God of Science

Listening to an NPR piece this week about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) that is about to re-open.  During the report, someone speculated that the LHC  might show scientists some dark matter.

In case you don’t know what dark matter is, it is the God of Science.  By this I mean that dark matter is what scientists use to make their explanation of how the universe works make sense.

I realize it is only Wikipedia, but read through the entry about dark matter to see how essential it is for the current explanation how everything in the universe works.

I characterize dark matter as the “God of Science” not really to disparage science, but to suggest that perhaps the supposed gulf between science and faith is not so broad after all.

It seems that dark matter is for some scientists a “god of the gaps;” an explanation of certain unexplainable events/occurrences, etc., for which actual evidence cannot be found.  Religion is often accused of having a “god of the gaps” in that some religions have, over time, adjusted their understanding of how the world works as progress explains more and more things without the need of a supernatural involvement.

While I’ve not heard anyone refer to dark matter as supernatural, its posited existence serves a suspicious role in some naturalistic worldviews.

6 thoughts on “God of Science

  1. In a discussion at http://unreasonablefaith.com the question was “Do you consider science a religion?”
    There were many emphatic no’s, but also some more in depth analysis of the similarities.

    My contribution:
    It seems that religion and science are both methods for defining a system of beliefs &/or theories. Beliefs & theories both being conclusions that have not been disproved.

    It was left unchallenged, which I consider tantamount to approval on a web site populated by atheists & skeptics. I’ve had arguments that went for weeks over:
    whether atheism is part of a belief system,
    whether a single first human falls into evolutionary theory, &
    that my choice to follow Jesus is simply an “accident of time & space.”

    The empiricism of science explores evidence to expose the errant conclusions that comprise unfounded beliefs. It may pose questions of “Why?,” but can only provide answers to questions of “How?” I’ve read of some particularly atheistic scientists willingly explore some pretty creative explanations so long as they don’t end up at any sort of deity, a sort of “anything BUT God” approach.

    I am filled with wonder and amazement by all answers that are provided by physics & biology and equally captivated by the idea of that there is some reasoning or purpose behind our creation.

  2. Yeah, but there’s an important difference. Dark matter’s existence is being predicted based on physical observations, much like Einstein’s prediction in 1911 that, “if his theories were true, light rays from distant stars passing near the very massive sun would be bent due to gravitational attraction.” As improvements in technology, and the occurrence of a solar eclipse years later, allowed, the prediction was confirmed in 1919. http://www.worsleyschool.net/science/files/albert/einsteinbio.html

    This seems analogous, too, to the history and refinement of the Periodic Table over time. At times, the existence of certain elements was merely ‘predicted’ and assumed even though “actual evidence” (your words — but what does this mean?) had not yet been found.

    Was predicting the later discovery of germanium or gallium, or predicting the gravitational effect on light — both cases of rigorous employment of sound, original science based on meticulous observation and the application of known laws of physics — the same as positing a supernatural being to magically swoop in and explain what you cannot prove?

    Mmmmmm… No, I don’t think so.

    The article you reference says such things as these:

    *”Together with Rubin’s findings for spiral galaxies and Zwicky’s work on galaxy clusters, the observational evidence for dark matter has been collecting over the decades to the point that today most astrophysicists accept its existence.”

    *”Rubin’s pioneering work has stood the test of time.”

    *”The correspondence of the two gravitational lens techniques to other dark matter measurements has convinced almost all astrophysicists that dark matter actually exists as a major component of the universe’s composition.”

    *”this …[see paragraph on the Bullet Cluster] is held as direct evidence of the existence of dark matter.”

    So, I think this analogy of yours (uncharacteristically, of course!) fails, because you are comparing something with lots of physical evidence and predictive power to something with (as far as I can tell) none of either.

  3. I think that it is incorrect to honor the role of science revealing spiritual truths. That isn’t to say that empiricism our human faculties of observation can’t reveal God. I just think that the scientific system is set up to validate its premise and not our spiritual lives. I am thinking of science academically and institutionally as I write this.

    However, like suggested in the original blog post, “timeless truths” revealed by science (i.e. order, regeneration, evolution) tell us something about God.

    So how do Christians enter the conversation of science (granted he or she is not a “professional scientist”)? I prefer the awe and wonder approach suggested by the first responder.

  4. I can’t find your blog after Dec 17 — are you taking a break?

    Thanks again for a wonderful Christmas!!


  5. Creating scientific hypotheses to explain scientific gaps is a fundamentally different activity from creating theological hypotheses to explain scientific gaps.

    Sooner or later, the dark-matter theorists will develop their ideas fully enough to make specific, testable predictions; these predictions will then be tested, and the theorists will refine their ideas to match reality, or abandon their ideas if they cannot be reconciled with observations.

    Theological gap-fillers do not often make such predictions, and they very rarely adjust their doctrines to match reality.

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