Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Problem with Science

As science came into the picture and was championed as a "rational" discipline, it separated itself from its Christian roots and took upon its shoulders the authority to thereby declare what is rational and what is irrational, further pushing faith away from what science names as "fact."

The trouble is that science itself is often irrational, ignoring, or at least dismissing, its own inconsistencies, covering them under a voice of assurance when there is no such possibility by its own methods. For proof of this, we need look no further than the headlines, which tell us one week how good, say, chocolate is for all of us only to tell us a few weeks later that it will kill us. Or that exercise is good, but a few weeks later, only certain types of exercise are good. And a few weeks later still, an entirely different type of exercise. Well...which is it? 

Science has left the realm of rational inquiry long ago and rather established itself as a philosophy, telling us that we should live by its precepts. The problem doesn't really have any. Science is a discipline that was meant to observe, not to explain, and the moment that it stepped into the realm of offering explanations, it overstepped its bounds and showed its weaknesses. 

One of the challenges of science, particularly as opposed to Christianity, is that it has no history in which to ground itself. It must create its own history by working backward, an impossibility in a life that is lived only in the present. Thus, all science is purely subjective (I know that scientists will object to my saying that, but it's true); it can only be conducted under a present understanding, even in cases where it is a present understanding of theoretical conditions.

Take one of the more contentious points of conflict between science and faith: the age of the world in which we live. Fairly routinely, reports will break that scientists have uncovered such-and-such a thing that is estimated to be 14 billion years old. How did they get to 14 billion? 

The date is usually attributed to a process called carbon dating, which uses the way that carbon changes over time to estimate how long it took the carbon in said object to become the form in which it is. However, we've only been experimenting with carbon for a few hundred years scientifically, which means that we only know how carbon changes over a few hundred years in conditions that we have also recorded and can know. 

But no one knows for sure what the conditions were a thousand years ago or five thousand years ago. In fact, science itself will say that conditions were vastly different that many years ago, though they can only speculate exactly how. Therefore, it's impossible to know how carbon acted and reacted in those times; we can only guess based on what we know of current conditions. That's not reliable. We know that the earth is relatively stable, but it is no way static. 

We even know, or at least, we claim to know based on records of rock strata, that the earth has previously gone through a number of warmer and colder cycles. We talk about global warming today, but science itself confesses there have been periods of global warming prior to today. They say that today's warming is happening more quickly than previous periods, but how can we possibly know? The conditions of the environment were necessarily different back then and no one knows how quickly or slowly the warming or cooling truly happened. We can only guess based on what we know about warming and cooling in our present environment. 

And then science will tell you that all of the land masses on earth have been shifting since their very beginnings, drifting apart from one massive land mass to the now-seven continents that we know so well. But when they find something in, say, Greenland, and declare it to be billions upon billions of years old, they most often have not taken into account the changing environment that they themselves say Greenland must have gone through as it drifted from somewhere more near the equator to its present location. They might occasionally say that they found an artifact that proves that Greenland was closer to the equator than its present location, but when dating that item, they cannot take into account how the migration of the land mass changed the item's aging process. Certainly, something that is moving through a myriad of temperature zones will be impacted by that changing environment. Science itself says it would, although it doesn't know how, so it can't account for it.

That is, hands-down, the biggest challenge of science, particularly as a philosophy: it cannot account for what it cannot account for, which are often its own conclusions and confessions. It tells us something, but it cannot show it. It cannot live by its own presuppositions. It is, at its core, inconsistent, and it cannot be otherwise because it cannot know what it cannot know; it can only guess. Scientists wouldn't confess it, but there's a lot of guesswork in scientific exploration based on "best practices" and "agreed-upon theory." 

In other words, science as a philosophy takes a lot of faith.

And listen, none of this is about truth claims. None of this is about whether what science or religion says is true or false. That's a question for another day. This is a question of consistency, and science simply cannot be consistent with its own fundamental assumptions. It doesn't have a framework for it because it doesn't have a history that stretches that long. 

That's where faith offers something different. That's where the Christian story excels. The Christian story has a complete framework for understanding our foundations because that's where it starts - in the beginning. It tells us how things really were, keeps record for us of what really happened, helps us track through what we can know and tells us that it is, in fact, knowable. Because God Himself is knowable, and rational, to boot! We can know our world because He made it, and though we may always have questions, they have real answers. 

Now, I forget - should we be eating carbs this week or not?

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