Is Science Becoming a New Faith?
‘Scientific theory’ is an established body of knowledge about a certain subject, supported by observable facts, repeatable experiments, and logical reasoning. This is in contrast to the word ‘theory’ that is used in general as a synonym for words like proposition, hypothesis, or even speculation.
People usually use the preceding phrase in order to assert the authenticity of the ‘scientific theories’ and to confirm that it is not liable for any debate or discussion, particularly when someone criticizes Darwin’s.
As we see, credit is given to the term ‘scientific theory’ because it is evidenced by what scientists observe by seeing, touching, smelling and measuring; but does this make it real? It is encouraged before attempting to answer this question to consider the following factors:
- The limits of our senses and brain.
- The limits of the equipment used by scientists to measure quantities that they observe. We have to ask ourselves what they are capable of measuring and to what precision, as this depends on the accuracy of the tools and devices scientists use.
- The complexity of nature; at the macro level, scientists only understand 4% of the universe. The micro level is also mysterious. For example, the uncertainty rule in quantum mechanics reveals that the position and the velocity of a particle cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time, even in theory. Not to mention that scientists only know 10% of the human DNA functions and 10% of our brain functions are explored.
- The continuous limited knowledge. One may think that the more we know, the more we get a better understanding of how the world is operating. However, philosophers and scientists throughout history had a different opinion, as quoted by Aristotle: “the more you know, the more you know that you don’t know.” And quoted by Einstein: “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”
- The limitations of science. Not everything around us can be tested. Concepts like freedom, justice, dignity, and beauty can’t be weighed or measured; and this may point to another unmeasurable realm inside the human mind that detects those issues and lie outside the boundary of science. Consequently, this may indicate the presence of other sources of knowledge that perhaps have even more credibility than science.
- Scientists are bound by the prevailing views until proved otherwise.
Taking the preceding factors into account, there is no theory that is 100% accurate; there is always a possibility that an established scientific theory, turns out to be challenged or refuted. Theories allow us to make current-best-evidence-guesses regarding the causes that shape the behavior of the universe. If and when the day comes where the discovered facts don’t match the theory, then the theory will be disproved and replaced by a better one. History has debunked the claim that the scientific theory is always true.
Debunking Well-established Theories throughout History
In the past, there were three scientific pieces of evidence that supported the idea that Earth was the center of the Universe, which is called the geocentric theory. First, from anywhere on Earth, the Sun appears to revolve around Earth once per day. Second, Earth seems to be unmoving from the perspective of an earthbound observer; it feels solid, stable, and fixed. Third, when you drop an object, it falls to the ground; it was falsely interpreted as being attracted to the center of the universe ‘Earth.’ Gravity was unknown to them. Yet the theory was gradually superseded by the heliocentric model. This is just an example of how scientific observations can lead to inaccurate theories. It also shows that these inaccurate theories were held and embraced for so long because scientists believed them to be true; so they took every possible observation they came across into account to support their theory.
There are disputes among scientists about critical issues, like Darwin’s evolution theory, the essence of our consciousness, near-death experience, parallel multiverses, the possibility of producing a living cell in the lab, etc. Let’s see if the trigger for those controversies is based on scientific facts or rather based on scientists’ different beliefs and views.
A) The Cause of our Consciousness
Almost any neurologist would say that the brain creates consciousness. However, when investigating the credibility of the Near- Death- Experience (NDE) in my production Beyond Life, it showed that the scientific claims regarding this area are not always objective. The claim was refuted when considering the blinds’ ability to see while having a flat line EEG after being separated from their bodies during their NDE. How can a blind patient see without a working brain and without functioning eyes?! Yet neurologists affirm that the brain is the producer of consciousness! Now I would ask neurologists to support their claim and explain the process of creating consciousness by the human brain. Stephen Stelzer, a professor of philosophy at the American University in Cairo, once commented on their claim, and expressed his denial by saying: “that is a circular situation; does it sound logical that the brain says that the human being is only a brain? The brain speaks about itself and says I am only a brain? I am consisting only of a brain?!”
Finally, I would like to quote from Francis Collins book The language of God, on page 125 “Humans are all 99.9% identical at the DNA level. This remarkably low genetic diversity distinguishes us from most other species on the planet, where the amount of DNA diversity is 10 or sometimes even 50 times greater than our own.” I was struck with awe when I read the preceding information. As I realize that animals look much more similar than humans. So to know that the differences in animals are more obvious than that in humans at the DNA level is an utter surprise, and this keeps me wondering what makes every person so unique if our genome is 99.9% identical!
B) How we came to be Human
Many biologists believe that we came to be human by evolution. Scientists who are atheists explain the extraordinary abilities and accomplishments of Homo sapiens as a result of the natural selection process, which is not in itself a creative process; however, it promotes or eliminates mutations according to what is favorable or unfavorable, depending on the environmental circumstances. These assumptions raise more questions than giving answers, like:
- What caused life in the first place? or in other words, how was the first living cell initiated?
- Why does natural selection work that way?
- Why, in a totally mechanical procedure that is focused only on environmental adaptations, did values, principles, love, freedom, and justice evolve?
- Why do we hold good values in great esteem?
- Why does beauty prevail in nature, and why have many beautiful creatures evolved?
- How did order come out of chaos?
- How did such an intelligent and immensely organized world come about without any purpose or reason? etc.
Because mere evolution (without a creator) raises many questions without answers as stated above, some scientists made a compromise; they embrace evolution and at the same time they chose to have faith in God. Some of them even believe in God’s messages despite the contradiction of the theory of evolution with the literal meaning of the verses of the holy texts.
Evolution of the Gaps
Francis Collins, the leader of the genome project, is one of the scientists who advocate the view of embracing evolution and at the same time believing in God and His message. This is shown in his book The Language of God; in a chapter titled BioLogos, when science and Faith are in Harmony.
The author also explained the Cambrian Explosion by stating on page 94, “Singled celled organisms appeared in sediments that are older than 550 million years. Suddenly 550 million years ago a great number of diverse invertebrate body plans appear in the fossil record (This is often referred to as the Cambrian explosion).”
Then the author supported evolution by trying to find an explanation stating on page 94-95 “the so-called Cambrian explosion might, for example, reflect a change in conditions that allowed fossilization of a large number of species that had actually been in existence for millions of years.”
And he warns theists from using the Cambrian explosion to support their claims, as this will be another “God of the gaps” argument. However, I consider the explanation he offered as an “evolution of the gaps” argument. It is not based on solid facts or evidence but rather on a mere assumption to support the evolution theory.
In another chapter, the author finds compelling pieces of evidence for evolution, which are:
- Finding a precisely truncated (not functioning) ancient repetitive elements (ARE) in the same place in both human and mouse genomes (p. 135)
- When comparing DNA sequences of related species, silent differences, which do nothing significant, are much common in the coding regions than those that alter an amino acid.
- The humans and Chimps have a gene known as caspase-12. This gene in humans has constant several knockout setbacks, however, the chimp caspase-12 gene works fine.
The author then asks, why would God have gone to the trouble of inserting such a nonfunctional gene in the precise location?
I appreciate the author’s insights; however, knowing that only about 1 percent of the human genome encodes proteins, and researchers have long debated what the other 99 percent is good for, shows that we are still exploring the field. Thus it is better to wait, rather than use “evolution of the gaps” argument for inferring conclusions from facts and pieces of evidence that are liable to change over time. For example, Casey Luskin in 2011, rebutting to Collin’s has cited research which suggested this purported “pseudogene” known as caspase-12 is functional in many humans. Also, it has been revealed afterward that some of the junk genes that were believed to be nonfunctioning do have a purpose.
From the preceding information, one can deduce that scientists are subjective by nature; they are bound by their views. This is natural, for they are human. This is obvious when contemplating Einstein words “God cannot play dice.” Eric Adelberger, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Washington University, has commented on Einstein’s phrase by saying: “Einstein was troubled by the fact that there was inherent randomness in quantum mechanics. And he did not like this. He believed that everything had to be determined and the only reason that these things seem random to us that there is a little stuff inside that we can’t see that is actually determining these things. However, this is not the way we view quantum mechanics today. We found randomness is absolutely inheriting in nature, but Einstein doesn’t want to accept this, and he was wrong.”
Einstein had a passion to prove something that he couldn’t prove; and if he had found enough evidence that is likely to support his claim, he would have introduced it. This doesn’t make him wrong as stated by Dr. Adelberger; it only shows that he has a view that he couldn’t support; but who knows, perhaps in the future, it will be supported; for evidence and theories are liable to change by emerging new pieces of evidence over time.
The subjectivity of scientists is also clear when contemplating conclusions of the most notably Francis Crick (who is mostly known for being a co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953 with Rosalind Franklin and James Watson). He wanted to solve the dilemma of life’s appearance on earth, and because he was an atheist, he concluded that life forms must have arrived on Earth from outer space, either carried by small particles floating through interstellar space and captured by earth gravity, or even brought here intentionally or accidentally by some ancient space traveler! As we see, his conclusion hasn’t solved the ultimate question of life’s origin, since it simply forces that astounding event to another time and place even further back as quoted by Francis Collins.
We also see other scientists, who are atheists, trying to solve the mystery of life appearance on earth and a fine-tuned universe that supported this life to continue without the presence of God, by proposing a parallel multiverses theory.
Science is a Creed
In the past, Galileo’s findings were viewed as contradicting with some verses in the Bible, and that is why he was persecuted. Many believe that history repeats itself; as theologians today refuse to embrace the evolution theory because they think that it contradicts with the holy text. I agree that history repeats itself, but in a different way. People who persecute others are those who are in power. The church lost its control and power long ago, and now the power is in the hands of the seculars.
Let me share with you a story that happened to me personally. Years ago, I was trying to convince a young physicist and a believer in the US to accept my interview during my “beyond life” film production. I told him that my purpose is to focus on the relation between science and the belief in God (if any). He sent an apology email explaining that he is a Ph.D. student and it may cause him trouble if his professors know that he believes in God!
Although it went through lots of changes over time, science is becoming a creed to many today. This is obvious in believers’ attempts to propose allegories to change the meaning of the holy texts to match those found in theories of science. It is also shown when you argue with people who believe in evolution. In Quora site for example, in response to the following question: “Has Darwin's theory of evolution been completely refuted? If so, why?” some answers came as follows:
- “Even a Chimp if able to speak and write will not ask this question”
- “Evolution opposers are not busily conducting experiments. Therefore, they are not refuting nor exposing anything. They're intellectual parasites creating emotional mirages, trying to give the same feeling of fulfillment to reading off a list of rules as you get from actually building a model and exploring it.”
- “The motive behind these questions is highly suspicious!”
I am not discussing the credibility of the theory, I am just trying to figure out why when questioning a so-called a scientific theory, you find all these anger and biases surface many answers unless science has become a creed of today.
We are humans, thus we are subjective creatures; our subjectivity may vary, but is present. So I urge people to bear this fact in mind when evaluating any information, even if it is scientific, and to differentiate between facts and opinions around these facts. Consequently, I ask people to evaluate my own words as well, for I am a human being and I speak from my own perspective.