Science, Too, Calls for a Leap of Faith

In Perspective on August 16, 2013 by The Spillover

Trevin Wax for The New York Times:

Christian leaders are sometimes accused of dismissing doubters and skeptics, those who question the reliability of Christian teaching. Based on the swift condemnations of Virginia Heffernan’s article, “Why I Am a Creationist,” it appears that such Christians are not the only ones who take offense at skepticism. In challenging a purely naturalistic explanation of the world’s origins, Heffernan ran afoul of people unwilling to entertain even a crack in their naturalistic system.

Interestingly enough, Heffernan did not take a position on how the world was created; she merely expressed her belief that the world was, indeed, created. This educated, rational human, like many others before her, claimed that it makes as much sense to believe in a creator as it does to believe the world came into existence out of nothing. For this, she was ridiculed.

Yet science neither proves nor disproves the existence of a creator. Evidence leads us only to a point, and then we draw conclusions. People like Heffernan look at the elements of our world that appear to be designed and purposeful, and conclude that a mind is supervising the matter.

Furthermore, as her article pointed out, even those who take the naturalistic point of view tend to live as if the creation story is true. We do not see our lives as meaningless, but purposeful. We live according to values and morals; we teach our children right from wrong. When we care for ailing parents or welcome children with birth defects, we are living against the “survival of the fittest” principle of natural selection. A purely naturalistic explanation of the world’s origins does not explain the way we live. Religious stories do.

The real issue here is not merely creation or the lack thereof; it’s about the source of truth. Those who condemned Heffernan believe science is the only reliable way to discover truth. But this belief in science collapses on itself: there is no scientific evidence to prove that science is the only reliable way to discover truth. Once we take unproven hypotheses and dogmatize them, we have moved beyond scientific evidence into philosophical reflection on truth and the scientific method. Naturalist or not, when it comes to the world’s origins, we are all in the realm of faith.

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