The Body of Scientific Knowledge Is Not Complete


I Love Science (it’s a fact!)

Because I know what I am about to say will be taken out of context any number of ways, let me start by saying:  Science is wonderful! Science is fantastic!  I love science!

I will stop short of the popular meme: “I <expletive> Love Science!” smugly worn as a badge of intellectual honor on the likes of Facebook.

What is science? I Googled around a bit and while there were any number of sources I could have used, I quite liked the explanation on NASA’s website, some of which appears at the top of this post.

I acknowledge that I am forever indebted to science for the vaccines which have spared me from horrendous illness, for the clean drinking water that flows from taps because of the existence of water treatment facilities and for a million other marvels. Every day, all day, I am surrounded by the fruits of science and they make all our lives better. Hopefully I do not need write a “War and Peace” length treatise to demonstrate that I really do get “science” and that “it is good”.

As much as I appreciate science, I am also aware of its limitations. Referring back to our definition we’ll find the words “observing and recording”.  Based on this we must concede that “observing and recording” requires an intellect, which can only mean a human is involved. Though we may be at the top of the totem-pole among all the creatures of the earth, human beings are still fallible and that includes scientists.

Ruh-Roh! Trouble In Paradise

To illustrate that scientists and their work are indeed fallible, take a look at this list of what were once accepted scientific theories but later superseded by better science. This does not even include the thousands of proclamations that never rise to the level of “accepted theory” but that you’ve no doubt heard or read about. You may have even adjusted your life because of them only to be told later “Oops! Sorry guys….”   Example:

Wait! Now they’re saying drinking two cups of coffee a day is bad for you? Two years ago it was bad for you too, but last year they reversed that and said it was good for you. Now they’ve changed their mind again!?”

Because humans are fallible, scientists are a smart enough lot to leverage that old adage “two heads are better than one” or “there’s strength in numbers” and thus a couple of centuries ago the “peer review” was born. The crib-notes version of it goes like this:   

Hey guys, I’ve had this thought for a while now….  I then formulated a hypothesis and I’ve conducted some experiments. The results seem to support my hypothesis. Here’s my hypothesis and the data. Since you’re all scientists in the same field of study as me…what do you think?

No doubt this improved things, but not everything…. as several of the disproved theories on the list referenced above were accepted as scientific theories since the age of peer review.

Today’s Theory is in Tomorrow’s Trash Heap

You would think as time marches on, scientific rigor would always be on the increase and that the vast majority of those things finally declared to be scientific theory would stand the test of time, but…you would be wrong about that.

In 2013, the U.K’s “The Guardian” ran a piece entitled Not breaking news: many scientific studies are ultimately proved wrong! 

The subtitle of the piece was “Most theories are eventually consigned to the rubbish heap, but this is scientific business as usual”

The article’s author was Dr. Sylvia McLain. She runs a biophysics lab at a school named Oxford. You may have heard of it. In the piece, Dr. McLain asserts:

That most scientific studies are ultimately wrong is normal for science. There are more theories in the graveyard of science than theories that stand the test of time. Why? Because new data is always emerging and theories have to be adjusted. Theories are only as good as theories are, until new data comes along and ruins them.

This leads to my main point. Science is not static, it is not final and it certainly is not ever “settled”. By its very nature science can never be irrevocably settled.

Science has not yet revealed all of reality

Even among the scientific theories that have stood the test of time, a mere glance at the timeline of scientific discoveries demonstrates very clearly that every scientific discovery is nothing more than marking the beginning of mankind’s awareness of that which was already there.  I don’t mean to dismiss the substantial education, training and intellect required to make these discoveries, but it doesn’t change the fact that what was discovered was already there.

With the understanding then, that science is simply the gradual awareness of what already exists, can’t we say that there are most likely all sorts of realities that surround us that science simply hasn’t “revealed” to us yet?

The Really Big Stuff

All of this then brings us to the question of God, of creation vs. evolution…and all that stuff, that really BIG stuff.

I did not write this post to prove to you that there is a God, or that mankind was divinely created. I cannot prove that and I admit it.

I took this time to demonstrate that not only are you misinformed, but embarrassingly so. You chant “science!” with righteous smugness, with the assuredness of one who holds but a single card, convinced it is the trump card. All the while, you don’t even understand the limitations of your argument. Don’t take it out on me when you realize the card you hold is the joker.

Science cannot, and will not ever be able to prove that God does not exist. It can only show that he has not been proven to exist,  yet.  This is not because of the greatness of God, though He is great, it is because of the limitations of science. Saying that “science has limitations” doesn’t make me a hater, a denier or a religious zealot; it means that I am aware of how scientific theories rise and then collapse when faced with new information. Similarly, I am aware that scientific discovery is merely mankind’s newfound awareness of what was already there. It is the essence and nature of science itself.  Hopefully this has been made abundantly clear by now.

With this background in place, I was about to start on the whole Darwin’s Theory thing, but it’s taken two hours just to get this far, so I’m going to leave that until the next post.  Peace, out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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