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The March 2015 cover of National Geographic magazine blares its issue theme, the War on Science. Truth be told, there is a war against science in our culture. The attack on authentic science is led by entities such as National Geographic. Principal strategies exploit people’s gullibility and general ignorance of scientific methodology and history. Tactics include conflating multiple events and name-calling for those who do not fall in line with politically correct viewpoints, even citing truth while simultaneously ignoring it. Joel Achenbach’s cover story is a case in point.
Achenbach quotes Geophysicist Martha McNutt: “Science is not a body of facts. Science is a method for deciding whether what we choose to believe has a basis in the laws of nature or not.” Yet he says of skeptics: “Empowered by their own sources of information and their own interpretations of research, doubters have declared war on the consensus of experts.” There is no agreed upon body of facts; skeptics seek independent sources of information and interpretation because they challenge not facts but orthodoxy?
There exists alongside the science described by McNutt a faith called Scientism. Adherents believe a precept true not because they tested it but because they received it from professors with doctoral degrees and grant money. Such faith flies in the face of authentic science from the get-go; yet Achenbach can only tisk-tisk at people who refuse to worship at its altar.
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His error is compounded – in monumental ignorance – when he conflates doubt about a round earth and a faked moon landing with skepticism about climate change and evolution. Nobody with an IQ in double digits doubts the roundness of the earth; it has been observed since antiquity. Conspiracy theories of faked moon landings persist, but – again – they are ridiculous; such a conspiracy would require the unbroken silence of literally thousands of NASA employees for half a century and counting. The jury is in.
Evolution and climate change are horses of differing colors. Although evolutionary theories flourished at least a century before Darwin, no scientific proof has ever been offered in the form of – say – DNA samples from various evolutionary stages of the same animal, missing links discovered, or reproducible results under laboratory conditions. Some theorists howl that this bar is set unfairly high, but this bar has never been moved according to the scientific method. Whether evolution is true can be debated; that it has not been proven is beyond dispute. And given the inconsistencies of evolutionary theory down the decades against the changelessness and progressive verification of God’s Word, my money remains on the Creator.
Our science writer makes another sophomoric mistake when he pits young earth creationists who claim an earth thousands of years old against scientists noting four-plus billion years of planetary age. He seems unaware of the growing number of scientists who accept the older age of the world while declaring its created origin at the hands of an Intentional Creator. And then there is climate change.
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Achenbach refers several times to people who deny climate change occurs. I have never heard of anyone who denies it. Climate changes from one season to another and from one era to another. The dispute is over whether causation is due to human activity. Skeptics point out two factors. The first is that warming periods have always flanked ice ages. Greenland (for example) was much warmer a thousand years before an industrialized economy than it is today. The second is that recorded changes are simply not catastrophic. Hysterics shriek of shrinking polar ice caps and a reduction in polar bear numbers. However, the northern ice cap has fully recovered from its quarter-century ago retreat, the southern cap grew rather than shrank, and polar bears are up by twenty percent since 1990.
If the jury is in on the shape of the earth and our journeys to another body, we must say – with respect to evolution and climate – the case has yet to reach a jury. Achenbach concedes that “Scientific results are always provisional, susceptible to being overturned by some future experiment or observation.” His own words make his arrogant condemnation of those who do not bow at the altar of scientism absurd.
Of course, this drivel is not limited to National Geographic. The February 19 edition of Reasons to Believe addresses the newest darlings of Scientism and their assertion – trumpeted by mainstream media as though it were a Holy Grail – that the universe is itself eternal and therefore uncreated. Physicists Ahmed Farag Ali (Benha University, Egypt) and Saurya Das (Lethbridge University, Canada) and their paper, “Cosmology from Quantum Potential,” are “supposed” to have “corrected” Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Their paper originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of Physics Letter B.
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Of course, if this is true, it also corrects the Bible and its opening statement–“In the beginning God created…”–right out of any authority. Dr. Hugh Ross, Founder and President of the Reasons to Believe Foundation, is an internationally recognized astrophysicist who believes in Intelligent Design. Ross offers four reasons why we need not shred our Bibles just yet.
First, the paper was published in the journal’s theory section, not in the astrophysics and cosmology section. The theory section is intended for speculative work, and the authors make no claim to have proven anything; they do not even go so far as to offer a new theory.
Second, the authors do replace so-called classical geodesics with so-called quantum trajectories. A geodesic is a standard way of looking at space; it is the shortest distance between two points, and cosmologists always think in such terms because alternatives are by definition untestable. According to standard classical Physics, all geodesics lead at some point to what is called the Singularity – the beginning or go-spot from which the universe begins. These authors say something like, “But if we could believe in the new way of tracing trajectories, there would be no point of origin and thus no beginning of the universe.” “If” is the operant term; the reasoning is circular to the effect that if the authors were correct, they would be correct. Whatever.
The third reason is that Farag Ali and Das posit a tiny particle called a gravitron as able to account for the new perspective. This is a hypothetical particle because its theorized mass is orders of magnitude tinier than what could be tested. Science deals with observed phenomena; what cannot be observed might make dinner conversation but is mere speculation for scientific purposes – like elves and orcs. Without a testable feature, the existence of a gravitron is scientifically irrelevant.
Finally and fourthly, Farag Ali and Das appeal to Quantum Physicist David Bohm’s quantum potential theory – the operant term being “potential” here. Bohm was known for his intense interest in New Age Mysticism and the paranormal. The quantum potential he cites is his term for a reality buried beneath physical reality. Bohm simply re-defines space, time, and causality to make possible an argument for an eternal Universe – as opposed to an eternal and loving God. Ross says: “One can always appeal to the unknowable to argue against something’s existence…However, arguments regarding the universe’s origin, God’s existence, and God’s hand in creation must be founded on what scientists (can) know, not on what we don’t (or cannot) know.”
Authentic science provides an excellent platform for discovering what is and is not real. No one should believe this or that solely because the Bible says it – much less because this or that scientist says it. The Bible exhorts readers – in 1 John 4:1 – to test the spirits, to subject even Its revelation to tests of authenticity. The book is not a science text; yet it stands up to scientific scrutiny well. Such phenomena as cyclonic wind patterns – instead of the wall front patterns posited until the nineteenth century – were first revealed in the Old Testament and later tested and found accurate.
Even the first verses of Genesis give a correct order of creation when we consider that an earthbound observer would see the creation unfold just as depicted. Yes, this observer is symbolic – there were no human observers in the first days or epochs of creation – but we need to remember God’s oft-stated purpose in composing His Book is to reveal Himself to His people. As I mentioned earlier, I’ll put my money on God – and especially when scientific verity is the point of challenge. He sticks to His story and depends on a straightforward presentation of what we are seeing while having the mental discipline to think skeptically about it.
There is a war on science underway. The best response is to observe, measure, test, and evaluate with the rational capacities God gave us and rely on His Spirit to guide our faculties. It would be awesome if the practitioners of scientism called off the war and let the best ideas win in the marketplace of authentic science. It is best of all to reflect that God is at peace on His throne in spite of their rantings.
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