UNASSAILABLE FACT ?
More than three hundred years ago an anonymous poet shrewdly observed that scholars are prone to see what they want to see –
- Three wise men of Gotham,
As I have heard some say,
Would needs go forth a-hunting
Upon St David's day.
And all the day they hunted,
And nothing could they find,
But an owl in a hollow tree,
And that they left behind.
One said it was an owl,
The other he said, Nay;
The third said 'twas an old man,
And his beard growing grey.
Such wise men they were! Only one of them saw what was really there (an owl), and even he rode away from it, for it was not what he wanted to see! That syndrome can still be observed.
We are all guilty to some extent, but the learned are sometimes particularly prone to a blinkered view -"
Too much light often blinds gentlemen of this sort. They cannot see the forest for the trees."
But now even the most closed-minded are finding it increasingly difficult to stay myopic. An avalanche of discoveries is demolishing many of the old verities and calling into question almost every aspect of scientific dogmatism. But don't take my word for it. Here is one example of what some noted scientists are saying about mistaken concepts of their work -"
Scientists are regarded as supermen. They can do anything, given enough money ... In such moonbeams there is a misconception about scientists and the nature of science. But carried within this there is still another misconception, much more serious. This is the misconception that scientists can establish a complete set of facts and relations about the universe, all neatly proved, and that on this formal basis men can securely establish their personal philosophy, their personal religion, free from doubt or error ...
"Science never proves anything, in an absolute sense ... Science has come a long way, in delineating the probable nature of the universe that surrounds us, of the physical world in which we live, of our own structure, our physical and chemical nature. ... Then it comes to the questions of consciousness and free will - and there it stops. No longer can science prove, or even bear evidence. Those who base their personal philosophies or their religion upon science are left, beyond that point, without support. They end where they began ... Science proves nothing absolutely. On the most vital questions it does not even produce evidence ...
"Young men, who will formulate the deep thought of the next generation, should lean on science, for it can teach much and it can inspire. But they should not lean where it does not apply ...
"And the theologian: he can accept the aid of science, which draws for him a wide universe in all its majesty, with life in all its awe-inspiring complexity. He can accept this, knowing that on the central mysteries science cannot speak. And he can step beyond to lead men in paths of righteousness and in paths of peace ...
"And the young man ... he will follow science where it leads, but will not attempt to follow where it cannot lead. And, with a pause, he will admit a faith."
What has science to do with faith? As it happens, a great deal. Yet in popular imagination science and faith are about as compatible as sugar and sand. Mix them together and you spoil both! But without faith - and a large dollop of it - there would be no science.
The entire enterprise (as we shall see) rests upon several leaps of faith. Indeed, where science is rightly understood, it should lead irresistibly on toward that highest faith of all - trust in the living God. Does not the scripture say -"
- The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies reveal his handiwork. Day after day brings its message; night after night bears faithful witness. ... Their testimony goes out across the whole earth; their words reach to the end of time." (Ps 19:1)
"What can be known about God has been made plain to all mankind, for God himself has shown it to them. From the time the world was first created his limitless power and eternal nature, which were invisible, have been made visible, and able to be understood, by the things he has made. So they are without excuse." (Ro 1:19-20)