2011 Blog Archive

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Faith Moment
July 11, 2007
Dinosaurs and Digital Phones

Modern science generally operates in two broad categories: operational science and ongoing science.  The first concerns our present observations and technological progress. Computers, space shuttles, satellites, and mobile phones all fall into the category of operational science.  However, ongoing science, which hypothesizes about the past, is very different and cannot be regarded in the same way as operational science.

We do not blast people into space based on a doubtful hypothesis that the rockets will work properly; rather, the technology is first rigorously tested and proven (operational science).  But how the universe began, and how people came to be on Planet Earth is not testable in the same way (ongoing science).

Much of the confusion with regard to "science" lies in confusing these two areas of investigation and giving them the same weight.  The fact that your cell phone, email, and iPad work brilliantly does not mean that when the BBC screens "Walking with Dinosaurs" and talks as though the earth is billions of years old, or that life spontaneously evolved from a primordial soup, we should assume that these assertions must be equally reliable!

In fact, the evidence for these claims is often weak and unclear.

All of our science proceeds from assumptions that seem plausible to us. Ongoing science, therefore, has nothing absolute about it.  The late philosopher Karl Popper has illustrated it well for us:

"The bold structure of its theories rises, as it were, above a swamp.  It is like a building erected on piles. The piles are driven down from above, into the swamp, but not down to any natural or given base; and when we cease our attempts to drive our piles into deeper layers, it is not because we have reached firm ground.  We simply stop when we are satisfied that they are firm enough to carry the structure, at least for the time being."

Every theory in science requires basic assumptions that cannot be proved, and all investigation proceeds from these assumptions. Thus we do not have to reject science in order to have beliefs.  In fact, we must all believe certain things before we can speak of science: for example, the belief that the universe can be rationally understood and that our minds are giving us reliable knowledge.
Never be ashamed of your belief in the Biblical record of Creation.  Your faith will stand the test of inquiry.

With Love,
Mike

 

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