It’s curious how people who claim to have faith in science criticize Christians for believing in God based on faith. Yet, what science has to offer has become a belief system, itself (e.g. religion.) And this “religion” fails to offer any sound, unchanging, and omnipotent foundation. While science is supposed to be based upon logic, it is, paradoxically, illogical and irrational in many ways. The most prominent point is that we can never know absolutely everything about everything, no matter how much research is done.
“Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ ” John 20:24-25
“Then he [Jesus] said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:27-29.
One way for a scientific-minded person to start understanding faith is to understand the logic of St. Thomas Aquinas Five Ways to Demonstrate the Existence of God. For many, this understanding might be a bridge between the proof they expect from science and the faith they consider foolish. Simply grasping these concepts of Who and What God actually is can change one’s understanding of where Christians are placing their faith.
What Makes Faith in Science a Fallacy?
Several things make having faith in science, as a belief system, questionable. When you understand the Five Ways, the following points will make more sense. Even without that understanding, science is a man-made concept, and scientific study is replete with flaws.
- Science is the STUDY of and description of creation, thus creation is the cause for scientific study. Without recognizing the Creator of all things that science studies, it has no reference, scope or scale upon which to base its measures.
- Science did not create anything that it studies. It is not omnipotent. Science is simply a way to describe what already exists.
- Scientific knowledge is based on theories, often developed from empirical knowledge (observation.) Faith in God, too, is often based upon empirical observation (as with St. Thomas.) Yet, many who claim to have faith in science scoff even at this basis for faith in God. That’s hypocritical, inconsistent, and illogical, making it unscientific.
- Since science does not hold all the answers or the answers found are rarely the final and complete truth, then believers in science are actually believing on faith, alone. This is the very thing that they criticize about Christians. Believers in science insist upon facts and proof. But in this instance their beliefs conflict, because these outcomes are just a small portion of what can be known by research. It’s not possible for researchers to reveal all possible facts about all of creation.
- Those who develop scientific theories to use in research studies often have an have an agenda beyond simply proving or disproving their theories. While many are looking for cures or ways to help humanity, others want to prove their own foregone conclusions. Formal, grant-funded research, may offer a variety of personal benefits to the researcher or his funders. The approach referred to as the “scientific method” can be biased in its choice of study methods, variables, or any number of pertinent considerations. This is evidenced by some of the scathing peer reviews that criticize the methods used. The following examples need to be considered, especially in light of two human weaknesses: “what’s in it for them” and “follow the money.”
- Researchers make their livings doing research. If they don’t have a fundable research project to complete, they are out of work. Because corruption appears in every corner of life, it doesn’t seem too much a stretch to think that many researchers concoct studies with an agenda in mind or simply to justify their continued employment? Because we don’t know who they are, we have no idea which studies are valid and which are biased (or even faked).
- Many studies are developed based upon a disagreement with something in another study. This can be valuable in dispelling false truths claimed in the original research. On the other hand, it is an easy way to stay employed or promote one’s own theory, gain funding, gain peer respect, a rise in status, or get promoted to a higher paying, or promote to a more prestigious position.
- If a researcher wants to succeed in getting future funding, he has to publish his results. These results are not simply accepted by the professional journals on submission the way non-technical writers might be by a general audience publication. The researcher has to pay to have their research published and/or peer-reviewed. Granted, the time spent by a qualified peer to review a study is valuable. But paying them could influence their judgment and become a conflict of interest. If the payment goes to the publication, that too is a conflict of interest. A recent article talks about how a phony research paper was submitted to several journals. It was rejected by most, sent back for a rewrite by one, and published by several journals that the terms “Predatory Journals” (read here.)
- Science exists because of scientific research. Research can only reveal whatever bits of information it has uncovered, so far. And what it reveals is limited to the variables studied and under the methods used to conduct the study. If there is a flaw in choosing any one of those many options, including one too many, or excluding a significant one, then the results are flawed, and not reliable information at all.
- Science has been used and manipulated for political and commercial reasons. How does one determine between manipulated facts or pure, accurate, un-manipulated facts? To have faith in the conclusions drawn from research facts means trusting whoever drew the conclusions. Advertising is replete with carefully selected facts, taken from research, that “prove” the benefit of a given product. Unless one checks the research, there’s no way to know what facts were left out or spun to the advertiser’s favor. Research outcomes are especially used in politics, often through polls. “Figures lie and liars figure.” This old adage proves true, especially when two opposing sides manipulate the same research information to prove opposing points. Consider the ongoing debates about climate change, with both sides using research to prove its point. Which side is right and which is wrong? Does the risk of being blackballed from the scientific community play a role?
- Scientific research is seeking knowledge unknown, partially known, or questionable conclusions from previous studies. Science offers nothing to believe in that would replace God if it doesn’t already know the answers. By its own nature, science is a work in progress, not a finite repository of truth. Science can only reveal facts that are already in existence. Unfortunately, science does not necessarily find all of the information, completely accurate information, or reveal enough information to warrant faith in science. By its nature, research discredits itself. Most research studies are challenged by subsequent studies that often disprove earlier conclusions. Even the facts revealed by Newton, Copernicus, or Galileo are only revealing facts that already existed prior to a man studying them. Since their discoveries, science has added to their original discoveries. In other words, our discovery of truth does not reduce God to the concept of science. Examples of scientific research contradicting itself:
- Margarine vs butter, or a number of eggs safe to eat per week. Both of these topics have undergone research multiple times over the last 70 years. Outcomes differ with each study. Which should we believe? The latest one or one of the others? How can we know which, if any, have correct conclusions?
- Medicines become outdated as new ones are developed by pharmaceutical companies, and often just to generate more money, not because it’s a better drug, (e.g. Claritin vs. Claritin D.)
- Weather forecasters are scientists. They are rarely accurate. They cannot foresee every variable that influences weather. Temp reports by different sources are often different. If this were a perfect science, they would never differ even by 1°. So is it a science at all, or just a best-guess study?
Examples of Dangerous “Faith in Science” Practices
My personal experience as a registered respiratory therapist gave me several opportunities to participate in scientific research projects. I worked a total of six years in two research hospitals, and a few more in affiliate research hospitals (outside researchers were allowed to do research involving patients in those hospitals.) When I entered the profession in 1971 we delivered one primary therapy to the majority of our patients. It was called Intermittent Positive Pressure Breathing, or IPPB. We were assured, by previous research outcomes, that this was safe therapy, functional in producing good therapeutic results, and had no negative effects on our patients. Within a few years, researchers were showing that that specific therapy had a negative effect on vital organs (heart and lungs, among others) that could cause permanent damage, or worse, death.
Over the years the suggested replacement therapies also underwent similar scrutiny, which led to frequent modifications and improvements. While scientific research is our best option for finding ways to improve therapies and discontinue dangerous and ineffective ones, the act of doing so discredits all previous and contradicting research outcomes by exposing them as less beneficial or dangerous. This, again, indicates that science doesn’t hold all the answers as the true God and Creator would.
Today’s state-of-the-art medical care will be obsolete, and possibly “proven” dangerous with the next research conclusion. Even the established “Standards of Care” are flawed being a one-size-fits-all prescription, that may not be right for everyone. Consider how many well-researched medications and prostheses are the objects of lawsuits.
Despite the many truths science has uncovered, and the many ways we benefit from scientific knowledge, this hardly supports an argument for science being the ultimate point of reference for decision-making, worship, or even loyalty. Although research outcomes may be the best knowledge we have at any given time, there is no assurance that they are truthful or accurate. Faith in science has proven unworthy of such devotion, repeatedly.
Faith in science is a rather new politically correct concept that, like any heresy, is devised by man to flatter man. We simply can’t justify elevating anything that is imperfect to be revered as perfect, no matter how much good it provides. It’s well worth the effort to see scientific research for what it is and what its limitations are. It is a tool, and nothing more.
It’s well worth rethinking whether one can justify faith in science as one would the one true God. When the science gods truth changes based on how much of it man thinks he knows, doesn’t that seem a bit too unreliable? “Scientific fact” can change with the next round of research. And it does.