Science in Christian Perspective
In Defense Of Pure Science
Gordon Lee Williams
Baptist Haiti Mission
West Palm Beach, Florida 33406
From: JASA 32 (June1980): 125-126.
An article with a title like this may seem absurd in the
Journal ASA, but I mean well as I hope will be evident. My intent is to accentuate the
core of similarity that exists between all pursuits of mankind. At
college I found
myself between two friends with opposite interests. One was a pre-med student
with attention given to the field of psychology and the other was a practicing
musician, poet, philosophy and literature major. The tensions between
often enough for me to begin pondering some of the causes of their dislike. To
the one, the arts were meaningless, subjective garbage; to the other, science
(pure science more accurately)
was a total waste of time. In certain particulars they were both
right, but fundamentally
their motivation was essentially the same.
Pure science (as opposed to applied science or technology) is that field of endeavor which corresponds to the pursuit of the fine arts, mathematics, philosophy, and religion. In its attempt to disclose the mysteries of the universe and the life within it, pure science exposes man's need to know something anything that will satisfy his empty understanding. To discover that substance which permeates all matter, space, time, and energy, and explains the reason for the onward flow of the universe, is the fundamental drive of pure science.
Let's examine each of these areas of interest in their pure form. The fine arts reveal a vibrant world centered on creativity. Including painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and many forms of literature, the fine arts explore and express the magical world of the mind. Somewhere in the cranial cavity, in the noodled symmetry of gray matter, comes thoughts and imaginations filled with the wonder of surreality. These creations from the subconscious are known to everyone but are taken seriously by the practicing artist. Through study and experiment with the realm of surreality, the artist brings into being, into reality, the depths of the mind. In whatever form the artist uses, he is seeking to discover what lies within. By making the depths surface, the artist hopes to strike a resounding chord with the mass of mankind. A successful artist usually hears quite an echo. We observe from the fine arts a fundamental drive to find that common element which fills man's empty understanding of life itself.
The second area of interest mentioned was mathematics. Pure mathematics is an intriguing field as it attempts to discover the relationships that exist between universal, numeric principles. Finding equations which describe form and change can be fascinating. Although much of the work done in mathematics has carryovers into other fields, pure mathematics itself is another attempt by man to discover that all-encompassing formula which fills the void and enables us to understand the secrets of life.
Philosophy, as the third area of interest, is also a rich field of dimensions of the reasoning mind. Human logic (and oftimes imagination) coupled with anthropology has yielded a macrocosm of philosophical viewpoints, each with an air of truth. Philosophers throughout history have devoted their lifetimes to the discovery of truth and most have found agreeable followers. These various schools of thought have one thing in common, however: their search for that substance which gives meaning and purpose (or nonmeaning and lack of purpose) and fills the indigenous void in the essence of man.
The fourth area of interest mentioned was religion. This area too strives for an answer: what is to be defined as God? As St. Anselm put it, "God is A Being than which no greater being can be conceived." Religious endeavors have created gods of many sorts; through the art of hermeneutics, theologians have devised numerous systems. The religious systems in practice today range from thousands of years old to merely months, and their diversity is unending. They all, however, have the fundamental drive to fill the vacuum in she human soul.
As we return to pure science, we see how it is like the others. In the study of the DNA molecule, the scientist is hunting for she secret to life, In the search for a unified field theory, the scientist is looking for the answer to the universe. In the overall study of matter, energy, space, and time, from quasars to neutrinos, man is looking for knowledge of ultimate significance. What is that substance which is over all, through all, and in all? What was before all things and what holds all things together? It is this pervasive desire which unites these major fields of human endeavor, and one is no better or worse than the other. Whether in the depths of the mind, the universality of mathematics, the logic of philosophy, the systems of theology, or in the mystery of the universe, mankind searches for the reason, the substance, the answer, the Truth.
To complete the picture, this author believes man will continue to search, to devise his schools of thought, and to formulate his theories of nature, but unfortunately he will never find the answer he wants save the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.