence than by making evidence fit Bible verses).

You only call the scientific consensus an 'origins myth' because of your religion. Thus you try to claim that the story in the holy book you adhere too must be 'real' science. Yet there is no compelling evidence for a literally global recent flood. That does not mean that everyone should or must reject the whole Bible or the Christian faith.