Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor

Value of Limitations in Science
George L. Murphy
St. Mark Lutheran Church
158 North Avenue
Tallmadge, OH 44278

From: JASA 38 (December 1986): 284

In "Impact of the Rediscovery of Genetics on the Concept of Variation in Darwinian Theory" in the December 1985 JASA, Lothers discusses some of the difficulties which Mendelian genetics caused for the Darwinian approach to evolution in the early part of this century. He suggests that the earlier lack of awareness of these problems may have made easier the acceptance of Darwin's theory in the nineteenth century.

There is an historical parallel which may help to illuminate the significance of that possibility. Kepler's discovery of his three laws of planetary motion was an important step toward the development of a law of gravitation. Fortunately, the observations which Kepler had were sufficiently precise to enable him to formulate these laws. But they were not precise enough to show the "inequalities"-the deviations from strict Keplerian motion-which were later shown to be due to the mutual gravitational perturbations among the planets. It is fortunate that their precision was so limited. If Kepler had had to take into account the inequalities, it would have been practically impossible for him to arrive at any simple rules for the orbits, and the development of Newton's law of gravitation would have been much more difficult. Sometimes it is better not to know too much at the start, lest the task of constructing an adequate theory to describe the phenomena seem too formidable.