Limitations of Science and Scientists

People are enamored with modern science for its ability to provide mechanistic explanations. The idea is that scientists do the responsible thing and actually uncover how, scientifically, things occur rather than invoking some supernatural explanation...

Science is the pride of the modern era—often perceived as a veritable savior of humanity, but is it worthy of all the trust it is given? In this article, I would like to shed light on two fundamental limitations of science that are easily overlooked:

1. Science as an activity is contingent on the existence of physical constants in nature. 2. At the hands of biased, fallible scientists, scientific research becomes anything but impartial, objective, and transparent.

Consider what science is: a systematic study of the natural world that generates predictive and innovative power from a single source: observed constants and precedents within nature. If these constants and precedents were suspended and our universe were wholly arbitrary and random, science would cease to exist. To understand the weight of this limitation, one needs to consider that the observed constants themselves beg for an explanation that the scientific method of course cannot deliver. The scientific method works with these constants; it has no meaning or function apart from them, so if there is one thing that scientific investigation clearly cannot reveal, it is the forces behind these constants.

Whether personal or impersonal forces are responsible, scientists are not capable of transcending their natural jurisdiction to afford us a glimpse. As a Christian, I attest to the authority of the Bible on this point, but let’s dissect the possibilities logically: If personal forces are responsible, scientists are not capable of tracing the material evidence of our universe to a non-material source—such as a divine being. And if impersonal forces are responsible, it would be equally impossible for scientists to demonstrate the self-existence and eternality of such forces (and thus rule out personal forces). Thus, scientists are not and will never be capable of placing us in touch with this most fundamental truth about our world.

This means it is ultimately up to each individual to make the call. Importantly, the simple act of living requires that a person make this call. Before forming any moral, political, or social values, a person must first decide why he is here and, in light of that explanation, how he should live. This means that all scientists are guaranteed to be working from an unspoken, non-scientific premise with each and every hypothesis they may venture. They will be viewing all evidence through the lens of either theism or a- theism (in the Latin sense), which brings us to the second point above.

At the hands of biased, fallible scientists, scientific research becomes anything

but impartial, objective, and transparent. The scientific method can be a valuable method for obtaining knowledge of the world around us, but I would ask the reader to consider the influence of even just the one belief that every scientist will approach the evidence with: theism or a-theism— “God did it” or “impersonal forces + time did it.” Consider the impact of this most basic belief when viewing the evidence of our world. Theistic scientists will see intention and design; atheists will see something that simply works due to nature filtering out non-working components. Theists will see creative genius, wisdom, and corruption; atheists will draw out no deeper meaning but will only seek to analyze, systematize, and experiment.

There is certainly a degree of overlap in each belief system, things that both sides would agree are accurate or valuable, but consider how the basic belief at the heart of each will pull most of the elements of one’s belief system in different directions. In the realms of medicine, biology, paleontology, and psychology, for example, the theist often stands in marked opposition to the atheist. I ask the reader to consider why this is, particularly in light of the fact that a simple belief in a transcendent God would not in itself alter and disrupt a person’s cognitive abilities to the degree that he must then find himself at odds with “established” science and plain reason at so many turns.

Perhaps it may be, as I believe it is, that one side—the atheistic side—is simply drawing more converts at present and its growing popularity is viewed as an indicator of progress when—in fact—the reasons have little to do with science and more to do with the two illusions addressed in this article: the illusion that scientists either have—or soon will—solve life’s greatest mystery, which they cannot; and the illusion that the scientific method is so superior a method for obtaining knowledge that any significant flaws will soon surface, which—in the hands of biased scientists—it is likely that they would not. Atheism must be stripped of these illusions before the scientific interpretations set forth by theists and atheists are given a more equal footing, making it possible to gauge the objective strength of each. The blinders must come off of atheists before they will be able to see the true ease with which data can be manipulated, ignored, and distorted, particularly by those who place undue faith in science—stretching it far beyond its natural bounds—beyond the bounds of the natural world and the constants and precedents upon which its practice is contingent.

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© 2020 by S.P. Clifton