COVER SUBJECT | HAS SCIENCE REPLACED THE BIBLE?
How Science Affects Your Life
Science, according to one dictionary, is “the systematic study of the nature and behaviour of the material and physical universe, based on observation, experiment, and measurement.” To do all of that is hard, often frustrating, work. Scientists struggle with experiments and observations for weeks, months, or even years. Sometimes their labors lead to dead ends, but in many cases they deliver benefits to mankind. Consider a few examples.
A European company has combined strong plastic and advanced filters to produce a device that has made it possible for a person to avoid illness from drinking contaminated water. Devices like that one have been put to use during natural disasters, such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
High above the earth, networks of satellites make up what is called the Global Positioning System (GPS). Originally designed for military applications, the GPS helps motorists, airplane pilots, ship navigators, and even hunters and hikers to find their way. Thanks to the scientists who invented it, the GPS makes it easier to get to where you want to go.
Do you use a cell phone, a computer, or the Internet? Have you seen that your health has improved or has been restored because of advanced medicine? Do you travel by airplane? If so, you are benefiting from some of the ways in which science has been a boon to humanity. Science has affected your life in many positive ways.
THE REACH OF MODERN SCIENCE
In an effort to expand their horizon, modern scientists are searching deep into the natural world. Nuclear physicists peer into the inner workings of the atom, while astrophysicists trace back billions of years, in an attempt to understand the origin of the universe. As they probe deep and far, even into realms that are invisible and untouchable, some scientists feel that if the God of the Bible exists, they should be able to find him.
Some prominent scientists and philosophers go further. They carry on what science author Amir D. Aczel called “a scientific argument against the existence of God.” For example, a world-famous physicist claimed that “the absence of evidence for any God who plays an important role in the universe proves beyond a reasonable doubt that such a god does not exist.” Others allude to the activity of the God of the Bible as “magic” and “supernatural shenanigans.”*
However, the question must be asked: Has science learned enough about the natural world to be able to draw definitive conclusions? The simple answer is no. Science has made tremendous progress, but many scientists recognize that there are still many unknowns and perhaps unknowables. “We will never get to the bottom of things,” said physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg on understanding nature. Professor Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal of Great Britain, wrote: “There may be things that humans will never understand.” The truth is that much of nature, from the tiny cell to the vast universe, still remains beyond the grasp of modern science. Note the following examples:
Biologists do not fully understand the processes that take place in living cells. How cells consume energy, how they produce proteins, and how they divide are questions science has not yet completely answered.
Gravity affects us every second of every day. Yet it is something of a mystery to physicists. They do not know fully how gravity pulls you down to the ground when you jump or how it keeps the moon in orbit around the earth.
Cosmologists estimate that about 95 percent of what makes up the universe is invisible and undetectable by scientific instruments. They divide this strange entity into two categories, dark matter and dark energy. The nature of these remains unknown.
There are other unknowns that confound scientists. Why is this important? A popular science writer notes: “Our knowledge is vastly outstripped by our ignorance. For me, a life in science prompts awe and exploration over dogmatism.”
So if you wonder whether science is about to replace the Bible and dispense with belief in God, consider this point: If brilliant scientists with their powerful instruments have been able to gain only limited understanding of the natural world, would it be logical to dismiss out of hand the matters that lie beyond the reaches of science to investigate? Quite to the point, at the end of a lengthy article on the history and development of astronomy, Encyclopedia Britannica concludes: “After almost 4,000 years of astronomy, the universe is no less strange than it must have seemed to the Babylonians.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses respect each person’s right to make a decision on this matter. We endeavor to follow the Biblical guideline: “Let your reasonableness become known to all.” (Philippians 4:5) It is with that spirit that we invite you to examine how science and the Bible harmonize and complement each other.
The Bible and Proven Scientific Facts
The Bible does not claim to be a textbook of scientific knowledge. Its writers, however, did make accurate comments on matters that should interest scientists today. Here are some examples.
Age of the earth and the universe
Scientists estimate that the earth is about 4 billion years old and that the universe was born some 13 to 14 billion years ago. The Bible sets no date for the creation of the universe. In no place does it affirm that the earth is only a few thousand years old. The very first verse in the Bible reads: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) That general statement allows scientists to determine the age of the physical world according to sound scientific principles.
Preparation of the earth for human habitation
Genesis chapter 1 uses the term “day” to set out the stages in the preparation of the earth for life in all its diverse forms. The culminating event in this simple description was the appearance of humans. The Bible fixes no duration for the six creative “days.” Instead, it opens the door for modern scientists to study them and assign accurate time spans to them. We know that the creative “days” were much longer than 24-hour days.
How the earth is suspended
The Bible describes the earth as suspended “upon nothing.” (Job 26:7) There is no mention of our planet resting on the shoulders of a giant or on the backs of elephants that stand on a turtle, as some popular myths of ancient times had it. Rather, the Bible leaves the door open to scientific discovery. In time, Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler described how the planets move around the sun driven by an invisible force. Isaac Newton later showed how gravitation governs the movement of all objects in space.
Instructions on disease control and hygiene
The book of Leviticus contains the instructions given to the Israelites on how they were to avoid outbreaks of contagious diseases, including the practice of quarantine. And regarding sanitation, the law recorded at Deuteronomy 23:12, 13 ordered the Israelites to care for their waste in a private place outside their encampments. They had to ‘cover their excrement’ in the ground. It is only in the last 200 years that scientists and doctors have seen the need to set such standards.
The Bible information that you just read was written down many centuries ago. How did those writers come up with such accurate information when even the most learned people of their time were ignorant of such things? The Bible’s Author answers: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”—Isaiah 55:9.