I’m afraid I may have just triggered someone.
First, let me explain. I watched over the weekend as the March for Science took place in Washington D.C. (Earth Day – April 22, 2017). The organizers had made it clear they didn’t want their event to become a partisan political forum:
We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest. (https://www.marchforscience.com/mission/)
Unfortunately, it was nothing if not politically partisan (signs used in March for Science). And with all the music (Thomas Dolby singing “She Blinded Me With Science”, a favorite of mine) and passionate preaching that occurred, the result was something I’d rarely expected from the scientific community: a worship service.
The gathered congregation were giving praise and pledging unbending devotion to that which they worship. The object of their worship is science, and the faithful screamed with religious fervor in their outdoor revival.
A popular sign seen repeatedly at the march read, “The good news about science is it’s true, whether you believe in it or not”. They equate scientific conclusions with concrete facts.
But this conveniently ignores the fact that data must first be interpreted by humans, all of whom have certain biases and opinions, not to mention the possibility of “human error”. But the true believers are expected to believe no scientist would ever sway findings toward his own preconceived convictions.
If I trusted any pastor that blindly, I can only imagine the chorus of “yeah, right”s I’d get from my atheist friends. Yet if the object of trust is a group of scientists, we’re all expected to line up and drink the kool-aid happily.
But surely any fears regarding the scientific community would be unfounded. These unbiased scholars would surely never attempt to silence debate on the issue by quickly deeming it “settled science”, and then brand anyone a nut who dares disagree. Right?
That’s exactly what happened to Dr. Richard Sternberg.
THE POWER OF OUTRAGE
Sternberg, a research associate at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, holds two Ph.D.s in biology and was managing editor of a journal published at the museum. He made the huge mistake of publishing an article by Dr. Stephen Meyer, who holds a doctorate from Cambridge University. The article supported intelligent design theory: the idea that a higher being is the best explanation for the existence of life on earth.
As a result of Sternberg giving credibility to the research by publishing it, he was forced to give over the keys to his office, depriving him of access to the specimen collections his work demands. Sternberg claims he’s now treated as a pariah by his peers, and previous colleagues refuse to work with him on publication projects (the article exposing this, originally published in the Wall Street Journal, can be accessed here without a subscription: https://forums.t-nation.com/t/the-branding-of-a-heretic/43883)
The message was clear: don’t dare to step out of the accepted “group-think” parameters. If you do, your findings will be met with outrage, and you will be punished and humiliated for not conforming.
So much for science as an unbiased pursuit, following wherever the data leads…
Ironically, this brings to mind the struggle of Galileo. His belief that the sun was the center of the then-known world was indeed met with religious indignation. That’s because religious leaders jumped to a conclusion the earth was the center of the universe, a conclusion that the Bible never states. But we forget that there was also a cry of outrage from his peers, despite his evidence.
The tactics remain the same today: just scream loud and long enough, and someone will believe a crime has been committed. In this case, a “thought crime”.
SCIENCE NOW HAS A POPE
The “Church of Science” movement has chosen a dubious leader and poster child, popular television personality Bill Nye. Notice how I didn’t call him “scientist Bill Nye”. That’s because he actually isn’t a scientist at all – he only plays one on TV. Seriously.
But on TV image is everything, so if you act smart and people will presume you are smart. That’s just what Nye does on countless tv appearances I’ve viewed. He sneers, he rolls his eyes, and he ridicules anyone who’d dare question his cherished beliefs.
For his “religion”, he’s the closed-minded pope demanding the persecution of the heretics challenging his religion and refusing to bow to his god. He demands a locked-stepped orthodoxy and compliance with a zeal the original Spanish Inquisitors would have envied.
NOT A BINARY CHOICE
Back to my triggering episode…
To follow up on the March for Science, I posted what I thought was a rather innocuous statement on Facebook:
“…this ‘sure thing’ of science is not an ‘exact science’, but a growing, evolving thing. That’s why I respect science, but never let it dictate to me about things like God and faith. Science is a terrific tool for good, but an inconsistent god.”
Indeed, I believe science is at it’s best when it humbly revises previous conclusions upon discovering new data. I gave the example of how, when I was a teenager in the 1970s, we were warned of “global cooling” and a new ice age approaching. Then later, we were in turn warned about “global warming”, with the opposite of an Ice Age threatening us.
Interestingly enough, I never stated a position on global warming, and never said it was false. The reason being…I truly don’t know that it’s false. Unlike Bill Nye, I don’t pretend to be a scientist. So I leave debate on that topic to the scientists. And politicians.
But the mere fact I had brought up the inconsistency was blasphemous to my Facebook friends. I was then sent to stand in the corner figuratively, as one friend proceeded to explain the scientific method to me as if I were a toddler.
Religious people are all uneducated rubes, right? I guess he missed the fact I have an accredited Masters degree, and might just have taken a couple of science classes somewhere in that process.
The saddest part of this is that science worshippers have set up a false dichotomy. With them, you can either trust science or religion, but never both. But I believe the two are not at odds in the least, since God is the Creator of all that is truly scientific.
The issue is non binary. The solution is not either/or, it is both/and. But my science friends cannot allow anything else to be revered but their own god. Because they are the sole possessors of “the facts”. Which means before you ever make your argument, they win. End of story.
I’m sadly used to the condescending response I received from my friend. Part of the attraction to this movement is getting to play “the smartest kid in the class”. They believe if you don’t agree with them, you’re either uneducated or perhaps have had some form of brain trauma.
In my case, neither is true…though the jury’s still out on whether I actually possess a brain. I’m pleading the fifth.
JUST THE FACTS, BILL
Here’s the dirty little secret people try to yell over when I verbalize it: science is not just about “the facts”.
It is a much more nuanced issue than that. What we commonly call “science” is most often the interpretation of collected data by a human being. Sure, “peer review” is put in place in hopes of assuring a valid consensus is agreed upon by people who’d blow a whistle if something didn’t make sense.
But in the scenario of Drs Sternberg and Meyers above, the status quo was angered that an article promoting intelligent design was even allowed to be considered. Their peers had completely closed their minds to any possibility of the existence of God as our Creator. When anyone suggested otherwise, they were professionally tarred and feathered.
I wonder how many scientists and researchers will ever make the same mistake again Dr. Sternberg made, of simply allowing discussion of the issue? How dare he be so open-minded!
The thing I find most irritating about all this is that I believe science is wonderful…when it is not worshipped as a god. I’m truly thankful for how it has cured disease and increased our comforts through technology. But if divorced from people of faith, science is in danger of reminding us of the premise for Mary Shelley’s most famous novel.
SCIENCE ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH
Without ethics and morals, science can lead us into areas that bring great destruction. All the recent warnings by Stephen Hawking regarding Artificial Intelligence’s potential to obliterate humanity sound like the Frankenstein story come to life. And technology’s ability to intrude into our privacy proves our heads have run far ahead of our ethical hearts.
And how unscientific are we to sneer at the possibility of anything which cannot be yet proven? Before Anton van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) invented the first real microscope for scientific usage, how fanciful did the idea of germs causing disease appear to his contemporary scientific peers?
You’re telling me that there are tiny little creatures in the air we can’t see causing us to get sick? What an imagination! Only what can be proven (at this time) is real. Anything else is just a fairy tale!
I remember in college a professor who liked to point out all the Biblical events and places which had no archaeological proof of their existence. He would repeatedly bring them up in our class, daring us to be foolish enough to say we believed in them nonetheless.
What has been interesting through the years is the number of those places and events which have now been proven correct. Oftentimes, it was merely a matter of archaeologists digging in a slightly different area, and a city they’d said absolutely didn’t exist was now uncovered. An inscription is discovered giving testimony to a Biblical event that up to this point was looked upon skeptically. Now those places and events are considered not just Biblical stories, but also secular history.
I’ve often wondered, what if I had listened to my professor? What if I had taken the word of the scientific findings of that day and abandoned my faith completely as unreliable?
God forbid, what if I died before I ever found out they were wrong, and went out into eternity forever separated from God? All based on incomplete information, taken as “settled science”.
I believe eventually science may catch up to God’s Truth, just as those archaeologists eventually caught up to the truth of those Biblical places and events. But I’m certainly not betting my eternity on the ephemeral wisdom of humans, who often cloud the facts with their own personal and political agendas.
Blaise Pascal was a seventeenth century philosopher, mathmatician, and physicist. When debating faith in God, he made an interesting observation now known as Pascal’s Wager. He proposed, “If I bet on the idea God is real, but it turns out I am wrong, I’ve lost nothing. If I’m right, I’ve gained everything and Heaven too. But if you bet He’s not real and you’re wrong, you’ve lost everything and eternity too!”
I’m afraid it’s often their own agendas, and not science, that blinds some scientists to the evidence. You can’t come to a sound conclusion when your specimen is contaminated. And the specimen most tainted of all when dealing with God is the human heart.
And if you’re incredibly offended by this article, ask yourself why? Could it be that you have made a religion of science, and constructed a god of your own intellect?
IT ALL COMES DOWN TO FAITH
In the end, even those who follow science have to use faith. They choose to believe that peer review is never, ever tainted by group-think. That scientists are never influence by their political beliefs, or ever choose to ignore conflicting data…even though it’s occurrences are undeniable.
Just as I trust the right books were chosen to go in the Bible, they believe the “right science” is chosen as “settled science”. They can’t prove God doesn’t exist, just as I can’t prove He does.
It all comes down to what we choose to put our trust in. But that is a reality most scientists can’t seem to face.
Finally, if you’re offended by what I’ve written here, if you feel your blood pressure rising, ask yourself why. Could it be that I have indeed offended your true religion, your god? A lot of what I’m seeing looks more like religious fanaticism than scientific realism.
But I am sorry if this article has offended you. Everyone gets a little ticked when what they worship is attacked. I can sympathize with you…believe me, every Christian knows what it feels like to have their cherished beliefs attacked.
At least Christians and science worshippers now have one thing in common ;0)