Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Speaking of science...

Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a fan of (proper) science. But I had to laugh last month when I read this article (Precambrian: Facts About the Beginning of Time).

First of all, the very title is scientifically inaccurate:  the Precambrian is the first epoch of Earth's history, NOT of the universe's history...so the article lists nothing "About the Beginning of Time" at all. They meant, "About the Beginning of Earth."

That said, what was really funny to me was the use of the word "Fact"--a fact is generally defined as something which has actually occurred or is verifiably true. The title of this article says it will be filled with facts, but the actual article is filled with the following statements:

  • "Astrogeophysicists theorize that..."
  • "It is hypothesized that..."
  • "Exactly when or how it happened is unknown..."
  • "It is probable that..."
  • "It is generally accepted that..."
  • "Some scientists classify them as..."
  • "The boundary...is not as clear-cut as it was once thought to be..."
  • "It used to be thought that..."

There are only 10 paragraphs in this short article, and I count at least 8 equivocations on the "facts" of the "beginning" of "time".

What I hope to be the case is that the author wrote an article titled something like, "The current evidence and theories about the Precambrian," and an editor made up a totally misleading headline. Because otherwise there is really some confusion about the definitions of the words "Facts" and "Time" going on here.

This is, however, indicative of a larger problem in modern science--or, I should say, scientism. There is a tendency of modern science to leap right past "hypothesis" and "theory" and start reporting things as facts.

For example, I recently read an article by an astronomer talking about how great it was we were past the Dark Ages and no longer believed that we held a special place in the universe. But do you not see that he makes just as big a leap as the people he is accusing? It is true that those who assume "Earth has a special place" do so based upon no evidence; however, those who assume the opposite--as the astronomer did--also are basing it on a personal belief system rather than evidence. We lack the astronomical perspective to know whether Earth has a unique place or not. It happens in paleontology all the time as well: a tooth or rib bone is found and from that evidence (which IS fact) an assumption-filled extrapolation is made of size, habitat, range, body type, and the like (which is NOT fact). But by the time these stories reach the press, only the final theory is found...although it is presented as fact.

The problem is that in so doing, they undermine the credibility that they once had. I firmly believe that more and more Christians would be pro-science, if only scientism would get out of the way and scientists would present the fact as they stand, their theories as theories, and we could all be the wiser for it.

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