Science is all-powerful. There is nothing it can’t explore, nothing it can’t explain, no problem that it can’t solve. At least, this is what the Western world has believed since the Scientific Revolution. But is it true?
Though science and religion are constantly billed as opponents, they actually can, should, and often do work hand in hand. In fact, modern science began as Christians (along with non-Christians working within the consensus of the Christian worldview) began to explore the world that God had made, believing that since the Creator was rational and orderly, the universe could be explored and understood. Science can help us understand the world that God made, and thus understand more about the amazing mind of God. When each discipline is properly understood and interpreted, science and religion work together for the glory of God.
Yet science has become something of an idol in our day. Science is seen as infallible. Whatever science says goes. This is problematic because science is often used in ways that are, well, unscientific.
I want to point out three things that science can’t do and draw out some of the implications of this.
- Tell us the purpose of anything.
- Give us the meaning of life.
- Provide us with moral standards.
Science can tell us more than we ever wanted to know about human anatomy, it can describe what makes up the heart and the brain and how these fascinating organs function, but it can not tell us the purpose of a person. To describe the purpose of something implies a knowledge of the reason it was made the way it was. Science can tell us a lot about the way a human being works, but it cannot tell us the intent behind the design of a human being. (It attempts to do this using evolutionary theory, but a nonrational force such as “natural selection” (which isn’t really a force at all), can’t have a purpose behind anything it does).
Similarly, science can’t tell us the meaning of life. It can describe and categorize life and our experience with the world, but it cannot explain what it all means. People try to use science to tell us that the world is an accident, that life has no meaning, but these types of determinations are outside of the jurisdiction of science. These are metaphysical questions, not scientific questions.
Finally, science cannot give us morals. Morality is all about what a person should do. Science can tell us what is, but it cannot tell us what ought to be. Science is a discipline of description, not prescription. Thus a scientist can tell us how people behave, but he or she cannot justifiably tell another human being that one attitude or action is wrong or that another is right.
Yet people often try to use science to tell us these things. When they do this, they are using science as a smokescreen to make metaphysical statements. This is simply unfair. Science is helpful when used properly, but when it is used to make determinations that are beyond its scope, it becomes a means of control.
So let’s continue to pursue science, but let’s be cautious of “scientific” statements that go beyond the realm of science. Science can help us to understand the world we live in and to solve some of the problems we face (though we have to acknowledge that science is constantly causing new problems), but only the Maker can tell us the meaning of the world He created. Only God can tell us how we should behave. Only He can give us the purpose of our existence.
Of course, we have always known this to be true. But when enough authoritative voices tell us that we can only believe that which can be scientifically proven (a statement, by the way, which cannot be scientifically proven), we begin to doubt the obvious. And claiming to be wise, we become fools.