A famous line from the original “The Day the Earth Stood Still” movie is uttered by Professor Barnhart, the scientist and voice of human reason. “We scientists are not always listened to.” Scientists ought to be respected and obeyed when they function as scientists and ignored when they function as clergy. This is the difference between science and the religion called scientism. One deals with facts and realities; the other simply worships false gods.
Facts and realities are what they are. Mankind does not navigate to the moon, or circumnavigate the globe in ships, or cure diseases and build roads and bridges, without the blessing of hard science. There is this thing called the Scientific Method – invented by people of Christian faith – that sets parameters for the accurate and reliable perception of scientific truth. When scientists follow their own rules, the rest of us are blessed. When they step outside their own structure out of a need to believe this or that, the rest of us are assaulted with mythology at best, and harmful practice at worst.
The dichotomy is not between science and faith, but between science and the false faith of scientism. The Bible is not a science textbook; but when it speaks in opposition to scientism, it has never been wrong. For example, the secular community first posited a flat earth and wall front patterns of terrestrial winds – the one until the 15th Century and the other into the mid 19th Century. (The Church, to its discredit, bought these myths for a time.) But the Bible describes a round world and a cyclonic pattern of wind action that actually cleanses the atmosphere, a view now universally accepted because it’s true. Facts are facts. Reality is reality – whatever the source.
There has been tremendous controversy in California over allegations from scientists that pumping water from the Sacramento River into thirsty Central Valley farmlands threatens the delta smelt. Reality is that non-native striped bass are the biggest killer of the smelt, and even the courts see this now. Environmentalists and scientists got it wrong when they attacked and permanently crippled the NorCal logging industry to protect the spotted owl, a non-native species (versus the native barn owl.) And the medical orthodoxy of the forties and fifties was that a scientific formula was better for infants than mothers’ milk until they actually analyzed human breast milk and found it exponentially healthier for human babies. Who knew?
We can see the same disastrous consequences from faithful adherence to the mythical promises of embryonic stem cell research as literally billions of dollars were diverted from the actual promise of adult stem cells – which even now boast some one hundred different successful therapies against zero for the embryonic prophets. One can only speculate how much farther along real science might be if facts governed decisions from the beginning.
The front page news a few weeks ago was about climate scientists’ efforts to convince an increasingly skeptical world that climate change is a reality – and man-caused – in the face of no rise in global temperatures for over a decade. Of course, the politically correct line is that this is a wrinkle in a trend known since 1951; but the really inconvenient truth is that the climate community was predicting a new ice age from the fifties into the nineties. Even more inconvenient is the fact that Greenland was a good deal warmer just a thousand years ago than it is today. Climate – like wind – operates in cycles that have nothing to do with human activity. One can only speculate about how much human life could have been improved in the past two decades if scientists spent their time doing science instead of seeking grant money and power through prophesying climate hysteria and punishing their colleagues who dissented from it.
But the real responsibility does belong to the Body of Christ. For too many decades, we have gone along in order to get along. We have resisted accountability to God and to His Word ourselves. We have pursued our own private concerns and programs rather than risk ridicule and opposition in the public square. We have called our faith a private affair – finding God only in politically correct gaps in so-called knowledge – which is just what the practitioners of scientism demand. God’s call to repentance is indeed about the positive re-focus of our attention on Him. But we have an urgent need to clear our own decks before re-setting our course toward His Kingdom.