Is Science The Only Source Of Truth?

Posted: February 15, 2015 in Blog Post, Pages
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Is Science The Only Source of Truth?

Here is the claim – one I am sure that many have heard: Science is the only source of reliable truth. This is a view called scientism. It is no secret that the culture in which we find ourselves is consistently promoting this idea. Many in the “scientific” crowd, are becoming extremely hostile to fields like philosophy, and even more so with theology. But is it true that science is the only source of truth?

The short answer is: no. Science is not the only source of truth. The challenge when talking with someone who believes this, is knowing how to show the error of this assertion. I hope to provide some insight with this post.

  1. The idea is self-defeating

It may not be immediately obvious, but there is an inherent contradiction in the idea that science is the only source of truth. The contradiction is this: It cannot be proven scientifically that science is the only source of truth. What experiment could a person perform, to prove that science is the only source of truth? None, of course, and that’s the problem. In reality, the view that science is the only source of truth is a philosophical viewpoint, not a scientific one. It would therefore be the case that there is at least one other source of truth, namely philosophy.

  1. Science depends on other sources of truth in order to operate

Science, as a broad discipline, is dependent on the existence of other sources of truth that must exist in order for science to work the way it does. What are they?

a. Mathematics

In order to do science, it is necessary for mathematics to exist. It is also necessary that the physical world be consistently explainable in mathematical terms. If mathematics did not work the same way, all throughout time, across the whole universe, then science would be impossible. How could scientific calculations be made if math doesn’t work? Science is dependent on mathematics, which means it is not the only source of truth.

b. Laws of Logic

We often take for granted things like logic, simply because we use it every day. However, if the laws of logic did not exist as the immaterial realities that they are, then science, and life for that matter would simply be impossible. For example, one of the most fundamental laws of logic is the law of non-contradiction. Simply stated, it says that A cannot equal non-A, at the same time in the same way. It is such an obvious and foundational concept that it cannot be denied. In fact one medieval Islamic philosopher stated, in true Islamic fashion that: “Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned, until they agree that to be beaten and burned is not the same as to not be beaten and burned.” A little much, but I think the point is obvious. How does this apply to science? Well just think how effective scientific experimentation would be if the results one gets, could also mean the exact opposite as well! Science is dependent on logic as well, which means it is not the only source of truth.

c. Morality

Once again, there is an underlying assumption when it comes to doing science. Those who believe science is the only source of truth, assume that it is a morally good thing to report scientific data accurately. However those same people almost universally believe that there is no such thing as objective morality! Just as a refresher, if objective morality does not exist, then there is really nothing that is good or evil for everyone. There is simply just good or evil “for you.” In order for science to function properly, objective morality must exist. Otherwise there would be absolutely nothing to compel a scientist to report his findings honestly. They could simply lie about their findings, or change their numbers to get whatever results they want, and we would have no right to complain. Because for them, it would be perfectly fine to do that. See the problem? Science is dependent on objective morality, which means it is not the only source of truth.

This last one is a great example of how morality is connected to almost everything. Once we truly observe how utterly inescapable the moral law is within our lives, it becomes more and more astonishing that anyone would deny its existence. A moral law however, needs a moral law-giver – also known as God. That would mean that God would also be another source of truth besides science!

In reality, the biggest problem with the view that science is the only source of truth, is the philosophical one. Science is a slave to philosophy. Everyone has the same data, but how that data is interpreted will depend on the philosophy and worldview of the person who interprets it. This is why, as Christian apologist Frank Turek says, “Science doesn’t say anything, scientists do!” A scientist like Richard Dawkins, who assumes evolution has to be true, will be sure to try and fit every piece of data into that theory, and discard any that he doesn’t like.

Scientific advancements may one day tell us how everything in the world works, but knowing how things work won’t remove the necessity for God, any more than knowing exactly how a computer works will disprove the existence of the person who first invented it! Science will always have its limits, and we need to know where those limits are.

Although there are many atheists who want to claim that science is the only game in town, they are thoroughly mistaken in that belief. Science can, and has shown us many things. It is certainly not the enemy of all religion that the media makes it out to be, but it is certainly not the one and only source of truth.

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Comments
  1. Tyler says:

    Hello again. I feel as though this topic as run it’s course on the whole science issue. One thing I did want to point out was, you said so yourself that all of the chemicals found in dirt are also found in the human body. You are correct. Everything is basically made up of the same materials. We are star stuff! I’m sure there’s a more scientific name for it. Anyway, to me that’s one more reason to think that we are just the process of a long line of evolutionary ups and downs starting from that single celled organism(s). According to the bible God created man in his image. If God’s greatest creation was us and we were so special then why are we so closely related to everything from apes, birds, trees even damn potatoes?

    I must apologize. On a earlier post I unintentionally led you to believe that I had this rough relationship with church, God and the whole works. That’s not the case at all. Both my parents were quite Catholic, (I know, not the best representative of the Christian faiths). I went to Catholic school in my younger years. Had nuns as teachers and the whole bit. Was never beaten or molested or anything bad while attending school or church. My father is still very much involved in the church. He’s a wonderful man I’m proud to call him my dad. Would give the shirt off his back for anyone who needed it. My mother is no longer a church goer but still very much believes in God and prays almost every night. Also a wonderful, loving woman.

    Now where I grew apart from religion was about the time I was old enough to really think for myself. I always had questions and religions responses were not enough to keep me satisfied. I was being taught to accept on the sole reason of faith that a sky wizard created the universe in 6 days,(I realize nobody knows how many years is a day for God…yada yada even though it clearly says days) He then grew an adult male out of the dirt with more magic. Then when the male realized he was bored and lonely, God gave him the power to rip out a rib out of his chest and plant it in the ground which then grew into an adult female.

    Next scene involved a talking snake which then went on to convince her to take a bite of fruit which would lead to God banishing mankind forever. So this single male and single female went on to have children. Then their children made children together. Who knows maybe Adam and Eve got it on with their kids as well just to mix it up. Regardless that is a hell of a lot of inbreeding. This far down the line we should all be boneless, blind vegetables. But it’s the power of god i suppose that allowed them to get away with that back then.

    Fast forward a couple thousand years and God decides he’s going to send himself down to earth to be tortured and crucified by his own creation to save his creation.

    When I ask a question to the religious folk and their response is “oh, god did it”, “he was just able to do it because he’s god’ “you don’t need to know how it was done, we can’t understand gods power”.

    I’m just saying that something that can’t be tested, something that’s not visible through any means is just running around creating life, saving lives, taking lives is the reason everything we have ever known exists…to me is purely faith. Faith is the only way so many people believe that this is the answer to the big questions. Of course the other religions have their own stories as well, but same basic concept. There all just stories. Stories that involve real places and some real people, but also magical people. Kind of like super hero stuff.

    If any of what I said just now offended you Nick or any of your readers, I apologize. I have no intention on attacking anybodys beliefs. But this is how I see it, and why I am no longer religious or believe we could’ve possibly came from an intelligent, super human type creator.

    I do plan on tackling some of your other topics in the future. Change up the conversation a bit.

    Like

  2. Tyler says:

    Yes, scientists are the ones who individually explain their findings. Nature provides us with the evidence and scientists record the data. If you, me or anybody really wanted to we could learn how the process is done and go out into the field ourselves to study nature, the biology of animals even dig up some bones. Anyone can find out for themselves if they’re speaking the truth or not. You say science dosen’t tell us anything, scientists do, well that would be true if it were writtien in a book and there was no way to find out on your own terms if what was written was true. You’d just have to believe them on the grounds that you trust them.

    Anytime a scientist claims ANYTHING it is peer reviewed by a team of other scientists. Facts are not a democracy. What you can prove is what will be accepted.

    I learned this from the cosmos, i could be wrong but Neil deGrasse Tyson went through certain terms that’s used in the scientific community and a “Scientific Fact” is not permanent. The universe and everything inside it is constantly changing and therefore so is the information it releases. For example, say people could have witnessed the formation of the earth. It was a giant smoldering, dead rock. Fast forward say 3 billion years now our planet has much different “facts” we can pull from it.

    I do not have all the scientific breakdowns and spread sheets on hand. Sorry. You ask for scientific data and there i come up short. perhaps one day when i have the time i can look up essays that have been peer reviewed and send you a couple so you can study them in depth! HaHa ;).

    Now back at ya. You make claims that the sole provider of morality is God. Now through evolutionary reasoning i have already explain how I think we developed a moral basis to be kind and treat others with respect. Simple example, I don’t like to be hit, so I won’t hit you! How would’ve a divine creator went about installing us with these morals? Was it the ones sent down to Moses in the form of the comandments where we everyone would have to be on board and just accept what he is saying, or are there others examples that break down the process in which he programed each and every one of our brains to have these morals installed. Where’s the data God collected when wiring our brains to attain all these attributes that we could’ve in no way developed on our own?

    Same for discounting us evolving from apes. The fossil resemblance between different stages of our ancestors is there. The bone structure being slightly different at each stage in time. How we continue to stand more and more straight with each finding. So what if they’re missing a link. All the other links are there. Instead of disproving all of it because one piece is missing, wouldn’t it be more reasonable to think “I wonder, not if but when they’re going to find it”. Find that missing piece of the puzzle. When we’re growing in the womb my develop a short tail out of our tail bone for goodness sakes! If you ever looked at an X-Ray of the human body, our tail bone has a point there, If you look at an X-Ray of a chimp, they have the same tail bone only difference is it’s got a tail on the end! Structurally we”re darn near built the same. Biggest difference is our brains.

    So Evolution is not possible, how then I ask did God go about creating man. What chemical composition from the dirt did he use to formulate our amazing genome and DNA/RNA make up. Pretty sure we need more than the nutrients of the dirt to create a beating heart. Sorry if i’m being a smart ass here, cause I am. hehe. You demand these explainations of science so it’s only fair that science asks them of religion. We won’t even get into the woman coming from rib thing, maybe another time.

    Thanks for time. Talk to you soon man!

    Like

    • defendingyourfaith says:

      Hey Tyler! I am glad you were able to write back!

      It seems we have a misunderstanding with the claim that I made when I said that “science doesn’t say anything, scientists do.” What I mean is that everyone is looking at the same set of data, and will interpret that data based on their own worldview. That should be pretty straightforward. When it comes to evolution, I really want you to know that you have been thoroughly lied to. Just because the nature channel keeps telling you that humans came from monkeys, doesn’t make it true. I am sure you may even be unaware, that although scientists used to state that our DNA was 98% similar to chimps, it has now come down to something like 70%, which is the same level of similarity we have with birds. There is much more difference than just our brains. Evolutionists used to refer to “Junk DNA” which was supposedly leftover portions of the genome that no longer code for proteins because we evolved in a way where we don’t use them anymore. Recent studies have shown that the supposed “Junk DNA” is not junk at all, but almost all of it has an essential function within the cell. So much for the “fact” of evolution.

      And this brings me to my next point. People like your friend Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Richard Dawkins, and many others, DO state that evolution is a scientific fact, so stop saying that “facts” are supposedly changing, cause that sacred cow is not allowed to be touched. Unfortunately, despite the heavy hand of the evolution crowd in silencing anyone who disagrees with them, there are many many high level scientists who ARE questioning evolution today, and rather than deal with their arguments, the evolutionists just try to shut them up and tell them they are not doing science. Look up Dr. Stephen Meyer if you don’t believe me.

      You have a lot faith in evolution my friend. You seem to believe, without question, everything you are told by the TV. That worked well for the Germans when Hitler was pumping his Nazi propaganda. Most of them didn’t question that either. Like I said, the problems with evolution are many. The fossil record doesn’t even come close to supporting it (read Darwin’s Doubt By Dr. Stephen Meyer) the MASSIVE amount of information in the cell is not adequately explained by random mutation acting on natural selection (the standard Darwinian model), life from non-life has been shown to be impossible, even with intelligent intervention, and evolution does nothing to explain OBJECTIVE morality.

      The morality thing is a big one Tyler, cause you just have trouble getting it, which is common. People take it for granted, but evolution, at best, could ONLY produce subjective morality (true for me) not objective morality ( true whether you believe it or not.) Evolution, as described by the “scientific”crowd, is a purely physical process. There is no mind involved. Moral concepts are not made of matter. What is the chemical composition of the murder molecule? How much does justice weigh? Those questions don’t make sense, because they are the wrong kind of question. That is why whatever kind of morality evolution could produce, would be based on your personal chemical and biological progress through time. A serial killer would be perfectly just in killing people for fun, since he evolved that way. A rapist would be perfectly just in raping because he evolved that way. You don’t like that, because it sounds bad, but if there is nothing but particles involved, you don’t have a choice. Your worldview is materialism, which means all that exists is matter. You don’t seriously think chemicals can make decisions do you? If your worldview is true, then you don’t have free will, never mind morality. Don’t believe me? Ask Stephen Hawking, who is on my side.

      The reason I contend that you really do have free will, and that some things are really wrong, regardless of what anyone thinks, is because I think the worldview of atheism is FALSE. It takes more faith to believe that the universe came from nothing than from something. It takes more faith to believe that the billions of bytes of digital coding in your DNA happened by accident, than it does to believe it was designed that way. It takes much much more faith to believe that human consciousness came from random particles recombining, than to believe we were endowed with it. Scientists don’t like these subjects, because not only do they have no answer, but the evidence seems to compound against them as we go on.

      Here is a thought experiment for you, and I hope you consider it honestly: If there is a God who created everything from nothing (which science confirms in the Big Bang) why would you think it would be hard for Him to create biological life, HOWEVER HE WANTED TO? The great thing about the Christian worldview, is that the Bible says God has revealed himself in nature, which means as we study it, and see the intricacies and impossibilities of all we see arriving here by chance, it will point us back to Him. I don’t need to know how God made man out of dust, just that it is within His capabilities to do so. Just for the record, most, if not all, of the CHEMICALS that exist in dirt are found in the human body, so what is the problem?

      The problem for you is explaining how these same random chemicals form INFORMATION. If you spill ink on a page, it doesn’t make a message or say anything, because the information is not in the ink molecules. However, an intelligent mind can take the same ink molecules and make a message. That is the difference between your religion and mine. Remember, Mount Rushmore is made of the same things as all the surrounding mountains, and subject to the same environmental changes, it was INTELLIGENCE that made it what it is. Biological life is much more complicated than Mount Rushmore. I am not the one with the philosophical problem here. I am making an inference to an explanation that you do all the time when you are not trying to cling to evolution and atheism. Please, I beg you, think about it. If you walked into a room, and found a man with 15 stab wounds in his back, bloody footprints leading away from his body, what would you tell someone who tried to tell you it could not possibly be a murder, but that it MUST have a natural cause? That is what you are doing with this whole subject.

      Once again, I hope you consider what I have said. The problem with your view is a systemic one. It’s at the root. Your starting point is bad, and it is creating all kinds of absurdities in your worldview as it begins to play out. It is an incoherent worldview, in other words. I have great hope for you though. I know God is after you, and I will be praying for you. I don’t know what experience you have had with Jesus in your life, but I am confident it was not the Jesus of the Bible. I hope we can get to sit down one of these days and talk some more about that. I am not the fastest typist anyway. Take care my friend and God bless!

      Feel free to let me know if you need some recommended resources to hear both sides of the argument, from a scholarly standpoint of course.

      Like

  3. Tyler says:

    For the record, I did not write that at 5:22am. hahah not sure why it says that

    Like

  4. Tyler says:

    Hey Nick! What’s happening. OK I have a few issues with this one…as you’d expect :). I hope I can cover most of your points without getting too far off track.
    You’re looking at “Science” as if it were a singularity. Stating the question “is science the only source of truth” isn’t a fair question. Science covers is an extremely WIDE spectrum of things. It’s Theory’s, Hypothesis, caculations, finding the information or evidence and making it all fit like a puzzle. What’s great about science, also what i love about science, is that it’s never written in stone. “Scientific facts” are always changing because we live in a world that’s constantly changing. Scientists can and have be wrong on many things. Mistakes happen and there’s things that they just don’t know. But they’re also not afraid to admit what they don’t know. There’s no shame in that. However that’s just more motivation and drive to solve those problems. To understand what they don’t know.

    The harm is when claiming to have all the answers then just sweeping the rest under the rug. This unfortunately is what religion is all to well known for.

    Yes, scientific discoveries rely heavily on the use other sources of information and methods to solve the unknowns. However science incorporates things like mathematics, physics and even a bit of logic. Saying something is true because it logically makes sense tho would never hold up with the scientific community. Because of that it one could never say “there is definitely No God!”. It’s just not possible to prove something does not exist. It’s on the people claiming that it does exist to bring fourth that evidence.

    Good ol’ morality. Unfortunately morality doesn’t really have a place in discovering how to build a microwave, or determining the age of a fossil or building a rocket to go to space. Science is based on the evidence at hand. There has like with everything been times where a scientists was corrupt and stole the ideas of another, or built extremelly dangerous weapons for really bad people. But in order for the example you gave to be true it would take a world wide conspiracy of the ages to pull off. You claim that a scientist whom was lacking morals could just simply change the data or tweak the outcome of his/her findings. that would be extremely dificult to pull off. You see in order for something to be proven it must pass many tests performed by other scientists who’s objective it is to prove them wrong. To find errors in the evidence or calculations. One person does not simply claim to have had a scientific breakthrough and then all the rest just accept it as true. That would’ve worked 500 years ago but not today.

    “Knowing how things work won’t remove the necessity for god”. You may be right, or knowing how things work will give us better alternatives to the idea of a Divine God.

    I need to ask,
    We work in a profession where the laws we follow and knowledge we use were discovered through scientific procedures. The device you’re using at this very moment has evolved into the computer or smart phone through scientific progress. With these and many other things you fully put your trust in the steps that scientists took and principles they followed but, when it comes to such things as the theory of evolution in which well over %90 of scientists across the globe agree upon, you dismiss it and choose to believe a book that was written 2000 years ago by some sheep herders who didn’t know where the sun went at night.
    There is almost 5000 gods that have been worshiped by humanity. What is more probable, that yours is right and the rest are all wrong…or that they’re ALL wrong? I’m gonna trust the guys in lab coats and degrees hanging on their wall

    Like

    • defendingyourfaith says:

      Hey Tyler. This one had way too many rabbit trails to chase at this time of night, so I will make it a point form one and you can review it.

      1. My point was that science in general, however you want to divide it up, is a slave to other sources of truth. Despite your complaint, many people don’t get this. They think if you are a scientist, then you are right. Our culture has elevated the men in white lab coats to the status of “high priests”, and doesn’t question anything they say.

      2. If you are saying that “scientific facts” cannot not be objective, then you have undercut the entire structure of science altogether. Facts don’t change. They are facts. When Richard Dawkins says evolution is a “fact” that is what he means. The world, and the universe is not changing in any meaningful sense. This is what makes science possible. If the world was constantly changing, then science could not be done. It is called the Principle of Uniformity. Funnily enough, it was theists, who assumed that God had created an orderly universe, that actually went looking for it. That is why most of the fathers of modern science were not atheists.

      3. The science you so heavily lean on does not fit together like a puzzle. It is riddled with systemic contradictions and speaks to areas it has no business addressing.

      4. Please don’t use the whole,” you are making the positive claim that God exists, so you have to provide the evidence,” thing. It is really exhausting. It is just word games, that is all. If I asked you,” Is it true that God does not exist?” and you said ,”Yes,” YOU have now made a positive claim and have to give evidence. See how it works? It’s not a good argument, it’s just a dodge.

      5. If saying something logically makes sense does not work for scientists, then it is even more reason to not trust them. THEY CANNOT DO SCIENCE WITHOUT LOGIC.

      6. My moral argument was not touched, because all you did was say it would be really hard to pull it off, not that it would be WRONG to do so. You have no grounds to say that. You are right, science doesn’t always speak ABOUT moral issues, but it does presuppose a moral standard in order to work, which was my point. A doctor can tell you how fast a person will bleed to death if you cut their throat, but can never give a scientific reason as to why it is morally wrong to do that to another person. Science says people are not born gay, but it doesn’t seem to bother scientists that people lie about that. Where are the scientists? Surely they will speak up and correct this misinformation! Not likely, since dishonesty is not as hard to pull off in the culture as you seem to be suggesting.

      7. My computer, my phone, and any other technology you want to point to are not examples of evolution. They were intelligently designed. It’s not like some dirt got rearranged into some other stuff that became a computer. You are switching categories. It happens a lot with evolution examples.

      8. Even if it is the case that well over 90% of scientists believe in evolution, which I don’t think is true, it doesn’t mean evolution is true. Once again, unless you think that the fact that probably 99% of people throughout history believing in God makes that true. The reality is, there is a quickly growing number of people, with lots of degrees on their walls, who think the THEORY of evolution is false. And they are not all Christians. Arguing from authority is a logical fallacy anyway, but I forgive you :). It doesn’t prove anything. What matters is the reasons for their belief, not what degree they have. Since it has been impossible for scientists to create life in a lab (which would be Intelligent design), blind evolution can’t even get off the ground. The fossil record should be FILLED with examples of transitional fossils, but there has been hardly any at all found, and even those are debated. What we have are almost all primary body plans showing up fully formed, with nothing before them. Evolution doesn’t explain the information in the cell, or where the information needed for improvements could have come from. Evolution does a TERRIBLE job of explaining how incredibly complex systems like flight in birds developed. I don’t have time to list them all, but there are many more examples like this. Evolution, especially macroevolution, is not observable, or repeatable since it happened over hundreds of millions of years. It is a faith based system that has HUGE holes in it, and is far from a magic wand that explains everything.

      9. If you insist on talking about the bible, it would be helpful if you do not approach the subject so dishonestly. It was not written by sheep herders. Whether or not the author’s understood where the sun went is irrelevant, since nothing in the bible depends on that knowledge. The Bible, specifically the New Testament, claims to be written by eye witnesses, and much to the irritation of many, it seems that they were. It describes the resurrection of Jesus, which no one has been able to explain away. The bible has predicted events hundreds of years before they happened. You can choose to not believe in them, but dismissing them so condescendingly is a bit arrogant. There are people much much smarter than you or I that have assessed the Bible and have become Christians. People like John Lennox, Hugh Ross, William Lane Craig, and many more, all of whom have MULTIPLE Phd’s in various fields like Astronomy, Pure Mathematics, Philosophy, and New Testament studies. These are not dummies.

      10. There are actually hundreds of millions of “gods” people have worshipped, not 5000. But that doesn’t matter. Religions make truth claims about the world we live in, that have to be assessed. Once that is done, it becomes very obvious that many are immediately false, due to the belief in things like an infinite universe (which atheists also fought for before the big bang was discovered). Others are false on historical or philosophical or even scientific grounds, and ultimately none explain reality as well as the Christian worldview does. It is a poor tactic to make Christians seem arrogant because think everyone else who sincerely believes in their own version of God is wrong. Being sincere doesn’t make a person right. And besides, you are saying the same thing. Even more so. You are in disagreement with the VAST majority of humans throughout history, saying that you are smarter than probably 99% of human history. It proves nothing Tyler.

      11. I say again that knowing how everything in the world works doesn’t disprove the existence of God any more than a mechanic who knows everything about an internal combustion engine disproves the existence of Henry Ford (who invented the internal combustion engine). It doesn’t give alternatives either. We can learn all kinds of quantum mechanics, but it still doesn’t explain a universe from NOTHING. Remember, time, space, matter, and energy began from a point where before which there was none of those things. Science has no alternative, and never will. Science is the study of nature, and there was no nature before the Big Bang. Science has no alternative to how life came from non-life, or how consciousness came from a rearrangement of matter. I admire your faith in science, because I don’t have it.

      12. Your entire response didn’t include any scientific data, and yet you felt it was true, which was the point of my whole post anyway. You were making philosophical assertions the whole time, which is exactly what scientists do when they interpret data. They view the data based on their worldview. That is why the data can be interpreted more than one way most times, because science doesn’t say anything, SCIENTISTS DO. Science is a slave to philosophy, it can’t function without it.

      Thanks again!

      Like

  5. Manuel says:

    well written topic.

    Like

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