A thought struck me Easter morning. Let me preface this by saying I’m not knocking anyone who doesn’t believe what I do. Also, I am not an astrophysicist, or any other kind of scientist, but I am a thinking man. There are plenty of data points not encompassed in my awareness, but that doesn’t void my right and ability to question some fundamental things. And lastly, I use the word ‘scientist’ as a catch-all descriptor of the specialized technicians of any branch of science, just as a matter of literary economy.
It seems that many who do not believe in the biblical Christ make a point of mocking, or at least dismissing, the idea of His resurrection, and so attempt to belittle Christians for their faith. But many of those same people do in fact exercise faith, whether they are aware of it or not. They believe in what must be the greatest event in existence, from a secular viewpoint – the Big Bang (and please note, my argument isn’t about the Big Bang. I’m just using it as a familiar topic for illustrative purpose). You might say, “There is irrefutable science that describes and predicts this event”. But how irrefutable is irrefutable?
I’m not maligning science. Scientists of any discipline are pretty much by default very bright, intelligent people. However, I follow a variety of “science-y stuff” in my news feed, and at least once a week I’ll see an article with a title like, “New discovery forces scientists to rethink (insert whatever the article is about here)”. Scientists paint as exact a portrait of existence as they can with the information they have, but the very fact that scientists still have jobs means that obviously we haven’t figured everything out, they’re still studiously pursuing the full explanation. And the “New discovery” moments we have already encountered imply that there are huge unknowns we have yet to stumble into, facts we’ll discover that will force us to change what we thought we knew. Anyone who is intellectually honest must admit that this means we are wearing blinders as we make our way through the universe. We use what facts we’re fairly certain about to describe what we experience. The information we have is often gathered by technologies. The fact that startling, direction-changing new understandings come about means that our current technology is constantly being superseded by emergent technology. What we use now to explain reality will be recognized as error, or incomplete, as we learn more.
What does that all mean? In my mind, it means that science is always working with a best approximation. That’s fine, what else could we hope to do? We do what we can with what we know and try to continually refine and improve on that.
To me, the most tremendous example of science not being in agreement, not sure of what’s real and what’s not, is dark matter. Some scientists say it makes up the largest structure or “physical” network in the entire universe, that it accounts for the vast majority of the entire mass of the universe. Other scientists say it doesn’t exist at all. That’s as stark a contrast as possible. A lot of very, very intelligent people say it does exist, that it is a real, unimaginably large force and thing. A lot of other very, very intelligent people say the exact opposite. Some day, one of these two groups may be proven right, but that’s not my point. My point is, again, that the most science can hope for, and all it ultimately has to work with, is best approximations.
Now to the Big Bang. I’m sure it’s safe to say that millions of man-hours have been spent studying, defining, explaining this event. Even so, all this effort comes from, and results in, best approximations, based on the best evidence and techniques science has at the moment. I’m not attempting to minimize science’s efforts at all, but it must be acknowledged that one or more “New discovery” events may come along that could fundamentally shift the logic and arguments used to explain the Big Bang.
Again, if you are being intellectually honest, you’d have to say that accepting the Big Bang to be the absolute truth of how the universe started requires a degree of FAITH. Since you weren’t there to witness it first hand, you have to eventually decide that the evidence and interpretation of that evidence is what you will believe.
Christianity, on the other hand, kind of runs the entire game in the opposite direction. Whereas science is working with best approximations, if you believe in the inerrancy of scripture (that is, the complete accuracy of the Bible), the absolutes have already been defined. There may be a lot of struggles related to interpreting and applying those absolutes, but they are absolutes. To a fundamentalist like myself, the truth of Scripture does not evolve over time, it was a concrete, completed thing the moment it was written.
A non-Christian who believes “the things of science” (that’s said tongue in cheek, I know it sounds kind of horrible) is still exercising faith. Everyone must come, consciously or not, to a point where they say, “I accept this to be true”, whatever “this” may be. No one, Christian or otherwise, should scoff at that. I, as a Christian, place my faith in, among other things, the resurrection of Christ. There’s no real reason why anyone should scoff at that. You and I may have different beliefs. That should not be cause for rancor. It should, hopefully, be cause for discussion.